I have been intrigued by several snippets from several dispatches out of the New Orleans Bishops Meeting, concerning dioceses seeking adoption by another province.
The matter first surfaced in an article by Jonathan Petrie in the Telegraph, UK:
"The worldwide Anglican Church is expected to split radically by the end of the year under plans being drawn up by a leading conservative archbishop to "adopt" a breakaway group of American dioceses, the Daily Telegraph has learned.
Under the unprecedented proposals, the archbishop would allow the conservative dioceses to opt out of the liberal American branch of the Anglican Church and affiliate with his province thousands of miles away."
"The leader of the conservative Network bishops in America, the Bishop of Pittsburg, the Rt Rev Bob Duncan, predicted that up to five dioceses could make the leap, which he characterized as a "modern-day Reformation".
He said that at least three had plans to vote on the issue in their diocesan synods in the coming months to legitimize their decision."
That was quickly followed by the following:
Neela Banerjee of the New York Times said this:
"… up to five American dioceses led by theologically conservative bishops may try to break with the Episcopal Church and place themselves under the oversight of a foreign primate in the coming months, said the Rev. Canon Kendall Harmon, a conservative Episcopal strategist."
"Contrary to recent news reports that the conservatives were close to forming a unified new structure, Bishop Minns said there were no plans to announce the formation of a new Anglican body that would consolidate all the conservative groups that have broken with the Episcopal Church under one umbrella."
"A few conservative bishops who withdrew from the meeting early are likely to seek membership of an Anglican province outside the US, probably the tiny province of the Southern Cone, covering most of South America, which has only 20,000 members and an English presiding archbishop, Gregory Venables, who never rose above the status of curate in England."
So the matter seems to be this:
- Some three to five dioceses will arrange to be adopted by an Anglican Province.
- These likely are the dioceses whose bishops did not attend the House of Bishops Meeting or left early – Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, San Joaquin, Quincy, and Springfield.
- The best bet at the moment is that the Province doing the adopting will be the Province of the Southern Cone.
Only Stephen Bates lists the adopting Province, and that only as a probability. It's a pretty good guess, however. The PSC already has a history of doing just this in "adopting" the deposed bishop of Recife and with him a sizable group of Brazilian folk. They constitute a diocese attached to the Province of the Southern Cone, unrecognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury and uninvited to Lambeth. Still, practice is practice. So it is a good guess that the PSC might be the candidate of choice.
The New York Times reporter, Neela Banerjee, asked Bishop Martyn Minns about the other alternative being bandied about these days – namely a new Anglican body growing out of consolidation. I think she got the quote right, but I am not at all sure Bishop Minns meant by what he said that there was no possibility of this happening, but only that "there were no plans."
A group of some 51 bishops are now meeting in Pittsburgh behind closed doors and while one never knows what will transpire, I would not be surprised if the beginnings of a new Anglican body are not the result.
Still, all of that will take time and in the mean while the band of bishops, now four or five in number, will try to make a run for it – to some place "thousands of miles away."
It will be necessary to take the lead from the Province of Brazil and quickly depose the bishops who leave, making it clear that they continue under obligation to the House of Bishops until released, and barring that they have "abandoned this communion" (that is The Episcopal Church.) With those dioceses vacant The Episcopal Church would put in place an episcopal visitor, perhaps in the form of an interim, and move forward to the election of a new bishop or an occasion (General Convention) to absorb the diocese into a neighboring diocese, or some other remedy.
The Presiding Bishop of the Province of the Southern Cone is a diocesan – of Argentina. I understand there may be a new election of a Presiding Bishop there this fall or next spring. So perhaps Bishop Venables will not be the adopting agent for long. The time to act is before he goes. Who knows who might follow? Odd that the best guess for adopting province is one led by an English Evangelical. So much for the Global South.