Alternative Primatial Oversight Document outlines rationale

09 September 2006 - Print Version

News & Views

Source: CTSix


By the Bishops of Central Florida, Dallas, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, San Joaquin, South Carolina, and Springfield (20 July, A.D. 2006)

The Situation

There are effectively two churches under one roof. The common roof is called the (Protestant) Episcopal Church in the United States of America. Separation of the two churches became all but inevitable and irreversible at the General Convention of 2006. Both hold principled, but irreconcilable, religious views. Both claim to be the Episcopal Church where they are.

One church has a revolutionary character. The other church has the character of evangelical and catholic via media. One church leads the way in Anglican Communion innovation. The other church seeks submission to the common mind of world Anglicanism. Significant parts of one church seek elimination of its conserving minority and confiscation of that minority’s patrimony. The other church would gladly negotiate fair and graceful terms of co-existence, or in a worst-case scenario, disengagement.

Seven dioceses are seeking to reshape their life together as dioceses — faithful to what the Episcopal Church has been and submitted to what the Anglican Communion has taught - under the oversight of a Canterbury appointed Commissary, temporarily exercising some of the responsibilities normally assigned to the American primate.  Some of these dioceses have requested “alternative primatial oversight.” One has requested “a direct pastoral relationship.” One has requested “alternative primatial relationship and, as appropriate, oversight.” While worded differently, what these requests seek in common is a special relationship of pastoral care and accountability under the Archbishop of Canterbury described more fully below. We anticipate that these seven dioceses may be joined in this request by at least two other dioceses in September.

Given the hostility now being expressed by ECUSA’s majority leadership – suggesting among other things that our “dioceses be declared vacant” — we see the special relationship for which we are appealing as the best means of preserving the status quo and balance among American dioceses, both progressive and conserving, until the longer-term issues can be decided. For the next several years, while negotiated settlements or court proceedings may run their courses state by state across the United States, and while development of an Anglican Communion Covenant edges forward among the Provinces of the Communion, these seven dioceses propose to function separately from the ECUSA majority, but under the Constitution and Canons of ECUSA as received.

The minority ECUSA church needs protection. The request is not a request to enter into the legal affairs of the Episcopal Church, except that the Constitution of the Episcopal Church and of the several dioceses all require “constituent membership” in the Anglican Communion and “communion with the See of Canterbury.”  These are matters determined not by us in the United States but by Canterbury and the rest of the world, so it is to Canterbury and the rest of the world that we must turn.

Are the seven dioceses, all Network Dioceses, “constituent members of the Anglican Communion?” Are the seven dioceses, all Network Dioceses, “in communion with the See of Canterbury?” Can the precedents and the structures of the Communion find the means to “acknowledge the standing of” and to “protect”—through an affirmation of legitimate Communion status and the extra-ordinary creation of a Communion Commissary during the present crisis - the witness of these Windsor-compliant Dioceses, and any other dioceses that may choose to join us, threatened by a hostile and litigious ECUSA majority?

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