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Rick Warren (AP/Photo by Donna McWilliam)

A rising tide

Religion | The breakaway Anglican Church in North America gathers for the first time, as it seeks recognition from Canterbury

Breakaway Episcopalians-now Anglicans-from the United States and Canada gathered for the first meeting of their newly formed province in Bedford, Texas, this week, despite the fact that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has not formally recognized them. Wednesday evening Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh will be installed as the first archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).

The some 28 dioceses containing 700 parishes represent about 100,000 North Americans who have broken from the Episcopal Church over issues of orthodoxy. Duncan said in a statement that the new province-an unprecedented formation since the Episcopal province already has jurisdiction over North America-would be "the reconstitution of a faithful church."

A coalition of five other breakaway protectorates that include parts of Africa, Australia, and South America-churches organized under the Global Anglican Future Conference-officially recognized the ACNA as an Anglican province in April. The provinces in the Global South represent about 30 million Anglicans.

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According to the Star-Telegram, the gathered church leaders broke into the doxology when the assembly adopted its new constitution, which church leaders drafted last December. On Tuesday evangelical pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, delivered an address to the gathering.

"God's family is going to go on forever and ever and ever and ever and ever," Warren said. "If God has called you to serve in a local church . . . don't you ever step down to become the president of the United States or anything else for that matter, because nothing matters more."

Referencing ongoing disputes between breakaway churches and the Episcopal Church over church buildings and land, Warren said, "Christ did not die for property."

Despite chilly relations with Canterbury and Episcopal leadership, ACNA leaders say they want to preserve church unity where they can.

"There's a very keen sense that we're part of the wider communion," Bishop Martyn Minns told me in a spring interview. Minns is bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, an organization formed for breakaway churches under the leadership of the Nigerian Anglican church. "We're trying not to be simply congregational in our structure."

But Minns described the June assembly as a sort of "Continental Congress."

Meanwhile in Britain, breakaway churches are preparing for a similar gathering July 6, under the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans led by the Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, who will resign this year from the Church of England after increasing conflict with Rowan Williams.

Emily Belz
Emily Belz

Emily, who has covered everything from political infighting to pet salons for The Indianapolis Star, The Hill, and the New York Daily News, reports for WORLD from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emzleb.

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