Conservative Episcopalian called on the world's leading Anglican archbishops Friday to recognize their emerging network as a separate church within the worldwide Anglican Communion unless the Episcopal Church reverses its liberal views on homosexuality.The plan to take over the Episcopal Church is unfolding right on schedule, it seems. The call for repentance is about as absurd as the old line, "Have you quit beating your wife yet?"
Conservatives associated with the newly developing Anglican Communion Network had been careful not to imply that they wanted the group to be recognized as a legitimate national church separate from the 2.3-million member Episcopal Church.
But at the end of a two-day meeting in Long Beach, the conference's steering committee urged Anglican primates, archbishops of national Anglican churches, to "recognize the Anglican Communion Network as a true Anglican province [church] in North America if the Episcopal Church does not repent."
The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of the worldwide 77-million-member Anglican Communion, whose spiritual leader is the archbishop of Canterbury. Each self-governing national church is known as a province.
The Long Beach statement also urged the primates to "discipline and censure" the Episcopal Church "for its ongoing ungodly actions."
Despite the strong plea from conservatives in the Western states, there was no immediate support from national conservative leaders for a separate province, although they said they could understand the frustration of those who did. The Rev. Canon David Anderson, national president of the American Anglican Council, which supports the network, said Friday that his organization was not prepared to join in a call for a separate province.
"The leadership of the AAC would not want to go that far at this point," Anderson said.
The Rev. Canon Kendall Harmon, a member of the Anglican Communion Network national steering committee, said the Long Beach statement should be seen only as a grass-roots call by network members from the Western states. He said he would have worded it differently.
A high-level commission appointed by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is examining developments in the United States as well as in Canada, where the Anglican Church also is debating whether to bless same-sex unions. The commission was expected to forward its findings to Williams this fall.
Hours before the Long Beach plea, Anderson said he expected the conservative network to remain within the Episcopal Church, at least for the time being.
"It's like a marriage where there is severe estrangement. Everyone is still under the same roof and gets their mail at the same address, but more and more live lives that go different directions," he said.
In a speech to the network's so-called Plano West conference (the first such conference was last year in Plano, Texas), Anderson berated the Episcopal Church. But he also urged conservatives to be patient.
"I would like to see the Episcopal Church censured by the primates and the archbishop of Canterbury," Anderson said in remarks that drew an estimated 800 attendees to their feet. "I would like to see the Episcopal Church censured, put on a probation status and called to repentance. If they do not repent, then certain things need to happen of a long-term nature. But if they did repent, God's grace and forgiveness could be poured abundantly on the whole church, upon hearts that would turn back to God."
Anderson said Los Angeles Episcopal Bishop J. Jon Bruno's decision last month to bless the same-sex partnership of a prominent gay priest underscored what Anderson said was the Episcopal Church's slide toward "heresy and apostasy."
"How do words begin to describe the scope and the depth of the offense against the church [universal], against the communion members, against the Gospel itself that this is," Anderson said. He also chastised the Episcopal bishop of Washington, the Rt. Rev. John Chane, who has planned a similar same-sex blessing for later this month.
As Bruno and Chane came under fire, a gay and lesbian advocacy group, Claiming the Blessing, came to their defense Friday. The group said the blessings were "celebrations of holy love" that gave "glory to God."
In case you missed the plan launched by the AAC some time ago, the details can be found in the Chapman letter.
An excerpt worth noting:
During the months of Stage 1, we will begin to reform our relationships to build the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes. We will move to initiate support structures for fellowship and strategy, We will act courageously and faithfully to support "at risk" parishes. We will creatively redirect finances. We will refocus on Gospel initiatives. We will innovatively move around, beyond or within the canons to "act like the church God is making us". Stage 1 will enable congregations/clusters to keep clear use of their buildings for the foreseeable future, and would give critical time to strengthen our leadership circles for what promises to be a turbulent spiritual season.The Via Media groups interpreted the letter this way;
Stage 2 will launch at some yet to be determined moment, probably in 2004. During this phase, we will seek, under the guidance of the Primates, negotiated settlements in matters of property, jurisdiction, pastoral succession and communion, If adequate settlements are not within reach, a faithful disobedience of canon law on a widespread basis may be necessary.
The letter speaks for itself. Property, not piety is keeping dissident parishes in the Episcopal Church. In the longer term, the AAC expects to use foreign intervention to trump American law and the Episcopal Church Constitution and Canons. Its leaders are assuring dissident parishes that the Anglican primates, a consultative body with no governing authority or standing in the United States, will ride to the rescue of Network parishes, negotiate property settlements and transfer the assets of 2.3-million-member church to a group representing perhaps a tenth of that body. The Chapman letter reveals the AAC's "realignment" for what it really is -- the overthrow of the Episcopal Church by extra-legal means.That's about how I read it as well. And now we see the plan unfolding. And those who see what the AAC, or Network are doing are not to get upset; just compassionately let the Church we love be stolen by less than 10% of her members? Actually, much less than 10%; seven of the 107 Episcopal dioceses, and less than 70 of the 6,800 congregations in other dioceses, have joined the Network. But I'm reeeeealy trying to be generous here. Does it show?
The Lambeth Commission has asked us not to escalate things. On that basis, the Canadians backed down. This sure looks like an escalation to me.