Peter Toon: Anglicanism in USA – can we learn from the past?

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I suggest that the Common Cause would benefit from a series of regional conferences where the origins and effects of these two Secessions were examined, not in order to learn from history as such but rather to become more aware of the nature of secession and schism and its possible long-term realities. And this with a view to act wisely in the present and near future.

I say this because the continuing secession of the last several years—following the Gene Robinson consecration—has been uniform only in one thing, that they came out of The Episcopal Church. As they headed out, they went into the arms of one of many waiting embraces; thus we have congregations aligned with a great variety of overseas bishops and also others organized as mission stations of overseas provinces. It is an amazing phenomenon and was predicted by no-one.

After the 1873 secession there was virtually no sub-dividing of the movement and the Reformed Episcopal Church has remained generally united; but WHY?: After the 1977 secession there was sub-dividing within a very short tine and this has occurred often since 1978 also; but WHY?

Read the whole piece.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalCommon Cause Partnership

Posted November 27, 2007 at 8:06 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) wrote:

Well, the REC came out of the actions of one man, Bishop Cummins of Kentucky. It left the Episcopal Church under his leadership and adhered to him afterwards. The REC still thinks highly of him to this day. Bishop Cummins left because of an issue (Tractarianism), but his supporters left because of the issue, as a result of his leadership.

The people who left in the 1970’s and later left because of an issue (either Civil Rights or the new prayer book or women’s ordination. Each small group of dissidents had their own breaking point. No one man was uniting them. So the resulting organizations fragmented as there was no pre-existing leader around whom they could rally.

At least that’s my take on it.

November 27, 9:52 am | [comment link]
2. DonGander wrote:

While I have great sympathy with Mr. Toon’s questions, I think a more important book should be written that would answer the question of HOW. How can the new Anglican Church reduce the chances of adopting that which leads to appostacy? Again, a look at the history of this and prior situations is wise. Personally, I think that the failures in the Episcopal Church and failures of the US Federal Court system is strikingly similar.

We need to give those who come after us the wisdom and knowlege that we have lacked. If we can’t find that and pass it on then we condemn our progeny to the pain that we are now experiencing.

November 27, 10:03 am | [comment link]
3. Eclipse wrote:

The reason so many of us had to go under different provinces was simply because there was no where else to go.  We did not HAVE an orthodox Anglican option in America.  I know many are trying to resolve that problem, but until we have that alternate leadership in place, we shall be the American Anglicanism of many Countries.

I’m a Ugandan - and proud of it.  However, I do look forward to the day we shall all be united as an American entity.

November 27, 10:41 am | [comment link]
4. PeterFrank wrote:

I would appreciate someone doing some research on it and publishing what they find.  That would probably be a more accessible and effective way to have the discussion than to attempt to organize a number of conferences to deal with the topic.

November 27, 10:45 am | [comment link]
5. Katherine wrote:

I respectfully disagree with Eclipse, and this is why the questions Dr. Toon is asking are so important.  There were Anglican places to go, some of them still in communion with Canterbury.  What has happened in the latest diaspora is that each group wants to hold onto the worship habits and ordination choices it currently had.  Some of those who left earlier used the traditional Prayer Book rather than the modern-language rites of the ‘79 (Rite I is lost in most places), and many of them did not ordain women.  These things made them unattractive places for the new dissenters to go, so in some cases they went and found another one.  So, in one city, we can have a very evangelical service based only tenuously on the ‘79, a more traditional Rite II, a Rite II with praise band, and the ‘28, all claiming to be Anglican and all reporting to different jurisdictions.  This is what Common Cause has to make some sense of, particularly with respect to baptismal rites and ordination.  The variety of Sunday worship is something more easy to live with.

November 27, 12:49 pm | [comment link]
6. dwstroudmd+ wrote:

Mr Toon and all those interested in the “schism” over issues in 1873:

See under search term “the Reformed Episcopal Church”

From a post at Stand Firm by myself:
The deposing of George David Cummins, DD, for “abandonment of communion” was a power bloc play by the then ascendent ritualists and latitudinarians to rid themselves of the annoying evangelicals who held to the reformed character of the CoE.  (Sounds familiar, doesn’t it.) Ignoring multiple voices the Eastern bloc (sound familiar again?) forced its will on the PECUSA in what seem to us genuinely petty squabbles over vestments and altar flowers and crosses.  It is an enlightening look at the political foundations of the faith of 815 exhibited today in a parallel instance and remarkable refusal of the PECUSA to exhibit charity or grace or tolerance to diversity.  Remarkable parallels, really.

One might read FOR THE UNION OF EVANGELICAL CHRISTENDOM: The Irony of the Reformed Episcopalians by Allen Guelzo for an interesting historical perspective and how “division” and “schism” have been handled before.  It is a cautionary tale read in context to both the REC and the PECUSA aka ECUSA aka TEC now.

November 27, 1:18 pm | [comment link]
7. Jim Workman wrote:

When the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (in which I was first ordained) broke from the northern Presbyterian Church, it rallied around a strong leader—J. Gresham Machen. He was a giant of mind, outlook, and spirit. When he died in the infancy of the movement, the next level of leaders brought their strong disagreements to the fore and broke away from the OPC and then from each other.

Syndrome: They were united around what they were against, but couldn’t settle on a big picture of what they were for.

Common Cause has a chance to do something big, but it will test all their wisdom and will. I believe the movement has shown it is bigger than Bishop Duncan’s spirit. If I read Bishop Iker right, he grasps a way to achieve Christian and Anglican cooperation, even with some impairment of communion over women’s ordination.

November 27, 1:39 pm | [comment link]
8. KAR wrote:

Common Cause has a chance to do something big, but it will test all their wisdom and will.

I’ve stayed out of this one, but I’ll wade in on that comment.


I think lesson from the past are well worth looking into, but then today is not the past either. One issue is the ego battle, as with any group of fallen creatures another is actual doctrinal issues which are tough and will not go away. The risks of this all exploding have been pointed out many times, but risks are often proportional, if the loss is that big, I wonder what that gains could be if the Lord choses to bless this despite all our failings.

November 27, 1:58 pm | [comment link]
9. RoyIII wrote:

[leadership rant follows]  In my view the problem with Common Cause and the other outfits where the reasserting disaffected can go is leadership.  There ain’t none, from the Archbishop of Canterbury on down to the diocesan level - at least in the USA.  Even though she’s wrong, at least the Presiding Bishop Schori is acting like a leader.  That is more than I can say for the rest of them.  “Yes, let’s have another conference.”  yawn…  {rant completed}

November 27, 3:40 pm | [comment link]
10. TonyinCNY wrote:

KJS is acting like a leader, a divisive one.  Not exactly the best example of leadership.  Bp. Duncan is a leader who is helping to forge the Common Cause.  He and his brother bishops need our prayers.

November 27, 3:46 pm | [comment link]
11. Kevin Maney+ wrote:

Peter Frank wrote:

I would appreciate someone doing some research on it and publishing what they find.  That would probably be a more accessible and effective way to have the discussion than to attempt to organize a number of conferences to deal with the topic.

A splendid idea, Peter. When can we expect you to complete your research and publish the results?

November 27, 3:51 pm | [comment link]
12. athan-asi-us wrote:

I agree with Peter Toon up to a point; however, I believe we need more than a series of conferences to come to grips with the problem of cohesion and unity.  The conferences will be necessary no doubt, but a strong leader must emerge from the mileau and lead the various groups to a common basis for unity.  We need the equivalent of a Martin Luther or John Calvin to lead the equivalent of a new reformation.  We certainly do not need to be beholden to the CofE and the likes of Rowan Williams who is a prime example of todays Gnosticism.  If Dr. John Stott were a younger man, he would be a perfect example of scriptural leadership for a reformed “Anglican” communion.  He places scripture above tradition.  In view of Rowan Williams latest tirade pandering to the Moslems, Williams wouldn’t know scripture if it hit him in the head with a twobyfour. It is hoped that the Common Cause leaders will at least meet among themselves and come to a scripturally sound consensus for establishing a reformed “Anglican” communion. Someone has to lead that parade. Hopefully, it will be Christ breathing down the Holy Spirit of wisdom and light.

November 27, 9:55 pm | [comment link]
13. Bob from Boone wrote:

I’ll bet that the centrifugal forces iwithin the ADN (Anglican Dissident Network), aka “Common Cause,” will eventually win out and we’ll have another several “continuiing” or “traditional” Anglican bodies to add to the 20 or so already in existence in North America. The only common cause most of them have is their emnity toward TEC. People who are use to splitting have a harder time staying together.

November 29, 12:50 am | [comment link]
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