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PITTSBURGH: Plan realigns Anglican church

Plan realigns Anglican church
Proposal would set up conservative subgroup

By Steve Levin,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

PITTSBURGH (June 16, 2005)--A draft of a constitution detailing a proposed realignment of the worldwide Anglican Communion became public this week, outlining for the first time how divisions over homosexuality may change the face of the more than 70-million-member church.

The unsourced and undated four-page document, named "The Organizing Constitution of the Anglican Global Initiative," has been circulating among some executive members of the Episcopal Church since January, after it was brought to the church's New York headquarters following a meeting of African bishops in Nairobi.

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh, a group of clergy and lay people, made the document available on its Web site. Its existence was first reported this week by the Guardian newspaper in Great Britain.

The articles of the constitution state that the Anglican Global Initiative would be an organization of Anglicans from the Global South, which includes Africa, Asia and parts of the Southern Hemisphere, and those in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada who "hold to the centrality and authority of Holy Scripture."

The new organization would "affiliate and unite" the Global South -- which represents about three-quarters of the total membership of the Anglican Communion -- with conservative Episcopalians, Canadian Anglicans and the so-called English evangelicals who have protested same-sex blessings and the consecration of a non-celibate gay bishop as disregarding basic Anglican beliefs.

The Anglican Global Initiative would be led by an executive council of archbishops from the Global South, along with like-minded leaders from North America and a lay representative. Archbishops Peter Akinola of Nigeria and Drexel Gomez of the West Indies, two of the most outspoken critics of the Episcopal Church's recent actions, were designated as co-presidents.

Yesterday, leaders of both the conservative and liberal factions of the Episcopal Church tried to distance themselves from the document. Both have been preparing for Sunday's triennial Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Nottingham, England. The council provides consultation and guidance on policy issues for the communion and represents the voice of the inner life in the church's 38 provinces in 160 countries.

The American church and the Anglican Church of Canada have been prohibited from active participation in the council because of their polarizing actions during the past two years. The U.S. church consecrated and ordained openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire; parishes in Canada conducted same-sex blessings.

The Rev. Martyn Minns, rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, Va., and a leader among conservative Episcopalians, said the publication of the draft so near to the council meeting was "a conspiracy to discredit conservatives and to paint the liberals as the oppressed."

The Rt. Rev. Robert W. Duncan Jr., bishop of the Pittsburgh Diocese and moderator of an organization of representatives from about 10 dioceses around the country -- including Pittsburgh -- who believe the Episcopal Church has overstepped its canonical boundaries, said he first learned of the draft yesterday.

He dismissed it as looking "like the work of some lawyers" but said a similar document could eventually emerge.

"It's within the structures of the Anglican Communion," he said. "There are numerous subgroups within the communion. This is a proposal for another subgroup."

A spokeswoman for Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold III said leaders were preoccupied with preparing their presentation at the consultative council meeting.

"Plan A and Plan B are not the biggest thing on the radar," said the spokeswoman, the Rev. Jan Nunley. "We've been mostly occupied with responding seriously to the Communion."

The constitution draft pledged also to plant churches and provide pastoral oversight not only for natives of the Global South living in North America, but also "for any others needing an Anglican parish with godly spiritual leadership and orthodox episcopal oversight."

Lionel E. Deimel, president of the Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh, said there was no reason to doubt the authenticity of the document. The group decided to publicize the document to learn more about its origins.

But Deimel said there was no question about its intent.

"The constitution ... is completely consistent with words we have heard from Bishop Duncan, Archbishop Akinola and others," he said.

He compared it to a memo written for a conservative Episcopal group by the Rev. Geoff Chapman, rector of St. Stephen's Church in Sewickley. Published in January 2004, the memo called for "disobedience of canon law on a widespread basis" toward the "ultimate goal [of] a realignment of Anglicanism on North American soil committed to biblical faith and values ... closely aligned with the majority of world Anglicanism."

END

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