Over the fall months of 2003 the people forming the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, and in particular the then Bishop of Pittsburgh, Robert Duncan, began saying that the network idea had been suggested by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
I worked at finding out where and when the Archbishop might have done such a thing. Much of what I tried to find out was posted on Louie Crew's pages, HERE (please be sure to read the correction at the end.)
Bishop Duncan began speaking about this in October 2003 and by the time the Network was formed in January 2004 it was considered a fact. But it was not until September 2004 that it finally was confirmed that, yes indeed, the ABC had met with some clergy from the US and apparently suggested the idea (its hard to tell from the Lambeth statement).
Early in September 2004 Martyn Minns wrote,
"The Network was formed last year to support and encourage the life and ministry of those alienated by the actions of General Convention. The original suggestion came from a meeting that David Anderson, President of the AAC, and I had with Archbishop Rowan Williams at Lambeth Palace on September 18th, 2003. We had been invited to give a first hand report on the state of the Episcopal Church after Minneapolis. We shared something of our struggles and it was at that conversation that he suggested the need for a Network.
He called it a Network of Confessing Dioceses and Parishes. He wanted to be sure that we used a positive name and not be identified as dissenters. He was also very deliberate in using the word "Confessing" because that would connect it with the "Confessing Christian" movement that stood for the orthodox faith in Germany at a time when the official Christian bodies were being manipulated and co-opted by the government of Nazi Germany. The name subsequently became the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes (or Anglican Communion Network or ACN)."
The Archbishop's office, almost a year after the meeting, posted the following:
"ACNS 3888 | ENGLAND | 24 SEPTEMBER 2004
Statement from Lambeth Palace on the 'network' stories
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Rowan Williams, has had a wide range of meetings and conversations with many groups and individuals on all sides in relation to the current concerns in the Anglican Communion. These meetings remain private and confidential.
Amongst those with whom the archbishop met last autumn were those dissenting from the impending consecration of Gene Robinson; those involved wished to discuss the shape that might be taken by groups dissenting from the decision of General Convention but remaining within the structures of ECUSA.
The term 'network' was suggested as offering one appropriate model to provide support for those dissenting from the resolution but intending to remain within ECUSA's structures. The Archbishop felt that this might prove a suitable working concept, but no proposals as to its potential form, structure or outworking were advanced.
In relation to the discussion of the term 'confessing church'; this concept indicated, in accordance with traditional Protestant usage - that the dissent was understood to be on a matter of conscience that, for the dissenter, touched on the integrity of the church itself. No narrower example or more specific comparison, for instance to the church in Germany in the 1930s, was intended."
So, lest we forget, the "Confessing Anglicanism" idea has at last some of its roots in a conversation between the Archbishop of Canterbury and two men now bishops in churches that mean to replace The Episcopal Church as the "real Anglicans" in the US.
At the time I wrote my article (summer 2004),
"I had rather hoped that no reference for the Archbishop's initiating remarks could be found, for then we would only be dealing with the excesses in reportage of the Episcopal Church's own rather rowdy community. We all get excessive at times and hopefully are forgiven for it. But now that we have a date and time and content for the meeting we must deal with the very real possibility that the Archbishop of Canterbury has indeed taken a part in determining the course of matters internal to this Province and its decision making processes, in which he has no more standing than that of a "foreign bishop," save the respect due him and his office. That respect remains high, for it is not an office to be wished on any, but one from which we expect much. Still, there needs to be some care in mucking about in other people's gardens, for the respect due is not without its limits."
I still feel that way. I wish it were not true.
While the Archbishop of ACNA may indeed trumpet the notion of "confessing Anglicanism" it is an idea stirred up in the minds of three men meeting in Lambeth Palace seven years ago, and served up to us all by ACNA and GAFCON as the future of Anglicanism.
It is a classic case of cross - boundary intervention gone bad. It is not a good idea to have private meetings with dissident members of some one else's parish, diocese or national church and then offer them friendly advice about how to proceed in their dissent. The Windsor Report might have found it a matter of interest to consider this a possible area for moratoria.
But at least we can remember.