Written by Adrienne S. Gaines
Conservative Anglicans living in North America took a first step last
Wednesday toward forming a denomination separate from the Episcopal
Church, the U.S. branch of Anglicanism that has been teetering on the
verge of a split since it ordained an openly gay bishop in 2003.
During a news conference in Wheaton, Ill., leaders of the Common Cause
Partnership (CCP), a conservative group comprised of Anglican
associations worldwide, unveiled a provisional constitution and the
first set of canons for the new Anglican Church in North America
Leaders said the rival denomination represents 700 congregations, or roughly 100,000 people, in the U.S. and Canada.
"The purpose of the province is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and
His transforming love in the United States, Canada and beyond,” said
Bishop Robert Duncan, moderator of the CCP.
whom Episcopal Church leaders deposed from his position as bishop of
the diocese of Pittsburgh in September, will serve as the interim
leader of the ACNA. His diocese defected from the Episcopal Church in
October to align with Latin America's Southern Cone based in Argentina.
The ACNA's formation poses the biggest threat yet to the unity of the
England-based Anglican Communion, which boasts roughly 77 million
members worldwide. Dozens of conservative congregations have defected
from the Episcopal Church to align with bishops in Latin America and
Africa amid concerns that the American branch of Anglicanism was
breaking with orthodox Christianity by embracing gay bishops and
blessing same-sex unions.
If the global Anglican
Communion were to approve the formation of a new American branch, it
could lead to further defections.
The new ACNA
denomination already includes the breakaway dioceses of Pittsburgh,
Forth Worth, Texas; Quincy, Ill.; and San Joaquin, Calif.—which each
represent dozens of churches. Conservative Anglicans who left the
Episcopal Church in the 1970s following changes to the Book of Common
Prayer and the ordination of women are also among the new
The Rev. Charles Robertson,
canon for the Episcopal Church's presiding bishop, Katherine Jefferts
Schiori, told the New York Times on Wednesday that there is room for
diverse perspectives within the church. "We regret that some have felt
the need to depart from the diversity of our common life in Christ,” he
Robertson added that the Episcopal Church, the
Anglican Church of Canada and La Iglesia Anglicana de Mexico are "the
official, recognized presence of the Anglican Communion in North
But Duncan said Anglicanism is experiencing a
sort of revolution. "We're going through Reformation times, and in
Reformation times things aren't neat and clean,” he told the Times. "In
Reformation times, new structures are emerging.”
leaders expect seven Anglican primates to approve the new denomination.
Many of those leaders, including the archbishops of Nigeria, Uganda,
Rwanda and the Southern Cone, participated in a first-ever Global
Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem in July, where the
primates signed a declaration proclaiming a new era for global
On Friday, several of the GAFCON leaders
met to present the provision constitution of the North American branch
to the Rev. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. A spokesperson
for Williams said on Thursday that the conservative American leaders
had not begun to create a new church, Agence France-Presse reported.
"There are clear guidelines set out in the Anglican Consultative
Council Reports ... detailing the steps necessary for the amendments of
existing provincial constitutions and the creation of new provinces,”
the spokesperson said.
"Once begun, any of these
processes will take years to complete. In relation to the recent
announcement from the meeting of the Common Cause Partnership in
Chicago, the process has not yet begun.”
Rev. Peter Frank said the new denomination would proceed with or
without the approval of the archbishop or the Anglican Consultative
Council. Duncan spokesman the Rev. Peter Frank said the new
denomination would proceed with or without the approval of the
archbishop or the Anglican Consultative Council, the group responsible
for sanctioning new jurisdictions.
leaders of the largest Anglican provinces are a great place to start,
and they're on board with this,” Frank told Charisma. "We also know
that we're past the point where some committee in England is going to
be able to unilaterally decide who's Anglican and who's not. So that's
where we're starting, with the support and the encouragement given to
us by Anglican leaders around the world.”
Howell, executive director of CCP-affiliated Forward in Faith North
America, said many conservative Anglicans had been praying for the
formation of a new church for decades. "Instead of focusing on things
that divide us, we as orthodox Anglicans are focusing on the things
that unite us,” he said.
Cynthia Brust, communications
director for the Anglican Mission in the Americas, which is also part
of the CCP, said that Wednesday marked "the beginning of the healing of
the Anglican Communion.”
"The main component to me is the mission focus,” Brust said. "We will be driven by mission, not structure.”
The CCP links eight conservative Anglican organizations across the
globe, including the American Anglican Council, the Anglican Coalition
in Canada, the Anglican Communion Network, the Anglican Mission in the
Americas, the Anglican Network in Canada, the Convocation of Anglicans
in North America, Forward in Faith North America and the Reformed
Episcopal Church, as well as the bishops and congregations linked with
dioceses in Kenya, Uganda and the Southern Cone.
Despite their shared theological conservatism, the groups hold
divergent views on significant issues such as liturgical practices and
the ordination of women. Frank said the new denomination will encourage
mutual submission while "doing all we can to give each other freedom to
follow our convictions.”
The ACNA plans to hold an
assembly next summer in Texas, where congregations that choose to align
with the denomination will ratify the provisional constitution.