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By David W. Virtue

PLANO, TX-An orthodox Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes representing some 100 bishops, clergy and lay delegates from 12 Episcopal Church dioceses met for the first in time in an historic meeting here, with moderator Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan telling a press conference briefing that what will emerge "is a united, orthodox and missionary Anglicanism."

The Episcopal Church is currently being torn apart over recent decisions by the church's General Convention to pass legislation affirming same-sex rites and for consecrating an openly non-celibate homosexual to the episcopacy. Five major Christian groups: Roman Catholic, Russian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox have suspended relations with the ECUSA, with two expressing solidarity with orthodox Episcopalians. Nine Anglican provinces have suspended (impaired and/or broken) communion with ECUSA over its moral actions.

"We have a seven fold purpose: To bring the Network into existence, adopt a simple charter with provision for incorporation; to give hope to the orthodox of the Episcopal Church, with some sense that there is a future; to adopt a structure appropriate to the Network's early life; to elect the Network's officers; to begin to create and to live as a Network with Missions "DNA"; to prosper the cause of Adequate Episcopal Oversight and to renew international, ecumenical and North American Anglican relationships," said Duncan.

The Pittsburgh bishop has emerged as the leader of the biblically orthodox in ECUSA and is an Evangelical Anglo-Catholic in theology and ecclesiology. He is the convener of the Network.

Duncan was at pains to avoid language like "schism", "parallel jurisdiction" or a "church within a church" at a press conference, telling some 30 media that V. Gene Robinson's name was never mentioned during the first day of the two-day meeting.

'We want to renew Anglicanism in this part of the world. We have a vision for a united orthodox and missionary Anglicanism. This is what this meeting is about."

"We worked on the articles of a draft charter including why we felt it was necessary to produce this charter. We will also be working on a theological statement, from several groups that have already produced such statements like the American Anglican Council (AAC), Forward in Faith North America (FIFNA) and the Anglican Church Dioceses of Parishes Advent statement."

Duncan said the 12 orthodox dioceses sent its bishop and four representatives, representing clusters from different parts of the country where there is hostility to what we stand for. He cited the need in such areas as New England, Southeast US and West Coast where there were small clusters of biblically orthodox believers in largely hostile dioceses.

Responding to a question about how this Network can work inside the Episcopal Church when clearly it could not hope to win politically, Duncan responded by saying that The
Episcopal Church exceeded its own constitution and was functioning outside of its own authority but "we are working within that constitutional framework."

Duncan acknowledged that there was disagreement about how we did this. "We are faithful Episcopalians. We are staying within the constitution. We want to be in The Episcopal Church but not of it."

"The other side split from its own history and the communion this summer [at General Convention], not us."

Asked what brought them to this point, Duncan replied that there were theological developments and a decision that 13 of our bishops took in November with a Memorandum of Agreement. "We are about historic faith and order. Robinson is not the issue. He [Robinson] would not have been consecrated if there had been an agreed upon understanding of its [the church's] constitution. "The Episcopal Church can't do that it must come back."

Duncan said 11 of the 12 bishops were there; the 12th Bishop Terence Kelshaw from the Diocese of the Rio Grande could not be present but sent a full voting delegation.

The conference is being held at the 2,000-member Christ Church, Plano parish under the rectorship of Canon David Roseberry.


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