Monday, June 22, 2009

New U.S. Anglicans launch, to ban women, gays as bishops

The USA Today headline got it exactly right for once. This is what this enterprise is about and little else.

Further in the article Duncan says that the archbishop of Canterbury is sending a staff member to this gathering. If this is true is it a betrayal of the Episcopal Church by the Archbishop.

Hundreds of formerly Episcopal parishes are meeting this week to unify as a new national church: the Anglican Church inNorth America.

Organizers, led by former Episcopal Bishop of Pittsburgh Robert Duncan, expect 300 delegates, including 50 bishops, in Bedford, Texas, for a three-day gathering that begins Monday.

The group is scheduled to adopt church laws that will exclude women and homosexuals as bishops. It also is expected to elect and install Duncan as archbishop.

The new group, which says it represents 100,000 believers, calls itself a province, echoing the language of the worldwide Anglican Communion, the third largest Christian denomination. The Anglican Communion is a loosely governed collection of 38 regional and national churches, including the 2.1-million-member U.S. branch, the Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Church of Canada. However, it may take years for the new group to be recognized as a member of the Communion.

The Episcopal Church has been in turmoil for years over key issues such as whether the Bible allows gays or women to be clergy or bishops. In 2003 the Episcopal governing body ratified the election of an openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. Divisions deepened with the 2006 election of presiding bishopKatharine Jefferts Schori.

Duncan and other conservative leaders have urged about 10% of Episcopal Church parishes to align with archbishops in Africa and South America, the "Global South" where the majority of the world's 80 million Anglicans live now.

In 2008, The Episcopal Church removed Duncan from ministry. He immediately was claimed as a bishop by the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, in South America.

The new church will link eight groups, some founded decades ago, to emphasize biblical authority, church discipline and evangelical missionary outreach.

But once the Episcopal-Anglican split itself is no longer news, then what? asks Jim Naughton, canon for communications for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D.C., a liberal diocese that supports Robinson and Schori.

"There's already a crowded marketplace on the right wing of the American religious spectrum. I think the challenge is to move beyond the events that spawned them," says Naughton.

Duncan, however, looks foward to the new church attracting anyone who seeks "the reliability of Scripture, the Catholic tradition and Pentecostal power. The Anglican Church bridges all three … If you see the love of Jesus in us, you will join."

The new church's proposed constitutional preamble, however, looks back with a swipe at the "those who have embraced erroneous teaching and who have rejected a repeated call to repentance."

And the governing structure for the Anglican Church in North America is designed to make sure that parishes and dioceses in the new church don't meander off with different biblical interpretations.

Bishops will have the final say in the choice of future bishops. Only men, and no gays, will be accepted.

Duncan says the church may continue to ordain women as deacons and priests. But pushing forward to name them as bishops, he says, is seen by the rest of the Anglican Communion as "a sad and arrogant American approach. The bishop is the symbol of the diocese and putting someone other dioceses do not recognize as capable of holding the office in the post is divisive in the international church."

The head of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, is sending a "pastoral visitor" from his staff, says Duncan, which he says shows that "we are part of the family."

Williams himself will attend the Episcopal Church's governing meeting this summer to give a seminar on combating global poverty.

Jurisdictions that have joined together to form the 28 dioceses and dioceses-in-formation of the Anglican Church in North America are: the dioceses of Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Quincy and San Joaquin; the Anglican Mission in the Americas (including the Anglican Coalition in Canada); the Convocation of Anglicans in North America; the Anglican Network in Canada; the Reformed Episcopal Church; and the missionary initiatives of Kenya, Uganda, and South America's Southern Cone. The American Anglican Council and Forward in Faith North America also are founding organizations.

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