Threats of schism in the Anglican Communion are a thing of the past, but the world's third-largest Christian community faces a historic challenge over who will shape its future.
That's the message from a gathering of 1,200 orthodox Anglican bishops, clergy, and lay people from several continents who met in Jerusalem over the past week to hammer out a response to what they see as "revisionist" liberal thinking within some churches.
The traditionalists have decided to replace schism threats - sparked in recent years by Western support for gay clergy and blessing of same-sex unions - with a new movement to reform the Anglican Communion from within. But the statement released Sunday by the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon), while positive in tone, constitutes a shot across the bow of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the US Episcopal Church.
"Our fellowship is not breaking away," the group says. But "we do not accept that Anglican identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury."
The conference has launched the Gafcon movement of orthodox Anglicans, formed a council of leaders that is likely to sever ties with liberal Western churches, and called for creation of a North American province within the Communion to include the US parishes and dioceses that have pulled away from the Episcopal Church and built a separate network.
"The North American initiative will only make a current hot zone much hotter," says the Rev. Kendall Harmon, a US traditionalist. "They are basically saying that they intend to compete for the Anglican franchise of North America."
Those heading the movement include leading African, Australian, South American, and English bishops, who aim to rebuild the Communion "on a foundation of biblical truth."
The statement details 14 tenets of orthodoxy in a "Jerusalem Declaration" and rejects the authority of churches that teach a "false gospel."
The conservatives feel that Anglican leadership has failed them in their bid to discipline the churches in the United States and Canada over issues of homosexuality, which are symptomatic of broader differences on biblical authority.
After the Episcopal Church consecrated a gay bishop in 2003, American traditionalists balked and refused to follow US leadership. …