(this may help folks understand the complex Anglican situation in
the USA and why moves to understanding & UNITY are needed NOW so that
in the search for common roots and faith reform and renewal can occur
for and in all)
North American Anglicanism Not in Communion with Canterbury
By Revd Chris Pierce
North American Anglican jurisdictions not in communion with Canterbury are
a varied lot, and almost completely confined to the USA. What one finds
in the USA, one finds in Canada, just on a smaller scale. Before the St.
Louis Congress in 1977, Anglican jurisdictions not in communion with
Canterbury were few in number. The Reformed Episcopal Church of the
United States was the most prominent and largest. It broke with the
mainline Protestant Episcopal Church, USA (now operating as ECUSA) in 1873
over issues stemming from the advance of the theological peculiarities of
the Tractarian Movement.
Prior to the St. Louis Congress, keeping up with those jurisdictions not
in communion with Canterbury was fairly simple. Since the St. Louis
Congress it is anything but simple. Indeed, frustrations build quickly in
trying to keep details straight...the easy thing would be to adopt a
conspiracy theory approach and say the whole matter is a joint effort
between Wippell’s and C.M. Almy to increase the sales of clerical
haberdashery, but to do so would be a grave injustice to all involved.
Various press reports put the number of “continuing” Anglican
jurisdictions somewhere between 20 and 40.
Before going further, let’s define some terms. Many people call all
Anglicans in North America, not in communion with Canterbury, Continuers,
or Continuing Anglicans.... generically speaking they are referred to as
belonging to the “Continuum.” Such an approach is incorrect. The
“Continuing” jurisdictions are those that are outgrowths of the St. Louis
Congress of 1977 convened after the first ordinations of women to the
diaconate and presbyterate.
The Reformed Episcopal Church is in similar circumstances to that of the
Free Church of England and the Church of England in South Africa and is
rightly termed as a “separated” Anglican body. The REC doesn’t ordain
women to either office but does have a lay order of deaconesses.
Ironically, the REC, as a separated Anglican body, has identical
theological commitments on paper (and historically) with the C of E.
Its Prayer Book is the 1662 BCP with a few additions from the 1928 PECUSA
Prayer Book although parishes may still use the previous REC liturgy. Its
Articles of Religion are the XXXIX Articles of Religion of the C of E
(subscription, not assent is required), adapted only to its
non-established situation, yet the REC isn’t officially recognised by
An aside.... before the vote was taken on Vicki Gene Robinson’s election
to the bishopric of New Hampshire, the last ECUSA General Convention
passed a resolution acknowledging the work of the ECUSA House of Bishops
in the early 1940s regarding the positive validity of REC orders. It
called for further discussion and a final report to be brought to the next
GC. After the consent was given to Robinson’s election, the bishops of
the REC publicly suspended all discussions with ECUSA.
The much cussed and discussed Anglican Mission in America (AMiA) falls in
an altogether different category.... physically located in the USA, but
technically a mission, sponsored by and answerable to, the Archbishop and
Anglican Province of Rwanda and the Archbishop of Southeast Asia.
The bishops of the AMiA have not ordained women as yet, and may never.
AMiA has allowed for a couple of self professed evangelical ECUSA female
clergy to come under its care pending the outcome of the group’s two year
long theological study of the matter..... which should be made public
before many more weeks. AMiA parishes may use any BCP so long as its
teaching is in agreement with the 1662 book. AMiA also requires
subscription to the XXXIX Articles of Religion. AMiA, although not
recognised by Canterbury as an official work, still considers itself in
Communion with Canterbury through its sponsoring archbishops and
province. This author’s personal speculation is that AMiA will conclude
that female ordination to the priesthood is beyond the pale of biblical
According to Mrs. Auburn Traycik publisher of, “The Christian Challenge”
(a four decade old periodical with wide circulation amongst the
jurisdictions of the Continuum), the major bodies that were formed out of
the St. Louis Congress were: the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC); the
Anglican Province of Christ the King (APCK); and the Anglican Church in
America (ACA). The Anglican Province in America (APA) was formed out of
an early re-alignment from within the original “Continuing Movement.” In
a recent story, Mrs. Traycik estimated that the APCK has membership of
7,000, and that the ACC and ACA have membership in the USA between 5,000
and 6,000 each.
The ACA is also part of the international, Traditional Anglican Communion
(TAC). Internationally, the TAC claims over 100,000 members. Eighty
thousand are found in India; 20,000 in South Africa; and Australia has a
TAC membership of 5,000. An Australian, The Most Revd John Hepworth, is
Primate of the TAC.
Almost all of the continuing jurisdictions point to the theological
statement formulated at the St. Louis Congress of 1977, the Affirmation of
St. Louis, as a point of common ground between themselves. (See
www.anglicancatholic.org/stlouis.html) Most use the 1928 BCP. There are
however, some parishes that use the Anglican Missal (of Roman Catholic
origin) for their liturgy...but this is also true of Anglo-Catholic
parishes within the ECUSA.
The Revd Dr. Louis Tarsitano, Rector of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in
Savannah, Georgia, is a self described Prayer Book evangelical. In
addition to his pastoral responsibilities, he is or has been, an author
(of several books), educator (seminary and college Prof.), and an
associate editor of, “Touchstone” magazine. He was brought up in the
Roman Catholic faith. While in RC minor seminary, his studies brought him
to the scriptures and the BCP so he converted. He was ordained in the
ECUSA, but was eventually driven out over the ordination of women and the
forced adoption of the 1979 Prayer Book. Before leaving ECUSA, Tarsitano
was the rector of a 1,200+-member parish in Denver, Colorado. Having been
on both sides of the fence (in ECUSA and now out), he is a clear-eyed
observer of North American Anglicanism.
Tarsitano, now canonically resident within the Anglican Church in America,
had the following to say when asked for his take on Continuing Churches.
“One of the realities, and complicating factors, of the formation of the
Continuing Churches after 1976, was that the greater number of the
clergymen involved were Anglo-Catholics, rather than Evangelicals. Most
American Evangelicals would not stick their necks out or lose their
positions and benefits over an arguably heretical replacement Prayer Book
or the "ordination" of women. Philip Edgecumbe Hughes was a notable
exception, along with rectors like Houston's Robert Ingram. Thus, while
perhaps a majority of the laity that joined the Continuing Churches were
ordinary Prayer Book Churchmen, and likewise a minority of the members of
the clergy, there was very little in the way of classical Evangelical or
classical Prayer Book Anglicanism in the leadership of the new
jurisdictions. This imbalance has been the major source of turmoil within
and among the Continuing Churches.”
It would seem to any serious observer that the matter of women in ordained
ministry is a major point of conflict between Continuing jurisdictions,
the REC, and Evangelicals still left in ECUSA. The REC and the
jurisdictions of the Continuum are firmly opposed to the practice.
Evangelicals still in ECUSA generally support it.... and if they don’t
support it, almost without exception they maintain a silent opposition.
It is my experience that many Evangelicals remaining in ECUSA have no idea
as to how strongly their “separated” and “continuing” Anglican
(Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic alike) brethren oppose the ordination of
women. They are flummoxed when the depth of opposition finds voice, and
few can articulate it more clearly than Tarsitano.
“American Evangelicals in ECUSA have still not faced the fact that their
acceptance of an unscriptural innovation such as the "ordination" of women
was the necessary prelude to the unscriptural innovation of approving
“American Evangelicals have generally not been able to cooperate with
Continuing Churchmen or with the Reformed Episcopal Church because of the
selectivity of their faithfulness to the Bible. Many ECUSA Evangelicals
treat concerns about the lack of Scriptural warrants for the "ordination"
of women as a trivial eccentricity, while demanding that all share their
primarily emotional response to the current abomination of baptizing
“The insistence on the part of many ECUSA Evangelicals that any effort to
address the current apostasy of the ECUSA must include women ministers is
guaranteed to divide Anglican traditionalists and conservatives in
America. They have, ironically, rediscovered the formula for creating a
divided ‘continuing church,’ with the new dividing factor being the split
between ‘progressive’ Evangelicals and the rest of the Anglican spectrum:
traditional Evangelicals, Prayer Book Churchmen, High Churchmen, and
As large an impediment to unity as female ordination happens to
be…another, perhaps larger long-term impediment, is that of the widespread
divorce and remarriage amongst clergy and laity. Sadly, neither clergy
nor laity who divorce and remarry (in ECUSA or Continuing Churches) are an
In 1998, pollster George Barna found that 25% of all mainline Christian
church members have been divorced and remarried (he found that only 21% of
Atheists and Agnostics had been ). Further research in 2001 showed that
12% of all senior pastors have been divorced and all but 3% had
remarried. I couldn’t find data on associate clergy. It would seem, at
least statistically speaking, that the sins of divorce and remarriage of
the clergy and laity are sins of larger numerical proportions within the
life of the church than the sins of homosexual priests or couples.
It is transparently clear that the pro-homosexual lobby is correct in
crying hypocrisy when self described “evangelicals”(publicly holding to a
high view of scripture) use the Bible to point out their sexual errors,
yet refuse to bend their knees to the clear biblical prohibitions against
female ordination and divorce and remarriage. Pro-homosexual forces see
little difference between their cultural contextualisation of their pet
sins, and the contextualisation done by evangelical and continuing
Anglicans with their own. They argue that Evangelicals and Continuers are
only against homosexual sins, not those committed by heterosexuals.
The story of North American Anglicanism not in communion with Canterbury
is just as was stated earlier, a varied one. Criticisms on some points
are thus quite justified. Hopefully, there will be a successful move in
the near future to re-establish the historic Anglican Formularies in their
rightful....and needed positions of influence and authority.
As confusing and disorienting as all of this can be, Tarsitano offers a
“The Continuing Churches are not ends in themselves, but part of the
recovery of traditional Anglicanism in America. Complaints that these
people are disorderly, coming from members of today's ECUSA, are rather
like complaints that, denied the use of the lifeboats, the steerage class
passengers have tried to lash together a raft in the hope of eventually
being rescued. So far, however, that rescue, which needs to come from
other Anglican national churches, has never come.”
In spite of
some of the problems, the Anglican expression of the Christian faith on
this continent is a vibrant one. There are movements afoot to encourage
greater unity. There are some signs that such efforts are gaining
traction. For instance, a retired conservative ECUSA diocesan bishop
participated in the ordination of a priest in the REC.
There are other churchmanship and theological issues that will have to be
squarely faced if ever true unity is to occur. However, at the moment,
all of N. American Anglicanism is abuzz over the recent actions of the
ECUSA General Convention. Evangelicals still in ECUSA have scheduled a
meeting in Plano, Texas, for early October to try to find a path forward.
This might prove productive, coming as it does on the heels of the General
Convention 2003 and the U.S. Anglican Congress from last December. That
meeting was a trans-jurisdictional conference which saw episcopal,
presbyteral, and lay leadership from most of the Anglican bodies in North
America. Many of those in attendance believe that something great
happened as a result.
Perhaps we're on the cusp of a true reformation within Anglicanism in
North America....only time will tell.