WHEATON, IL: Alternative Anglican Province Formed in North America
Provisional Constitution and Nine Canons Approved
by David W. Virtue in Wheaton, Illinois
December 3, 2008
A new Province of the Anglican Church in North America, an alternative province to The Episcopal Church USA complete with a provisional constitution and nine canons, was birthed today with 700 churches and 100,000 church-going members. A formal ratification of the constitution and canons will take place in a provincial assembly in six months in Bedford, Texas, at St. Vincent's cathedral in the diocese of Ft. Worth.
It is historic and unprecedented, said Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan moderator of the Anglican Communion Network. "It is an extraordinary day for us. We have reversed 40 years of Anglican history and years of division among The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in Canada. Today we bring together 11 jurisdictions in Canada and across the US. Today marks 5 years of labor and attempts to come together."
Duncan said the Provisional Constitution is in response to what seven Primates of the Anglican Communion had asked them to do. "They (archbishops) represent the majority of the worlds' who met recently in Jerusalem recently. They asked us to form a provisional province that would be recognized by the bulk of the Anglican world. Today we have done that."
Duncan said the new province is a work in the spirit of unity and mutual submission and is as fine and as great as "I have ever known." The nine canons put in place were unanimously adopted by all the partners of Common cause, he said.
"It will gather representatives from the dioceses, networks and clusters out of all these jurisdictions across cultural lines across churchmanship lines and across lines of division over the ordination of women. We are coming together in our unity in Jesus Christ," said Duncan.
CANA Bishop Martyn Minns lauded the new transitional structure and said it provided a safe place for orthodox Anglicans. "This now moves us into a new phase. I am grateful for the care and covering the Primates have given from the various provinces."
Dr. Michael Howell, executive director of Forward in Faith NA, described the day as "wonderful" and "something we have been praying for, for decades. We can proclaim Jesus as the one true Christ and the trustworthiness of Holy Scripture." Howell, who is African American, said the new the new biblically-driven North American Anglican Province was "for Gods glory."
Canadian representative the Rev. Charlie Masters, Executive Archdeacon and National Director of the Anglican Network in Canada, said the temporary oversight given by Southern Cone Archbishop Gregory Venables to Bishop Donald Harvey would continue until such time as the new constitution and canons are ratified. "Our constitution has been drafted. We now have a home in the North American Anglican Province."
Cynthia Brust, director of communications for the Pawleys Island based Anglican Mission in the Americas said she and her husband came out of The Episcopal Church. "Today, years of work have come to fruition. The crisis of leadership and faith we have seen for 50 years has come to an end and we are now we are seeing the Spirit of God moving in a mighty way with a Provisional Constitution. We have a mission focus." She said the most effective means of growth is through church planting and fulfilling The Great Commission, not by structures.
Asked by Tim Morgan, reporter with "Christianity Today" if the goal of the new province is to displace or form a parallel province, Bishop Duncan replied that the new province is displacing The Episcopal Church which is in "extraordinary decline. TEC is losing 1000 a week in Average Sunday Attendance. Today what we are focusing on in our mission together."
"The mission and purpose of the province is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and to share his transforming love in the US Canada and beyond."
Asked by VOL if the Archbishop of Canterbury will recognize the new province, Duncan stated that that is not ours to determine. "The Episcopal Church is recognized by the structures of the Anglican Communion but 22 archbishops have declared themselves in broken or impaired communion and they represent the majority of the Anglican Communion. One is an official reality and the other is an emerging reality."
Duncan said he is in regular communication with Dr. Rowan Williams. "What the Archbishop will do is for him to say. We have put ourselves in line with the Windsor Report. We stand with mainstream Anglicanism. Will the Archbishop recognize where the mainstream is or is not?"
On property issues, Duncan said each parish of the 12 factions would hold title to their properties. "The church is now free to do mission."
Asked about what Prayer Book would be used, Duncan said that that would be left to the various diocese and networks. There would no official Prayer Book, some will use the 1662 and others will use the 1979, he said.
On the practice of women's ordination Duncan said those who ordain women to the priesthood can continue to do so. Those who do not ordain to the diaconate or priesthood can continue that position. It is in the constitution that they will not ordain a woman to the episcopacy. There is no consensus in the Anglican Communion about women in the episcopacy and we will not push it, he said.
"The reality is that The Episcopal Church has separated from mainstream of Anglicanism. Scripture is the ultimate standard of the Christian Faith and the uniqueness of Jesus as the savior of the world."
The Episcopal Church will discipline someone like Duncan, but not Jack Spong (former Bishop of Newark.)
Masters noted the irony that this week Canadian Archbishop Fred Hiltz announced the formation of an indigenous Anglican diocese while rejecting a North American Anglican province. "This is a theological crisis which has resulted in litigation. This new province has been declared. We are trying to move on. We don't want to go back. There are 24 congregations under this new authority. We have 3,100 on a Sunday morning. Together we are larger than the 12 dioceses in Canada."
Asked by VOL if there would be an immediate transfer of all the jurisdictions to the new Anglican Province, Minns said there would be no immediate transfer; in the meantime there would be dual citizenship with full ratification in June. Minns acknowledged that the transition would be "difficult."
Questioned if this is a formal schism, Duncan said that what happened here is "unprecedented and extraordinary". He said the American Episcopal Church no longer holds to the same faith enshrined in Scripture and has moved away from that revelation.
A worship service followed by a formal affirmation and signing of the GAFCON statement and Jerusalem declaration was held at Wheaton Evangelical Free Church with some 800 in attendance.
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