Conservative Bishops to Meet Anglican Head Over Breakaway Province

( [email protected] ) Dec 05, 2008 10:07 AM EST
Conservative Anglican primates, leaders of national churches, will meet the Archbishop of Canterbury Friday for emergency talks over the formation of a new Anglican province in North America.
Bishop Robert Duncan, Chairman of the Common Cause Partnership, welcomes attendees to the first worship gathering of the new Anglican Church in North America, held at the Wheaton Evangelical Free Church in Wheaton, Ill., on Dec. 3, 2008. Theological conservatives upset by liberal views of U.S. Episcopalians and Canadian Anglicans formed a rival North American province Wednesday, in a long-developing rift over the Bible that erupted when Episcopalians consecrated the first openly gay bishop. The announcement represents a new challenge to the already splintering, 77-million-member world Anglican fellowship and the authority of its spiritual leader, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. (Photo: AP Images / Kim Johnson - The Anglican Church of North America)

Conservative Anglican primates, leaders of national churches, will meet the Archbishop of Canterbury Friday for emergency talks over the formation of a new Anglican province in North America.

Dr. Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the 77 million-member Anglican Communion, will meet the primates of Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda and the Southern Cone in Canterbury to discuss the provisional constitution and canons that were released by a group of conservative Anglicans, called the Common Cause Partnership, for the new body on Wednesday.

The new province is to consist of four Episcopal dioceses that voted to sever ties with The Episcopal Church – the U.S. arm of Anglicanism – and hundreds of congregations in the United States and Canada currently seeking foreign oversight. The group represents around 100,000 Christians at odds with The Episcopal Church in the U.S. over the consecration of an openly gay bishop in 2003 and the national church's abandonment of Scripture and Christian orthodoxy, conservatives contend. They have stated their desire to remain within the 77 million-strong Anglican Communion.

The primates meeting Williams Friday had urged conservatives to get on with organizing a new Anglican province – the Anglican term for the church’s largest regional jurisdictions – in North America during a conference in Jerusalem this past summer.

A spokesperson for Lambeth Palace, the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, said the conservative clergy had not yet initiated the process to formally form a new province.

“There are clear guidelines set out in the Anglican Consultative Council Reports, notably ACC 10 in 1996 (resolution 12), detailing the steps necessary for the amendments of existing provincial constitutions and the creation of new provinces. Once begun, any of these processes will take years to complete,” the spokesperson said.

“In relation to the recent announcement from the meeting of the Common Cause Partnership in Chicago, no such process has begun.”

The recently deposed Bishop of Pittsburgh, the Rt. Rev. Bob Duncan, is being tipped as the new leader of the North American province.

"The Lord is displacing the Episcopal Church," Duncan said, according to The Associated Press.

Cynthia Brust, director of Communications for the Anglican Mission in America, a breakaway group, noted on Wednesday, “Today is the beginning of the healing of the Anglican Communion. …The main component to me is the mission focus. We will be driven by mission, not structure.”

The new province is described to be an orthodox, biblically-centered structure and is aimed at uniting conservative Anglicans around a passion for mission.

Although the breakaway movement is still a minority, Duncan highlighted growth in contrast to The Episcopal Church which is experiencing membership decline. "We are a body that is growing, that is planting new congregations, that is concerned to be an authentic Christian presence in the U.S. and Canada."