Leaders of the Common Cause Partnership, a coalition of conservative Anglicans in the U.S. and Canada, released a draft constitution on Dec. 3 for a new Anglican province that they propose would be defined by theology rather than a geographic location. Gathered in Wheaton, Ill., leaders of the partnership, which represents about 100,000 Anglicans (3,000 in Canada) – those who have left the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church in the U.S. largely over blessing same-sex unions and the ordination of an openly gay bishop – outlined their vision for the new Anglican Church in North America.
According to Bishop Robert Duncan, who led the diocese of Pittsburgh out of the Episcopal Church in the U.S. and is the provisional leader of the new province, the future of this body may go further than being a parallel province operating in the same geographic regions as the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada; it may become a rival church. “I think what the Lord is doing is that the Lord is displacing the Episcopal Church,” Bishop Duncan said. “The Episcopal Church has been in extraordinary decline … over the last 50 years,” he added. “What we are focused on is our mission together. We are a body that is growing, that is planting new congregations, that’s concerned to be an authentic Christian presence in the U.S. and Canada.”
Bishop Duncan acknowledged that the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada are the only churches recognized by the archbishop of Canterbury and the structures of the Anglican Communion. But referring to support from conservative archbishops who met in Jerusalem for the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in June and who asked the Common Cause Partnership to create a constitution for a new province, he said, “It is our anticipation that the archbishops and the provinces representing far and away the majority of the Anglican Communion will begin to recognize this province. And they have already broken their relationship with the other province, so one is an official reality, and the other is an emerging reality.” The Common Cause leaders hope that the GAFCON primates will advocate for the new province when the primates meet in Egypt in February.
Bishop Duncan said he is in regular communication with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, and the new documents will be sent to him. “What the archbishop of Canterbury will do as this province emerges is for him to say.” Leaders of the partnership have said that they would like to have the blessing of the archbishop of Canterbury, but they will move forward even without it.
But Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has said that when a new province is created, it “has to be in communion with the See of Canterbury and it’s the Anglican Consultative Council that determines (whether a province can be set up), not a group of primates and bishops, not even the archbishop of Canterbury.”
Nevertheless, Canon Charlie Masters, executive director of the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) and general secretary of the partnership, said ANiC members are very excited about the new province. “We’re proud of being Anglicans. We love being Anglicans, and we feel that this province represents Anglicanism at its best.” Expressing gratitude to Archbishop Gregory Venables for offering coverage in the Southern Cone to congregations leaving the Anglican Church of Canada, Mr. Masters said that the creation of the new province is important to ANiC. “We’ve always known that the offer of care which came through Archbishop Venables and the Southern Cone was by definition temporary and emergency, so the need for a more permanent solution was there, and it is very significant for us.” Mr. Masters noted that the constitution won’t be ratified until it is voted on in a provincial assembly in Texas in the spring. Until then, ANiC churches will remain under Archbishop Venables’ jurisdiction.
Mr. Masters said the preamble of the constitution situates the Anglican Church of North America “right in line with historic Anglicanism, and it lists the historic creeds and included in that would be the Jerusalem Declaration as the most recent expression or summary of Christian faith.” The canons, he said, cover everything from definitions of a diocese, cluster or network, to who can vote, to issues of property and finance.