Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Alphabet Soup

Back on my essay regarding Schofield's Ex-Gay Closet , Mary Ailes objected to my admittedly too-short and flippant synopsis of the history of the schismatics. I've asked some friends and correspondents to help me fill in the background.

Larry reminds us:

Foundations Daily was the daily Episcopal Synod of America (ESA) journal covering the proceedings of the 1994 General Convention in Indianapolis. It was not the official newspaper of that convention, or of the Episcopal Church's media. ESA was a conservative and schismatic group, of which John-David Schofield and many of the other players in the present conflict were leaders; their pet peeves were/are ordination of women, acceptance of LGBT people in the life of the Church, and the ordination thereof.While ESA has ceased to exist, the same leadership has persisted in other succeeding organizational incarnations, such as Forward in Faith North America.
My friend, Pamela Darling, has provided this brief summary of the recent history of schismatics in the Episcopal Church. Several of you will recognize Pam's name, as she was Special Assistant to the President of the House of Deputies (Dr. Pamela Chinnis) from 1991-2000. Pam is also the author of New Wine (Cowley, 1994). She provides this "genealogy" of some groups that have splintered-off from the Episcopal Church, and she graciously gave me permission to quote her. I'm grateful, since she is so much more knowledgeable than I.

[Note: I was not able to find URL references to the early schismatic groups, as their activities pre-date the availability of Web references.]
The genealogy of the various "traditionalist" organizations is complex and getting more so, partly because of disagreements on matters such as the ordination of women, partly because of strategic differences, partly because of personal animosities.

Over the years there have been many organizations opposed to actions of the Episcopal Church. The leadership includes great overlap, as one organization morphed into another. A family tree of the major ones active in the 20th century would show: ACU > ECM > EU + ESA > FiF + many evangelical groups.

The American Church Union (ACU) was a high church group very active in the 1960s and early '70s in the fight against the ordination of women and the 1979 BCP. It was joined politically with the Prayer Book Society (PBS), a more evangelical group which also opposed the BCP and the ordination of women. Prior the 1973 General Convention, the opposition to women's ordination was coordinated by the Coalition/Fellowship of Concerned Churchman (CCC/FCC).

Evangelical & Catholic Mission (ECM) formed in 1976, after women's ordination was approved, and included some of the ACU and PBS folks. The ACU gradually disappeared, but the PBS continued. ECM was committed to remaining within the Episcopal Church.

Called by the FCC, the 1977 Congress in St Louis brought together these folks plus many others who were unhappy with the new prayer book, the ordination of women, or both. Some formed the breakaway Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), which has splintered into many other groups (with many bishops) in the years since. Others supported the ECM as a way to work for change within the church.

In 1987, a political action group called Episcopalians United for Revelation, Renewal and Reformation (EURRR, or simply EU) was established, connected with the then-new Trinity seminary in Pittsburgh. It was evangelical, and drew some folks from the ECM because EU supported the ordination of women (lukewarmly), but opposed women bishops, inclusive language, abortion and homosexuality.

In September 1988 Barbara Harris was elected suffragan bishop of Massachusetts. EU rallied in opposition and the ECM declared "the final crisis" of the church, calling for a "synod" in Fort Worth. The 1989 Fort Worth Synod established the Episcopal Synod of America (ESA), involving most of the ECM folks who had not departed for EU. The leadership of ESA was very similar to that of ECM, and ECM folded its tents.

In 1991, ESA created a "Missionary Diocese" for hard-liners, led by a retired TEC bishop; it left TEC the next year.

In June 1999, staunch Anglo-Catholic opponents of women's ordination created – from the remains of ESA – a group linked with the English organization, Forward in Faith, calling the USA group Forward in Faith, North America (FiF/NA). Other less Anglo-Catholic groups gathered steam, some for and some against women's ordination.

In 2000, two American Episcopal clergy were ordained in Singapore by bishops from Rwanda and the Province of South East Asia, for a new entity called the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA).

Players on the scene today arise from this contrarian environment. Splits and combinations can often be traced to the personalities and ambitions of individual leaders. The list of founding members of the Common Cause Partnership (CCP), established in October 2007, included both "continuing" churches and organizations still functioning within TEC: the American Anglican Council (AAC); the Anglican Communion Network (ACN); the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA); the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC); the Anglican Province of America (APA); the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA); the Anglican Essentials Federation (AEF); Forward in Faith, North America (FIF/NA); and the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC).
Reading this brief history, I am reminded of Elizabeth Kaeton's oft-repeated mantra: Dead Wood Splinters. And this cartoon from Dave Walker illustrates it well. cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Now, I find it especially hilarious that CANA bishop Martyn Minns is willing to "live into the tension" of "two integrities" within the current schismatic group. Folks like Kendall Harmon and StandFirm have quoted the Fairfax Times article about the latest "Anglican" consecrations, which stated:

The Episcopal Church has allowed for the ordination of women since its 1976 General Convention but Minns said that CANA [. . . ] is currently split on the issue.

The four new bishops consecrated on Sunday were all male.

“I am fully aware that this is a topic of concern for many clergy and congregations throughout CANA and one that produces intense reactions,” Minns said Thursday.
He informed the audience that he has appointed a task force to address the two “integrities” of the issue – those who believe women should not be ordained and those who feel women can serve in some yet undefined capacity, perhaps including priesthood, congregational oversight and serving as bishops, or perhaps not.

“We will keep our promise to honor both integrities within CANA and fulfill our commitment to the full participation of women, in the life and leadership of the church. We will do so in such a manner that both those who are unable to support the ordination of women and those who embrace it will know that their position has been honored,” he stated.

To me, this is hilarious.

The leaders of the Common Cause Partnership met this week, and they have issued their communiqué. (Episcopal News Service carried the story here.) They are trying to assemble those who embrace the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and those who find it heretical … those who happily ordain women and those who insist that women are "ontologically incapable" of becoming priests … those who worship in a high Anglo-Catholic style and those who worship by waving their hands in the air or falling down on the floor as they are "slain in the Spirit."

What's the one and only thread that binds together all the splinters that Pam Darling has outlined? They all agree to hate the homosexuals.

Let's hear it for the Common Cause.

Update/Edit 12.21.07: In the comments below, Ann observes that the Anglican Centrist gives a history of the various groups here. It's well worth reading. My post here is talking more about the "genealogy" of the groups; his talks about the "politics" of the groups and how they aligned. It's well worth taking a trip over there.


Blogger Ann said...

The Anglican Centrist gives a history of the various groups here

12/20/2007 8:41 AM  
Blogger WSJM said...

Lisa -- thanks for your good summary of the "Alphabet Soup" over the past 30-some years. Fr. Jones' summary over at the Anglican Centrist, to which Ann refers, is also helpful.

To throw in a bit of commentary and history -- back in the 50's and 60's, as a young lay person and then as a seminarian and a priest, I was a member of the American Church Union (ACU). It's not the case that the ACU was active in the 60's against the ordination of women (the issue hadn't emerged yet) nor against liturgical reform (which at that time was taking the form of the Liturgy of the Lord's Supper, of blessed memory). But what did emerge at the end of the 60's was the realization that "Anglo-Catholicism" as reflected in the ACU was not by any means a monolithic group. I remember attending a meeting of the Midwest Regional Branch of the ACU, right after the 1968 Special Convention that had been held at South Bend. One of the things we did was pass a resolution to send to Presiding Bishop John Hines commending and thanking him for the Special Program established at South Bend to try to get the Church more deeply involved in social justice issues. (The Midwest Regional Branch was a pretty left-wing gang!) When the east-coast ACU folks, including the ACU president, Canon Albert Dubois, heard about this they wet their soutanes. (Whatever happened to Canon Dubious? God bless him.) That's probably about the time that the ACU started sliding down the skids into serious rightwingery. (Along with a number of other groups.) A lot of us dropped out at that point. Within a few years the ACU was gone, though I think many former members went to the ECM (Evangelical and Catholic Mission).

It's really appalling to be able to remember that far back....!

12/21/2007 7:13 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I'm quite grateful for your perspective on this, WSJM. Do you think that's when the ACU started "retrenching" to the right?

12/21/2007 11:30 PM  
Anonymous robroy said...

Indeed, that is a useful history. It is interesting note that the splintering is from the Episcopal church. Groups like AMiA and CANA don't seem to be doing any splintering but growing rather nicely.

3/28/2008 10:51 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Your comment is pretty funny, Robroy.

My point was only to catalogue the groups that have splintered from the Episcopal Church. Most of those groups have splintered and re-splintered again and again. I think there are now something like 30 groups that have splintered off from the Episcopal Church, in their never-ending quest for greater and greater purity. Go figure.

Your comment leads me to think about the nations that have splintered off from England. Many of those, too, have splintered and re-splintered.

Groups like AMiA and CANA are young -- only 3 years (or so) old. The Common Cause Parntership is already acknowledging that there are communion-breaking issues among them. I shall watch them with great interest.

4/02/2008 9:39 PM  

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