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United in their aversion to the liberal drift of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, a group of conservatives on Wednesday launched a new North American branch of the Anglican Communion.

Leaders of the new conservative Anglican Church in North America count about 100,000 members, including four dioceses that recently voted to leave the Episcopal Church. In contrast, the existing U.S. and Canadian churches count more than 2.8 million members.

With their increasing acceptance of homosexuality and liberal theology, the U.S. and Canadian branches of Anglicanism have essentially removed themselves from the communion, the conservatives argue.

"Work done today marks five years of labor in attempts to get together," said Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, who will lead the new church. "We have come together to form a province that could be part of the Anglican world."

But a number of significant hurdles lie ahead for the Common Cause Partnership, as the conservatives' umbrella group is known. The self-declared province will need to:

  • Gain recognition from leading Anglican archbishops;
  • Win the favor of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the communion's spiritual leader;
  • Overcome serious theological discord among its own members.
    "It's like starting a new business," said the Rev. Kendall Harmon, a conservative leader from South Carolina who is not formally affiliated with the splinter group. "It's a whole lot harder than people think."

Here's why:

Recognition

Under Anglican rules, formal recognition of a province usually requires the assent of two-thirds of the communion's 38 primates — or leading archbishops. But Wednesday's unprecedented announcement raises new questions.

Bishop Martyn Minns, a leader in the Common Cause ...

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