It’s been more than 10 years since the conservative portions of various Episcopal dioceses began the Great Split-Off. That is, they left dioceses -- some of which had been around since the 18th century -- to form a new entity, the Anglican Church in North America, that billed itself as the truest representation of Anglicanism on the North American continent.
This didn’t go over too well with The Episcopal Church (TEC), as you may imagine, and many were the lawsuits filed by TEC leaders to keep their property, most of which they won. I covered churches in northern Virginia that lost everything in this battle. One church lost property they had already bought on which to build a new sanctuary. Another church lost millions of dollars in property that dated back to colonial times.
This was a big, big news story year after year -- receiving major coverage from many major newspapers and wire services.
Take 2007, for example. I was able to cover one of the ACNA’s formative sessions in Pittsburgh in 2008 and their inaugural assembly in 2009 in Bedford, Texas. As the two sides have drifted further apart and the Episcopal Church has continued losing membership, the secular media has almost stopped covering this story. Religion News Service is the one exception.
This is a shame, in that there’s still news going on.
Anglican journalist David Virtue, who has followed this story since the beginning, chronicled what happened at a recent gathering at Wheaton College near Chicago.
The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is planting one new church a week, Archbishop Foley Beach told delegates to the triennial gathering of some 1400 Anglicans, at Wheaton College, in the heartland of America's Bible belt. The ACNA also officially received The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina as the newest diocese with some 9,000 members -- the largest of 31 dioceses in the orthodox Anglican body. The diocese broke away from the Episcopal Church over the authority of Scripture and TEC's embrace of homosexuality and gay marriage in defiance of Lambeth resolution 1.10. ...
Bishop Mark Lawrence acknowledged his diocese's pilgrimage out of TEC and rejoiced that his diocese was now officially aligned with the ACNA. Delegates voted unanimously to receive the diocese. After leaving TEC in October 2012 the diocese was accepted into the Global South in August 2014 until a formal decision was made in 2016 to join the Anglican Church in North America. That action required two formal votes. Addressing delegates, Lawrence described the action as a homecoming for the Diocese of South Carolina.
When Lawrence was elected bishop, some objected to voting for him because they feared he would eventually lead his diocese out of the Episcopal Church. At stake was some $500 million in church assets and a history dating back to 1785. As it turned out, the diocese did leave and although the full story is too complex to repeat here, a quick Google scan shows me that the secular media haven’t touched this story in some time.
I can understand that reporters get tired covering what feels like a never-ending story, but there really was some news at the Chicago meeting in that the ACNA just consecrated a “missionary bishop” for Europe, meaning that the expensive battle fought over the past 10 years in the United States and Canada will now be repeated in Europe. In particular, watch for alternative Anglican bishops to start showing up in Great Britain.
Understandably, the archbishop of Canterbury wasn’t too happy about the latest developments.
There are lots of stories to cover with this group. For instance, what is the ACNA’s position on ordaining female priests and bishops? Are the female priests who’ve hung in there with the ACNA losing heart?
Also, why have we heard so little about the slow collapse of the Episcopal Church? The denomination is down to 1.7 million members and fading fast. Several cathedrals have closing down. Seminaries are on hard times. There are local stories out there to be covered, as well as national and global events and trends.
For this you need journalists who’ve been around a little longer than a few months and who know history of a denomination (TEC) that’s been losing members for decades. I’d like to see some good reporting that tests the ACNA’s claims of rapid growth (78,679 is the most recent figure I’ve found and that is two years old). This goes to show how little reporting is going on about TEC and the ACNA in the secular media.
I’ve no dog in this fight, actually; but there’s some good stories out there that aren’t being covered except by specialty media and blogs.
Look at this Google News search, containing some basic search terms linked to the Wheaton events. Is that what we want?