A new American Anglican church

A new American Anglican church December 4, 2008

Various conservative Episcopalians have come together to form a new Anglican church body, one that will vie with the Episcopal Church in America as the true representative of this country in the world Anglican communion:

Conservative Anglican leaders unveiled on Wednesday the constitution and laws for a new organization intended to replace the Episcopal Church as the American arm of the Anglican Communion, which has 77 million members worldwide.

The move is the most telling sign yet that the role of homosexual Christians has torn apart the first church to appoint an openly gay bishop.

Central to the new organization’s constitution is a declaration that the Bible is regarded as the “final authority and unchangeable standard.”

Dubbed the Common Cause Partnership, the leaders represent 100,000 Anglicans who believe the 2003 consecration of New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay man in a long-term relationship, violated the authority of scripture.

The constitution comes in the wake of a conference held in Israel last June with leaders from more than one-half of the world’s 77 million Anglicans. At that conference, the leaders outlined their intentions to, in their view, reform, heal and revitalize the Anglican Communion by adhering to a more literal interpretation of the Bible.

“The public release of our draft constitution is an important concrete step toward the goal of a biblical, missionary and united Anglican Church in North America,” said Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, moderator of Common Cause Partnership. Duncan was deposed by bishops in the Episcopal Church in September. . . .

The new denomination will include four Episcopal dioceses that recently voted to break away from the Episcopal church — Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, Tex., Quincy, Ill., and San Joaquin, Calif.. However, not all the parishes and Episcopalians in those four dioceses agreed to leave the Episcopal Church.

It also includes dozens of breakaway parishes in the U.S. and Canada that voted to do the same. The new church also will absorb a handful of other splinter groups that left the Episcopal Church decades ago regarding issues such as the ordination of women or revisions to the Book of Common Prayer.

One of those, the Reformed Episcopal Church, left the worldwide Anglican Communion 130 years ago because Episcopalians in the U.S. reserved communion for those who were baptized. Those who left believed everyone was welcome to receive communion.

Like the Reformed Episcopal Church, canons for the new province prescribe the original 1662 Book of Common Prayer Book, though they do not impose sanctions on those who use a different prayer book. The constitution also gives parishes discretion on ordaining women.

Is that true of the Reformed Episcopal Church? I’ve known people in that denomination, which I thought had an interesting blend of Calvinism and sacramentalism. But how can it be sacramental if it has such a low view of both baptism and communion?

How conservative than the new Anglican church be if it communes the unbaptized and is open to the ordination of women? Surely opposition to homosexuality can’t be the basis of a church’s existence. Nor can agreement on a common liturgy. There needs to be agreement in theology. Doesn’t there?

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  • I didn’t get that they were allowing for women’s ordination, as they are incorporating churches that left over that issue. I’m thinking since the Episcopalians have been ordaining women for quite sometime these churches were the ones who were opposed to the ordination of women.
    I wonder if the reformed episcopal church might have changed its position over the years regarding communion and the importance of baptism?
    I have to say I look at these issues in the Anglican Circles, and in Lutheran Circles where the center seems to be falling out also, and wonder what can be done. It all seems a mess. But if this new church body is serious about the Bible being the final authority I think they may have a chance in working out the kinks. At least they have that part right. now with prayer maybe they can get a theologian to speak cogently to the issues that still divide, and get them to come to agreement on those using the Bible. I do also wish that leaders in the LCMS might be talking with these people and at least sharing a dialogue.

  • Joe

    At first, I thought this was going to be a great thing. A theologically conservative wing in the North American Anglican denomination. Then, I saw that they were going to allow female ordination and the unbaptized to commune. Now, I am left with the impression that they don’t really care about historic Christian theology and doctrine; instead, they just don’t like gay folks in leadership roles.

  • Kirk

    I’m a member of the Falls Church Anglican which is a part of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, a mission which has endorsed the American Anglican constitution.

    Regarding the issue with the Reformed Episcopal Church and their view on Baptism and the sacraments: the article’s statement that the REC feels that all are welcome to partake of the Lord’s Supper is erroneous. The REC rejects baptism as necessary for salvation. They feel that un-baptized Christians can still enter heaven and can therefore still participate in the sacraments. They do not believe that non-Christians can take the Lord’s Supper.

    As for the ordination of women, most conservative Anglicans do not believe that women can serve as the spiritual leadership in their churches. Many do believe that women can have an ordained role in ministering to other women, or to children. We have a single, female priest at Falls and she is a member of the Pastoral Care team that is responsible primarily for counseling and visitation. I don’t see anything in scripture that would prohibit to ordination of a female into such a role. Granted, the lack of a direct article in the constitution on this matter does leave the door open for abuse and this may be a weakness in the document.

    Regardless, the new denomination is conservative and is based on more than an anti-homosexuality stance. The abuses and failings of the Episcopal leadership far exceed the ordination of a gay bishop, even entering the realm of denying miracles, the virgin birth, and the resurrection. An orthodox, scripturally and historically based direction for a church is the definition of conservative, in my mind. I think that the new constitution is a huge step in the right direct and will draw many Episcopal churches into the new American Anglicanism. Thank God for it.

    Here’s the new constitution:

  • Joe


    Thanks for the clarification. As a Confessional Lutheran I disagree with the stance on baptism and communion and I guess we could debate the intricacies of what ordination is and means and whether it can be restricted to certain roles, but instead I’ll just say that I am more encouraged after reading your post than I was after reading the article.

  • FW

    #3 kirk.

    My understanding is that the new church will allow each bishop or parish to decide what to do about female ordination. is that right? the conservative anglican leader in orange county california, i understand that his wife is also an episcopal priest. so apparently many in leadership seem rather ambivilent or even totally accepting of female ordination.

    question kirk:

    episcopalians have accepted the likes of bishop pike and spong for decades. these men have denied the divinity of christ and the resurrection. what specifically has changed to bring about this new alignment? It really DOES seem that ordaining a gay bishop was more objectionable to episcopalians than was ordaining christ-denying bishops. I feel that i must be missing something. what is that that I am missing?

  • ssmith

    I’m not Kirk, but I think that Gene Robinson was “the straw that broke the camel’s back” in terms of motivating the orthodox Episcopalians to shake the dust from their feet. I know that in 2003, when the consecration happened, my husband and I spent several months in prayer and finally left TEC for good.

    There are some not-quite-kind, but sadly accurate descriptions for many who worship in TEC (and we could have been counted among them until 2003): “pew potatoes”, or “the frozen chosen”. If it didn’t impact our own little church in our own little town, we ignored it. This was too big to ignore, and many who had been complacent realized what a terrible state TEC was in. I don’t know if that helps, but that’s my own personal “testimony” to the insanity.

  • Rob

    As someone else who currently worships at The Falls Church, I confirm what Kirk said.

    The better question to be asking, however, is whether breaking communion is legitimate in the first place.

  • Kirk


    Yes, I beleive that is the case. But priesthood doesn’t mean that you are going to be a preacher. Most churches have a number of priests (mine has 12) that serve in different capacities ranging from spritiual headship in specific ministries, to teaching, to ministry. I don’t see why a woman can’t be ordained so long as she serves in an appropriate capacity that is scriptural.

    As for your question, during the liberalization of the Episcopal church, there has always been a divide between the orthodox and the unorthodox. The more conservative churches always took the position that their responsibility was not to leave at the first sign of trouble, but to attempt to reform the larger denomination and gear it back towards Christ. centeredness. No orthodox church viewed the new leadership as good or appropriate or tolerable. It became obvious over the years that a reformation of the leadership was growing less and less likely simply because the liberal theology amongst the head bishops was becoming more entrenched. The ordination of Gene Robinson was merely the codification of what the broader liberalization of the Province meant in real terms. It did, frankly, serve as a wake up call for many of the more detached, conservative churches but it was one reason amongst many that most churches decided to split off. Really, it’s just the culmination of 30 years of liberalism and apostacy within the church leadership.

    If you read the new constitution, you’ll see that the emphasis is on a Biblical basis for church leadership and decisions. It is not an anti-homosexual document. Similarly, if you read the reasons given by churches that have split, you’ll likely see the same.

  • Kirk

    Besides, the first gay ordination took place in ’94. Most churches didn’t split off until ’06.

  • Tom

    I was REC until recently. When they broke away in the late 1800s, they were the low church evangelicals opposed to the Oxford Movement influence. The Communion controversy at the time was that they rejected the closed Communion of the Episcopal Church and participated in a ecumenical service with Presbys and others. Communing the unbaptised was never part of their practice, but their invitation to Communion has and still welcomes all baptised Christians. REC parishes today exhibit the full range low to high in worship practice and sacramental views (black robes / austere to full vestments and incense) but they are pretty uniformly traditional (little to no charismatic or praise worship).

  • I think that the ordination of women is a very different issue than homosexuality. I am on the fence on the issue personally. I feel like a woman priest is out of the natural order of things, but not inherently sinful; while homosexuality is both out of the natural order of things AND inherently sinful. I think about it in terms of the Israeli army. If there aren’t enough men to do the job, someone has to step up. I’d much rather have a godly female priest than an ungodly male one.

  • Don S

    Responding to the original post, “conservative” in this context clearly means being true to a literal interpretation of Scripture. It is a view that Scripture, in its original manuscripts, is the inerrant, inspired Word of God, and is to be interpreted literally. A literal interpretation of Scripture requires, for example, a view that communion is only for the saved, women are not to teach men in the church, and willingly practicing homosexuals are in openly rebellious sin, and therefore not eligible to be a spiritual leader, whether it be the pastorate or otherwise. Scripture does not address whether or not communion is only for the baptized, nor does it specifically address ordination of pastors/priests. These are issues more related to denominational distinctives. I agree with Kirk. I don’t really see a Scriptural issue with ordaining or commissioning women to serve in women’s or children’s ministries if a denomination wants to do that.

    In any event, in today’s world, being conservative isn’t just, or even mostly, about homosexuality. It’s about your view of creation, sin (homosexuality is just one sin, of a host which are rampant in the world), eternal destiny, God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, Scripture, prayer, priorities, the role of the church, etc., etc.

  • Steve in Toronto

    At least in Canada (and I believe in much of the US as well) the issue of women’s ordination in the Anglican Church is a fate accompli. In Toronto the two largest and healthiest orthodox evangelical congregations Little Trinity and Saint Paul’s Bloor Street have had ordained women serving as associates priests for at least the last 15 years and a number of smaller evangelical parishes are lead by women (my own included). Our local Low Church (and very evangelical and to a lesser extent reformed: in recent years it has become much more open to charismatics) Anglican seminary Wycliffe has a number of ordained woman professors (Fleming Rutledge is teaching there this term) and is thriving. In England Women Priests including Jane Williams the wife of the Arch Bishop of Canterbury are very active in the “open evangelical movement” and even the most conservative and reformed seminary in England: Oak Hill is training woman for the priesthood. If this new Anglican Church body excludes dioceses that ordain woman it would not only exclude hundreds of potential parishes who would otherwise wish to join it but also undermine its chances of being recognized by the larger world Anglican communion that has largely made its peace with woman priest (and even bishops). In regards to “open Communion” I have never even heard of an Anglican church in England or North America that practiced close communion. My own priest has communed my un-baptized nieces and nephews on a number of occasions. At first this practice bothered my but the fact is that these children are growing up in Christian homes (one of my brothers in law is actual in seminary) and have all made public professions of faith so its hard for me to argue that they are less entitled to commune than my own children that were baptized soon after they were born. Sadly most evangelicals have a very low view of the sacraments. I was only baptized at age 15 in spite of the fact that I made a public profession of faith when I was 6. I (and I think most evangelical Anglicans) think this practice is unwise (as well as unbiblical) but don’t think this should be grounds for exclusion from the table. In fact even the many orthodox Anglicans have different (and often conflicting) views of the sacraments. My own priest states her policy simply “If I have good reason to believe I will see you in heaven I see no reason why I should not communion you on earth”. I know all this seems very alien (and even Heretical) to a LCMS Lutheran but to most Evangelical Anglicans it seems very natural and intuitive.


    Steve in Toronto

  • “The straw that broke the camel’s back” might be a good way to describe several of the issues listed in the post, not just homosexuality. I have to think the breakoff of the Reformed Episcopal Church was over more than just what was listed. And I would wonder whether after 130 years the reasons for the breakoff would be the hot button issues for that body. I would guess that over time two bodies that split would find new differences that might be greater than the original ones. There were denominations that split at the Civil War, and later had divisions much deeper than any view of slavery. They often remained split long after anybody believed in slavery.

    We’re not really discussing the basis of a church’s existence, but the boundary lines for a communion. There may be some confusion in referring to such a body as a church. I would rather use that term of the church universal or of a congregation.

  • Railfan

    Kirk, thanks for the link to the constitution. Something important is missing in IV.7 since it stops short of saying what it is (probably the const/canons) that binds the member organizations. The CANA site also has posted the canons which do a couple things re bishops — make them male only and set up some consent to new consecrations by the provincial body.

    The WO discussion here seems to be “how I feel about it”. The more interesting question for ACNA (couldn’t they have picked an acronym sounding less like a skin disease?) is whether they’ll have an internal train wreck on WO. They’re led by Duncan and CANA who do ordain women and others like the Anglo-Catholics and REC who do not. Despite their press statements, WO is being treated as a secondary matter, not affecting their full communion relationship with each other — which usually would extend to pulpit exchange, transfers of clergy, etc.

  • Typically the word ordination has been used of that special rite where one assumes the preaching office and all that that entails. I suppose if you wanted to use it in reference to deaconesses etc. you could, but in the past we would use the word consecrate when referring to those other offices.
    In Missouri a few years ago we passed a resolution that said women could be called elders as long as they don’t do what elders have historically done in the past. Great! What a crock of b.s.! And so is this issue of calling women priests but then saying they can’t do what a priest does. We have other terms for people who head up these special “ministries.” We don’t need to call a woman a priest so she can go about handing our lollipops to the children in Sunday School. We can call her a Sunday school teacher and there is nothing wrong or confusing about that.
    Second. One becomes a member of the church through the sanctifying waters of Baptism. Once a person has been sanctified in the waters of Baptism they join the communion of saints that gather around the Altar. To admit them knowingly to the communion rail is sinful. Faith does not deny baptism. If one believes there is no reason for them not to be baptized. So if one believes and has not yet been baptized maybe they ought to ask to be baptized before they saunter up to the communion rail to participate in a rite they don’t understand.

  • I meant to say to admit them knowingly to the communion rail before they have been baptized is sinful.

  • Another thing, Parents of Children who have made a profession of faith, and yet refuse to have their children baptized, (I might extend this bit of law to all parent who do not have their children baptized) ought to read that little bit Jesus has to say about millstones being tied around one’s neck.

  • Firinnteine

    If you read the provisional Constitution and Canons for the new organization (which I did, this morning), you’ll find the following in regards to the ordination of women:

    Bishops in ACNA must be male.

    Each diocese or jurisdiction has the authority to determine whether it will (or can) ordain women to the diaconate or priesthood. No diocese or jurisdiction will be forced to act contrary to its own canons (or conscience) in this regard.

    This disagreement is rightly recognized as a serious sticking point for the fully united ministry of the new province… but if they’re going to try to make room for both views, the arrangement they’ve set up is probably about the best that could be expected.

    * * *

    One of the earliest Christian writings, the Didache, said in the late first or early second century: “And let none eat or drink of your Eucharist but such as have been baptized into the name of the Lord.”

    Given the outcry from conservative Anglicans (both in and outside TEC) against revisionists who advocate “open communion,” I would be VERY VERY surprised if the new province allows the unbaptized to participate in the Lord’s Supper.

    Presumably they will continue to welcome all BAPTIZED believers to the Table of the Lord.

    (I don’t think the Constitution and Canons address these questions. But I can’t imagine some of the bishops who are involved signing off on anything that allowed the non-baptized to receive the Eucharist….)

  • EGK

    The ordination issue raises the question, What constitutes the ministry? Obviously in the Anglican understanding of a threefold order, one can be ordained to an office that does not exercise all the functions of the office. Since we Lutherans recognize only one office which is that of the public preaching of the Gospel and administering the sacraments, there can be no situation in which a woman might be ordained. We will commission others who exercise some of the functions under the supervision of the pastor in areas of visitation, service, teaching, child and youth ministry, etc., to which both women and men may be assigned (“called” in a wider sense) depending on the context. Here in Lutheran Church-Canada they are placed in the “diaconate.” But they do not have the office of ministry. To my mind this eliminates the confusion that we have been seeing in this discussion, where there are ordained people who do not do everything God has assigned to the office.

  • Kirk or other Falls Churchians, are Falls Church and other congregations that have joined an African mission a part of this new Anglican body? Your bishop is from Nigeria, so does this mean you are not under these other bishops?

  • ssmith

    Falls Church et al are under Bishop Minns (of CANA). At the press conference last night it is clear that CANA is part of the new ACNA (Anglican Church in North America). Those churches and dioceses who are now under the authority of archbishops in other geographic locations (like the Southern Cone, or Uganda, or Nigeria) will eventually move – once the province is officially established in whatever manner that turns out to be – to be under the authority of the Archbishop of the ACNA. But that timeline is still vague at this early stage.

  • Kirk


    What Smith says is true, we are under Bishop Minns and it does endorse and participate in the ACNA. I’m still trying to figure out how this new body will work, exactly, though. It seems to me that it’s going to function as a smaller version of the Anglican communion. The diocese under this new province will be based partially on geographic location but mostly on pre-existing splits (for example, you’ll have a CANA diocese, a RE diocese, etc.) These diocese will have independent rule and will meet at the ACNA conferences to pass non-binding resolutions. I don’t know this for sure. I’m just basing this off what the constitution implies. The only real national church government seems to be the constitution and cannon’s, itself.

    Again, all pure speculation.

  • A more consistent position is provided by the True Anglican Communion: