Conservative Episcopalians appeared on track to start a new nationwide protest organization on Tuesday as they began the second and final day of a meeting to launch their Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes. The movement, which hopes for significant support from foreign Anglicans, was prompted by the decision of an Episcopal Church convention last August to
approve openly gay bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. But Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, the group's leader, told a Monday news briefing that Robinson's name wasn't even mentioned during the first day's deliberations. Instead, he said, the 100 bishops, representing 12 dioceses and various conservative parishes in other dioceses, focused on building "a united, orthodox,
and missionary Anglicanism" in the United States. The delegates at the meeting plan to complete an organizational charter for the network. They also are trying to produce a new theological statement based on previous conservative platforms.
Organizers say the network does not represent a schism but a "church within a church" whose followers will remain Episcopalian. One reason not to quit: Most parishes would be forced to surrender their properties to the denomination. Duncan said the Episcopal Church "split from its own history" when it endorsed Robinson, while the network upholds traditional Episcopal teaching, "so who left?"
The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of the international Anglican Communion, in which many overseas churches have protested Robinson's consecration. Some have broken fellowship with the Episcopal Church or its majority of pro-gay bishops. The network hopes to become the American entity to which foreign Anglicans can relate. Canon Bill Atwood of the Texas-based Ekklesia Society, which aids churches in developing nations, said in a phone interview from Uganda that bishops who lead a majority of the world's Anglicans are preparing a joint statement to recognize the network. A leaked memo from one network activist said the ultimate goal is a "replacement" jurisdiction aligned with world Anglicanism. A key leader said Sunday that the concept originated with the overseas Anglican leaders and that decisions on replacement are up to them.