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Anglican Communion sees IAC as destructive movement

Anglican Communion sees IAC as destructive movement

By PAUL ASAY
THE GAZETTE

Anglican Mission churches such as the International Anglican Church — a missionary church that answers to Anglican bishops in Rwanda, Africa — are signs of struggle within the Anglican Communion.

The Anglican Communion is made up of 70 million Anglicans and Episcopalians worldwide who answer to the Archbishop of Canterbury, England. But many Anglican provinces have had an uneasy relationship with the Episcopal Church U.S.A. in recent years, particularly after the Episcopal Church ordained the Rev. Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, as a bishop last year.

The Anglican Mission was formed in 2000 by Anglicans overseas as a radical way to combat what they saw as growing liberalism within the Episcopal Church U.S.A. The group sponsors Anglican “missionaries” in the United States who teach a far more conservative version of Anglicanism.

Pastors for the IAC here, the Rev. Ken Ross and the Rev. Jay Greener, believe the Anglican Mission is more in line with what most Anglicans worldwide believe.

The national Episcopal Church has 2.4 million members — “a toe” in the 70 million-member worldwide Anglican body, according to Ross.

“What you’re really seeing in the Anglican Mission is a small part of what is a major realignment taking place — some even call it a whole new reformation,” said Greener, who also is communications officer for the Anglican Mission. “What you’re going to end up with is, potentially, two approaches to Anglican faith.”

But if the Episcopal Church is a toe, the Anglican Mission is, at this point, a freckle: There are only about 60 Anglican Mission churches nationwide. The largest, according to Ross, has about 1,000 congregants. Most are much smaller.

It’s an unwanted freckle for many in the Anglican Communion, at that. Though supported by much of the Communion’s leadership, the archbishop of Canterbury has never officially recognized the group. The Episcopal Church considers the Anglican Mission to be a renegade movement, not part of the communion at all.

The Rev. Donald Armstrong is rector for the 2,300-member Grace and St. Stephens Episcopal Church in downtown Colorado Springs, just blocks away from where the IAC meets in Colorado College’s Shove Memorial Chapel. Armstrong believes the U.S. Episcopal Church is too liberal, and he has been an outspoken critic of the church and its leadership, particularly on the issue of gay clergy. Theologically, he and Ross would appear to agree on many things.

Armstrong calls the Anglican Mission movement “destructive and egocentric,” founded by people who don’t have patience enough to work within the Episcopal system for change.

He also says Anglican Mission churches like the IAC are predatory, capitalizing on the fractures within the Episcopal church to grow their own flocks.

“What he (Ross) is trying to do is to catch Episcopalians coming out the door,” Armstrong said.

“The Episcopal church is not our fishing ground,” Ross said. He said he initially turned away disgruntled Episcopalians, in part because he worried the negative baggage they brought with them would effect the fledgling church. He wanted the IAC to establish its own identity first.

Armstrong said he and likeminded clergy made a big stride Jan. 20, when they voted to create the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, but he doesn’t anticipate the network will ever work with the Anglican Mission for reform.

“They’ll never be part of what we’re doing,” he said. “They’re fundamentalists of the worst sort.”

END

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