Episcopal 'Desertion from Anglicanism' Prompts Call for New Church

Conservative Anglicans made an "urgent plea" Monday to build a separate Anglican church in the United States following the Episcopal Church's "desertion from Anglicanism" last week.

"Faithful Anglican groups with shared interests are needed, such as the Anglican Communion Network and already-defected organizations which have melded shared interests in Common Cause Partners and the Federation of Anglicans in the Americas. At long last their goal of a unified Anglican church in the U.S.A. that is faithful to Christ can become a reality," Lay Episcopalians for the Anglican Communion (LEAC) stated in a press release.

LEAC, a national coalition of lay people who believe the Episcopal Church has abandoned Christianity, had proposed a solution to what they viewed as "the American problem" last month, just before Anglican leaders gave the Episcopal Church an ultimatum on homosexual consecration and the blessing of same-sex unions.

The dissident Episcopalians had proposed for a new orthodox Anglican structure in North America that would operate independently from the worldwide Anglican Communion until the global body formally rids the American continent of the Episcopal Church – the U.S. wing of Anglicanism.

Now, a week after the Episcopal House of Bishops adopted resolutions reaffirming their support for homosexuals as "full and equal participants" in the church and rejected the Primates (Anglican leaders)' request for leaders outside the U.S. denomination to oversee conservative American dioceses that disagree, LEAC called for "immediate, pan-Anglican readiness" for the development of a new body.

"The Anglican Church of the United States of America" is a "province-in-waiting" that could be activated immediately.

"We should create the new unified product now – up and operating as soon as possible, not next year or the year after – in order to stop the hemorrhaging of our Anglican lifeblood," said the released statement. "That's a great challenge and awesome change of pace for church people, but we can do it.

"We should selflessly engage our can-do American spirit rather than the casual, no-hurry, wait-and-see mode with which we have been all too comfortable. A new cultural dynamic is needed to give actual solutions in saving our debilitated Anglicanism highest corporate priority."

Rifts in the Episcopal Church widened when it consecrated an openly gay bishop in 2003. Since then, more Episcopal churches have left the U.S. body over theological differences. The Episcopal Church currently faces a Sept. 30 deadline to respond to a moratorium on the consecration of homosexuals and the blessing of same-sex unions.

The Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield, bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, said he was not surprised at the decisions made by the House of Bishops last week, but was surprised by the quick response by the U.S. body.

Conservative Anglicans say the Episcopal Church is walking away from Anglican tradition and scriptural authority.

"You can be sure that if the captain of an ocean liner announced that the ship would sink at sea on September 30, there would a great demand that lifeboats and release systems are in order," stated LEAC. "Already-committed laypersons want the lifeboats in order now to move toward a post-TEC (the Episcopal Church) Anglican landscape and bring in other, often confused, even disparate faithful together in a new, safe church."

The lay Episcopalians say a new operating church is urgent and must be ready "when and if" the Anglican Communion invites them to "replace" the Episcopal Church.

"We'll be ready," the coalition stated.

While Jefferts Schori noted that breakaway Anglican churches only make up less than one percent of the U.S. body, LEAC said the conservative parishes will grow faster once they are "freed" from the Episcopal Church.

"The most critical thing we can do right now to halt the destruction of Anglicanism as a robust denomination in our country is announce authoritatively that there very soon will be a new, phased-in Anglican church, shortly ready to receive immediate membership, with provisions for standby or transitional memberships committed but awaiting a provincial declaration by the Anglican Communion."