From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Think tank releases study critical of Episcopal renewal movement

Date Fri, 14 Dec 2001 12:22:39 -0500 (EST)


Think tank releases study critical of Episcopal renewal movement

by Jan Nunley

     (ENS) A New York think tank has released an in-depth study of the 
conservative "renewal movement" within the Episcopal Church and the 
Anglican Communion, calling it "part of a broad right-wing movement 
within mainline Protestant denominations nationwide."

     The report by the Institute for Democracy Studies (IDS) entitled 
"A Church at Risk: The Episcopal 'Renewal Movement'" appears in the 
December 2001 issue of IDS Insights, and is available online at

The study is the latest in a series prepared by the IDS Religion 
and Democracy program, and follows a monograph entitled A Moment to 
Decide: The Crisis in Mainstream Presbyterianism, released last year. 
IDS describes itself as "a not-for-profit research and education center 
that focuses on anti-democratic religious and social movements." 

     In an editor's note, IDS president Alfred Ross quotes Ronald 
Haines, retired bishop of Washington (DC), as saying of the report, 
"Aided by IDS's unique capacity and social commitment, the [Episcopal] 
Church can assess the ground it has already lost to the radical right 
as well as the ominous political landscape that lies ahead."

ECUSA 'under attack'

     The article's author, Lewis C. Daly, declares that the Episcopal 
Church is "under attack" by a conservative movement that "is seeking 
to uproot [it] from its historic role in American public life." Daly 
identifies key institutions and individuals leading the movement, as 
well as their sources of funding, with particular attention to the 
Fellowship of Witness (now the Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican 
Communion-USA), Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, Episcopal Renewal 
Ministries, the Institute on Religion and Democracy, and the American 
Anglican Council. 

     Daly writes that the involvement of primates from other parts of 
the Anglican Communion in such activities as the consecration of bishops 
for the Anglican Mission in America "has political implications that 
go well beyond the church, and it is important to understand how Anglican 
evangelical networks overlap with political and social policy objectives 
in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere."

     "The American Anglican right wing is essentially perverting the 
church's global communion in order to reformulate the ecclesial status 
of ECUSA and thereby inflict serious damage on the social progress that 
was its public legacy in the last century," Daly concluded. "These 
developments must be carefully monitored and firmly challenged."

Heated reactions

     Reaction via email from some of the individuals and groups named 
in the IDS report was heated. 

     "The IDS report is yet another paranoid attempt to invent a 'vast 
right wing conspiracy' in the Episcopal Church," said the Very Rev. 
Canon David Anderson, president and chief executive officer of the 
American Anglican Council. "If as much effort was put into constructive 
and grace-filled conversation with conservative Episcopalians as has 
been expended in attempts to demonize them, our Church would be in a 
very different place."

     "In their attempts to unearth yet another 'vast right wing 
conspiracy' I fear that the authors have not only over-reached but 
seriously misrepresented the work of many faithful Episcopalians," 
commented the Rev. Martyn Minns, rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, 
Virginia, a parish identified in the study as influential in the 
renewal movement. 

     "As far as that the claim that the Episcopal Church is 'under 
attack' by a conservative is unsupported by the facts--
particularly as to the interpretation of canon and the use of courts 
against conservative-orthodox folk," remarked Charles Nalls, director 
of the Canon Law Institute and attorney for the vestry of Christ 
Church in Accokeek, Maryland, which is currently involved in a dispute 
with Washington bishop Jane Dixon over the hiring of a rector.

      "It's always encouraging to be considered influential and 
effective by those with whom you disagree," said Diane Knippers, 
president of the Institute for Religion and Democracy. "Indeed, if 
Mr. Daly had simply substituted 'mainstream Anglican' for his 
frequent use of the 'religious right,' I would have been largely 
satisfied with the piece."

--The Rev. Jan Nunley is deputy director of Episcopal News Service.

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