Bishop Robert Crawley SSC explains why the Traditional Anglican Communion isn’t just
“another Continuing Church”
Serious speculation is in the air that the Anglican Communion is coming apart at the seams, the glue of comprehensiveness having lost its adhesive strength, being replaced by ECUSA’s Presiding Bishop’s “pluriformity of truth” which instead has repellent power. It is obvious to all close to the scene in USA that a major split has developed with the Singapore consecrations, which is likely to spread throughout the evangelical wing of ECUSA and become in effect yet another so-called ‘continuing church’ – this one under the auspices of Rwanda.
And, of course, the 24-year-old Continuing Church movement shows no sign of going away, in spite of bad press concerning its many branches and squabbles. One indefatigable writer constantly expounds on this, claiming there are 40 continuing churches with 108 bishops. There are actually THREE bodies in direct descent from St. Louis. The rest are very small units, and with all respect to their sincerity, which I do not question, sprang up from the ground in a typical USA ‘market-oriented’ way, spurred on by that very peculiar lust of the misguided to wear purple shirts and shovel hats. There are several movements in progress to heal rifts and move towards unity. Let’s hope.
There is also the urge to merge among groups of conservatives and orthodox groups within ECUSA, with a view to providing a ‘big tent’ to accommodate the old Anglican ideal of comprehensiveness, which would include the Continuing Churches.
This is the movement of “Realignment”. But there is another, quite different movement, which I call “Reconstruction”, centred on the activity and growth of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC).
In 1994 The TAC entered into a Concordat of agreement and cooperation with Forward in Faith at a meeting held in Fr. Kirk’s parish hall at Lewisham. This Concordat was later officially ratified by Forward in Faith’s General Assembly. I was one of the TAC Bishops present at this meeting, after which three TAC Bishops flew to Rome, where we had been invited to discuss the future of our movement and its possible relationships. We were cordially received. They already knew quite a lot about us, no doubt the reason for their invitation. They gave us sound advice (e.g. “don’t breed bishops like rabbits”!) and to keep in touch. We were encouraged. Let me be clear, the TAC has no ‘endgame’ to propose and Rome is not noted for pushing the “fast forward” button in these matters. Patience is the guiding principle, keeping our own house in order, and fostering local cooperation with other Catholic bodies. For example, in Western Canada we have a pleasant relationship with the Ukrainian Catholic Church – e.g. their Bishop attended our Synod and spoke at length to us, plus one of our priests speaks Ukrainian and assists them in many ways. I have been privileged to be invited to take part in services by the local Roman Catholic Bishop. Bishop John Hepworth of Australia (TAC) was the only Anglican Bishop invited by Cardinal Sin of the Philippines for his recent conference on the family. These are merely small indications that the TAC is taken seriously. Plans are preparing for a return visit to Rome.
It is my experience in England that there seems to be a fixation with USA and the detestable enormities of ECUSA’s ruling liberal elite, plus the proliferation of ‘continuing’ bodies. Can we please move onward and upward? The TAC now operates in 14 countries, with far, far greater numbers outside USA than in it.
Here are some examples of how the TAC has spread globally during the past few years:
Australia: Church schools now valued at $A15.5 million – will have ten thousand children in church schools within eight years. Bishop John Hepworth is effectively flying bishop of Australia, covering 80,000kms by car in 1999. He is publicly recognised as church leader, and is a member of Australia’s Constitutional Convention.
In the Torres Strait: TAC has taken over half the Anglican Diocese of North Queensland, clergy, churches and schools, and at the consecration of its bishops (mainstream Anglican, including Mercer, licensed in CofE, and Hepworth, consecrators included Hazlewood of Ballarat) there were three thousand people present who came in little boats and little planes across thousands of miles of Pacific. Now the dominant, majority church in the Strait.
Africa: So far, three operations – a very new one in Zambia (Lusaka) under Dean Pierre Dil; hard, tough missionary work, with 8 parishes, and ordinands in training. The second, and earliest, Province is in South Africa, led by a Canadian, Fr. Ball. The first work there began in Pietersburg with the rebuilding of a pro-Cathedral seating 1000 which replaced a chapel demolished under apartheid, plus a rapidly growing series of parishes to the south. Then just recently the old-established, traditionalist “Order of Ethiopia” (The Umzi Wasi Tiyopiya) forms the third Province of TAC in Africa. They have a minimum of 15,000 communicants; its pro-Cathedral in New Brighton seats 2000, and six new churches were built there in 1999 plus new parishes in Grahamstown, Capetown and East London. They are lively and they are growing. The current President of S. Africa, Mr. Thabo Nbeki, belongs to them. They own their own churches with presently some 20,000 active members. (These are not ‘parish rolls’ or ‘preacher’s counts’)”
India & Pakistan: TAC has 8 dioceses with 80,000 people.
TAC now has a bishop, Trevor Rhodes, in Colombia (South America) – the most dangerous place in the world. He’s a Yorkshireman (another one!) and a Benedictine monk. We have had long standing work in Guatemala, where Bishop Rodriguez does heroic work.
So, as ECUSA’s missionary work retreats, TAC becomes active in response to calls for help.
We foster positive relationships with orthodox Anglican Bishops and people, but being ‘recognized’ by Canterbury is not high on our list of priorities. However, we live in hope that eventually ‘realignment’ and ‘reconstruction’, like ‘mercy’ and ‘truth’, may kiss each other. We are not triumphalists who shrug off our roots or trash our progenitors.
What we are doing is steadily and surely recreating a global Anglicanism, because although many or most of the tares may be found growing in the USA, it is by no means clear that the opportunity to replace them with healthier plants will lie exclusively or even principally in that country. Part of the importance of the Singapore Event may lie in helping us all to see this possibility. If you really want to know what glues us together you must read our lucid foundational documents which have enabled us to shrug off ‘comprehensiveness’ and establish firm collegial discipline. Compromise is a word not found in our lexicon. What you see is what you get, and what you get is a vibrant, contemporary Anglican Catholicism rooted, not in Anglican Tradition but in Christian Tradition.
Bishop Robert Crawley is a retired, but extremely active, Bishop of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada which forms part of the Traditional Anglican Communion.