Anglicans escalate split with plan for rival group

Fri, Dec 5, 2008, 00:00

CONSERVATIVE ANGLICANS in North America have escalated their split with the Episcopal Church by announcing the formation of a rival denomination they will seek to establish as a new province of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The rebels, who claim the new denomination will have 100,000 members compared with more than two million in the Episcopal Church, believe the mainstream church has moved away from traditional Christian teaching. Their rebellion has focused in recent months on the ordination of an openly gay bishop and the blessing of gay unions.

“The Lord is displacing the Episcopal Church,” said Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, who would lead the new group. “We are a body that is growing, that is planting new congregations, that is concerned to be an authentic Christian presence in the US and Canada.”

The new province would be called the Anglican Church in North America and, unusually, it would be defined not by geography but by theological orientation. It would bring together groups that have left the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada over gay issues and rebels who left decades ago over issues such as the ordination of women and changes to the Book of Common Prayer. Although the rebels are united in their opposition to gay priests and gay unions, they disagree on issues including the ordination of women.

Under the new group’s constitution, each of its nine constituent dioceses or groups that would make up the new province could follow its own teachings on women’s ordination and each congregation would keep its own property.

The new province must still get approval from two-thirds of the 38 provincial Anglican leaders who represent 77 million Christians worldwide.