From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Episcopalians: Dialogue with separated Anglican churches moves forward
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
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.
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
"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
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