The Anglican Church in North America

I heard a report about this on NPR today (no link, sorry) that managed to get nearly every detail wrong. Here’s what happened today: No one broke away from the Episcopal Church today. North American churches that had already broken away from the Episcopal Church (or its Canadian analogue) had switched their allegiance to Anglican provinces in South America and Africa. It was an awkward arrangement to have North American churches belong to faraway provinces, so today those churches agreed to join together to form a new North American province.

The reason those churches had left the Episcopal Church had essentially nothing to do with sexuality. It had to do with the Episcopal Church’s abandonment of key Christian doctrines such as sin, redemption, and the authority of scripture. (As an indication of how bad things had gotten, read this and this.) It also had to do with the Episcopal Church’s contempt for its orthodox minority, most notably displayed by deposing the Bishop of Pittsburgh in violation of the procedures given in church canons. Issues of sexuality are one symptom of the problem, but by themselves would probably (there’s no way to know now) have never led to a major exodus from the Episcopal Church.

It’s true that the Episcopal Church will probably initiate a court battle to try to confiscate the property of breakaway churches, but this was already an inevitability when those churches left the Episcopal Church. Today’s action changed nothing. Also, any churches that join the new province from elsewhere do not have their property at risk. The same is true for the churches that have already won their legal battles with the Episcopal Church.

The one thing that NPR got right was it is unclear whether the Archbishop of Canterbury will recognize the new province, but the more important question is whether the Anglican primates recognize it. Under the Anglican Church’s unusual structure, the voting power of provinces is entirely uncorrelated with their size. Thus, the global south (which is overwhelmingly orthodox) has the vast majority of the people, but a minority of voting power. It will be very interesting to see whether the progressive primates (who control the Anglican Church despite representing a small minority of its members) press their advantage. If they do, there may well be schism, which would leave a rump Anglican Church and a new orthodox denomination with nearly all its people.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s