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Episcopal
Conservative Groups Planning North American Partnership

Episcopal
Conservative Groups Planning North American Partnership

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A leading Episcopal conservative announced plans for a partnership Friday that aims to create an alternative to the liberal-leaning Episcopal Church. Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh (pictured), whose diocese is considering breaking away from the national denomination, said the group will be called the Common Cause Partnership.

A leading Episcopal conservative Fridayannounced plans for a partnership that aims to create an alternative to the liberal-leaning Episcopal Church.

Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, whose diocese is considering breaking away from the national denomination, said the group will be called the Common Cause Partnership.

The founders are a mix of groups with varying ties to the Episcopal Church and the world Anglican Communion. Among the members will be Episcopal dioceses and parishes that have broken away or plan to split from the national church, congregations that have never been part of the Episcopal Church, and fellowships that are considered schismatic by the Anglican Communion.

Duncan said that forming a separate North American church structure for conservatives is ''necessary because of the drift of the church in the West.''

''We're in a time of reformation,'' Duncan said.

The partnership will include the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, a network of Episcopal parishes that have split from the U.S. denomination and have aligned with Anglican archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, an outspoken critic of Episcopal acceptance of gay relationships.

The Episcopal Church, the Anglican body in the United States, caused an uproar in the worldwide Anglican family in 2003 by consecrating the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. The 77 million-member Anglican Communion is a fellowship of churches that trace their roots to the Church of England.

Ever since Robinson's election, theological conservatives in the United States have been trying to stay together so they can create an alternative Anglican province in the United States. But they have often moved in many different directions, including individuals leaving on their own to join other denominations.

In a sign of these differences, some traditionalist Episcopal groups were not part of the founding meeting, held this week in Pittsburgh. Duncan said he hopes they will eventually join.

According to the Episcopal Church, about 66 of its more than 7,000 parishes have either left or voted to leave the national church, or have lost a significant number of members and clergy.

Duncan said that 51 Anglican bishops, saying they represent 600 congregations, attended the four-day meeting here where the partnership was planned.

Anglican conservatives and liberals are deeply conflicted over how Scripture should be interpreted on a wide range of issues, including salvation, truth and homosexuality.

Anglican leaders had set a Sunday deadline for the Episcopal Church to pledge unequivocally not to consecrate another gay bishop or approve an official prayer service for same-sex couples.

On Tuesday, U.S. bishops affirmed they would ''exercise restraint'' by not consenting to a candidate for bishop ''whose manner of life presents a challenge'' to Anglicans and the church.

The promise, however, is not an outright ban and has been rejected as inadequate by some conservatives. The Episcopal leaders also promised they would not approve official prayers to bless same-gender couples.

The Reverend Jan Nunley, a spokeswoman for the Episcopal Church, noted that conservatives have tried before to unite around their opposition to decisions by the national church. But many have remained low-profile splinter groups.

Members of the Common Cause Partnership acknowledge they must work out theological differences over whether they should ordain women, and over spiritual and moral standards for ordained and lay leaders, among other issues.

The Common Cause bishops plan to meet every six months, provided their individual territories vote to join the partnership. The partnership plans to hold its first constitutional convention late next year and seek recognition from the Anglican world spiritual leader, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. (Joe Mandak, AP)

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