A Modest Analysis of NACDAP’s “Anglicans in the United States”

By Lionel Deimel, Joan Gundersen, and Christopher Wilkins

February 25, 2007

Bishop Robert Duncan represented to the Anglican primates in Tanzania that his movement represents a large bloc within The Episcopal Church (TEC). He apparently presented the chart—is presenting it now, in any event—available on the Web site of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes (Network), asserting that it supported his claim “that the Network and Windsor Dioceses, together with AMiA, CANA, and Network Convocation and Conference parishes across the country, represented a number equal to one-quarter of The Episcopal Church’s membership, minimally some 500,000 souls, a number larger than 18 Provinces of the Anglican Communion.” This statement is a questionable claim based on questionable numbers.

Does the Claim Make Sense?

Bishop Duncan’s chart uses—consistently or not—numbers representing active baptized members. (TEC data are apparently taken from Episcopal Church data available here.) Leaving aside for the moment the chart’s overall message, it is difficult to miss the fact that it is incompletely populated with data. The rows of average Sunday attendance, clergy, and parishes in formation may be discounted, as they contain too little data from which to draw any conclusions. A glaring omission on the chart is the failure to associate some number of members with the reputed 109 AMiA/ACiA congregations. Also, it is worth noting that the chart only considers TEC dioceses with the United States (with a total active membership of 2,205,376). It is inappropriate to exclude overseas dioceses, even if they appear to represent 0% of the “orthodox” insurgency. We should actually consider all 2,369,477 active members in TEC’s 7,635 parishes and missions.

To make any sense at all of the chart, we need a number for the AMiA/ACiA membership. We might generously use the average number of members in TEC parishes and missions as a whole here (310), although it is worth noting that the corresponding numbers for the groups listed range from 69 (APA) to 367 (CANA). Using the 310 number, we get 33,790 members for AMiA/ACiA. These primarily represent people who have never been in TEC or left it before the 2005 statistics we are using. On the other hand, the numbers shown for CANA and “Network International Conference” denote former Episcopalians and should be subtracted from the total number of Episcopalians. It is hard to know what to make of the APA and REC numbers, as these people have never been in either TEC or the Anglican Communion. Including them in this chart inflates the numbers in a distracting way. Discounting such figures, we see that “Network & Windsor Coalition” (Coalition) represents 443,813 / 2,346,277 or about 19% of the membership of TEC. What does this 19% mean? We should begin by noting that no “Network & Windsor Coalition” has been established. One might generously suggest that this 19% of TEC would be supportive of the Windsor process, but Network bishops have articulated a more ambitious plan that would grant them a separate Anglican province, and the “Windsor bishops” have, as a group, been quite clear about their intention to stay within TEC. The rhetorical trick being played here is that a “coalition” supporting a “moderate” agenda is announced, only to be touted later as the group supporting the agenda of a minority within that coalition. Bishop Duncan is not so much adding apples and oranges, as apples and bicycles.

Let us look more closely at the Coalition. First, one has to be impressed with the alarmist labeling of its members as “immediately imperiled,” “short-term imperiled,” and “longer-term imperiled.” By what, exactly, are these groups being imperiled? Most of the so-called Windsor dioceses have not suggested they are imperiled at all! Rather, they have endorsed a process that they hope will help to keep both the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion intact.

We now turn to the Coalition numbers. It is virtually impossible to verify the 48,000 number of “Network Parishes in Non-Network Dioceses.” The 194,312 number of members for “Network Dioceses” is consistent with the declared Network dioceses and their numbers shown in TEC statistics. This is an over count, however. There is opposition to the Network in all Network dioceses, and, in most of them, the opposition is highly organized. Moreover, the Network is not equally strong in all Network dioceses. In Pittsburgh, the 13 parishes that have formally declined membership in the Network have 6,200 members, including the 2nd and 3rd largest parishes in the diocese. This is just over 30% of the diocese. Pittsburgh’s diocesan dynamic is by no means unique. Typically, at least 25% of the Network diocese membership shown actually opposes the Network, and many more parishioners find the entire conflict distracting and would prefer a system that minimized diocesan division instead of exacerbating it. Some parishes are quite divided, and in almost every parish will have some parishioners that disagree with its stance (whatever that is), but 25% dissenter seems a fair guess, accounting for all the intermixing of partisans of anti-Network sentiment in the typical Network diocese. Applying this analysis would mean that reducing the 194,312 number shown for Network dioceses to 145,734 would be realistic.

Most questionable is the 201,501 figure shown for “Non-Network Windsor Dioceses.” PEP has been unable to verify this figure. It does not correspond to the number of members in various dioceses whose bishops attended the Camp Allen meetings, and there seems to be some confusion about just who is or is not a “Windsor bishop.” Among the bishops who attended the first meeting were two who retired (Salmon and Herlong) and were thus no longer diocesans. Another bishop (MacDonald, of Alaska) left his TEC see for Canada. The diocese of a fourth (Wolf, of Rhode Island) has steadfastly refused to endorse any resolutions supportive of the Windsor Report. A fifth bishop is on medical leave from his diocese (Lipscomb), and his successor, who has already been chosen, has not joined this group. Five bishops did not return for the second meeting at Camp Allen in January. Four new bishops attended that meeting (Jenkins, Gray, Jacobus, and Parsley). Bishop Parsley has been adamant that those in his diocese should not join the Network!

Only one or two of the dioceses likely included in the Windsor group have passed resolutions suggesting that they would choose the Anglican Communion over TEC, should such a choice become available. In some cases, Network membership has been explicitly rejected by these dioceses. Certainly, less than half the parishioners in the “Non-Network Windsor Dioceses” could possibly be supporters of Duncan and the Network. The actual numbers are like very much smaller. There are some very liberal people in this group of dioceses. Being generous, give the Coalition 49% of the number they claim for Windsor dioceses, 98,735. This generosity will, to some degree, compensate for those Network-friendly Episcopalians that might be in the “Non-Windsor Dioceses” column. This would give the Coalition strength of at most 292,466, or about 12% of TEC. One could argue for a higher or lower number, but the vagueness of what we are trying to capture here frustrates any serious reach for certainty.

In fact, support for the Network is weaker still in the Windsor dioceses. Bishop Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island, for example, is a “Windsor bishop.” In 2003, however, not only did she vote to consecrate Gene Robinson, but both clergy and lay orders of the Rhode Island deputation did as well. They also both voted for resolution C051, which allowed exploration of liturgies for blessing same-sex unions. Can anyone truly believe that the 25,603 Episcopalians of the Diocese of Rhode Island support the radical Network agenda in 2007? Given that their diocesan convention has buried every attempt to endorse the Windsor Report, surely not. Finally, several “Windsor bishops” are pursuing lawsuits against those who have tried to take church property with them when they withdrew from TEC, and thus are unlikely to join a group including those that they are suing.

In the end, one has to ask what these statistics tell us. The answer is very little, and the Network chart seems more designed to mislead than to enlighten. The so-called “Windsor dioceses” are a poorly defined group of dioceses in which a bishop’s participation in the Camp Allen discussions may or may not reflect majority views within that diocese and may or may not be consistent with majority views in other dioceses with which the Duncan chart associates them. Bishops who attended Camp Allen clearly had varied motives. The Diocese of Alaska passed a resolution at its 2006 convention stating that they supported Bishop MacDonald’s participation as an effort “to bring about reconciliation” and supported the “Windsor Report framework for keeping the Anglican Communion together and in conversation.” Associating this diocese and one such as Pittsburgh as though they represent similar viewpoints makes little sense. Generally, the Windsor bishops do not support the faction represented by Bishop Duncan, so much as they support finding a way to have it normalize its place within TEC. In any case, Duncan’s Coalition is unlikely to be effective in practice because the Network will not support a moderate path likely to be supported by the Windsor bishops, who, reciprocally, will likely not support the radical goals of the Network.

The idea that all self-identified Anglicans in North America should be considered as a whole for purposes of the Communion may be attractive to some, but it is problematic. It suggests that some larger structure incorporating this whole is called for simply by the existence of disparate groups, many of which were formed in rejection of TEC over the last century or more. Groups such as the Reformed Episcopal Church separated themselves from TEC voluntarily. What suggests that they can or should be united with the Communion now? They are simply pawns in the larger game being played out in the Communion.

Summary

It is difficult to analyze the Network chart objectively because it is so obviously defective at a technical level. Bishop Duncan has drawn conclusions in the absence of critical numbers and has not given others the ability to reconstruct all the numbers he has provided. It is nonsensical to argue for the strength of a position within TEC by citing the opinions of those who are not in TEC. Finally, it is ultimately pointless to argue about the strength of the Coalition without knowing what such a coalition might be asked to support. Its influence could be greater than we have suggested, but only for centrist actions. The Network can hardly, in the end, count on the “Windsor bishops” to support the most radical elements of its program.

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