Southern Illinois bishops serving as committee members for proposed Anglican province

June 15, 2009

Two Episcopal Church bishops, one active and one retired, are among the members of newly-announced committees of a proposed Anglican Church in North America, which is holding what it is calling its "inaugural provincial assembly" later this month.

The entity is proposed as an alternative Anglican Communion province in North America for those Anglicans who disagree with the theological and biblical interpretation stances of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. While the Anglican Church in North America has not begun the process of requesting recognition from the Anglican Communion, the conservative Anglican leaders and former Episcopalians who make up the GAFCON/FCA Primates' Council of the Global Anglican Future Conference said in April that they recognize the entity "as genuinely Anglican and recommends that Anglican Provinces affirm full communion with the ACNA."

Diocese of Springfield (Illinois) Bishop Peter Beckwith is listed as being a member of the group's ecumenical relations committee.

Keith Ackerman, the retired bishop of the neighboring southern Illinois-based Diocese of Quincy and an assisting bishop in Springfield, appears on the list as a member of the "Executive Committee (Lead Bishops Roundtable)," as well as committees on admissions and prayer book and common worship.

Neither Beckwith nor Ackerman responded to ENS' email and telephone requests for comment.

Neva Rae Fox, public affairs officer for the Episcopal Church, said June 15 that her office had no comment on the bishops' involvement in the ACNA

The committee list includes each member's affiliation. Beckwith's is listed as the Anglican Communion Network. The group, formally known as the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, began in 2003 and 13 bishops of the Episcopal Church, including Ackerman and Beckwith, were among its founders.

Ackerman resigned his seat in Quincy on November 1 last year, a week before the diocese's annual synod during which the delegates voted to re-align with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

The Anglican Church in North America's June 22-25 meeting is being held at St. Vincent Cathedral in Bedford, Texas, which has not been relinquished by members of the Diocese of Fort Worth who have left the Episcopal Church. Those disaffiliated members include deposed Bishop Jack Iker, whose name also appears on the ACNA's Executive Committee (Lead Bishops Roundtable) list.

The meeting is due to ratify a proposed constitution and set of canons. Deposed Diocese of Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, who is expected to become the group's archbishop, said recently that the constitution and canons are "a very good starting place to be assessed as a characteristically Anglican Province."

The ACNA claims to have 700 congregations in 28 dioceses, "clusters" and "councils." A list allocating delegates from those entities includes the former members of the Episcopal dioceses of Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Quincy and San Joaquin (California).

Duncan is the group's moderator. He organized those bishops and others into a group called the Common Cause Partnership. He pledged in September 2007 to spend the next 15 months organizing an Anglican entity in North America that would be recognized by at least some of the communion's leaders. In December 2008, he announced the formation of the new "Anglican province" in North America.