Anglican leaders who have split from The Episcopal Church plan to take a major step in the formation of what will essentially be a separate and rival body by releasing a proposed constitution next month.
Leaders of the Common Cause Partnership, a federation representing more than 100,000 Anglican Christians in North America, will unveil the draft to the public on Dec. 3 at Wheaton Evangelical Free Church in Wheaton, Ill., as they reaffirm biblical truth and Anglican tradition – two things they believe the U.S. Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada have abandoned.
The new Anglican church structure in North America is expected to be recognized by several bishops, mainly from the Global South. But the Common Cause leaders do not expect Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of the global Anglican Communion, to immediately recognize the body.
Although the intention is to work with the Anglican Communion, conservative leaders had stated earlier that Anglicanism was not "determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury."
That statement was made at a global gathering, called the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), of conservative Anglican leaders in June. The gathering was held separately from the Anglican Communion’s Lambeth Conference, which brings together all Anglican bishops once every ten years. GAFCON emerged in response to "a crisis" in the worldwide Anglican Communion – a crisis driven by a "false gospel" being promoted in North America and a lack of discipline, they said in an official statement.
The Anglican Church of Canada and the U.S. Episcopal Church had caused uproar in 2002 and 2003, respectively, when they sanctioned same-sex blessings and consecrated the first openly gay bishop.
A growing number of congregations have left The Episcopal Church – the U.S. arm of Anglicanism – and four dioceses, or regional bodies, have so far voted to split from the U.S. body as well. Many have realigned with conservative provinces overseas.
The formation of a separate ecclesiastical structure was called for by conservative Anglican leaders in the Global South in 2006. GAFCON leaders stated in June that "the time is now ripe for the formation of a province in North America" to be recognized by them.
"One conclusion of the Global Anglican Future Conference held in Jerusalem last June was that the time for the recognition of a new Anglican body in North America had arrived," stated Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, moderator of Common Cause Partnership, and potential head of the new North American province. "The public release of our draft constitution is an important concrete step toward the goal of a biblical, missionary and united Anglican Church in North America."
The formation and recognition of a new Anglican province is currently being debated in the Anglican Communion, according to the Most Rev. Maurice Sinclair, former Archbishop of the Southern Cone in South America. He says there is natural reluctance to create a rival body alongside what has been a historic part of the Anglican Communion, but believes Anglicans should support the formation of the new body to avoid increasing risks to the well-being of the Communion.
"Granted human failures that we all hold in common, we may safely assume that no one in this dispute is working purely cynically, and that by our lights we are all looking for a future God can approve," he said in a statement earlier. "Revisionists believe that they are acting out of justice love. Conservatives seek to be loyal to the way of Christ according to the traditional interpretation and plain meaning of Scripture. Surely it is better that both follow conscience rather than demanding a compromise of conscience that neither is willing to make."