Monday, October 20, 2003
Though there are naysayers, I think that a large bloc of Episcopal churches, especially those aligned with the American Anglican Council and Forward in Faith, will soon break off. The AAC and FiF churches do have their differences, and it's possible that the FiF ones will form their own group. However, I think the AAC will become part of a larger body. Let me elaborate.
The homosexuality issue will be up front with the Lutherans (ELCA) and United Methodists (UMC) before too long, and will likely result in many of them leaving their denominations. This presents an opportunity. Methodism sprang from Anglicanism, and it's eerie to hear some Anglican rectors preaching sermons where John Wesley is put forth as an example of how to be (they never were down on him in the past, but were just generally silent on the matter). The Lutherans are pretty similar to Anglicans on an awful lot of things. When I went to an Easter service in New York a few years ago, I thought it was an Epsicopal church. However, it turned out to be Lutheran; the only difference I could see was that they used white wine instead of red, which may just be a parish preference. There are several separated Anglican bodies in the US, as well as several offshoots of Methodism. Meanwhile, the Anglican Church of America and the Reformed Episcopal Church are already merging.
Thus, I don't think it's entirely unlikely that you could see AAC Episcopalians, ACA/REC Anglicans, the Anglican Mission in America, conservatives from the UMC and ELCA, Wesleyans, and Nazarenes joining forces for an "American Church." This group would probably pick up some independent Bible churches, possibly along with the American Baptist Union and Presbyterian Church of America (PCA). Discontents with the Southern Baptist Convention's increasing insistence on Bible literalness might also be attracted.
Of course, there would be many hurdles to overcome, but some of these could be smoothed over. The Episcopalians would want apostolic succession, bishops, and perhaps a ban on women priests. The Presbyterians would want Calvinism and synods. Baptists would want adult baptism. All of these could be overcome over time, I think, especially if only the groups of Lutheran and Anglican/Methodist extraction combined.
What do you think?