June 25, 2009 / 1:15 AM / 8 years ago

Q+A: The Anglican Church in North America

(Reuters) - The Anglican Church in North America held its first assembly this week in a Dallas suburb to ratify its constitution and install Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh as its first archbishop.

Following are some questions and answers about the newest arrival on America's large and diverse faith scene.

WHAT IS THE ANGLICAN CHURCH IN NORTH AMERICA (ACNA)?

Most of its founding bodies have recently broken ranks with the Episcopal Church -- the main U.S. branch of Anglicanism -- over the issues of gay and women clergy.

Long-standing divisions between liberals and conservatives had already fragmented the Episcopal Church by 2003 when it consecrated Gene Robinson of New Hampshire as the first bishop known to be in an openly gay relationship in more than four centuries of Anglican Church history.

Many of the dissident dioceses aligned themselves with conservative archbishops in Africa and South America.

The ACNA says it has united some 100,000 Anglicans in 700 parishes and 28 dioceses in the United States and Canada. The main Episcopal Church, which has more than 2 million members, questions these numbers.

ACNA founding members include the Reformed Episcopal Church, founded in 1873, and two dioceses from Canada.

WHAT DOES IT STAND FOR?

It takes a traditional or conservative position on issues of gender and sexual orientation. It is opposed to same-sex marriage and the consecration of openly gay clergy.

All of its founding bodies ordain female deacons but allowing women into the priesthood is up to each diocese. It will only install men as bishops.

The preamble to its constitution says that orthodox Anglicans are "grieved by the current state of brokenness within the Anglican Communion prompted by those who have embraced erroneous teaching and who have rejected a repeated call to repentance."

The church says that as a branch of Anglicanism its "orthodoxy is defined by and centered on our church's classic formularies -- the Book of Common Prayer, including the Ordinal, and the Thirty-nine Articles -- which all point back to the authority of the Holy Bible and articulate foundational principles of the Anglican tradition throughout the world."

The Thirty-nine Articles were established in 1563 and are regarded as the founding statements of Anglican doctrine. The Book of Common Prayer refers to a number of prayer books used by the Church of England and other Anglican churches.

WHAT WILL THE ACNA'S STATUS BE?

It says its status is a Province-in-formation in the global Anglican Communion. A Province usually refers to a geographical jurisdiction or church within the community, which numbers close to 80 million people worldwide.

Formal acceptance as a Province -- which would put it on an equal footing with the Episcopal Church -- could take years. It will require approval from two-thirds of the primates -- the heads of national churches -- in the Anglican Communion and ultimate recognition from the Anglican Consultative Council, another church body.

The ACNA says it is already recognized by at least nine Provinces from Africa, Asia and Latin America. The global Anglican Communion has 34 Provinces in its fold.

Sources: ACNA, The Anglican Communion Official Website, Reuters

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