The Daily Telegraph (UK) is reporting that we will have yet another African-based Anglican-offshoot setting up shop in North America:
A powerful coalition of conservative Anglican leaders is preparing to create a parallel Church for conservatives in America in defiance of the Archbishop of Canterbury, provoking the biggest split in Anglican history, The Daily Telegraph has learned.
According to sources, at least six primates are planning the consecration of a prominent American cleric as a bishop to minister to Americans who have rejected their liberal bishops over the issue of homosexuality.
The move will send shock waves through worldwide Anglicanism and may prove to be a fatal blow to the efforts of Dr Rowan Williams to hold together what he described last month as a “very vulnerable, very fragile” Church.
The initiative is understood to have been co-ordinated by senior African archbishops, including the Primate of Kenya, Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, who represent the core of the so-called Global South group of conservative primates.
Years ago, as a result of different waves of immigration from northern European countries and the ethnic divisions they brought with them, the Lutherans in North America were split into several different groups. Over the years they eventually merged into two major groups: The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (with which we Episcopalians are in communion) and The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (with which we are not, but in which my late brother was a member). In addition, there are several smaller Lutheran bodies including The Lutheran Church – Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, The Apostolic Lutheran Church in America, The Church of the Lutheran Confession, and others.
These Lutheran groups seem able to cooperate in some ways across their “denominational” divisions. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans apparently caters to members of any of these groups. Lutheran Community Services organizations in many metropolitan areas receive support and volunteers from congregations of any of the groups (primarily ELCA, LCMS, and WELS). They differ significantly theologically and ecclesiologically, but find these limited ways to cooperate.
We U.S. Anglicans, on the other hand, seem to be moving in an opposite direction. Starting out as a single church organized in 1789, we’ve split into The Reformed Episcopal Church, The United Episcopal Church, and many others on our own. Now the Africans are moving in to assist us in splitting further. Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria beat Nzimbi of Kenya to the punch founding the Convocation of Anglicans in North America last year. These competing Anglican offshoots will have nothing to do with mainstream Episcopalians and, although there have been rumors of cooperation and possible concords between some of the “continuing Anglican” groups, for the most part will have nothing to do with each other. (When they do get together, the only thing that seems to unite them is their dislike of the Episcopal Church! Not much a “glue” to hold a church together….)
I don’t have much optimism that anything like those few cooperative Lutheran ministries will form any time soon amongst the various competing forms of “Anglicanism” in the U.S. But I do have hope … because Someone somewhere once upon a time prayed:
I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:20-23, NRSV)