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June 11, 2008
Column #1,398
Anglican/Episcopal Battle Sharpens
by Mike McManus

When I interviewed Missionary Bishop Martyn Minns of the Convocation of Anglicans of North America (CANA) this week, he was already in Jerusalem a week before the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCon) which will gather 300 conservative bishops representing 35 million Anglicans, more than half of those in the world. 

Most are from the "Global South," such as Africa, Asia, South America, Australia.  However, many are "missionaries" from those countries to the U.S., such as Minns, who has attracted 55 conservative congregations, most of which have fled the increasingly liberal Episcopal Church.  Another 250 have left for such groups as the Anglican Mission in America.

The gathering of GAFCon bishops is almost revolutionary, because only weeks later, the
Archbishop of Canterbury will preside over Lambeth, a conference for the world's Anglican
bishops.  The Global South bishops decided not to attend Lambeth, but to hold their own
gathering instead.

Does this mean there will be split in the Anglican Communion?

Minns thought not:  "We are in a process of realignment. When children grow up, you have to re-do your relationship, and begin to relate as equals. They are no longer kids and want to share in the leadership of the family. Institutional change is difficult."

On the other hand, Bishop John Rodgers, another of the newly minted U.S. bishops in the Anglican Mission in America, and former President of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, argues that the Anglican Communion "faces the greatest challenge to its survival since the 16th century Reformation."

He called for "the clear and decisive separation" of orthodox Anglicans from Canterbury "to form a new Communion that is truly global in scope and truly Anglican in doctrine. Anything less will leave faithful Anglicans throughout the world as unwilling collaborators in a counterfeit Communion which makes a virtue out of the toleration of teaching contrary to scripture."

At the 1998 Lambeth, the world's Anglican bishops voted by 527 to 69 in favor of a resolution which limited sex to "one man and one woman in the covenant of marriage." and rejected "homosexual practice."

In 2003, The Episcopal Church elevated V. Gene Robinson as the first bishop to be an active homosexual with a male live-in lover.  That ignited controversy across the Anglican Communion and particularly in America.

The San Joaquin Diocese in Fresno twice has voted overwhelmingly to leave the denomination. Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, and Quincy, IL voted to exit last fall and are expected to make a second required affirmation this fall.  Some churches will remain in each diocese, yet the fleeing of virtually entire dioceses from any U.S. denomination is unprecedented.  

These departures are not easy or inexpensive.  The Episcopal Church (TEC) claims that it owns all local churches of its denomination, though they were all paid for by local congregations. Eleven churches in Northern Virginia who decided to align with CANA negotiated for a year with the Diocese of Virginia and agreed to pay millions for a amicable exit.

Though the offer was accepted by Virginia's bishop,  TEC Presiding Bishop Katharine
Jefferts Schori overruled the Diocese, telling it to sue the 11 churches rather than settle
peaceably!  It was an outrageous, un-Christian act.  Clearly the woman never read Jefferson's
1779 Declaration of "Religious Freedom," the words of which are chiseled into the marble of
the Jefferson Memorial:

"Almighty God hath created the mind free... "

On Sunday I attended The Falls Church, a 275-year-old congregation whose original church was built when George Washington was on the Vestry.  The church has already paid $1.3 million in legal fees and sister churches have collectively spent a similar amount. "It could cost us $5 million.  It is a terrible witness to the world," said John Yates, Rector since 1979.

"It has been costly in energy and attention.  They are asking for records going back to the founding of the church.  It is an enormous task, and one way to bleed us financially."

His sermon focused in part on Jesus' call "to make disciples of all nations" which he interpreted as creating churches as well as reaching individuals with the message. "For the first time we feel free from denominational restrictions to plant churches."

Restrictions? The diocese refused to allow Falls Church to create daughter congregations
because some Episcopal churches in Northern Virginia were only half full.  And probably half
dead with unbiblical preaching.

"We have started five congregations and have another in the works!

May more Anglican flowers bloom in America and around the world.
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