- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2004

PLANO, Texas — Conservative Episcopalians formed a dissident “church within a church” here yesterday, calling their two-day conclave a “glorious and historic” venture that will bring hope to Episcopalians everywhere.

A founding charter for the group, called the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, was signed by about 100 delegates, mostly from 12 dioceses around the nation.

The group vowed to work within the Episcopal Church (ECUSA). Widespread rumor of schism was somewhat muted as three steering committee members explained the group’s actions.

But, said Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, the group’s first “moderator,” nobody can predict just how yesterday’s creation will change the course of Episcopalianism, if indeed it does.

In a briefing, Bishop Duncan called the meeting of like-minded Anglicans in this Dallas suburb “a significant and joyful moment in the life of the church.”

Though there were some differences, he said, the new group shared “a unified conviction that the Gospel of Jesus Christ must not be compromised.”

Conservative Episcopalians have for years contended against a leadership they describe as far too liberal — one they claim has steered far from biblical teachings. The breaking point for many was last year’s consecration of an openly homosexual priest, V. Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire.

The new conservative network’s founders said they would offer those who disagree with the U.S. church leadership “a place to reconnect.”

Bishop Duncan spoke in terms of doing “a missionary DNA, whose real life force is to do the mission of the Gospel.” And he said the new network would “care for those in hostile places” — meaning locations where current U.S. leaders of the church and church members are at odds over orthodoxy.

Bishop Duncan noted that each of the charter’s 10 articles were adopted unanimously.

Canon Mary Hays, a steering committee member from the Pittsburgh diocese, said parishes that “have felt abandoned by their church can find new hope.”

“With the beginning of this network,” she added, “there is new hope they might remain in their denomination.”

“This also gives hope internationally,” said the Rev. Don Curran, of Orlando, Fla. “The worldwide Anglican Communion has been waiting for this, has been hopeful for this.” He said several Anglican provinces around the world have broken communion with the American church.

“And now,” he said, “they are going to have a place to reconnect with the church through this network.”

Asked how the new group would operate within the church while differing so drastically about major areas of belief, Bishop Duncan said his group would simply follow the church’s constitution.

Church leaders, he said, “took actions last summer which separated it from the Anglican community and from its own constitution.”

He said that though some Anglicans around the world have suggested this conservative group replace ECUSA, “our effort is not that directly.”

“Our effort is to call the Episcopal Church back to its roots. We don’t want to leave our brothers and our sisters out.”

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