In a history-making gesture, conservative evangelical Anglicans, deeply alienated by the decline of the U.S. denomination, sounded a shofar to herald the creation of the Anglican Church of North America.
On a snowy Wednesday evening, about 1,000 worshipers, mostly from the U.S. and Canada, gathered in Wheaton, Illinois, for a worship service to celebrate the creation of the new entity, which comprises 656 congregations, 800 clergy, 30 bishops, and 100,000 people in regular worship. They represent the evangelical, charismatic, and Anglo-Catholic traditions within Anglicanism.
During a pre-service press conference, Bob Duncan, the former Episcopal bishop of Pittsburgh and now archbishop-designate for the new church, told news media that he expects the Episcopal Church (TEC) to continue its decline and that in time, the new province will come to replace it.
He said, "The Lord is displacing the Episcopal Church."
This year, TEC leaders have seen the decades-long downward spiral continue in both attendance and finances. By some estimates, attendance and membership are declining by 1,000 people per week. Many dioceses are cutting budgets and staff, and drawing down endowment funds to maintain operations. The denomination has about two million members. It is spending millions of dollars on court actions to prevent individual churches and dioceses from pulling out.
Schism or the Beginning of Healing?
Many Episcopal leaders see this move by conservatives as schismatic. At the Wednesday press conference, one reporter asked if church historians would point to this meeting as the clearest mark yet of the moment when the Anglican split became final. Cynthia Brust, director of communications for the Anglican Mission in America, replied, "Today ...1