Anglican Splits from Conservative Group Over 'Sweeping' Judgments

A conservative Anglican resigned from a group of dissidents saying its head has made judgments regarding divisions in the Anglican Communion that are "far too sweeping."

The Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner, one of the founders of the Anglican Communion Network, announced with deep disappointment his resignation earlier this week in disagreement with recent statements by network moderator the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan that "contradict my sense of calling within this part of Christ's Body, the Anglican Communion."

"Bishop Duncan has now declared the See of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference – two of the four Instruments of Communion within our tradition – to be 'lost.' He has said that God is 'doing a new thing' in allowing these elements to founder and be let go," stated Radner.

"I find this judgment to be dangerously precipitous and unfair under circumstances when current, faithful, and hard work is being done by many to bolster these Instruments as servants of our common life in Christ."

Duncan, also bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, recently came out of the Anglican Communion Network Annual Council meeting in Bedford, Texas, where he expressed little hope that The Episcopal Church – U.S. branch of Anglicanism – will turn around from its departure from Christian orthodoxy and Anglican tradition.

He told over 80 Anglican traditionalists that "the American province is lost and something will have to replace it."

He further expressed disappointment that the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Dr. Rowan Williams, has not backed the network as he had hoped.

"Never, ever has he spoken publicly in defense of the orthodox in the United States," said Duncan, adding that "the cost is his office."

"To lose that historic office is a cost of such magnitude that God must be doing a new thing," he said.

Such a declaration that the key instruments of the Anglican Communion are "lost" implies that the entire communion is lost, Radner noted.

"The judgment is far too sweeping."

Radner believes the actions the Anglican Communion Network is undertaking are in the direction of breaking up the global body.

Duncan and a group of Common Cause Partners, consisting of those discontent with The Episcopal Church and those who have split, plan to step up their partnership and form a separate Anglican structure called the "Anglican Union" in the United States. A meeting is set for September to discuss the plan.

"In founding his new church ... he (Duncan) is, I fear, not working for the healing of our broken Body, but repeating the mistakes of Christians in the past, whose zeal has not only brought suffering to themselves, but has wounded the Church of Christ," Radner stated.

Radner had helped found the Anglican Communion Network, which currently claims over 900 parishes and over 2,200 clergy, in 2004 with hopes of it serving as an instrument of renewal and of building up when divisions in The Episcopal Church deepened in 2003 with the consecration of an openly gay bishop.

Although opposed to the recent actions of The Episcopal Church, Radner doesn't support conservatives leaving the denomination. Fragmenting The Episcopal Church "does little to promote the Gospel's compelling witness even if done for the sake of a clear truth," he said in an earlier interview with VirtueOnline, a voice for global orthodox Anglicanism. Radner supports discipline rather than schism within the church.

Along with some conservatives in the United States, powerful Anglican leaders in the Global South, however, do not believe they can go together with a church that has violated Anglican tradition and scriptural teachings. A growing number of U.S. congregations have split with The Episcopal Church and placed themselves under the authority of Anglican bishops overseas who have set up mission initiatives in the United States. Some 200 to 250 congregations of the more than 7,000 in The Episcopal Church are currently under the authority of Anglican leaders from Rwanda, Nigeria, Uganda and Southeast Asia.

Nigeria Archbishop Peter Akinola, who set up CANA (Convocation of Anglicans in North America), has argued that they are there to make sure God's people have a spiritual home until The Episcopal Church gets back in line with Scripture and traditional Anglicanism.

"The Church in the West cannot pull us by the nose. If you are going to interpret the Bible in your own way, good luck to you. But without us," Akinola said earlier in an interview with London's The Times.

Meanwhile, Radner believes it is not the church that can say "enough is enough" in accommodating sin but God.

And he remains hopeful in renewing and building up the church.

While declaring that he cannot follow Duncan or the Network any further, Radner stated, "There is great work to be done, with hope and with joy, if also with suffering endurance for the faith once delivered, in the vineyards of the Anglican Communion where the Lord has called us and still maintains His calling; just as there has been in the past, and all for the glory of the larger Church Catholic."

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