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Network delegates still developing confessional statement
All 'Network' members would be required to sign

By Mary Frances Schjonberg


[Episcopal News Service]  The 80 delegates to the Anglican Communion Network's (ACN) Annual Council meeting in Pittsburgh agreed to support the process of developing an outline of "basic and unifying theological commitments" to which all members would be expected to adhere.

The document is referred to in an August 2 ACN news release as a "Covenant Declaration of the Common Cause Partners." On July 13, the Network posted on its website a "theological statement" and a "mission covenant statement."

The posted theological statement was a seven-item list of "affirmations and commentary" that its introduction says signers will agree "contain the chief elements of Anglican Reformed Catholicism, and to be essential for membership."

"Confessions" or statements of belief requiring assent, other than the historic creeds of the Church and the Thirty-Nine Articles, are rare in the Anglican world.

The document will be further refined at the upcoming Common Cause Roundtable meeting, scheduled for August 16 – 18 in Pittsburgh.

The Common Cause Roundtable was called together by Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh in his role as moderator of the ACN, and is composed of two leaders from each of eight groups affiliated with the network. It has proposed the documents for adoption by each of the partner bodies.

The eight include the ACN itself as well as the American Anglican Council (AAC), Anglican Essentials Canada (AEC), Anglican Mission in America (AMiA), Anglican Network in Canada (ANC), Anglican Province of America (APA), Forward in Faith North America (FiF/NA) and the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC), according to the website.

The Annual Council meeting, held at Trinity Cathedral in Pittsburgh, also spent time discussing what a "reformation of behavior" would look like, the Rev. Canon Daryl Fenton, chief operating officer for the Network, said in the Network's news release.

Duncan, acknowledging a phrase borrowed from Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church and author of "The Purpose-Driven Church" and "The Purpose-Driven Life," called for such a "reformation" in his opening address to the Annual Council July 31.

"Delegates from the Network's ten dioceses and six convocations spent time in task groups on August 1 discussing what that reformation of behavior would look like in a number of areas, including holiness in personal life, worship, constitutional and legal positions, relief and development, church planting, cross-cultural mission, and children and youth ministries. As the Network continues its work to lay foundations in these areas, the reports generated by those groups will be put to good use," Fenton said.

The delegates also approved a voluntary system of support that asks each affiliated parish and diocese to give to the work of the Network as a whole. Under the guidelines, Network-affiliated parishes are asked to give five percent of their operating budget to their convocation and a further five percent to the Network's national office. Dioceses are asked to give ten percent of their operating budget to the Network's national office.

"We fully understand that there are many different situations and obligations in our parishes and dioceses," said Fenton. "Our goal here is simply to set a standard expectation of support that shares the cost of the work of the Network equally among its affiliates."

Delegates also approved the election of eight new members of the Network's Steering Committee, which functions as the Network's governing body between meetings of the Annual Council in a manner parallel to that of the Episcopal Church's Executive Council. New members include the Rev. Shaw Mudge (Albany), Dana Pope (Dallas), Bill Roemer (Pittsburgh), Tad Brenner (Quincy), the Rev. Felix Orji (Rio Grande), Debra Tenney (Mid-Continental Convocation), the Rev. John-Michael van Dyke (Southeastern Convocation), and the Rev. Russell Martin (Western Convocation).

Formed in 2004, the Network — also known as the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes (NACDP) — is a group of diocesan leaders and congregations who oppose recent decisions made in the Episcopal Church, including the 2003 election of an openly gay priest as the diocesan bishop in New Hampshire. The ACN's website says that 10 of the Episcopal Church's 111 dioceses — Albany, Central Florida, Dallas, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Quincy, Rio Grande, San Joaquin, South Carolina and Springfield —have "ratified their affiliation" with the Network. Some groups that have broken away from the Episcopal Church in previous decades over issues such as women's ordination and Prayer Book revision are also part of the Network.