Greenbelt Interfaith News
    World News

    November 1997

    Anglican Traditionalists in England and the U.S. Moving Towards Separate Provinces
    By James Solheim
    Episcopal News Service

    Traditionalists both in the United States and in England are moving towards separate provinces.

    The Episcopal Synod of America (ESA) has clarified its goals in the wake of the 1997 General Convention in Philadelphia last July. It will now seek establish an Orthodox Province of the Anglican Communion in North America. "We will no longer speak of a mission to be the church within the Episcopal Church for we have concluded that the institutional Episcopal Church has lost the will to be reformed," said ESA president Peter Moriarty.

    The ESA has made it clear it will minister to individuals and parishes without regard for diocesan boundaries or the permission of diocesan bishops. It has sent a letter to parishes in what it regards as "hostile" dioceses where the bishop is not of "orthodox conviction," inviting them to apply for oversight by an ESA bishop.

    In a letter to diocesan bishops October 2, Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning said that he had received phone calls from bishops alerting him to the packet sent by ESA to "senior wardens in 25 dioceses whose bishops had signed the Statement of Koinonia." (The statement, presented by Bishop John Spong of Newark to the House of Bishops during its debate on sexuality in 1994, says that sexual orientation is "morally neutral," that "faithful, monogamous, committed" relationships of gays and lesbians should be honored and that gay clergy could serve as "wholesome examples to the flock of Christ.")

    Browning said that the issue "will need to be dealt with locally by diocesan bishops as they arise," but he expressed his "tremendous support for bishops who are in this difficult situation."

    Bishop Allen Bartlett, Jr. of Pennsylvania wrote to his clergy September 18 to warn that such an invitation from the ESA "is a clear invitation to and anarchy." If a parish extended an invitation to another bishop "that parish would violate the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church."


    In what could be regarded as the fist step in implementing the strategy, Moriarty and Bishop Edward MacBurney, the retired bishop of Quincy, visited St. Paul's Church in Brockton, Massachusetts, September 28. According to Moriarty, the parish separated formally from the diocese a year ago and was the first church to respond to the invitation issued in the Good Shepherd Declaration, published by the ESA after its post-General Convention meeting.

    Speaking to the congregation, Moriarty said that the ESA was offering episcopal oversight "on an interim basis, until the ESA council meets in November."

    Sources in Massachusetts said that the diocese was aware of the "unauthorized visit." The Rev. Ed Rodman said that it was "a very matter," adding that the bishop and standing committee were looking into the situation. The rector of the parish has been convicted of misconduct the case has been appealed. In the meantime, the parish is still under the care of the diocese.

    Moriarty said in August that the synod was likely to respond to a request from St. Paul's and added, "We expect that there will be other such visitations as appropriate requests from parishes come in."

    The ESA also expressed the hope that, by the time its bishops arrive at the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops next summer, it would be clear that an orthodox province in North America would be a reality. "We will take our case to the Lambeth Conference of bishops next summer and to other provinces throughout the Communion who are supportive of our cause," the ESA said in a statement.

    Moriarty said that "we are not sure what that province will look like," but he said that ESA was "working closely" with English traditionalists because they share a "general convergence in moving toward an orthodox objective."


    Five hundred traditionalists met in London in late September at the annual Forward in Faith conference and agreed to work towards an independent and autonomous province in the Church of England by the next century.

    Executive Director Stephen Parkinson said that one option would be a unilateral declaration of independence, creating a province that would follow Anglican rites but seek affiliation with another confession. Bishop Edwin Barnes, of the "flying bishops" who now minister to traditionalists in the Church of England, suggested that an affiliation with one of the Orthodox churches might be a possibility.

    A spokesman for the Church of England said that a third province (York and Canterbury are the two provinces now) in the church would need approval of the General Synod and, since the Church of England is an established church, it might need the approval of the British Parliament. If it sought affiliation with the Anglican Communion the Anglican Consultative Council might get involved.

    "A global province might not be entirely feasible," Parkinson told Ecumenical News International. Traditionalists were more likely to form a series of linked provinces instead, although he said that the support was strong enough in England and the U.S. to merit separate provinces.

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