Breakaway Anglican Groups Invited to Form New Alliance

The head of a conservative Anglican network in the United States has invited major breakaway Anglican groups to up the level of their partnership for a united Anglicanism in North America as some predict a split in the Anglican Communion.

Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, called for a Sept. 25-28 meeting to initiate discussion of creating an "Anglican Union" among the partners. The creation of the union would be a step forward in forming a "separate ecclesiastical structure (from The Episcopal Church) of the Anglican Communion" in the United States, which Anglican leaders in the Global South had proposed for.

Duncan has planned to hold the meeting after The Episcopal Church – the U.S. wing of Anglicanism – gives its response to the request of the Primates (Anglican leaders) to make an unequivocal pledge not to authorize same-sex blessings and confirm another openly gay bishop. Primates had set a Sept. 30 deadline for The Episcopal Church's response. The request, made in February, was largely prompted by TEC's consecration of its first openly gay bishop in 2003, which widened rifts within the worldwide church body.

"By the time we meet, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church will have given its response to the Anglican Communion as to its decision to 'walk apart,'" Duncan predicts. "By contrast, I expect our gathering to signal a new level of 'walking together' both with each other and with the wider Anglican world."

Since the controversial consecration, conservative Anglicans discontent with the U.S. body and its departure from Christian orthodoxy formed such splinter groups as the Anglican Mission in Americas and the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). The orthodox groups have formed a "Common Cause Partnership," committed to working together for "a biblical, missionary and united Anglicanism in North America."

The purpose of the September meeting is fivefold, Duncan explained.

The meeting is intended to:
1. take the Common Cause Partnership to the next level of development in mission together;
2. showcase ministry initiatives of any of the partners that might be shared with all the partners;
3. share understandings of the purpose and role of bishops such that some common guidelines for the making of bishops relative to numbers of communicants and congregations might be developed;
4. consider whether a permanent Common Cause College of Bishops might be created, in order that ever greater levels of communication, cooperation and collaboration can be built; and
5. initiate discussion of the creation of an "Anglican Union" among the partners.

Conservative Anglican leaders in the Global South had proposed last September in their Kigali communiqué that a separate Anglican body accommodate opponents of the consecration of openly gay bishops and the blessing of same-sex unions in the United States.

Former Episcopal Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold had raised concerns, saying such a move would open the way to "multiple divisions across other provinces" of the Anglican Communion and that "any sense of a coherent mission would sink into chaos."

Orthodox Anglicans have made it clear, however, that they "want to remain faithful members of the Anglican Communion" and feel they cannot do so within The Episcopal Church. The splinter groups are "working hard to work together and not be fragmented," according to the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, the "missionary bishop" of CANA.

Duncan acknowledged in his invitation that the Council of Bishops "lacks the voice of the laity" and is "not a full synod of the Common Cause Partners."

"[B]ut it is the next step agreed upon by the Common Cause Roundtable," he stated. "While it is not the end of our journey, it does continue the trajectory of ever greater unity and ever closer cooperation between those of us who know Jesus as the only Lord.

"In the challenging weeks and months ahead, let us say our prayers, do the work before us and trust 'that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new," Duncan urged.