Common Cause bishops pledge to seek Anglican recognition

Episcopal News Service. September 28, 2007 [092807-02]

Mary Frances Schjonberg

Fifty-one bishops representing several self-identified Anglican organizations said September 28 that they will spend the next 15 months developing "an Anglican union," which they anticipate will be recognized by some Anglican Communion Primates and provinces.

The Common Cause Council of Bishops, ending a four-day meeting in Pittsburgh, said that union will be the one called for in September 2006 by a self-selecting group of Anglican Primates who lead Provinces in the global south.

Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan convened the meeting in his role as moderator of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes (NACDP), also known as the Anglican Communion Network.

Thirteen active or former diocesan Episcopal Church bishops attended the meeting, including Keith Ackerman (Quincy), James Adams (Western Kansas), Fitz Allison (formerly of South Carolina), Peter Beckwith (Springfield), David Bena (formerly of Albany), Alex Dickson (formerly of West Tennessee), Andrew Fairfield (formerly of North Dakota), John Howe (Central Florida), Jack Iker (Fort Worth), William Love (Albany), Donald Parsons (formerly of Quincy), Henry Scriven (assistant, Pittsburgh) and William Wantland (formerly of Eau Claire).

Duncan and others compared the steps taken during the meeting to those of the Reformation, the American Revolution, the U.S. Civil War and martyrdom.

During his short homily at Eucharist, Duncan urged the congregation of about 100 to be fruitful even if their fruit is not what the world wants, and to be willing to face the consequences of their actions. Those consequences in the past, Duncan said, have included death.

"My prayer for us who have gathered here is that...we will be such a threat to the present order that we will be found worth killing, if only Columba's white martyrdom, but, if it be so, let it be the red martyrdom," Duncan said, contrasting the "martyrdom" of asceticism with that of death.

Duncan said during a news conference at the end of the council's meeting that the roots of this attempted "re-alignment" are in the declarations of impaired or broken communion made in 2003 by some Anglican Communion provinces following the consecration of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.

"They don't have relationships with [the Episcopal Church]," Duncan said. "We're at a point where we think we can be their partners."

The structure envisioned is meant to unite Christians in the West, where Duncan said the church has "lost its way" and is "weak, in decline and uncertain about Jesus," with the church in the global south, which is "utterly clear about what it is to follow Jesus."

Duncan said this movement "is not just for Anglicans, but for the whole Christian family, and just like the Reformation of the 16th century, we're in a time when again God's always reforming his church in the power of his Holy Spirit, not to something new but to the revelation and to what the tradition has always said about him."

When asked what provisions he has made for those Episcopalians in the Diocese of Pittsburgh who do not want to follow him in the new Anglican union, Duncan said: "I have been their bishop. I will remain their bishop as they will have me as their bishop."

He added that the diocese will continue "strengthening congregations wherever we can, and the people of God however we can, even when we disagree."

Bill Atwood, a former Episcopal Church priest who was recently made a bishop in the Anglican Church of Kenya, said that "the lack of pastoral response and sensitivity institutionally in this country is part of what has called for a robust and unified response from people around the world to provide for those who continue to maintain the historic faith of the Christian Church."

Dioceses have left the Episcopal Church in the past, Duncan claimed, citing the departure of nine dioceses in 1861 and calling the church a "federation" of dioceses.

"We believe it is possible dioceses are formed and federate with a province and we believe it's possible…for a diocese to break that federation," he said. "We'll hope we can find a way to go through this that brings honor and glory to God, and witnessing for the world what Christians would do. That's our commitment. We don't know what those who are in the minority here in this diocese or the majority of the Episcopal Church will do. They've already resorted to the courts against this diocese and against many parishes. That may be again the way that the innovating, inclusive, diverse church chooses to deal with us."

Duncan's reference to dioceses leaving in 1861 pertains to the short-lived Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America. Dioceses in the Confederate states banded together over their opposition to praying for the U.S. Congress and President Abraham Lincoln. After the end of the war, those dioceses, beginning with North Carolina, asked to be able to rejoin the rest of the Episcopal Church and the General Convention, meeting in Philadelphia in November 1865, agreed.

Missionary Bishop Martyn Minns of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America compared the Anglican union with that "more perfect union" envisioned by the American colonists who broke away from Britain.

When Duncan and Quincy Bishop Keith Ackerman were asked how their role in forming an Anglican union will affect their Episcopal Church episcopacy, Ackerman said he "inherited" a diocesan constitution which says that Quincy is to be a diocese in the Anglican Communion. "I have been obedient to that," he said.

Duncan noted that the Diocese of Pittsburgh is scheduled to vote in early November on the first reading of constitutional changes that would sever ties with the Episcopal Church.

Ackerman attended, in part, in his role as the president of Forward in Faith North America and during the news conference introduced another aspect of the attempted alignment with the Anglican Communion. He said that his organization has been seeking for the "reunification of Anglicanism and an opportunity for marginalized Anglo-Catholics to have a place for a long time."

Duncan noted that some of the meeting's participants "were not in the midst of this fight" with the Episcopal Church, introducing Anglican Province in America Presiding Bishop Walter Grundorf who said "we are the exiles."

"This was a wonderful opportunity for those of us who consider ourselves sort of classical Anglo-Catholic types of Anglicans who are outside the church and in a lifeboat situation" to come together "in hope that somehow, some way we can find a broad enough church to bring us all together and to protect our particular issues that we feel very strongly about," Grundorf said.

While he said he did not have the authority to accept the proposals made during the meeting, Grundorf said he hopes the province will approve them "because I think the safeguards are there for us."

A statement of the bishops' intentions, articles of the partnership, timeline, and issues for the "lead bishops roundtable" to decide are all available here.

The Articles of the Common Cause Partnership is a five-page set of rules governing issues such as powers of a Leadership Council; qualifications for membership; processes of governing theological education; privileges available to the organizations' members and dispute resolutions. The by-laws were first proposed August 18, 2006. The timeline calls for all partners in the partnership to ratify the articles and a theological statement.

The 14 issues to be handled by the bishops who lead each entity of the partnership include how to "live together with bishops and congregations and dioceses that do ordain women and others that do not ordain women," "exploring with the seminaries of the Church how they can best serve us and how we can support them in our new mission context," and "exploring the standards, spiritual and moral, of ordained and lay leaders.

Duncan told the gathering in his opening address September 25 that before any unified orthodox Anglicanism could be expected to emerge in North America, relationships among the organizations needed to be reordered.

"Our shortcoming is not 'right Faith,'" he said. "Our shortcoming is 'right Order' and 'right Mission.'"

According to the NACDP, Common Cause was formed in 2004 and connects "Anglican bodies" that "have committed to working together for 'a Biblical, missionary and united Anglicanism in North America.'" The members have written and adopted a common theological statement and articles of federation. A diagram of the organization is available here.

According to a list provided by Common Cause, the organizations and participants attending the September 25-28 meeting in Pittsburgh were:

American Anglican Council

  • represented by members of Convocation of Anglicans in North America listed below

Anglican Coalition in Canada

  • represented by members of Anglican Mission in America listed below

Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes (also known as the Anglican Communion Network)

  • represented by active or former diocesan Episcopal Church bishops James Adams (Western Kansas), Fitz Allison (formerly of South Carolina), Peter Beckwith (Springfield), Alex Dickson (formerly of West Tennessee), Robert Duncan (Pittsburgh), John Howe (Central Florida), William Love (Albany), Henry Scriven (Pittsburgh); Kenyan bishops Bill Attwood and William Murdoch; and Ugandan bishops Andrew Fairfield (formerly Episcopal Church Bishop of South Dakota) and John Guernsey

Anglican Essentials of Canada

  • represented by the Rev. Canon Charles Masters

Anglican Mission in America

  • represented by bishops Sandy Green, T.J. Johnston, Chuck Murphy and John Rodgers, and the Rev. John Miller

Anglican Network in Canada

  • represented by Bishop Donald Harvey (former bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada’s Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador)

Anglican Province in America

  • represented by bishops Richard Boyce, C. Peter Brewer, Walter Grundorf, Winfield Mott and Larry L. Shaver

Convocation of Anglicans in North America

  • represented the Rev. Canon Roger Ames, the Rev. Canon David Anderson, Bishop David Bena (formerly Episcopal Church bishop of Albany) the Very Rev. Amos A. Fagbamiye, the Rev. Canon Nathan Kanu and Bishop Martyn Minns

Forward in Faith-North America

  • represented by Bishop Keith Ackerman (of the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy), the Rev. Canon William Gandenberger, Bishop Jack Iker (of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth), the Very Rev. William Ilgenfritz, and Bishop Donald Parsons (formerly of Quincy), and Bishop William Wantland (formerly of Eau Claire)

Reformed Episcopal Church

  • represented by Bishop Charles Dorrington, Bishop Michael Fedechko, Bishop George Fincke, the Very Rev. Alphonza Gadsden, Bishop Royal Grote Jr., Bishop David Hicks, Bishop David Morse, Bishop Leonard Riches, and Bishop Ray Sutton.

Participating guests

  • Bishop Paul Hewett and Bishop William Millsaps (Federation of Anglican Churches)
  • Bishop Roger Cavalcanti, deposed bishop of Recife (Brazil), and Bishop Frank Lyons of the Diocese of Bolivia, (ICON)
  • Archbishop Yong Ping Chung (retired of South East Asia, and a former chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council), listed as being affiliated with Anglican Mission in America