From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Episcopalians: Atlanta meeting recalls birth of 'continuing Anglicanism' at St. Louis congress

Date Wed, 11 Dec 2002 12:34:05 -0500

December 10, 2002


Episcopalians: Atlanta meeting recalls birth of 'continuing 
Anglicanism' at St. Louis congress

by Jan Nunley

(ENS) Calling the Atlanta gathering of Episcopalians and 
continuing Anglicans a "U.S. Anglican Congress" hearkened back, 
for many participants, to a similar but much larger Congress of 
25 years ago.

In September 1977 nearly 2,000 Anglican bishops, clergy and 
lay people met in St. 
Louis to establish what they called an "orthodox 
jurisdiction" for those opposed to the ordination of women in 
ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada. 

Out of that meeting came the "Affirmation 
of St. Louis," to which most present-day "continuing 
Anglican" bodies subscribe. Among other things, the Affirmation 
declared that the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal 
Church in the United States had "departed from Christ's One, 
Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church" by accepting women into the 
priesthood, and that its subscribers constituted "the unified 
continuing Anglican Church in North America, in true and valid 
succession thereto." Holy Orders were to consist "exclusively of 
men in accordance with Christ's Will and institution," although 
they allowed for "the ancient office and ministry of Deaconesses 
as a lay vocation for women."


While they affirmed "continued relations of communion with 
the See of Canterbury and all faithful parts of the Anglican 
Communion," Canterbury didn't, and still has not, returned the 
favor. The World Council of Churches and other such bodies they 
denounced as "non-Apostolic, humanist and secular" and likewise 
rejected the Consultation on Church Union (COCU), an attempt to 
united nine American churches, including the Episcopal Church. 

"We do nothing new. We form no new body, but continue as 
Anglicans and Episcopalians," said the Affirmation. But a new 
body formed almost immediately afterward. Initially taking the 
name "Anglican Church of North America," the signers of the 
Affirmation placed themselves under the jurisdiction of the 
retired Episcopal bishop of Springfield, Illinois, Albert 
Chambers. Chambers consecrated four more bishops for the 
fledging ACNA in Denver in January 1978, and in October 1978 its 
name was changed to the "Anglican Catholic Church."

The right of congregations to maintain "control of their 
temporalities," written into the Affirmation and confirmed by 
the canons of many continuing bodies, meant that congregations 
in conflict with their bishops could more easily change 
affiliations or form entirely new "continuing" bodies around 
other polities -- or, in many cases, personalities -- without 
suffering the loss of property or pensions.

Diversity on women's ordination

For some of the churches that came out of the St. Louis 
congress, orders of ministry which admit women are by definition 
not "apostolic" and therefore not canonical, for men as well as 
women. In their view, all of the sacraments--with the possible 
exception of baptism--of a church with such "heretical" orders 
have lost validity, and the assurance of salvation itself 
depends upon access to valid sacraments. Some of those churches 
disdain the term "continuing Anglican" and maintain that the 
plethora of organizations, estimated between 30 and 50, marching 
under that banner are little more than congregational churches 
using Anglican liturgical forms. 

Yet that was not the case for those gathered in Atlanta, who 
mostly "agreed to disagree" on the acceptability of women's 
ordination but united around opposition to the ordination of 
non-celibate homosexuals and the blessing of same-gender unions, 
which they viewed as a matter of Biblical authority. 

The Reformed Episcopal 
Church (REC), an evangelical group which departed from the 
Episcopal Church in 1874 over the issues of "ritualism" and 
baptismal regeneration, does not consider itself part of the 
"continuing Anglican" movement.

The REC and the larger Anglican Province of 
America (APA) are in the initial stages of merger talks. The 
Mission in America (AMiA) has a signed agreement of 
intercommunion with the APA and REC, though the latter will not 
finalize a concordat unless the AMiA rejects the ordination of 
women. The REC recently signed a concordat with ECUSA's Diocese 
of Fort Worth.


For more information on Anglican churches not in communion with 
Canterbury, see "Not in the 

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

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