From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Episcopalians: Dialogue with separated Anglican churches moves forward

Date Wed, 22 Jan 2003 12:47:41 -0500

January 22, 2003


Episcopalians: Dialogue with separated Anglican churches moves 

by Thomas Ferguson

(ENS) In an historic meeting that took important first steps to 
dispel years of ignorance and suspicion, delegations from the 
Reformed Episcopal Church, the Anglican Province of America, and 
the Episcopal Church met at St. Paul's College in Washington, 
DC, January 15-16.

The meeting was a direct result of resolutions from the 1998 
Lambeth Conference of bishops of the Anglican Communion calling 
for dialogue with separated Anglican churches, as well as 
Resolution D047 of the 2000 General Convention. A previous 
meeting with other Continuing Anglican churches was held in 
December of 2002.

The Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Province of 
America were invited to participate based on two main factors. 
First, both churches have previously engaged in ecumenical 
dialogues with the Episcopal Church--the REC most recently in 
1993, the APA most recently in 1987, when it was known as the 
American Episcopal Church. Second, the two churches are in the 
middle of a 10-year process towards organic merger. The REC was 
formed in 1873 by the Episcopal Assistant Bishop of Kentucky, 
George Cummins, largely in response to disputes regarding 
liturgical and ecumenical matters. The Anglican Province of 
America is the successor of the American Episcopal Church, 
formed in 1968 in reaction over the Episcopal Church's 
reluctance to discipline Bishop James Pike of California.

Representing the Episcopal Church were Bishop Edward Salmon of 
South Carolina, chair; the Rev. Stephen White, Episcopal 
chaplain at Princeton University; the Rev. Thomas Rightmyer, 
retired executive secretary of the General Board of Examining 
Chaplains; Diane Knippers, member of the Standing Commission on 
Ecumenical Relations; and staff from the Episcopal Church's 
Office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations. 

Participants from Reformed Episcopal Church included Presiding 
Bishop Leonard Riches; Bishop Royal Grote, vice-president of the 
General Council and bishop of the Diocese of Mid America; Bishop 
Ray Sutton, rector of the Church of the Holy Communion in 
Dallas, Texas, chair of the Inter-Church Relations Committee of 
the REC and suffragan bishop of the Diocese of Mid America; and 
the Rev. David Hicks, canon to the ordinary of the Diocese of 
the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. 

The delegation from the APA included Presiding Bishop Walter 
Grundorf; the Rev. Mark Clavier, chair of the APA's Ecumenical 
Committee; the Rev. Paul Blankinship and Frank Warren, members 
of the Ecumenical Committee.

Into the mainstream

The dialogue heard a presentation from Sutton on recent 
development within the Reformed Episcopal Church. He noted that 
it had moved considerably into the mainstream of Anglicanism, 
revising its Prayer Book to be more in line with the 1662 Book 
of Common Prayer; adopting the three-year lectionary of the 
Australian Prayer Book; returning the word "regeneration" to the 
baptismal rite (thus resolving one of the contentious issues 
from the 1873 split); and engaging in a vigorous program of 
church growth. 

Clavier discussed the development of the "continuing" churches, 
defined as those specific churches which emerged from the 1977 
Congress of St. Louis. The APA is not strictly a continuing 
church, since it predated that congress and did not officially 

Staff from the Episcopal Church's ecumenical office led a 
discuss of the church's ecumenical theology, noting that it was 
not seeking to absorb these churches. Rather, the stated 
ecumenical policy was to seek a "communion of communions," with 
interchangeability of clergy, for the sake of common witness and 
mission in the world.

There was extensive discussion on the need for accurate 
information about the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican 
Province of America. Grundorf in particular noted that the APA 
and its predecessor body had never declared ECUSA "apostate" for 
its decision to ordain women, and had entered into dialogue on 
two separate occasions. 

While acknowledging differences of opinion on the matter of the 
ordination of women, it was noted that the Episcopal Church 
remains in communion with other provinces of the Anglican 
Communion that do not ordain women, and is engaged in ecumenical 
dialogues with other churches that do ordain women. 

Divergent opinions

At the next meeting, the bulk of the theological discussion will 
center on the implications of holding divergent opinions on the 
ordination of women. In addition, the three churches agreed by 
consensus that the Episcopal Church would add an ordained woman 
to its delegation for its next meeting.

The dialogue team also began a preliminary discussion of the 
orders of the Reformed Episcopal Church. They discussed the 1938 
Report of the House of Bishops, which determined that, though 
irregularities existed in the succession of bishops of the 
Reformed Episcopal Church, they were not enough to invalidate 
the historic succession of the REC. The dialogue team asked the 
Episcopal Church members to refer this report to the Standing 
Commission on Ecumenical Relations for further study during the 
2003-2006 triennium.

"This is like getting re-acquainted with your long lost 
second-cousins," said Rightmyer, expressing his enthusiasm for 
continuing the dialogue. "These talks were all that we could 
have expected and more. The sincerity of the talks and the 
warmth of fellowship did much to dispel stereotypes," added 


--Thomas Ferguson is associate deputy in the church's Office of 
Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations and attended the dialogue in 
that capacity.

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