PITTSBURGH, Pa. (ABP) — Thirteen Episcopal bishops opposed to the appointment of a gay bishop in New Hampshire are forming a rival network they hope will eventually win recognition as the authentic American branch of the worldwide Anglican church.
The dissenting bishops represent 13 conservative dioceses among the 100 dioceses in the Episcopal Church U.S.A. Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh has been named the “moderator and convening authority” of the new network.
The group opposes the August decision by the Episcopal Church U.S.A. to confirm Gene Robinson as the bishop of New Hampshire and to acknowledge that some dioceses are permitting gay union ceremonies. Those decisions violate biblical teaching against homosexuality, Duncan said.
Many Anglican bodies worldwide also oppose the American church's approval of homosexuality and have asked the American bishops to rescind their actions.
Duncan insists the new group, called the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, is not withdrawing from the Episcopal Church U.S.A. but instead hopes Anglican bishops overseas — as well as Roman Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox churches — will recognize the new network as the authentic representative of U.S. Episcopalians.
If the dissidents are successful, it could provoke a crisis of authority within the worldwide church, called the Anglican Communion. But Duncan said the objective is not schism but repentance.
“What we trust is going to happen,” Duncan told the New York Times, “is that the rest of the world and the rest of the Christian community are going to bring such pressure to bear on the whole of [the Episcopal Church U.S.A.] that it steps back from this event.”
Of the 38 Anglican unions worldwide, 16 have said they will recognize the new network, according to one American official.
The dioceses that have agreed to join the network are Pittsburgh, Albany (N.Y.), San Joaquin (Calif.), South Carolina, Florida, Central Florida, Southwest Florida, Dallas, Fort Worth (Texas), Quincy (Ill.), Springfield (Ill.), Western Kansas and Rio Grande (which includes parts of Texas and New Mexico). The group hopes to include dioceses and parishes in Canada and Mexico, as well as individual clergy and laypeople.
In order to avert a schism, the Episcopal Church U.S.A. is suggesting that conservative congregations in liberal dioceses be allowed to come under the authority of conservative dioceses elsewhere.