The Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes – the legal name for the Anglican Communion Network – is going through some interesting changes. (I never refer to it as the Anglican Communion Network since that gives undue credibility to the organization, as if it were indeed a Network OF the Anglican Communion, rather than a network IN the Anglican Communion.)
The Network has a new web page look, crisper and cleaner without heraldry beyond its logo (which looks strangely like the Anglican Communion compass rose logo.) The site’s front page no longer directly links the reader to the American Anglican Council. The Moderator is no longer as prominent. The site front page links to the News Archive, the place where the lead articles find a home. There is very little to suggest that this is anything but an organization of concerned Episcopalians and Anglicans, concerned to be Anglican and orthodox.
All of this follows the path laid out by the AAC and the Network about just how to divide the tasks of realignment. The AAC would take the harder tact, being critical of the Episcopal Church and its leadership in the more harsh terms. The Network would work from ‘within’ as an organization clearly within the Episcopal Church working for its renewal and repentance.
So it is with some interest that the last several lead articles on the Network web pages remind us of the fact that there continues to be an interlacing of the efforts to work for realignment.
The Network proclaimed on January 23, 2006, “The ACN, which was formed just two years ago, continues to grow daily. Presently, affiliates include over 1000 parishes and 2500 clergy, 10 dioceses and 6 convocations, and an estimated 250,000 communicants.” The 10 dioceses and 6 convocations is now inclusive of the Forward in Faith congregations, and so the count of 1000 parishes may be a reasonable guess (remembering the Network states that not all parishes openly declare themselves as part of the Network.) At the same time not all parishes in the 10 dioceses wish to be included in the count, and not all parishes included continue to be related. More, we have very little to test the extent to which these parishes look to the Moderator for ecclesial or spiritual leadership. In any event, there are 8032 parishes listed with Church Publishing Clergy Directory and so the number 1000 is a bit high. One tenth of the dioceses ought to yield about one tenth of the parishes, or about 800.
As for the numbers of 2,500 clergy and 250,000 communicants, these numbers are more difficult to understand. The Network, even assuming everyone in all ten dioceses and a considerable following elsewhere, is suggesting that one in five clergy and one in five communicants are members of the Network. We will never know, of course, because the Network does not list all parishes, and no communicants for a variety of reasons.
Interestingly, over 14 months ago, October, 2004, the Network claimed 800 parishes and 1000 clergy. So, there have been 200 more parishes counted, but 1,500 more clergy claimed. If so, the Network claim to growth has not been in Dioceses (unchanged) or in parishes (moderate growth) but in clergy and lay persons. We will see.
Having claimed new growth, the Network, through its Moderator announced that all the Forward in Faith North America parishes (in the US) have become Network parishes. This makes the Forward in Faith convocation much larger.
The last of the announcements, made February 15th, is that the Network will form a seventh convocation to be made up of parishes that have affiliated to dioceses elsewhere in the world. The story states, “They are now under the jurisdiction of dioceses in four Anglican Provinces: Uganda, Southern Cone, Kenya and Central Africa.” The Network seems to be consolidating parts of the wider “Common Cause Partners” into itself.
The object of all this is to make a strong claim for attention prior to General Convention. If between now and then the Network draws in additional partners, say AMiA, or solidifies its relation to the Global South Anglican initiative, and particularly with the Province of Nigeria, the Network’s claim to attention grows.
In terms of its international standing, the Network needs the Province of Nigeria. Nigeria now has parishes in the United States, and has entered covenants with the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Province of America. However, the Archbishop of Nigeria has come out in support of Nigerian law criminalizing homosexual behavior and any organization or gatherings in support of homosexuals. The Archbishop is a growing embarrassment and too close a connection with him will become more and more a mixed blessing.
The plan is on course… consolidate, let the AAC do the nasty work, find partners where you can. But there is still time for things to go sour. Perhaps the numbers are a bit overblown, perhaps the union of those who can’t bear women in ordained ministry, those who can’t bear women bishops and those who can won’t hold, perhaps bishops from the Global South will find the connections with the Network less interesting if they seem themselves loosing these parishes, and perhaps, God willing, the Moderator will see fit to distance himself and the Network from the Archbishop’s stand on criminalization of homosexuals in Nigeria.
But about distancing from the Archbishop of Nigeria and his support of criminalization nothing has been heard. No announcement yet.