Delegates to the Annual Council of the dissident Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes (NACDP) -- also known as the Anglican Communion Network (ACN) -- have resolved "unconditional commitment" to the Anglican Primates' February request that litigation between the Episcopal Church (TEC) and those who have attempted to leave with its property be suspended.
Recent decisions in California appellate courts have favored the Episcopal Church and its dioceses over breakaway congregations, reversing a trend of the past few decades. Courts in other states have consistently favored the Episcopal Church.
The resolution passed unanimously during the council's fourth yearly meeting at St. Vincent's Cathedral Church in Bedford, Texas, in the Diocese of Fort Worth, held July 30-31, 2007.
Although the resolution declared the group's "willingness and readiness, on behalf of its affiliates and partners, and those who hold similar values and positions, to engage in mediation" with TEC, Network Chancellor Wicks Stephens told the group the measure has "no intention of saying we will negotiate a settlement" for congregations currently in litigation.
By acclamation, some 80 delegates re-elected Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan as moderator and the Rev. Canon David Anderson, president and CEO of the American Anglican Council, as secretary. Bill Roemer of Sewickley, Pennsylvania, was elected treasurer. All will serve a three-year term.
Delegates voted unanimously to ratify the Articles of the Common Cause Partners, which create a leadership council, outline the purpose of the partnership, and envision structures that will allow transfer of members and permit clergy to "officiate transiently" in other jurisdictions.
The Common Cause Partnership is composed of the American Anglican Council (AAC); the Anglican Communion Network (ACN); the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA); the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC); the Anglican Province of America (APA); the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA); the Anglican Essentials Federation (AEF); Forward in Faith, North America (FIF/NA); and the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC).
Delegates also approved an amendment to the Network's bylaws exempting non-TEC congregations from "submission to the constitution of The Episcopal Church." The action followed a proposal by the Rev. Russell Martin of San Diego, a non-TEC delegate, which would have deleted a clause specifying that the group "shall operate in good faith within the Constitution of the Episcopal Church."
Dallas Bishop James Stanton argued against the measure, saying, "We are in danger of doing exactly on the right what they have done on the left. I pray we will not do that." The substitute motion, which passed, was proposed by the Rev. John Liebler of Central Florida.
Finally, delegates asked the Common Cause Partners to add an article acknowledging theological differences within the organization over the ordination of women to the priesthood.
The group ratified the Common Cause Theological Statement, which identifies seven elements as "essential for membership," including the Old and New Testaments as "the final authority and unchangeable standard"; Baptism and the Lord's Supper "with unfailing use of His words of institution and of the elements ordained by Him"; the "godly historic Episcopate"; the Apostles', Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds; the teaching of the first four Councils of the undivided Church, and the Christological clarifications of the fifth, sixth and seventh Councils "in so far as they are agreeable to the Holy Scriptures"; the 1662 English Book of Common Prayer and Ordinal as "a standard for Anglican doctrine and discipline [and] the Anglican tradition of worship"; and the 1562 Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion "in their literal and grammatical sense."
Duncan, who addressed the council on Monday, began by reciting a list of names of Network clergy and bishops who departed the Episcopal Church in the last year, including bishops Andrew Fairfield, Daniel Herzog, William Cox, and David Bena, as well as John Guernsey, Martyn Minns, Bill Atwood, and Bill Murdoch -- all soon to be or already consecrated as bishops for other Provinces of the Anglican Communion, to exercise authority over breakaway congregations in the United States.
"God, in His wisdom, has not used us to reform the Episcopal Church," he said, into "...a Church that is truly evangelical, truly catholic, and truly pentecostal." As a result, the Network turned to the task of gathering "other orthodox fragments -- virtually all of whom were once, like ourselves, mainstream Episcopalians" -- into "a 'new ecclesiastical structure' called for by the Primates of the Global South."
"During this past year, the Network Bishops have done everything we could to work with a broader Windsor Coalition within the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops," said Duncan. "In order not to abandon the wider coalition in its one last stand, the Network Bishops have agreed to take part in the upcoming meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury and members of the Primates Steering Committee and Anglican Consultative Council.
"We do so, some of us at least, without any implied recognition of or submission to the American primate, without any diminishment of our appeal for Alternative Primatial Oversight, and without any expectation that the Episcopal House of Bishops will turn from the course so unequivocally embraced at their March meeting," he continued.
In a question and answer session following the address, Duncan lashed out at Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. "Never, ever has he spoken publicly in defense of the orthodox in the United States," Duncan opined. "The cost is his office...To lose that historic office is a cost of such magnitude that God must be doing a new thing." Later he attributed the origin of his remarks to Archbishop of Sydney Peter Jensen.
Reacting to Duncan's comments, one of the Network's founders, the Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner, announced his resignation from the Network in a statement posted on the website of the Anglican Communion Institute.
Duncan's statements, said Radner, "so contradict my sense of calling within this part of Christ's Body, the Anglican Communion, that I have no choice but to disassociate myself from this group, whom I had once hoped might prove an instrument of renewal, not of destruction, of building up, not of tearing down."
Radner, formerly rector of Church of the Ascension, Pueblo, Colorado, now teaches at Wycliffe Theological College in Toronto, Canada.
"Bp. Duncan has, in the end, decided to start a new church," Radner said. "In founding his new church, furthermore, he is, I fear, not working for the healing of our broken Body, but repeating the mistakes of Christians in the past, whose zeal has not only brought suffering to themselves, but has wounded the Church of Christ ... Enough of this. I cannot follow him in this way."
The Network claims 200,000 laity and 2,200 clergy in more than 900 congregations, although its official online listing of 846 includes dioceses, seminaries, religious orders, and "continuing Anglican" congregations that have never been historically affiliated with the Episcopal Church.
The Episcopal Church includes some 2.4 million members and more than 16,000 clergy, gathered in 7,635 congregations in 100 domestic dioceses, 10 overseas dioceses and one convocation.