By David W. Virtue in Jerusalem
June 25, 2008
Good News is coming for North American orthodox Episcopalians. A new province is on the way. It is only a matter of time now before it comes into existence.
The "separate ecclesiastical structure in North America", called for at Kigali by the Global South Primates in November 2006, is not far off, the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan wrote in a paper delivered to pre-GAFCON theological leaders in Amman, Jordan.
Drawing upon the history of North American efforts to establish an orthodox beach head in the U.S. Duncan noted that when founded in 2003, the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes (Anglican Communion Network, or just The Network) proclaimed the vision of "a biblical, missionary and united Anglicanism in North America."
"We were given clarity that our work was to connect all the orthodox together, whether still inside the Episcopal Church or, increasingly, outside in various fragments as rescue efforts were undertaken by various Anglican Provinces. Local circumstances and missionary relationships were producing Rwandan, Ugandan, Nigerian, Kenyan and Southern Cone enclaves all across the continent. It was also clear that several of the historically separated Anglican bodies - the "Continuing Churches" and Reformed Episcopal Church - shared the same Faith as all the rest of us."
The Rt. Rev. David C. Anderson, President of the American Anglican Council and a CANA (Nigerian) bishop, believes that it is more accurately a proto Province one that will bring together the multiple Anglican affiliations that are spread across the country that will, in time, become a full blown province. "We are moving inexorably in that direction. It is no longer a matter of if but when," he told VOL. Given the ever-growing population of American Anglicans under overseas jurisdictions, two issues have emerged: First, since Anglican congregations in some of our major cities are under different Episcopal jurisdictions, how will they work together? If these congregations find a way to serve together for the sake of serving their regions, then mission and evangelism will flourish. However, if they do not find ways to collegially work together to serve their regions, then these congregations will never get beyond being chaplaincies to those who choose to affiliate with them.
Secondly, a more serious issue arises which is that if a new, national Anglican province is actually formed, then who, if necessary, will be willing to lay down his claim to episcopacy for the sake of the visible and structural unity of this new province? How flexible will these new bishops (and the archbishops they serve) be for the sake of reaching the United States with the Gospel? Or, to put it negatively, how stuck will this new province be in old TEC models that are committed to maintaining personal and structural power, no matter what the cost?
While there are no simple answers to these questions there will be much sorting and sifting out about who will or will not belong to such a proto province.
Will the issue of those who are willing to ordain women to the priesthood continue to be a stumbling block to those who theologically refuse to accept the legitimacy of such ordinations?
Can evangelicals who ordain women and those who don't coexist comfortably with Anglo-Catholics who steadfastly see this as a profoundly theological communion-compromising issue and not just a pastoral one? Time will tell.
Will the newly formed Anglican Network in Canada throw their lot in with such a province? There seems no reason why they shouldn't.
One thing is for certain, the face and landscape of North American Anglicanism has changed forever. There is no going back, there will be no faux reconciliation, no leaving the lights on in the hope that the "lost" will make their way back to 815 Second Ave., rending their miters and cassocks in sackcloth and ashes asking for forgiveness. That day too, is done. More dioceses are ready to flee TEC's ecclesiastical embrace after the Lambeth Conference convinced that Episcopal Church leaders have gone astray.
Evangelicals/Anglo-Catholics and liberal/revisionists are on two different planets. There will be no intersecting of opinions, no more polite "conversation" or "listening". This GAFCON gathering is living witness to that. Defiance and rebellion against the moral order is written deeply into the warp and woof of The Episcopal Church. That will not change. General Convention 2009 will reinforce and enshrine the new Episcopal religion forever. Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola has called them "apostates" and so they are. Gene Robinson's ecclesiastical imprint and DNA is forever enshrined in the body of Episcopal Church history. There is no way orthodox folk will have any truck with him. It is over. A new province is aborning.
All that remains to be seen is how this will play out. Even if no formal declaration of a new communion is announced here, GAFCON will encourage North Americans to move forward in order to be proper stewards of money and resources. Bishop Robert Duncan and Common Cause Partnership leaders are looking for legitimacy and a stamp of approval from key GAFCON leaders who are themselves Primates and, I am told, they will get it. The face of North American Anglicanism has changed forever, it only remains to be seen now how the bigger picture emerges.