Thursday, 27 January 2005

How big is the AAC and the Network?

The Living Church has just published an article by Joan Gundersen who is an officer of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh. Neither of these organisations has the article on their own website, but it does appear on the website of Via Media Dallas: The Center Still Holds.

This article, which was written in July 2004 but only published in January 2005, contains some statistics on the membership of NACDAP and the AAC, which are now of course partially out of date. I have therefore corrected them below where I can, and added emphasis. Further corrections welcomed.

Of the 100 dioceses within the United States, so far only nine ten have joined the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes. Of more than 7,300 parishes in the Episcopal Church, only 4 percent are affiliated with the American Anglican Council (AAC), and one-third of those are in the nine network dioceses. Roughly one-third of the dioceses of the church have no AAC affiliates.

Although there is no public listing of individual parishes affiliated with the network, apparently only about 70 have done so. For example, in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, home of network moderator Bishop Robert W. Duncan, approximately 27 percent of diocesan communicants belong to parishes that have officially repudiated the network. Groups supporting tolerance of diversity have arisen in 12 dioceses [11 of which have] with strong AAC presences, and these groups have formed a national alliance called Via Media USA to preserve the traditional Episcopal openness to different perspectives and scriptural interpretations.

Separately the Network has this week published a letter from Bishop Robert Duncan which says:

Six convocational deans – serving the vast areas of our country (including some 200 congregations and 300 clergy) that are in non-Network dioceses – have devoted much of their energies to what has become the creative engine of the Anglican Communion Network.

The apparent discrepancy between these two reports in the number of congregations in non-Network dioceses is noticeable, and cannot be entirely explained by the delay in publication, especially since one more diocese has joined the network since July, reducing the number of congregations outside Network dioceses. Another factor might possibly be the inclusion of some non-ECUSA congregations and/or clergy in Bp Duncan’s figures, but in any case it remains an extremely small proportion of ECUSA. At least 80 of the 200 claimed congregations would be in the FiF Convocation. (Thanks to Dr Gundersen for her additional research.)

What is frustrating is the lack of information on the Network website. Not even the number of Network dioceses is correctly given, let alone a list by name of these dioceses, published for all to see. The AAC website is no better at publishing its membership statistics.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 27 January 2005 at 1:21pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: ECUSA
Comments

Simon,

Thanks for the link to our website. I don't expect a "Slashdot effect,":http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slashdot_effect but I bet our hit rate will go up anyway ;)

Your readers might also be interested in some of the other articles and essays we have, both on the site and linked from it. Dr. Gundersen herself, along with Christopher Wilkins of Via Media USA, have a thorough analysis of the theological statement of the "Network" entitled *An "Un-Anglican" Statement* avail as a link from our site to http://geocities.com/pephomepage/html/CC-0001.pdf (which is on the Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh site). It's a PDF file, so Adobe Acrobat reader or similar is req'd.

As to the difficulty of getting solid numbers out of the "Network," I'm disappointed but not terribly surprised. The truth is that the AAC/"Network" is a small minority of U.S. Episcopalians who make a lot of noise completely out of proportion to their numbers. My guess is that they are being a bit cagey playing the numbers game, so as to present themselves in a better light. I know I'd be sorely tempted to do the same, were I in their position.

David (speaking only for himself)

Posted by: David Huff on Thursday, 27 January 2005 at 3:19pm GMT

"Bob Pittsburgh" eh?

Humbly and faithfully in Christ,
+Bob Pittsburgh
Moderator, Anglican Communion Network
Bishop of Pittsburgh

Posted by: Michael Povey on Thursday, 27 January 2005 at 3:47pm GMT

I write as a priest who is part of the Network but who has not asked his congregation to affiliate. I have in fact suggested waiting. We have spoken often within the congragation and do not believe that such affiliation is necessary until the fault lines -- if such become apparent -- make it necesary to make such choices. Our congregation has now over 65% of its giving redirected away from New York. This follows diocesan guidelines that make this a personal choice not one to be made either by clergy or vestry. Some congregations have seen this percentage be higher and others lower. Why I mention this is to suggest that the figures for Network or AAC membership are simply hidden from plain view. In our diocese we do not see the need for confrontational tactics of affiliation and/or rejection by those who reject the majority decisions of GC 2003 re. VGRobinson.
We await the Primates decisions, the March response from the HOB of ECUSA, and then responses in the larger Communion to these. I personally suspect that once the fault lines become visible and possible choices are given, yes with the hope of structural relief, then more congregations and clergy will make clear their affiliation to Network and AAC. At the moment we are trying to be patient as the process unfolds. If the process does not unfold in a timely manner then it may be irrelevant as people who have already voted with their wallets my do so with their feet. At that point the Network will no longer have the same attraction but AMIA, REC or even other denominations will benefit -- to these will go many of our faithful whose patience has run out. I quote a colleague -- "I am a Christian first, second an Anglican and lastly Episcopalian."

Posted by: Ian Montgomery on Friday, 28 January 2005 at 4:36am GMT

Simon, in the interest of accuracy, I think it would be fairer to say that Via Media groups have formed in 11 dioceses with strong AAC presence.
(There are 2 chapters in the diocese of Albany.)

(There is a mention on the national Via Media site to some group forming in Rhode Island, but I hardly think that diocese can be said to be an AAC-base.)

http://www.viamediausa.org/links.html

Of interest perhaps is that two of the Via Media groups have formed in dioceses that are not a part of the Network (Tennessee and SW FL). Two Network diocese of Quincy does not have a via Media group, nor does Western Kansas whose affiliation with the Network is still pending (the Bishop has joined, but a decision for the diocese was put off by a year).

Finally, although I agree with your assessment that numbers are hard to come by, I do think there is evidence for a groundswell of support for the AAC/ACN. You have only to look at all the new local AAC chapters that have formed throughout the country. (I'd be glad to send you a list of such groups and the dates I first bookmarked them.)

Further evidence: all the various regional gatherings sponsored by either local AAC chapters or Network "regional convocations". I was at Plano East in Northern Virginia last year and the energy of having some 3000 orthodox Episcopalians gathered in one place was amazing.

I know there have been several via-Media type gatherings (such as the "Going Forward Together" conferences in Atlanta & Dallas). Any data on what kind of support these conferences drew?

I'm not trying to focus on the numbers game here. I think Fr. Montgomery is correct that in most cases it is just "too early to tell." At some point the choices will become clearer and then the numbers will become more evident. But even without "hard numbers" I think there is evidence of an increase in grassroots support for conservative/orthodox groups within ECUSA.

Posted by: Karen B. on Friday, 28 January 2005 at 10:25pm GMT

While Quincy doesn't have a formal Via Media group, at least that I'm aware of, there is one "right next door" in the Diocese of Springfield.

I'll also add the group named "E-Way" in San Diego to your list of such groups in non-Network dioceses. At their recent convention, the folks in San Diego were also able to elect a bishop who seems dedicated to reconciliation - so I suspect the "Network" lost quite a bit of traction there. And speaking of losing traction, the new bishop coadjutor in the Diocese of the Rio Grande (a NACDAP diocese, I believe), while certainly conservative, also seems to be leaning towards healing and reconciliation vs. a hard-core "anti-ECUSA" agenda.

So while you may see a "evidence for a groundswell of support for the AAC/ACN," I see evidence for a climate of unity, healing, and reconciliation. At least that's what I pray for every week.

Posted by: David Huff on Saturday, 29 January 2005 at 12:40am GMT

KarenB, you do understand that Via Media gatherings (or those of us who just support their work from afar: the comfort and safety of dioceses that stand w/ the '03 GC democratic majority) *ALSO* believe themselves to be "orthodox Episcopalians/ Anglicans"? (And that *God alone* can declare who is orthodox, and who isn't?)

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Sunday, 30 January 2005 at 5:44am GMT

I'll second JCF on this one. I am *not* ready to accede the use of "orthodox" to the AAC crowd.

Since their "Plano East" conference was mentioned above, I'll add that I'm also quite weary of my city's name being associated with them and their exclusivist, schismatic agenda. I attended the big, AAC mega-church in Plano for over a year and can report quite reliably that there is nothing "orthodox" about the happy-clappy, Anglo-Baptist, Episcopal "lite" liturgy, nor the smug, self-satisfied socio-political conservatism of the majority of the congregation. If they are the future of Anglicanism in the U.S., then count me *out*.

Posted by: Simeon on Monday, 31 January 2005 at 12:04am GMT

JC Fisher refers to "the ‘03 GC democratic majority". This seems suspiciously like an appeal to democracy (or at least a pseudo-congressional/parliamentary system) as an appropriate form of church governance. On what basis would he/she seek to justify that?

Simeon uses the word "schismatic" to refer to theologically conservative members of ECUSA. Aren't we all, following the events in the reign of Henry VIII, at least material schismatics?

I don't think that I would enjoy the "Anglo-Baptist" liturgy to which Simeon refers, and I would certainly not wish to be identified with the "socio-political conservatism" which does appear to go hand-in-hand with theological conservatism in the United States. (For what it's worth, I resigned from the Labour Party in protest at its rightward drift under Kinnock, and "Tony B Liar" drives me to despair!) However, we folk over here do get the impression that ECUSA sits rather light to some aspects of the faith, especially in the area of sexual morality, with "Two Wives" Wantland being considered rather conservative!

Posted by: Alan Harrison on Monday, 31 January 2005 at 5:26pm GMT

Alan, thank you for your question. I must admit, it strikes this Yank as rather incomprehensible on its face: whaddaya mean "justify democracy"? Isn't it rather incumbent on any Christian who would *deny* democratic governance of the Church to do the justifying?

As your boy Winston Churchill (our boy: WC having an American mum and all) said, *"Democracy is the worst form of governance . . . except for all the others."*

The feeling I sometimes get from democracy-bashers, is that *theocracy* can somehow be Divinely Imposed, by the "Mighty Arm of God" coming down from the sky. Hey, I'll not quibble about Mighty Arms smashing Pharoah's army, but this side of heaven, the only question of discerning the Will of God is, "Will ALL of us get a say in that discernment, or will only an Elect Few?" (We know *Rome*'s answer to this question . . . which, BTW Alan, I believe to have cut off Canterbury: not the other way 'round)

How do I justify democracy? Well, why do you ask *me*? Is it not because my tiny light---my unique Image of God, uniquely voiced---as meager though it be, has some sacred value? (And if lame-brained JCF has _Sumthin' to Say_, could it not be that God has made *each and every one of us* to contribute each one's POV to the Whole People of God?)

Reason may fail me here. Ergo, I appropriately fall back on *tradition*: ECUSA's existence may only be 10% as long as the Church Catholic, but I still happen to believe that we--- *admittedly* sitting "rather light to some aspects of the faith"!---still have our experience to contribute to part of the universal Tradition (though it be as meager as is this one Episcopalian's, personally ;-p).

"Proclaim liberty to all the inhabitants": those Biblical words (Lev. 25:10) which we Yanks hallow on our (cracked!) national bell. It's the democratic credo that American Anglicans enshrine in our church as well (we _could_ proclaim them to all the Earth---I just hope and pray ECUSA's mere *example* will do that, instead).

Shalom!

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Tuesday, 1 February 2005 at 5:41am GMT

JC Fisher wrote:
"Alan, thank you for your question. I must admit, it strikes this Yank as rather incomprehensible on its face: whaddaya mean “justify democracy”? Isn’t it rather incumbent on any Christian who would deny democratic governance of the Church to do the justifying?"

I think the problem lies with seeking to resolve theological issues in a revealed religion by quasi-parliamentary procedures such as those of General Convention or General Synod. At the minor end of the scale, this can lead to some of the bizarre interventions of amateur liturgists which we see in the House of Laity of General Synod; at the major end, we see the belief in the verbal and literal inspiration of the canons of ECUSA which has so rattled the cages of African prelates.

On the subject of Anglicans as schismatics, JCF adds: "We know Rome’s answer to this question . . . which, BTW Alan, I believe to have cut off Canterbury: not the other way ‘round". I think this is a rather tendentious interpretation of 16th century history. Henry VIII repudiated the authority of the Pope and arrogated to himself the title of "Supreme Head" of the Church of England. Those of us who wish to repair this breach do find some of the antics of the ECUSA leadership rather counter-productive.

Posted by: Alan Harrison on Tuesday, 1 February 2005 at 5:53pm GMT

*"Antics"?* I thought you desired a genuine dialogue, Alan: my mistake.

["Henry VIII repudiated the authority of the Pope and arrogated to himself the title of “Supreme Head” of the Church of England." Yes, there was a realignment of local church governance. The _Bishop of Rome_, via his excommunication, made it into a *schism* (then thoroughly compounded by atrocities on both sides). I don't have to defend Henry, or his divorce, to see where a difference of political opinion (selfish on ALL sides) becomes a *division of the Body of Christ* by Papal _fiat_. We have plenty to repent of all around, and it is this mutual repentance which will do the most, IMO, to "repair the breach." _An ecumenical process that ECUSA is in for the long haul, I might add._]

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Wednesday, 2 February 2005 at 8:00am GMT
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