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|From left to right: Fr. Tory Baucum, Dr. Michael Howell, Mrs. Cynthia Brust, Bishop Don Harvey and Bishop Michael Scott-Joynt speak about the AC-NA at a luncheon prior to General Synod’s vote. (Photo courtesy Michael Howell)|
BY RALINDA B. GREGOR, EXECUTIVE EDITOR
The Church of England General Synod, meeting Feb. 8-12, overwhelmingly recognized and affirmed the Anglican Church in North America’s (AC-NA) desire to “remain within the Anglican family” and committed the Archbishops to report back at next year’s synod on the progress of official recognition of AC-NA.
While the decision was a step forward in the quest for provincial recognition, it was a complete rewording of the original private member’s motion submitted by Mrs. Lorna Ashworth which stated, “That this Synod express the desire that the Church of England be in communion with the Anglican Church in North America.”
|Above: Members of the Church of England’s General Synod meet with Bishop David Anderson and Fr. Phil Ashey of the AAC. (Photo courtesy Michael Howell)|
|Above: The Church of England General Synod. (Photo courtesy Church of England|
In her address to the synod, Ashworth characterized the motion as an opportunity to “stand by and affirm our brothers and sisters in Christ who are seeking to practice, faithfully, historical biblical Anglicanism.” She said the motion does not make any statement about the Church of England’s (CofE) relationship with the
Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) or The Episcopal Church (TEC), nor does being in communion with AC-NA require the CofE to be out of communion with the ACoC or TEC. Furthermore, the motion was not about “entering into institutional communion” which would be decided by other processes.
To even be considered for debate, a private members motion needs at least 100 signatures from members of the General Synod.
However the motion that passed with 309 votes to 69, as amended by Rt. Rev. Michael Hill, bishop of Bristol, fell short of a statement of communion. The synod had opportunities to decline to debate the motion and later, suspend the debate without decision, but voted not to do so.
During the debate, many speakers made reference to Ashworth’s background paper that detailed TEC and ACoC-initiated lawsuits against departing parishes and individual vestry members as well as the uncanonical deposition, inhibition or removal of 491 clergy members. The AAC provided Mrs. Ashworth with a detailed report documenting actions against former TEC parishes and clergy which can be viewed at americananglican.org. Mr. Simon Sarmiento, a member of the CofE and a blogger for Thinking Anglicans, posted a rebuttal which he wrote with the assistance of David Booth Beers, chancellor to the presiding bishop, and Mary E. Kostel, special counsel to the presiding bishop, and other TEC representatives. In it, Sarmiento denied that the clergy were uncanonically removed and that TEC had sued vestry members. This rebuttal was distributed to every member of the synod, and it was evident from the debate that some members were shocked by the actions of TEC and the ACoC while others refused to believe it could be true.
Despite the skepticism of some members of the synod, AC-NA gained considerable support from many others. Bishop Don Harvey, dean of the AC-NA; the Rev. Dr. Tory Baucum, rector of Truro Church, Va.; Mrs. Cynthia Brust, director of communications for the Anglican Mission in the Americas; and Dr. Michael Howell, executive director of Forward in Faith North America spoke about AC-NA’s mission and ministry at a luncheon for General Synod members the day prior to the debate.
Howell said, “Our presentations had a very positive impact on many delegates who had previously thought the AC-NA was nothing more than a bunch of ‘homophobic schismatics’, who did not want to play by the ‘rules’, and were simply looking to rejoin ‘the club’ for ulterior motives. Time and time again, delegates approached me and told me that after listening to us, they had to do a complete 180 degree turn on their previously-held opinions.”
AAC COO, the Rev. Phil Ashy, who was present with AAC President, Bishop David Anderson (see his report) was encouraged by the outpouring of support from many General Synod members. Bishops and clergy approached Ashey and Anderson about establishing mission partnerships and relationships between AC-NA and the CofE.
“There is enormous sympathy and appreciation for what we have done in standing up for the uniqueness and universality of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of all,” Ashey said. “I am quite confident that Synod members’ concern for catholic and biblical teaching on Christology is behind the robust majority that passed the motion.”†