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June 22, 2009

A Historic Gathering of Anglicans

CCP-0901_Logo The biggest religion story you probably have not heard about is currently taking place in Bedford, Texas. 

The inaugural assembly of the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) convened this morning at St. Vincent's Cathedral. The convention is yet another step in the restructuring of Anglicanism in the United States, which has been in a state of disarray since the Episcopal Church recognized the appointment of a non-chaste homosexual to the position of bishop in 2003.

ACNA, a collection of roughly 100,000 Anglicans in 700 parishes across the United States and Canada, seeks to become the newest Anglican province within the Anglican Communion, the worldwide association of Anglican churches in full communion with the Church of England. It has already been recognized by the primates of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCon), representing over 70 percent of active Anglicans around the world. Four dioceses previously affiliated with the the Episcopal Church have left that church body in toto to join ACNA. In addition, a number of smaller Anglican bodies in the United States that previously dissociated themselves from the Episcopal Church have also joined the new coalition.

Bishop Robert Duncan, formerly of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (one of the four Episcopal dioceses to join ACNA) will be formally introduced as archbishop on June 24. Duncan has been a vocal critic of the Episcopal Church in the United States--particularly in regards to its decisions normalizing homosexual behavior. "The Lord is displacing the Episcopal Church," Duncan told the press in 2008.

There are still many hurdles ahead for the nascent church. First, many Episcopal congregations and dioceses that are inclined to agree with the more conservative beliefs of ACNA face legal hindrances to switching alliances, and would be required to surrender church properties and pensions to the Episcopal Church. Also, theological differences exist between some of the various ACNA constituencies on matters such as female ordination. And it is still uncertain that the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams--the Archbishop of the Church of England and titular head of the Anglican Communion--would be willing to recognize ACNA. Williams has expressed dismay with the pending split, and has indicated in the past that he sympathizes with the Episcopal Church's views on sexual matters.

Those interested in following the assembly can do so here.

(Image © ACNA)

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