Tuesday, February 16, 2010

C of E Recognizes Anglican Church of North America

A blizzard of winter weather on the Eastern seaboard was matched this past week by a flurry of activity from the Episcopal Church Center. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori traveled to Britain in order to lobby Church of England (CoE) leaders against a motion favorable to conservative rivals in North America. At the same time, South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence revealed that the Presiding Bishop’s office had retained an attorney in South Carolina who was apparently laying the groundwork for a challenge to the diocesan leadership.

If the latter turns out to be correct, it marks the first time that the denomination has taken action against a diocese that has not announced plans to separate from the church.

Jefferts Schori’s trip to London coincided with a meeting of the CoE’s Synod, which was considering a motion introduced by an evangelical lay leader. Lorna Ashworth’s motion stated that “this Synod express the desire that the Church of England be in communion with the Anglican Church in North America.”

In preparation for Synod debate, the Episcopal Church (TEC) Office of Public Affairs issued a series of talking points to TEC allies in the CoE, seeking to dissuade the Synod from adopting Ashworth’s motion. The points criticized the Anglican Church in North America (AC-NA) as not a legitimate member of the Worldwide Anglican Communion and questioned AC-NA’s size relative to TEC.

Leaders of the rival North American church also sent representatives, including Canadian Bishop and AC-NA Dean Donald Harvey, the Rev. Dr. Tory Baucum of Virginia’s Truro Church, Communications Director Cynthia Brust of the Anglican Mission in America (TheAM) and Dr. Michael Howell of Forward in Faith North America. The four were made available to answer questions from Synod members.

Following 2 ½ hours of debate, the Synod adopted an amended version of the motion, which read:

That this Synod, aware of the distress caused by recent divisions within the Anglican churches of the United States of America and Canada,

“(a) recognise and affirm the desire of those who have formed the Anglican Church in North America to remain within the Anglican family;

(b) acknowledge that this aspiration, in respect both of relations with the Church of England and membership of the Anglican Communion, raises issues which the relevant authorities of each need to explore further; and

(c) invite the Archbishops to report further to the Synod in 2011.”

The amended language passed by a 309 – 69 margin, with seven abstentions, supported by both the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

Some conservatives criticized the motion, calling it weak or watered-down, while others praised it.

AC-NA Archbishop Robert Duncan thanked Ashworth for bringing forward the motion. “We are very grateful to Mrs. Ashworth and the scores of other friends in the Synod of the Church of England for all they did to give us this opportunity to tell our story to the mother church of the Anglican Communion. It is very encouraging that the synod recognizes and affirms our desire to remain within the Anglican family,” Duncan said in a statement.

Read it all here.

No comments: