The archbishop’s sword

379px-William_Wallace_StatueAre these dissidents and their leader heroic rebels or pesky schismatics?

In the ongoing power struggle and doctrinal melodrama taking place in the Anglican Communion, the latest act happens this week in Texas at a “provincial gathering”, where representatives of former Episcopal parishes are coming together as the Anglican Church in North America.

I’ve written one sentence, and already we’re hip deep in controversy. For the group, which claims 100,000 members, is not (yet?) a recognized province in the Anglican Communion. While the group has been recognized by some pretty heavy hitters in the Anglican Parthenon (pantheon?), what this means is still highly arguable. Check out this press release from the Primates Council of GAFCON (Global Anglican Futures Council) and, just for fun, this riposte from American Episcopal blogger and priest, Mark Harris.

Veteran professional Cathy Lynn Grossman has done a nice job of writing the story behind the meeting at I do have one big question, however, and it focuses right on the lede.

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

I’d be surprised if the new group excluded all gays as clergy. My guess would be that celibate gays, like married and celibate heterosexuals, would be OK, but I don’t know that. I’d like to see chapter and verse on this statement. It would also have been helpful to have more background on what it might mean that a “pastoral visitor” from Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’s office is attending the meeting.

For more background on the meeting with a little Texas spin, read this story by Sam Hodges from the website. For all of you Rick Warren addicts out there, the story alludes to the fact that he’s going to be a speaker at the meeting. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone wrote an investigative story about Warren’s relationship with conservative Anglicans — and then we never heard about it again?

Among the recent crop of stories, the one I liked the best was a very extensive interview Ann Rodgers did with deposed Episcopal bishop Robert Duncan — to be installed today as ANCA archbishop. Rogers situates Duncan’s personal story in that of the movement that he now leads.

The lede is wonderful as much for what it doesn’t say as for what it does:

In his office at the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (Anglican), Bishop Robert Duncan has mounted a Scottish broadsword, like that of the hero in his favorite movie, “Braveheart.” It was a gift from a priest after the Episcopal Church accepted a partnered gay bishop.

The legend of “Braveheart” “is about somebody who rallies people to stand up against what is very wrong,” Bishop Duncan said. “It’s a two-edged sword, and the holy scriptures describe scripture as sharper than any two-edged sword.”

As most of you know, the movie “Braveheart” is based upon (loosely, argue some historians) the life of William Wallace, a 14th-century fighter for Scottish independence. Venerated by some for wielding the sword against the English enemy, he seemed to go from one violent clash to another, leaving piles of corpses, righteous or not, in his wake.

While one can take that analogy a bit too far, it is fair to say that while some view Duncan as a hero, others see him as a traitor. Rodgers captures both points of view, and, in the process portrays a complicated man, seemingly driven by a very human blend of inspiration and ambition. Credit to her, and to her editors for allowing her the time and space to let us savor the many facets of a leader who is changing, perhaps a little and maybe a lot, the face of Anglicanism in the United States.

That’s a statue of William Wallace, from Wikimedia Commons.

Print Friendly

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    I got sick and tired of seeing in the mainstream media print stories and TV reports of the Florida priest who decided he would rather be married and Episcopal.
    But where are the stories of the whole monastery of cloistered Anglican nuns in Maryland who have decided to swim the Tiber for Rome. I haven’t seen “peep!” in the many mainstream media available around here.
    I know the priest was a media guru in Miami and failures in celibacy are a favorite topic in the media. BUT (Sheeesh!!) –a whole monastery becoming Catholic. Isn’t it worth a drop of ink??? And, considering it is a monastery of women, shouldn’t the media be probing as to why they are joining a Church who won’t ordain women to her priesthood???

  • Jill C.

    Bishop Duncan did spend some time early in his priesthood, serving in a Scottish Episcopal parish in Edinburgh. (Scotland, not PA.)

    Rick Warren was a speaker at “A Hope and a Future” conference held a couple of Novembers ago in Pittsburgh. If I remember correctly he got a little teary-eyed and choked up at one point in his address. He seemed genuninely to sympathize and bond with those in attendance. And he had some worthwhile experiences and admonitions to share with the mostly Episcopalian crowd.

  • Jeff

    Well, and I’ll add that Scripture doesn’t state that it is sharper than a two-edged sword. It is referring to Christ.

  • Rev. Paul T. McCain

    I think your readers might also appreciate hearing that there are a number of conservative Anglicans in the USA who do not regard this new group as “orthodox” because they allow for the ordination of women to the pastoral office, and are quite distressed that this group is touting itself as “the orthodox Anglican” group in the USA. See, for example:

  • E.E. Evans

    We’ve had to spike a comment today because it had nothing to do with media coverage — I don’t mind the occasional spirited debate, but knock it off with the insults, please.

  • Bill in Ottawa

    Anglican Mainstream has a blog post on the conference which asks a pertinent question about who is observing and who isn’t. Many of the old-line conservative and liturgical denominations are there (LCMS, RC, OCA, EPC) but outside of Rick Warren, the conservative congregational assemblies like the Southern Baptists are not. There are no observers from the mainstream Protestant denominations (ELCA, TEC, UCC etc.) but the Archbishop of Canterbury sent two representatives and the Church of England’s conservative evangelical wing is also represented. While this isn’t a surprise for a long-time observer like me, it is part of the overall pattern.

    The other significant thing about this assembly is that it is merging several different breakaway Anglican bodies into one overall structure. These various bodies have been independent for various lengths of time, from several months in the cases of the Episcopal Church’s former dioceses to more than a century for the Reformed Episcopal Church.

    Canon 2.8.2 is a formal statement which sets a standard of fidelity in marriage or abstinence in singleness. Clergy and lay leaders must conform to this to be appointed to or continue in office.

  • Ann

    Glad you liked my story, but you’ve got my name spelled wrong. There’s a D in Rodgers.
    The reason that Duncan served a parish in Scotland was that he was over there doing advanced studies in Scottish history. He’s keenly interested in it. In the interview he was the one who used the word “legend” in regard to much of what is known about William Wallace.

  • E.E. Evans

    Ann, I’m sorry. Dumb error. I’ll fix that immediately.

    Much of the Wallace story apparently is legend, but it’s still very powerful.