Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) representatives are working with American colleagues in the Common Cause Partnership to create a new North American Anglican province, one that would be defined by their conservative theology rather than geography. The new province was one of the key topics of discussion at ANiC’s first synod held Nov. 13 to 15 at the Crossroads Centre here.
ANiC Bishop Donald Harvey said he hopes that the draft of the new province’s constitution, which is scheduled to be made public in Chicago on Dec. 3, could be discussed at the primates’ meeting in Alexandria, Egypt in February.
Although the Common Cause Partnership only 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 – ANiC leaders are confident that the support of conservative primates who represent about 40 million Anglicans in the Global South means that their proposal will have to be taken seriously. “I think the GAFCON [Global Anglican Future Conference] primates are the ones that would push for it for us. They have already indicated they would,” said Bishop Harvey. “It may take longer than we’re hoping simply because of procedural things, but if it goes before the primates and we get even a qualified sense [of acceptance], it would be progress,” he said.
Bishop Harvey warned of dire consequences for the global communion if the primates reject the idea of the new province in Egypt. “Then it goes to the GAFCON primates, and it could be anything after that point ¬– it really could,” he said. “I think it would be painful and cause decisions to be made that would be unfortunate for the communion as a whole. It would cause more fragmentation.”
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.”
Conservative theologian J.I. Packer, who was named ANiC’s theologian emeritus, addressed the synod, outlining his vision for ANiC and reformation of Anglicanism.
Mr. Packer said the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’ attempts to hold the Anglican Communion together offers “little hope.” He added: “The archbishop’s public gestures remind me, and I can only speak for myself, of the Canadian hero Red Green of Possum Lodge, who reckons to hold all things together with lashings of duct tape,” he joked. But he added seriously that “the equivocal nature of Archbishop Williams’ own position, privately valuing the gay lifestyle while publicly following Lambeth 1998 in ruling it out, surely robs his leadership of moral authority and so it will be as long as he is there.”
Delegates at the ANiC synod also passed motions to endorse GAFCON’s Jerusalem Declaration as “exemplifying the tenets of orthodoxy which underpin our Anglican identity,” obtain membership in the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and express gratitude to GAFCON primates for their support. They also approved a skeletal, interim constitution that would allow the Network to operate while a full constitution that includes doctrine is developed before the 2009 synod.
Another motion approved forms of service, including those from the Book of Common Prayer (1662) and the version authorized by the Anglican Church of Canada in 1962, the Book of Alternative Services, Common Worship as used in the Church of England, the alternate and modern language services authorized by the Anglican Church of Kenya, as well as other forms of service authorized by ANiC’s moderator (currently Bishop Harvey.)
Delegates also agreed to forgo the usual methods of electing new bishops at this initial stage and, in order to fill an urgent need, allowed Bishop Harvey and Bishop Malcolm Harding to select three new bishops. The new bishops will help serve a growing number of congregations. ANiC now includes 23 congregations, 14 of which are churches that left the Anglican Church of Canada, and the rest are new church plants.
ANiC Archdeacon Charlie Masters insisted that ANiC is not trying to poach in Anglican Church of Canada territories. “We have chosen to make evangelism and church-planting the focus; not recruiting. And that really is the case. If congregations choose to call us and say ‘We’re thinking about having a vote, would you help us?’ we do that. But it is honestly the case that we’re not hiding in the bushes.”
However, Bishop Harvey says that many other Anglican churches could choose to join ANiC in the future. “I believe personally that there is a large number of people who are on the edge at the present time, and they are still hoping against hope that the church will reverse the direction it has gone in,” he said. “I think if they decide to move, we will see the opening of the gates in some ways.”
ANiC faces considerable financial challenges – ¬starting up new churches, housing congregations that have left or been locked out of the churches they previously used, as well as fighting lawsuits over some of those church buildings. In a financial presentation at the synod, ANiC leaders assured delegates that money used for lawsuits has to be specifically designated for that purpose. Legal funds do not come from general revenue, which comes largely from parishioners and some individual donors. “We don’t have an assessment system, so it is voluntary, but the pattern we are encouraging all our congregations to consider is teaching the biblical pattern of tithing to our people – 10 per cent,” Mr. Masters said. “Similarly, parishes submit 10 per cent of what they receive off the top to ANiC, and similarly ANiC gives 10 per cent to global needs.”