From: Richard Kew

The London Times, August 8, 1997

US Anglicans face threat of schism
 over women priests

The Anglican Church in America is facing the threat of a schism after members of a conservative religious lobby group voted this week to set up a separate "province," angered by a decision by the Church's governing body that would force all dioceses to ordain and employ female clergy.

However, to establish a legitimate "province," the technical term used to describe a territorial unit of the Church, they would need the approval of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Lambeth Palace indicated yesterday that that would be virtually impossible, opening up the likelihood of a split in the Episcopal Church of the USA, as the Anglican Church is known in America.

At a meeting this week at Rosemont, Philadelphia, 125 delegates of the Episcopal Synod of America, an eight-year-old lobby group, voted to "resist all attempts to force us to compromise" on the issue of female clergy. Among them were the bishops of Dallas and Fort Worth, in Texas; Quincy, Illinois; San Joaquin, California; and Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Although the group has only 23,000 followers in a Church that has more than two million members, observers say that it should not be treated lightly.

James Rosenthal, communications officer for the Anglican Communion, said yesterday: "They are a serious, thoughtful groups whose views matter to us."

The conservatives adopted a hardline solution that is likely to lead shortly to their departure from the Anglican Communion. They called for a "special provision to consecrate new bishops who uphold our theological convictions;" the "creation of a registry of all clergy ordained by female bishops, because in the delegates' eyes those ordinations are invalid;" the creation of a fund to help those who suffer financially for breaking from the Episcopal Church; and an appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. George Carey, and to the Rt. Revd. Frank Griswold, the Presiding Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Church, to "assist us in our effort to maintain our continued witness." Most strikingly, the group also called for a separate, non-geographical province.

Yesterday Mr. Rosenthal described their demands as unprecedented, saying that it was virtually impossible that the Archbishop of Canterbury would agree to a new province.

He said: "There cannot be two recognized Episcopal Churches existing side by side in the same territory. In any case, there can be no new province without the imprimatur of the See of Canterbury." Mr. Rosenthal said that there was nothing to stop the group from styling itself as either "Anglican" or "Episcopalian" if and when they split. "There is no copyright on those words," he said, "although to use them would of course be wrong."

Last week, at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, attended by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop James Stanton of Dallas read out a statement expressing his solidarity with those "anguished" over ordination practices "clearly at odds with the whole of the Biblical pattern." Donald Peter Moriarty, a former Army artillery officer and president of the Episcopal Synod, criticized the Church for taking "a track toward adopting a subscriptural standard of morality."

The demand for a separate province parallels that made by the "third province movement" set up by traditionalists opponents of women priest in England.

However, a similar split in England is considered unlikely because of the creation of three "flying bishops" to care for opponents of women priests.

 

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