Breakaway Anglicans Set Up New Province; They Want a More Conservative Option to the Episcopal Church

Article excerpt

Byline: JEFF BRUMLEY

Thousands of lay people, clergy and bishops met in Texas last week to create the Anglican Church in North America, an organization envisioned by members as a more theologically conservative alternative to the Episcopal Church.

Among the founders was the Rev. Neil Lebhar, a Jacksonville priest and a leader of the regional movement of theological conservatives out of the denomination after an openly gay bishop was elected in New Hampshire in 2003.

With its archbishop and church laws now established, the new group represents a clean break with the past for former Episcopalians, Lebhar said.

"For the average person in the pew, I'd say the major thing it means is that our denominational battles are over and we can get on with the ministry and mission of the church," said Lebhar, rector at the (Anglican) Church of the Redeemer on the Southside.

But much work remains. Dioceses must be formed, bishops elected and more churches planted.

And it remains to be seen if the Archbishop of Canterbury in England, spiritual leader of 80 million Anglicans in 160-plus nations, wants to see two competing provinces - both calling themselves Anglican - in North America.

The Times-Union met with Lebhar to discuss the group and its future on the First Coast.

WHAT EXACTLY IS THE ANGLICAN CHURCH IN NORTH AMERICA?

It's basically Anglicans from the U.S. and Canada that have come together as a new province under Archbishop Robert Duncan.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE ITS THEOLOGY?

We are just trying to hang on to what we believe is faithful to Scriptures, first of all, then our own traditions. ... The authority of Scripture, the importance of faith. Just traditional Christian morality.

HOW IS THE ORGANIZATION STRUCTURED? …