Anglican Primate 'Disturbed' by New Rival Body

The recent announcement about plans to move forward with creating a new Anglican rival body in North America was dubbed by one bishop as "disturbing."

"What's quite disturbing, in my opinion, about this proposal is the determination to create a province based on theological grounds," rather than based on mission and geographic location, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said earlier this week, according to the Anglican Journal.

His comments were directed toward the Common Cause Partnership, a network of Anglicans in the United States and Canada who cut ties with The Episcopal Church and announced that it will release a draft constitution to the public next month of an emerging Anglican Church in North America.

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Conservative Anglicans, unhappy with the liberal direction of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, have been working toward the formation of a "biblical, missionary and united Anglican Church in North America," as Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, moderator of Common Cause Partnership, described it. The new structure would serve as a separate Anglican body from the current two North American bodies.

Duncan stated last month that there has been "an illiberal takeover of the church" in the United States, contending that The Episcopal Church has left traditional understandings of Scripture, the person of Jesus and Christian morality.

The Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church had caused uproar in 2002 and 2003, respectively, when they sanctioned same-sex blessings and consecrated the first openly gay bishop.

While plans for creating the new structure are quickly moving forward, the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada was critical of the move and listed several reasons why breakaway leaders should not proceed with the new body.

In addition to the creation of a province based on differences in theology being unprecedented in the global Anglican Communion, Hiltz said the Anglican Consultative Council is the only body of the church that can create a province. And that usually happens after "a long period of discernment and testing."

He also denounced the Common Cause Partnership's decision to proceed without the blessing of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, arguing that such a move is "not in keeping with Anglican tradition."

Although conservative leaders have acknowledged that the new structure may not receive immediate recognition from the Archbishop of Canterbury, several bishops from the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) – which drew conservative leaders representing some of the largest Anglican provinces in June – have already expressed their intention to recognize the new North American body.

But Hiltz believes it's a "huge assumption" to think that the views of the GAFCON leaders represent the views of the millions of Anglicans in their provinces, as reported by the Anglican Journal.

"It has become more and more clear that those associated with GAFCON are not so committed to building bridges and keeping in conversation but rather to separation," Hiltz stated.

Nevertheless, breakaway Anglicans have expressed little hope that the current church bodies in North America would get back in line with orthodox Christianity and Anglican tradition. The Common Cause Partnership plans to unveil their draft constitution and affirm their stance at an evening worship celebration on Dec. 3 in Wheaton, Ill.

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