Though it may take years to gain official recognition from the entire Anglican Communion, conservatives disaffected from The Episcopal Church have voted to begin transitioning as they create their own branch in North America.
Delegates to the Anglican Communion Network's fifth annual council meeting in Overland Park, Kan., passed a resolution Tuesday to begin turning over the financial and administrative support of their breakaway group to the new province that is seen as a rival to The Episcopal Church – the U.S. arm of Anglicanism.
The transition is expected to take approximately six months, by the end of which the creation of the Anglican Church in North America is to be completed. When the new province launches, the Anglican Communion Network – which houses hundreds of congregations that broke from The Episcopal Church – will cease operation, according to a news release.
"God did not use the Network to change the direction of The Episcopal Church as we had originally hoped," said Bishop Robert Duncan, who leads the network and is expected to lead the new North American province. "He has used it and us to create a Biblical, missionary and united Anglican province-in-waiting here in North America. We are deeply thankful to Him and to all who have supported its work."
Leaders in the Anglican Communion Network had been calling on The Episcopal Church to repent and to get back in line with traditional Anglicanism and Scripture since it consecrated an openly gay bishop in 2003. But over the past couple of years, Duncan and other conservative bishops saw little hope that the U.S. body would change direction from what breakaway Anglicans claim to be a departure from Christian orthodoxy.
Founded in 2004, the Anglican Communion Network has provided a home for tens of thousands of Anglicans who left The Episcopal Church.
The network and other breakaway groups in the United States and Canada have formed the Common Cause Partnership, which recently released a draft constitution earlier this month for the new Anglican province in North America.
Several primates, or leaders of national churches in the Anglican Communion, expressed their full support and blessing for this development as it demonstrates "determination of these faithful Christians to remain authentic Anglicans," they said in a statement on Dec. 6.
The primates, who had urged the formation of a new province during this past summer's conference in Jerusalem, called it a "necessary initiative" in order to unite those who are disaffected with The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada but are still faithful to the wider Anglican Communion.
"North American Anglicans have been tragically divided since 2003 when activities condemned by the clear teaching of Scripture and the vast majority of the Anglican Communion were publicly endorsed. This has left many Anglicans without a proper spiritual home," the primates stated.
Some Anglican leaders have expressed disapproval with the new province. Furthermore, it will take years for the new province to gain official recognition from the rest of the Anglican Communion, according to the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, who is considered the spiritual leader of the communion.
Nevertheless, conservative Anglicans are determined to form a new home and move on with their mission as a united body.
As the Anglican Communion Network transitions until next summer, the network's services to member congregations will still be provided.
"We remain sisters and brothers in Christ, regardless of our way forward. We will certainly be looking at ways we can continue to support each other as the Network transitions over the next few months," said Duncan.