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PITTSBURGH: New Ecclesiastical Structure Announced by Common Cause Partners

PITTSBURGH: New Ecclesiastical Structure Announced by Common Cause Partners

By David W. Virtue in Pittsburgh

Anglican bishops from ten jurisdictions and organizations took their first steps toward a "new ecclesiastical structure" in North America, it was announced by Common Cause Council of Bishops in Trinity Cathedral, Pittsburgh today.

Calling it an "historic time" in the life of the Anglican Communion, the Episcopal Bishop of Pittsburgh, the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, chair of Common Cause, said that 51 bishops will act as a "college of bishops" representing more than 600 Anglican congregations that make up Common Cause Partners which also includes a dozen mission leaders.

"This is a significant step towards a new Anglican province that will be recognized by a number of Anglican provinces and primates which embraces Common Cause Partners with a separate ecclesiastical structure called for by the bishops in Kilgali, Rwanda," said Duncan.

"We have been told by the General Convention that we are to be engaged in ecumenical dialogue with various groups that have not had a link with Anglicans," said Ackerman.

"We are confronted with the reality that there are numerous people in North America who consider themselves to be Anglican and thus it would be contrary to our Lord's call for unity not to be engaged actively in the reunification," Ackerman continued.

The bishops laid out a timeline for the path ahead saying they have committed themselves to working together at local and regional levels agreeing to interchangeable deployment of clergy. The bishops gathered here included leaders from the Anglican Province of America, (the Most Rev. Walter Grundorf), the Reformed Episcopal Church, (Presiding Bishop Leonard Riches), the AMIA (Bishop Chuck Murphy), the head of the Canadian Anglican Network, and newly elected bishops from some 15 offshore jurisdictions in Africa, Asia and the Southern Cone now with ecclesiastical bases in North America, as well as Forward in Faith, NA.

Asked by VirtueOnline if the Archbishop of Canterbury would recognize the new structure, Duncan said he did not expect immediate recognition, but "we will make our case" to him.

"We need to go to our partner provinces first, and then talk with the Archbishop of Canterbury."

Asked why it was necessary to form a new jurisdiction, Duncan replied it was because of the drift of the church in the West. Duncan said, when he was briefly in New Orleans, he spoke directly to Dr. Williams describing two very different understandings of the church. One is guided by the Word of God incarnate and the Word of God written, which he said embodied standards of faithfulness, holiness and spiritual fruitfulness. The other defines the wholeness of the church as a matter of inclusion and diversity without reference to revelation.

CANA bishop Martyn Minns said the bishops are working together rather than fragmentmentally and this was a "testimony of our working together."

Quincy Bishop and FIFNA president Keith Ackerman pointed to the 1998 Lambeth resolution that called for the reunification of the various continuing church bodies, "that we all may be one." The Episcopal Church's General Convention subsequently passed this.

Questioned by VOL about the legal, judicial and pastoral implications for his diocese, if it should attempt to pull out of the Episcopal Church, Duncan said that the Diocese of Pittsburgh's 142nd convention pointed to a majority of the diocese wanting "realignment."

"The Episcopal Church has not provided the room for us," he said. Duncan said this diocese was founded before The Episcopal Church came into existence and that there was historic precedence for secession when in 1861 the diocese broke with federation.

"We'll find a way to go through this that brings honor and glory to God and as a witness to the world." The Episcopal Church has already resorted to the courts. "I don't think the innovating inclusive, diverse church doesn't think that is consistent with the gospel we are called to proclaim."

Ackerman said that as the Bishop of Quincy he had inherited a constitution that says, "We are a diocese in the Anglican Communion. As president of Forward in Faith North America we have officially asked for the reunification and realignment of Anglicanism."

Ackerman said the bishops' time here in Pittsburgh was spent largely on mission evangelism and the sharing of resources with which God has gifted us. "It was not a purely political time; only two sessions of six were devoted to documents relating to the next ecclesial structure. Virtually no time was given to discussing TEC and their recent meeting in New Orleans."

During his sermon in the cathedral, Duncan said that there hasn't been an Archbishop of Canterbury worth killing since 1645, citing Anglican historian Philip Jenkins.


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