The Third Province, the Anglican Church in North America, and other plots and plans

These are edgy days in Anglican Land. The Common Cause Partnership (CCP) is moving towards an event on December 3rd that will initiate a process of forming a new church entity with the hopes that it will become a province of the Anglican Communion. George Conger spells out his read of the process that will follow in a Church of England Newspaper article posted on his blog. You can read it HERE.

The brief plan is this: The December 3rd event will present a draft Constitution for a new ecclesiastical entity which seems now to be called the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). This of course is to be distinguished from the Anglican Church in America and the Anglican Church of America, etc. Still there it is...a name other than the "Supposedly Anglican and improved GAFCON Province of North America," otherwise known as SAIGPNA, a name only a mother could love.

So the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) will set up a synodical structure, a constitution. That will prove the intentions of the various groups in CCP to get over their ego and territorial issues and form a new church, a proof required by the GAFCON leaders.
Next they will sign off on the Jerusalem Declaration of GAFCON, there by establishing that they "reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed." (Proposition 13) That means, of course, The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. We can assume that the Anglican Church in North America will not be in communion with The Episcopal Church by ACNA's own declaration and submission to the Jerusalem Declaration.

According to George Conger, once ratified the GAFCON Primates Council will receive it and the G Primates in turn will put in motion the process of getting this Church recognized as a "Third Province in North America."

This is the first time I have heard the CCP / GAFCON entity refered to as a Third Province. This seems to suggest that it would be proposed that it stand with the two (TEC and ACoC) already in place, all as part of the Anglican Communion.

The Third Province idea is roughly equivalent to the idea floated about that there be dual or overlapping jurisdictions in North America. That got shot down rather quickly when it was pointed out that the few cases where such overlapping jurisdictions occur there are historical and ecclesial reasons for that happening and more importantly full recognition of the legitimacy of the churches that overlap. The notion of there being two provinces, where one claims to be the true presence of Anglicanism and that the other is not, will not fly.

But the idea will be floated anyway, because it appears so reasonable. It is not.

The reason the CCP / GAFCON church is being formed is because the leadership of the CCP believe that the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada are dead or dying in their sin. ACNA is coming into existence to capture the flag, or as they used to say, to become the North American franchise of Anglicanism.

The notion that there might be three provinces in North America, all part of the Anglican Communion, is so absurd and dangerous that were we not all befuddled by the sad state of the Communion at this time we would laugh it out of court. The realignment crowd, however, would love to float the idea, for it seems generous. No talk here of take over, not talk of "better than," every suggestion that we can just get along.

But the planning becomes plot filled when we reach back in the workings of the CCP and the Anglican Communion Network and remember that the object of the exercise is to put in place a "biblical, missionary and united Anglican Church in North America," and to clearly distinguish that from the condemned Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada.

If this is how things are to be argued out, then what are we to make of Proposition 13 of the Jerusalem Declaration? What sort of magic wand is going to make it possible for there to be three provinces in North America all part of the Anglican Communion when one of them, ACNA, believes the other two are not legitemate as carriers of Anglicanism, the faith once delivered of the Saints, etc?

This Third Province thing is just cobbling together another Trojan Horse to see who will be taken in by it.

The plan then seems to be that the GAFCON Primates will formally accept the new Church, meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury prior to the Primates Meeting in February and bring the matter to the Primates then. The assumption is that they can garner a the two-thirds commitment at the Primates meeting and move from there to have the matter brought to the Anglican Consultative Council in May, for "implementation."

Mr Conger reads the intent of Article 3 of the Constitution of the ACC through the lens of history and I have the sense he is right that in practice the Primates have initiated the discussion of including a new Province. There is no need even for the Primates to do so by majority decision. It is enough that the matter is on the table and brought to the ACC for consideration. But it appears that the proposal for a new province has usually come to the ACC with the assent of the Primates reasonably in hand. This will of course be more difficult in this situation.

If less than two thirds of the Primates were to indicate their assent prior to the matter being brought to the ACC, my sense is it would not pass at ACC (where only a majority seems to be needed) and then returned the Primates for their two-thirds assent. Thus it is vital to the CCP / GAFCON group that they come out of the Primates Meeting with the assent of something like two-thirds of the Primates. Otherwise ACC has no reason to believe such assent is to follow.

So the plan requires that between December 3rd and July 31st there be considerable political work done to get something like two-thirds of the Primates to come on board. Thus the talk about a Third Province in North America.

Meanwhile, it is also important in this scheme to make it appear that the Archbishop of Canterbury has little say in this process. Conger's says in the article, " Dr. Williams’ approval is not a prerequisite for creating a new Province for the Anglican Communion." That may be so, although his approval or disapproval will carry great weight - both in the political work-up to the Primates Meeting and in both the Primates Meeting and the ACC as well.

Furthermore, the matter of "assent" may have been practically dealt with in the order that Mr. Conger suggests, but there is no reason why the Archbishop of Canterbury, with some help from his legal advisors, might read the ACC Constitution the way I initially read it, that ACC can be the place of initial discussion and vote and following that the Primates are asked to give assent.

GAFCON and CCP leaders have been talking for some time about their sense that the Archbishop of Canterbury's office re the Anglican Communion is changing and that new leadership is needed. At the front end his part in the admission of a new Province needs to be played down, and later, if necessary, CCP and GAFCON leaders are ready to simply ignore the office of the ABC and for that matter the other instruments of unity.

If CCP / GAFCON bishops meet with the ABC and he does not look kindly on the Primates taking up the matter of a "Third Province," or any other scheme for admission of ACNA into the Anglican Communion, or if for some reason ACC does not admit ACNA to membership, GAFCON Primates seem ready to focus their energies elsewhere and at long last have their very own world wide Anglican Church.

Fine. But don't spit in the soup on the way out. And, oh, don't take the dishes.


  1. Well....it ain't likely the ABC is going to see more than half the AC walk away in order to keep TEC....after all, TEC has ruined his time as ABC - why should he? And what would his legacy be apart from extinct within a century, just like TEC will be?

    If TEC's "new thing" "liberal" religion was attracting many Americans, young and old, people might think about it....but why split the AC for a tiny, declining "liberal" sect in the AC?

  2. I hope the CCP project succeeds, but I do note that, ironically, “Anglican Church in North America” was also the name chosen by those churches that chose to secede from ECUSA in 1979 in order to preserve Catholic order. That entity, of course, splintered and, basically, went not much of anywhere, just as many here gleefully predict CCP will do.

    Historical trivia aside, ECUSA ought to eschew the, “don't spit in the soup on the way out. And, oh, don't take the dishes,” attitude and facilitate this effort. That would dramatically lower the temperature in the Communion and give some space for a more reasoned discussion of initiatives such as the proposed Covenant. In addition, it would separate the factions within ECUSA that clearly don’t like each other and regard the opposite number as a hostile entity. I freely admit that isn’t much of a Christian ideal, but, then again, sometimes we have to live with the reality of a fallen world. A separation can often lead to, if not reconciliation, then at least a working relationship, which would be better than what we now have.

    This would require a whole lot more maturity and a whole lot less vindictiveness than ECUSA’s leadership has shown itself to be capable of (present blog host excepted), but we know that with God, all things are possible.

  3. It seems to me that the ABC would need to be extraordinarly shortsighted to allow a "third province" of this sort to happen. I am certain there are enough similarly disaffected folks in England that once the precedent is set there will be a push for an "overlay" province in England and every other place where the current church is seen as insufficiently "orthodox".

  4. The 2007 data is starting to be released. Let's play Episcopalian Jeopardy:

    Answer: 0

    Question: How many domestic dioceses increased in ASA? (Well, one could argue the point because, San Joaquin did increase, but is San Joaquin part of the TEC?)

    Answer: Province 6

    Question: Which province dropped it's membership the greatest? (3.6% with Colorado leading having a single year 7.2% drop. Whew.)

    Answer: Rio Grande.

    Question: Which domestic diocese had the largest membership decline.

    The data can be explored here:


    What a tragedy. And the new province or SAIGPNA might not be recognized by the majority of primates or ACC but it will accelerate the declines.

    There are some who say "good riddance" and "see you in court." Are there any who say, I am liberal, but I don't want the Episcopal church going down the tubes. Let's sit down with Mark Lawrence, Gary Lillibridge, etc., and talk.

  5. I vote for the Anglican Church Not Episcopalian. ACNE - a huge blemish on all our faces.

  6. Still playing the Numbers Game, RobRoy? Question. How many of the assorted groups jostling to achieve a degree of legitimacy in the former bishop of Pittsburgh's exciting new province have unquestionably valid orders at the level of bishop, and how many have orders that derive from quaint but questionable 19th c sects?

    This is a serious question.

  7. Fred, for shame. You stole my ACNE comment.

    I would not put my trust in the ABC to shoot down this scheme. Haven't we been burned enough by him to be skeptical?

  8. I don't know what statistics you read but the Diocese of Tennessee increased dramatically over the last year. Your statistics are wrong in that you pick and choose only those dioceses that you prefer for statistical purposes. The Diocese of Fort Worth, which has joined the Southern Cone, has just lost 5,000 members. The 5,000 are the people staying in the Episcopal Church. I'm sure those 5,000 are being counted by the diocese as members of the Southern COne currently, as are the 6,000 in Pittsburgh who will remain in TEC and the numbers in Quincy and San Joaquin who will remain in TEC. Fort Worth will lose roughly 25% (2 million dollars) of its budget next year because that is what the churches in the diocese choosing to remain in TEC contributed to the diocesan budget last year. Your numbers are skewed, Common Cause Partnership.

  9. I remain Episcopalian before I'm Anglican. The Episcopal Church was around long before the Anglican Communion, and it looks like it will still be around after the AC disintegrates, despite the "We shall bury you!" pronouncements.

    I'm still predicting an outcome similar to the Lutheran situation with parallel communions that refuse to recognize or speak to one another. There may not be much of an Anglican Communion anymore to determine what is legitimate and not. Canterbury is already being sidelined despite his policies of appeasement.

    I vote for ACNE as the preferred designation of the new bleached out and desiccated Anglicanism.

  10. Perhaps I have my head in the sand, but I simply cannot count 2/3 of the primates voting to give GAFCON what it wants. Each primate is smart enough to know "GAFCON: today the US and Canada, tomorrow MY Province."

  11. Observer, RobRoy et al keep presenting this curious notion that TEC would be thriving and growing if only she would adopt positions and leadership more in keeping with their hard right views.

    Their evidence is scant - post hoc ergo propter hoc and all that. TEC is liberal. TEC is in decline. Therefore liberalism is causing TEC's decline.

    Yet all those non-liberal denominations in North America are also in decline. Indeed, the only religious affiliation which is experiencing any meaningful growth is the ultra-liberal "none of the above."

    In other words, there is no substance to the analysis the destroying "conservatives" offer. There is merely prejudice (in the strict meaning of prior judgement in favour of one's own bias) passing itself off as reasoned analysis.

    One might just as logically argue that TEC's decline is caused by having the liturgy in English, by the wearing of coloured vestments, by gothic architecture or by stained glass windows.

    Indeed, most TEC churches have stained glass windows. Clearly that is the REAL cause of decline.

  12. "I don't know what statistics you read but the Diocese of Tennessee increased dramatically over the last year."

    See the link to the official stat page for the TEC. Several dioceses increased their membership (Tennessee's membership was up 0.5%, hardly "dramatic"), but all the domestic dioceses, save San Joaquin, dropped their ASA.

    This is not a "game." There are those that really don't give a damn about the Episcopal church but it is all about a political agenda. I don't expect them to be concerned.

  13. "There are those that really don't give a damn about the Episcopal church but it is all about a political agenda."

    Indeed. And on both sides of the aisle, let it be noted.

  14. Fr. Malcolm offers a solid explanation for the alleged demise of TEC -- colored glass windows. But(!) he neglects two major points, first all TEC churches have sermons, and second they all have prayers. Now there are clear elements of decline. Not only do they account for the decline in TEC, consider that Baptists and other conservatives who are also declining have them too!

    I rest my case!


    PS. Actually given some of the sermons I have heard, there may be some truth to this.

  15. I guess the question, Malcolm, is how fast is ECUSA declining relative to other Christian denominations? I don't know the answer; what I do know is that ECUSA's own statistical director thinks it has a problem, aside from the cause of that problem. I also know it's equally a fallacy for you to assume that, because there is a systemic decline in formal religious observance, there is therefore no additional specific cause for ECUSA's membership travails.

    ECUSA's decline is not likely a sign of health - no matter where you choose to assign the blame - and neither is its demographic mix.

  16. I don't actually believe TEC's decline is due to its position on homosexuality. I think it is due to the conflict within the denomination. Though the two are obviously related, there is a difference. Anyone with even limited knowledge of church growth knows that conflict is a tremendous barrier to growth, and it's clear that we have tremendous conflict.

    It's assuming to listen to you refer to the Southern Baptists and assume that the Episcopal Church is declining for the same reasons as they are. Maybe they are, since there is a certain amount of conflict in the SBC as well. But it's not over the same issues, and the comparison as not helpful, as there is very little similarity between the two.

    I'm convinced that TEC can resolve a whole lot of its conflict without "throwing the gays under the bus." Simply officially acknowledge that its recent actions are controversial, that many will see it as contrary to traditional Christian teaching. (You don't have to agree with them.) Than agree to a temporary separation, some space, while the various groups work it out. Pull out of the official workings of the AC for a while; let the conservative dioceses go -- at least for now -- but stay in conversation with them, and out of the courts. (These lawsuits will keep us in conflict for years.)

    Continue ordaining gays and lesbians and performing same-sex marriages (you will anyway); just understand that many Anglican Christians find this utterly unacceptable and give them the space they need -- not the space you think you can afford. Yes, this will hurt, but far less in the long-term than the results of this conflict continuing for years on end.

    As is, we are losing conservatives, moderates, and liberals, because they are tired of the conflict. Some of them are going to other churches; some of them are despairing of the church altogether -- even faith.

    This way, you may still lose a lot of conservatives, but probably not as many, and in the end, you will gain a lot of respect from your fellow Anglicans (even those who disagree with you), and with the conflict largely over, be in a much better position to move on and bounce back.

    As is, we've lost one-seventh of your average Sunday attendance in the last five years. I don't see this letting up for the next five years unless we can reduce the level of conflict; it will get much worse. I would be very surprised if the Sunday attendance is not down by one-third from 2003 to 2013.

    I know that the leadership will insist on asserting the bishops' authority and the denomination's ownership of property and such, so I don't really see this happening. But frankly, I'm quite convinced that some plan of this sort is the only sensible way to go.

    That's my opinion, anyway, for what it's worth.

  17. The Southern Baptists have posted ever so slight declines in the past couple of years. This is with amazing growth for the past forty years. For them it is a crisis. The Assemblies of God Church is growing. In contrast, the Episcopal denomination was the fastest declining using 2006 data and people dismiss this as a "numbers game" or "all mainstream denominations are declining."

    Malcolm offers a straw man because I did not try to prove causation. (One can look at the degree of liberality and see correlation with decline. Indeed, that has been established. And that is the only way to offer "proof" but Malcolm would ignore this anyway.) In some sense, it is not up to me to prove causation. The coach of the NFL team with the worst record better have a plan to turn around the team or his butt gets fired. There's no "but you haven't proved causation!"

    RB is absolutely correct about conflict. I think that the Scotist said, "Nobody wants to go into your store if there is a gang fight on the doorstep." Unfortunately, he then went back to the sue 'em for all they got camp, it seems.

  18. As the poet Charles Péguy said regarding the Dreyfus case, "Everything begins in faith and ends in politics".

  19. Mark,

    Usually, I would refrain from commenting on your typos because of the principle of stones and glass houses. (I can spell, but I can't type.) But this one had me chuckling:

    "The Third Province idea is roughly equivalent to the idea floated about that there be duel ... [jurisdictions]"

    Yup, duel jurisdictions is about it these days. Dual, too. But definitely duelling. :-(

    Personally, I'm not a fan of either.

  20. Nom de Plume... thanks, got it. corrected it (if it was a one time thing). Sigh....matters are made worse by my hacking away at odd hours of the day and night.

  21. Actually, Robroy, you have constantly asserted causation. But never mind.

    Certainly decline is a problem - perhaps it would be helpful if people with their own hidden and not so hidden agendas of destruction stopped using the problem as either a club to beat the people they hate or as an excuse for their destructive behaviour.

    RB, in general, I'd agree with your overall analysis. The only problem is that is suggests the conservatives and "conservatives" are the innocent parties in this. Conflict takes two.

    (You may not have meant to suggest that, but that's the way it read to me.)

  22. Lemme see if I've got this, um, straight, RB:

    You say you're

    convinced that TEC can resolve a whole lot of its conflict without "throwing the gays under the bus."

    ...but that all we (TEC) have to do is

    Simply officially acknowledge that its recent actions are controversial, that many will see it as contrary to traditional Christian teaching.
    Than agree to a temporary separation, some space, while the various groups work it out. Pull out of the official workings of the AC for a while; let the conservative dioceses go -- at least for now -- but stay in conversation with them, and out of the courts.

    If I were a straight Episcopalian, confronted w/ the latter option, then *I* might well say "Can't we instead just have teh gays go back into the closet for a bit? Till things quiet down?"

    Non-starter, RB. Can you seriously offer NOTHING more irenic than this???

  23. Alas, I predict that this conflict will end the same way that those really big ones that began around 1520 ended, in perpetual stalemate. The champions of Holy Mother Church never succeeded in stamping out the Heresy. God's Chosen Elect never succeeded in vanquishing the Roman AntiChrist. The long bloody wars of religion that consumed Europe for almost 200 years ended because people got tired of fighting. Nothing was resolved.

    This fight will also end when both sides get tired of the fight. We'll excommunicate each other, declare victory, and go home. There will be no resolution. At best, there will only be some kind of grudging modus vivendi.

    In all candor, since I have skin in this game, I'm not willing to fall on a sword for the sake of "peace." I remember Dr. King once said that peace is more than the absence of war, it is the presence of justice.

    I still predict that the outcome will be a Lutheran stalemate with 2 or 3 or more parallel "Anglican" communions that refuse to recognize each other or speak with one another for generations to come.

    "No kingdom is more given to civil war than that of the Prince of Peace" -- Montesquieu

  24. While the Anglican Communion is still historically connected to the Scripture, Tradition and Reason ethic, there will be no such thing as an American 'Third Province. The ACNE suggestion is just that: a blemish on the face of Anglicanism. The sooner it gets 'blitzed' the better. But like all sores, it needs first to be allowed to come to a head - on 3rd December, 2008.

  25. Malcolm+, I probably would agree with you in that the conflict is two-sided. But I'm not terribly interested in finding someone to blame at this point.

    And JCF, yes, a straight Episcopalian probably could say: "Can't we instead just have the gays go back into the closet for a bit? Till things quiet down?" But that's precisely what I would wish to avoid, and TEC can easily answer that question "No". I'm looking for a way to end (or at least greatly lessen) the conflict without sacrificing deeply-held principles on either side. You would still get to be openly gay, and should you find that special relationship, it could be blessed in an Episcopal Church that would agree to do it.

    And perhaps we could address the more basic, fundamental gay rights issues like equal protection under law, housing, health services, etc. -- issues we could possibly agree on -- without getting hung up on symbolic rights such as blessings.

  26. And perhaps we could address the more basic, fundamental gay rights issues like equal protection under law, housing, health services, etc. -- issues we could possibly agree on -- without getting hung up on symbolic rights such as blessings.

    I agree. Whether or not my partner and I can get married in an Episcopal Church is not even on my radar screen. I'm much more concerned about the legal issues.

  27. RB, the fly in the ointment of your peaceful separation and co-existence is that that is not ultimately what they want at all.

    Currently they speak of following some gospel imperative of letting them exit with the trust funds and the property without lawsuits. But the very Global South primates who would recognize them as a legitimate 3rd North Am province, by whatever name, are constantly speaking the rhetoric of discipline and punishment. They will never be satisfied with peaceful co-existence. That is merely the current bone that they offer you to shut you up and calm you down.

    Ultimately they wish to drive all of you who do not fit their self-defined orthodoxy out and make the 3rd province, the ONLY province.

    Everything that they have ever said, publicly and clandestinely, says that is their goal, over and over.

    Heaven only knows their ultimate plans for the rest of us, we smaller provinces that tend to side against them, in favor of the Western oriented provinces, from whom we were birthed, and to whom we owe much.

    DO NOT fall into the trap into which most progressives eventually fall. The desire for peace, usually at great sacrifice and eventually their own demise.

  28. Two things: First the claim of a "third province" for North America simply shows that this crew may claim to be in touch with the post-colonial Church, but they have truly blown it. There is ALREADY a third province in North America. It is called Mexico. Secondly, to keep the numbers straight, the parishes that have already announced they are staying in TEC in Pittsburgh have more than 7300 baptized members (not the 6000 mentioned in an earlier post). Given that there are at least another 5 parishes that will participate in the upcoming special convention, Pittsburgh is more likely to have nearly 9000 members by January 2010 who have opted not to follow the realigners into a very murky future. Those parishes represent contributed more than 40% of the parish assessments to the diocesan budget in pre-alignment days.

  29. David: I just don't think this kind of paranoia is the best way to approach this. First, even if the conservatives managed to form a third Anglican province, and actually replaced The Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion, the Episcopal Church would not be greatly affected. We really can manage without them, and form new bonds and relationships, or deepen already-existing ones. I don't think your church in Mexico would be greatly affected either. They cannot take our churches from us by gaining a spot in the Anglican Communion -- even if they wanted to do so (which I submit is highly unlikely). Most churches would hardly be aware of a separation from the Anglican Communion. Life would go on.

    Second, I really believe this conflict is gaining them far more sympathy than the Episcopal Church. I cannot see how the conflict helps us within the Anglican Communion at all. If replacing us in the Anglican Communion is their goal, then it could be that we are aiding them via the lawsuits and the acrimony. End the conflict, and perhaps we win the respect of the rest of the Communion. If, after that, they still boot us out, then were they worth our trouble in the first place?

  30. But RB, the Chapman memo makes it very clear that the end game is to take over the assets of the Episcopal Church (and presumably, by extension, the Anglican Church of Canada) and the assumed silent majority that agree with them.

  31. RB and others - the notion that we just give the realignment conservatives space via separation is a non-starter. Leeway sounds plausible, yes, especially if one listens superficially to realignment folks in milder moments. Plus leeway is historically core Anglican, no doubt. Realigned believers can easily sound very live and let live - but their realignment campaigning (let alone their horrid preachments about how awful everybody else is by conevo realigned definitions) betrays deeper troubles not resolved by space and separations.

    Not only do realignment folks depend on being able to preach awful things about everybody else, they often pursue ends justify means ethics, most often to dodgy outcomes.

    Fort W and Pburg got to their escalated hot headedness, mostly because we did give them considerable space to do their own conevo thang. But flat earthisms cannot win the day, so fights must continue. That is the real sore point - conevos are losing two traditional privileges which everybody more or less solidly thought all straight folks would enjoy in perpetuity. One privilege was the right to loudly preach simply awful things about queer folks, no matter what. The second privilege - now under marked duress - was that familiar special straight right to do bad things to queer folks (policing, punishment, banning, imprisonment ... a horrible list if you take human rights seriously at all). Neither privilege is free and clear these days, so having one's own space to be separate is hardly a solution to the ongoing dilemma of believer change.

  32. Patrick - my first USA relative was Stephen Bachlier, 1620 Anglican Cleric in New Hampshire.

    Well, let's simplify:

    1. The US has been politically manipulated to see itself as polarized. Politicians divide and conquer us.
    2. We are now in a cultural paradigm of polarization in every aspect.
    3. There are those in the Episcopal Church who, for whatever reason, draw the line at homosexual clergy.
    4. The homosexual community wants affirmation from every cultural institution.
    5. If the Episcopal Church doesn't come on board with full recognition of homosexuality as "normal" then the homosexual community will have lost out on this particular cultural icon.
    6. If there is a third province of the EC it will be a slap in the face of homosexuals looking for complete affirmation.
    7. That's what it's all about folks. Not who gets assets or where the Arch' Bish' of Canterbury comes into it or any of that legal nonsense.
    8. Either there is a 3rd province or the EC will lose those that would have stayed. It's that simple.
    9. Given the discussion here I'd say many of you have far too much time on your hands. Why aren't you using it to spread the good news?


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.