New Anglican network signs charter, elects Duncan moderator

January 21, 2004

A new group calling itself the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes (NACDP) was officially launched and a charter adopted after two days of meetings at Christ Church in Plano, Texas January 19-20. The charter states that the intent of the network is that its associated dioceses and "convocations," or clusters of congregations in non-affiliated dioceses, "will constitute a true and legitimate expression of the world-wide Anglican Communion" for those opposed to two controversial resolutions adopted by the General Convention in Minneapolis this summer.

Resolution C045 consented to the ordination and consecration of the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, who has lived in a committed same-sex relationship for 14 years, as bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of New Hampshire. Resolution C051 recognized that "local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions."

As expected, Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh was elected moderator of the new network for a three-year term. Also elected was a 12-member steering committee, but the names of its members were not immediately released.

A network of dioceses and convocations

The network's "Organizing Convocation" was composed of bishops and selected lay and clergy representatives from12 dioceses of the Episcopal Church: Albany, Central Florida, Dallas, Florida, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Quincy, Rio Grande, San Joaquin, South Carolina, Springfield, and Western Kansas. The Diocese of Southwest Florida, whose bishop, John Lipscomb, signed the original memorandum of agreement to establish the network in November, was not present and his diocese was not represented.

According to its charter, the network will consist of participating dioceses and "convocations"–the entity within which a group of at least six parishes or congregations not part of a network diocese can affiliate with the network. The network will initially include five geographical convocations (New England, Mid-Atlantic, Southeastern, Mid-Continental, and Western) and one non-geographical convocation known as the Forward in Faith North America (FiFNA) Convocation, for those opposed to women's ordination.

Representatives who signed the document committed themselves to seek formal ratification of the charter by the dioceses they represented. Their signatures do not signify that their diocese has agreed to join the network.

The official name of the network does not include the name of the Episcopal Church as part of its title, though the charter does maintain that the network "shall operate in good faith within the Constitution of The Episcopal Church."

"We are not splitting off from the Episcopal Church, " said Duncan. "We did not discuss at all whether this network would become a replacement for the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church this summer, in its General Convention, took actions which separated it from the Anglican Communion and from its own constitution." Duncan referred to the preamble of the church's 1789 constitution, revised at the 1967 General Convention to resolve the question of whether the church's official title should include the word "Protestant"-part of a century-old debate between Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals in the church. The revised preamble included a reference to the Episcopal Church as a "constituent member of the Anglican Communion" for the first time in the church's history.

"As chief pastor I take the concerns of all Episcopalians with full seriousness. At the same time, we need to keep formation of this new network in perspective and look at that vast majority of Episcopalians who are able to make common cause for the sake of the gospel. The larger reality of the Episcopal Church is the diverse center in which differing points of view are held in tension within a context of common prayer and mutual respect," said Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold.

Women's ordination an "iceberg"

At the final news conference, the Rev. Mary Hays, canon to the ordinary in Pittsburgh, indicated that there was some tension during the meeting between participants who oppose the ordination of women and those who affirm it. "Certainly one person talked about it as an iceberg that we might hit up against, and we had some very intense at times but very frank, open and mutually honoring, respectful of one another," she said. "We have agreed that this is an issue that divides us-I mean, that we disagree about, but that will not divide us. The Network is a place where people who are opposed to the ordination of women and ordained women can coexist and honor one another. It's one of the articles in the charter document."

At the closing news conference for the convocation, one newspaper reporter asked Hays if the formation of the network was an attempt at a "coup." "I think that could happen. I don't think that's necessarily our intention," Hays responded. "We're not responsible for how others respond to the actions we've taken."

Draft plan 'inadequate'

Asked about the draft plan for supplemental episcopal oversight which is up for discussion at the March meeting of the House of Bishops at Camp Allen, Texas, Duncan declared that "what is being proposed is inadequate. None of our bishops were part of the discussions that developed this plan. It assumes that there is significant pastoral relationship between the congregation and the bishop." He indicated that if his group's plan for oversight is put on the table at Camp Allen, "we'll be there."

No mention was made at the final news conference of the confidential memo, whose existence was revealed in the previous week's Washington Post, from the American Anglican Council's Geoff Chapman, rector of St. Stephen's in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, to congregations seeking to affiliate with the fledgling network. But within hours of the network's announcement, another network describing themselves as "loyal Episcopalians throughout the church" had issued their own statement calling on Episcopalians to "stop defending the AAC, to resign membership in that organization and to repudiate affiliation with the NACDP."

"Property, not piety is keeping dissident parishes in the Episcopal Church," the statement said. "The Chapman letter reveals the AAC's "realignment" for what it really is–the overthrow of the Episcopal Church by extra-legal means." The statement was signed by representatives of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh, Albany Via Media, Concerned Episcopalians of the St. Lawrence Deanery, Episcopal Forum of South Carolina, Fort Worth Via Media, Remain Episcopal, Diocese of San Joaquin (CA), and Rio Grande Via Media.