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Special Report

By David W. Virtue

January 20, 2004

PLANO, TX-Calling it a glorious and historic day, the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan announced here the formation of a new orthodox Episcopal Network that will hopefully provide cover for orthodox congregations and their priests caught in revisionist Episcopal dioceses.

The convocation (cluster) includes twelve ECUSA bishops who have signed on to the new Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses. They are: Albany (Daniel Herzog and David Bena); Central Florida (John Howe); Dallas (Jim Stanton); Florida (Stephen Jecko); Ft. Worth, (Jack Iker); Pittsburgh (Bob Duncan); Rio Grande (Terence Kelshaw); San Joaquin (John-David Schofield), South Carolina (Ed Salmon); Springfield (Peter Beckwith) and Western Kansas, (James M. Adams).

Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan was elected Moderator of the new Network and will serve for a three-year term. There are also individuals from geographic regions and one non-geographic area that were designated as "Convocations". The structural Charter was unanimously adopted with the Organizing Convocation also electing a 12-member Steering Committee comprised of individuals from across the country.

"What we have done today will bear fruit for years to come in the lives of our children and grandchildren," he told a small press corps.

"We came together in this Convocation from 12 diverse dioceses. Despite some differences, we share a unified conviction that the Gospel of Jesus Christ must not be compromised. We were able to proceed with unanimity on the Charter's articles. The Network is committed to moving forward with the mission and ministry of the Church. It will operate within the constitution of the Episcopal Church and in full fellowship with the vast majority of the Anglican Communion."

The Network was formed in faithful response to a recommendation of the Archbishop of Canterbury as well as other Anglican Primates, said Duncan. Those dioceses that signed the Network charter will now seek final ratification by their respective legislative bodies, as appropriate. The seven purpose statement (see virtuosityonline.org) will provide a way through the current malaise the Episcopal Church is in.

"We encourage bishops and dioceses to read our charter and consider joining us in our Great Commission ministry," said Bishop Duncan. "There is now no reason for orthodox Episcopalians to leave Anglicanism."

Canon Mary Hayes (Pittsburgh) said she was amazed that the with the size of this group, that they agreed on anything.

The Rev. Don Curran (Central Florida) said the formation of the charter and network gives hope internationally. "The worldwide Anglican Communion is waiting for this. Some 12 provinces have broken or are in impaired communion with the ECUSA. They will now have a place to reconnect within the Episcopal Church. "This will permit us to serve in good faith within the constitution of the Episcopal Church, said Bob Duncan.

"We are not splitting; we claim to be consistent with the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal church has separated itself from the ECUSA, said Duncan.

Asked by a reporter if there would a replacement jurisdiction, Duncan said, "We did not discuss a replacement for the ECUSA. We are calling the ECUSA back to its rootedness."

Asked how this might be viewed by the rest of the Anglican Communion, Duncan said, "we can't say what the rest of the world will do. Our aim is stand."

Asked if this had the hallmark of a coup and the beginning of schism, Hayes said, "it could happen, we are not responsible for how others should respond.

Curran said two bishops; Jim Stanton (Dallas) and Bob Duncan (Pittsburgh) from the Network will attend the consecration of the new Primate in Uganda. The Episcopal Church leadership in the person of Frank Griswold, Presiding Bishop was uninvited.

Asked, "are you the true Episcopal Church?" Duncan said, "the other side has departed from the constitution of the Episcopal Church. We are a constituent members of half of them who say they are in impaired relation with ECUSA."

The constitution operates within the one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, that is where we are. We will uphold and propagate the historic faith and order, he said.

Questioned about women's ordination, canon Hayes said, one person talked about it. "We had intensive, frank, open and mutually honoring conversation and we were respectful with one another. We will disagree but it will not divide us. Both sides who agree on ordination and who do not ordain can co-exist and honor one another."

Duncan was critical of the Presiding Bishop's concept of supplemental Episcopal care. It is not the same thing as alternative Episcopal oversight, which is what we are asking for.
"This is the Bennison (Diocese of Pennsylvania) plan, it didn't work then and it won't work now."

"We recently saw an emergency measure when in the Diocese of Atlanta two congregations came under the care of the Province of the Southern Cone, with the Diocese of Bolivia. It was a reaction to a pastoral emergency, it is temporary solution."

Duncan said he was working with the president of the Episcopal Church's Council of advice to try and work things out, but he was not hopeful.

Asked about the issue of money, pension and properties, Duncan said this was not the immediate issue and he hoped it would not come down to that. "We are taking it one step at a time. The shift in the worldwide Anglican communion of 77.5 million people is underway. The ECUSA lifeboat has been cast off from the Anglican Communion; we want to stay on the mother ship."


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