Last week, two of the major traditionalist Anglican groups held a convention, but more on that in a moment.
Thirty years ago today, the first four continuing Anglican bishops were consecrated in Denver by Rt. Rev. Albert A. Chambers, retired ECUSA bishop of Springfield. The bishops were James Mote of Denver, Robert Morse of Oakland, Calif., Peter Watterson of West Palm Beach, Fl. and Charles Dale Doren of Pittsburgh.
The next morning, the New York Times reported “Episcopal Dissidents Consecrate Bishops,” and the story was picked up by AP and UPI. The Times story reported:
The establishment of a hierarchy of bishops gives the Anglican Church of North America, as it it has been temporarily named, the full resources of an independent church and is expected by its leaders to spur the pace of growth.Alas, it was all downhill from there, as the continuing Anglican movement degenerated into the alphabet soup that characterizes it today. Morse formed the APCK (Anglican Province of Christ the King), Mote formed the ACC (Anglican Catholic Church), Doren formed the UECNA (United Episcopal Church of North America) and Watterson (like many others) left for the RCC.
The rest of the traditionalist Episcopalians stayed in ECUSA, accepting the new prayer book and (in most cases) the ordination of women. However, the 2003 General Convention fueled another exodus, with consent to the ordination of Gene Robinson, failure to ban gay marriage and rejection of a basic statement of Christianity put forth by Bp. Keith Ackerman of Quincy. For others, GC 2006 was the last straw.
Twenty-plus years after the movement was born, did those leaving ECUSA after the GC 2003 and GC 2006 join with the continuing movement? No, they created their own hierarchies and bishops, notably the AMiA (Anglican Mission in the Americas) and CANA (Convocation of Anglicans in North America).
Some of these newer groups (AMiA, CANA) with some older groups formed the Common Cause Partners, whose website (“United-Anglicans.org”) is tragically laughable denial of the ongoing schism. At best, the CCP is a loose federation which might form a new denomination in a decade, but seems equally likely to spin apart on its own centripetal forces.
The proliferation of denominations gives credence to critics who say that all those (us?) continuing types can do is fracture and schism. Don’t get me wrong: if it’s a choice between heresy and schism, the early church fathers showed us that truth is more important than unity. However, between the continuing groups there are few doctrinal issues — notably that CANA can’t decide how it feels about women’s ordination. But most of the rest of the disagreements seem to be over liturgy (APCK vs. UECNA) or personalities (most of them).
There are a few signs of healing and perhaps sanity. Last summer, the ACC, UEC and APCK have put aside their differences of the preceding 29 years, joining back in communion the first three churches of the continuing movement. Both ACC and UEC were represented at the decennial APCK convention in Oakland last Friday, when James Provence was installed as Morse’s successor as APCK “primate.”
Meanwhile, the AMiA convention in Dallas last week attracted a number of Anglican bishops and clergy, including Common Cause bishops in the US and Anglican bishops from outside the US (including UK, and Africa). No sign of reaching out to new partners, but a strong show of unity from the existing ones.
Interestingly, the AMiA claims (according to David Virtue) to be producing a new translation of the 1662 BCP into modern language, co-authored by Rev. Dr. John Rodgers of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry and Rev. Dr. Peter Toon of the Prayer Book Society USA. No word of when or how the prayer book will be distributed — but this prayer book could become the first instrument of unity that bridges the St. Louis and recent defectors from ECUSA.