Realignment will be complete when there is a new "biblical, missionary and united" Anglicanism in North America. A simple glance at the spiffy visual presentation of the process (see HERE) or the timeline of actions and issues (HERE) are enough to remind us that the object of realignment is not what the former bishop of San Joaquin has done - align himself and his cohorts with the Province of the Southern Cone. That is a stop-gap measure. The end game is realignment by coalition into an new Anglican union in North America. The plan has been and is to use alignment with other Provinces as a means of getting to a new place - a new ecclesiastical entity in North America that will seek recognition from other Anglican Provinces as the true, blue, real and bonified Anglican Church in the neighborhood.
The time line on the CCP pages is particularly interesting as a reminder of this plan since it includes several actions for 2008.
- Province by province visitation and appeal for recognition of the "separate ecclesiastical structure in North America"
- CCP Leadership Council 2: Advent, 2008
- Reports and adoption of work from committees and task forces
- Constitutional convention for an Anglican union held at the earliest possible date agreeable to all the Partners
The Common Cause Partnership (CCP) will need to get the existing ecclesial groups to buy on to these developments, so in the Province by Province visitation, particular attention will need to be given to those Provinces who have taken on various churches in the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada and have provided bishops for local oversight.
We can be sure that CCP bishops will be at GAFCON and at Lambeth working to line up support. They will also be quite willing to use the possible realignment of the Anglican Communion to a new structure not headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and not based in London as a threat or a promise if they do not get the recognition they seek from Canterbury.
What will this new ecclesiastical structure look like, in terms of dioceses? It will finally be territorial - in that it is a structure for all of North America. It will involved dioceses, although it is not clear if there will be overlapping jurisdictions based on the source ecclesastical groups out of which they came (for example there might continue to be a CANA diocese with parishes not necessarily in a particular territorial jurisdiction).
It will be missionary, particularly if the agenda of the Anglican Missinon in the Americas is heard. Thus it will see unreached areas of the US and Canada (which will include anywhere that the apostate Episcopal Church is active) as mission territory.
But my bet is that it will fairly quickly become an Anglican-type ecclesiastical structure, with territorial dioceses whose responsibilities are for the work in a particular area of the US or Canada.
For this reason I think it is important to look at the current "strong" centers of realignment churches as a hint to future territorial divisions. To the extent that this is on the minds of bishops currently contemplating an exit from the Episcopal Church it may explain something of the strategies they might use regarding temporary alignment until the great day of union.
Looking at the map on the Common Cause Partnership home page, which lists 1100 parishes, (which includes Episcopal Church related parishes and all other Common Cause Partner congregations) one can see the "hot spots" where there are large numbers of churches in an area. Major hot spots are located in Southern California, Mid Texas, Illinois, Florida, South Carolina, Virgnia/ Washington DC, Pittsburgh, and upstate New York. Not surprising given the Network Dioceses of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin, Episcopal Dioceses of Fort Worth, Quincy, Albany, Pittsburgh, the American Mission in the Americas concentration in Florida and South Carolina, and the Convocation of Anglicans in North America in the Virginia area.
So, casting an eye to what a union with dioceses and bishops might look like, my sense is there will be the following: The West (Schofield); The South West (Iker); the Mid South (Reformed Episcoapl Church?); The South East (AMiA?); the Middle Atlanatic (CANA); the North East (Duncan); The Mid West (Quincy?). The scattered Uganda and Kenya congregations will make their way into various new dioceses.
Of course this could be off course. The Reformed Episcopal Church may not finally make it into the group. The Kenya and Uganda groups might not be assimilated. Quincy might not go along with Fort Worth, San Joaquin and Pittsburgh. It's all pretty fluid.
But, just suppose Bishop Iker doesn't feel the necessity of going to the Southern Cone, believing that rather quickly there will be a new Anglican structure in North America? What if Pittsburgh votes not to "join" another province immediately but simply wait for a few months to regroup in this new structure. Might they not be in conversation with Canterbury to be "extra-provincial" for a short while prior to becoming part of a new province?
Katie Sherrod wrote recently, "It's interesting to note that very recently our bishop and other diocesan leaders have begun to drop a little bomb into discussions. Bishop Iker said at a recent meeting at All Saints Church that we shouldn't get too wedded to the idea of the Southern Cone. We may not be going there."
Perhaps Bishop Iker would just as soon be autonomous enough so that in the new mix of the united Anglican entity, he would be bishop of a wide area and not just Fort Worth. Better than than a diocese with limited jurisdiction under the governance of the Province of the Souther Cone. The folks at the bottom of South America are, afterall, lower than a snake's belly.