A group of conservative Anglicans planning to form a separate orthodox Anglican body in the United States ratified a "common cause" document on Tuesday.
The Anglican Communion Network, consisting of those discontent with The Episcopal Church or those who have split from the denomination, approved a statement that would no longer require its members to operate within the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church.
Noting that many individual parishes and leaders in the Anglican Communion Network are no longer part of The Episcopal Church, delegates voted to add to the federating Articles of the Common Cause Partners the following statement: "Nothing in the charter or bylaws shall be interpreted as requiring submission to the constitution of The Episcopal Church by affiliates of this Network who are not themselves members of The Episcopal Church."
The vote was made at the network's Annual Council in Bedford, Texas, where over 80 conservative Anglican representatives expressed little hope that The Episcopal Church – U.S. branch of Anglicanism – would "turn around" from its departure from Christian orthodoxy and traditional Anglicanism.
With belief that The Episcopal Church abandoned the vision of "a Church that is truly evangelical, truly catholic, and truly pentecostal," as Duncan stated, the conservative group agreed in their Common Cause theological statement that "to be an Anglican, then, is not to embrace a distinct version of Christianity, but a distinct way of being a 'Mere Christian,' at the same time evangelical, apostolic, catholic, reformed, and Spirit-filled."
Further identifying seven elements as "characteristic of the Anglican Way," the Anglican Communion Network also approved the theological statement: "We believe and confess Christ to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no one comes to the Father but by Him."
The Rev. Canon Warren Tanghe, who presented the document to the Annual Council, called it "classic Christianity."
The Anglican Communion Network is in the works of forming an Anglican body in the United States, separate from The Episcopal Church.
"The American province is lost and something will have to replace it," said Anglican Communion Network moderator the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan.
Last month, Duncan invited conservative leaders and major breakaway Anglican groups to initiate discussions on forming a separate Anglican structure in the United States and take their "Common Cause Partnership" to the next level.
The network is "a step forward for Common Cause that allows the constituent partners to retain their identity and autonomy while forming a more coherent and accountable structure. None of the groups disappear and none of the groups stop their gospel mission… Yet we are forming a more coherent whole," Bishop-elect John Guernsey said.
The Episcopal Church, which widened rifts in the Anglican Communion when it consecrated an openly gay bishop in 2003, has been given a Sept. 30 deadline to unequivocally pledge not to consecrate another openly gay bishop or authorize official prayers for same-sex couples.
Although The Episcopal Church expressed desire to remain in the Anglican Communion, Duncan believes the U.S. branch will "walk apart" from the global communion. A meeting for the discussion is scheduled for Sept. 25-28.
Meanwhile, several lawsuits over church property continue to wrack The Episcopal Church as breakaway Anglican parishes continue to worship in the churches while Episcopal dioceses file suit to reclaim the properties for The Episcopal Church.
The Anglican Communion Network's Annual Council passed a resolution Tuesday urging all existing litigation between The Episcopal Church and those that have split be suspended. Moreover, the network resolved to declare its willingness to engage in mediation to find a mutually agreeable way forward. The resolution echoes the request made by primates (leaders of the Anglican Communion's 38 provinces worldwide) earlier this year, asking The Episcopal Church to drop all litigation over property issues. Litigation, however, has continued.
Each of the Common Cause Partnership's 10 members is independently considering the ratified Theological Statement.
The Anglican Communion Network was birthed in March 2004 and is currently comprised of over 900 parishes and over 2,200 clergy.