Breakaway diocese falsely claims ACNA is part of Anglican Communion

The breakaway diocese in South Carolina is considering whether to affiliate with the Anglican Church of North America. ACNA is not recognized as a member by the Anglican Communion.

Yet, the breakaway Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina states:

The Diocese of South Carolina is considering affiliating with the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).

The Diocese’s Affiliation Task Force recommended the association during the 225th annual Diocesan Convention in Bluffton this weekend. Affiliation would require the Diocese to approve affiliation in two future conventions….

Before affiliation the Task Force will host meetings throughout the Diocese to brief clergy and church members about the benefits of affiliation and ask questions about the possible move.

Founded in 1785, the Diocese was one of eight dioceses across the country to help form the Episcopal Church in 1789. It separated from the Episcopal Church in 2012. ACNA is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, whose membership now exceeds 85 million worshipers in more than 165 countries.

Emphasis added.

ACNA describes its relationship to the Anglican Communion as follows:

On April 16, 2009 it [ACNA] was recognized as a province of the global Anglican Communion, by the Primates of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans [Gafcon].

In 2014 the Charleston Post and Courier published an article referencing an Archbishop of Canterbury interview headlined Archbishop says ACNA not part of the Anglican Communion. The interview was conducted by the Church of Ireland Gazette: Justin Welby said,

It is not part of the Anglican Communion … [ACNA is] a separate church.

Nor does the Anglican Consultative Council recognize ACNA. Its archbishop is not a member of the Primates Meeting. The ACC is the body through which a new province would be recognized. ACNA has not applied for membership.

A decision this month is expected from the South Carolina Supreme Court in the property dispute between the breakaway diocese and the loyal diocese.


Added 26 March – On or about 24 March the breakaway diocese posted the Report from the Task Force for Provincial Affiliation. That report is more careful and does not make the false claim about ACNA’s relationship to the Anglican Communion.

Photo: Sheldon Church


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  1. Jay Croft

    I’ll bet that ++Welby is absolutely regretting his invitation of Foley & Co. to the recent “gathering.” He opened a can of worms.

    • John Chilton

      Not only that (can of worms) by its behavior ACNA got on Lambeth’s bad side. Is dis-ingratiation a word?

  2. Dr. William Flint, MDiv, PhD

    I hope he is.

  3. Chris Cooper

    I wouldn’t doubt that ++Welby’s invitation was a purposeful muddling of the waters with this very case in mind.

  4. Jeremy Bates

    Two Archbishops of Canterbury in a row have interfered in internal TEC matters.

    This is of real concern to loyal Episcopalians.

  5. Michael Hartney

    The photo is of …..?

    • Michael Hartney

      Never mind.
      It is the Old Sheldon Church Ruins, an historic site located in northern Beaufort County, South Carolina.

  6. Prof. Christopher Seitz

    The Global South has thrown its formal mantle over the Diocese of SC. +Welby attended the meeting that issued that statement.

    But at what point is all this a bit eccentric?

    People want to object to the Anglican Communion of
    interdependence, or a Primates Meeting which indicates consequences for TEC; but then also object to a diocese wanting precisely what the Primates themselves agreed, in contradistinction to TEC.

    Where ACNA ends up is anybody’s guess. Where the centre of the Communion, equally.

    Lenten blessings, when the King carries his cross into far worse waters.

      • christopher seitz

        Wouldn’t it be great if your judgment were so easy?

        +Mouneer was obviously a major figure at Canterbury 2016. He chaired the GS meeting at which SC was approved.

        I’d use the term ‘nihil obstat’ for Welby’s position.

        Which is of course why there was no concerted push-back from TEC in the public domain at the time.

  7. Ted Thomas Martin

    What happens to “me” (my soul) is what I need to be concerned with. What is done to property, yes PROPERTY , that is all it is, should not have such a hold on our lives…materialistic, is what that is really. Let’s stop being so materialistic, and let them have their home property. Details, details.

    • Actually, the Bishop of TEC in SC – as the remaining loyal diocese is currently called – offered them the property, but asked for them to end claim to the diocesan name/identity, and the diocese-owned properties, such as Camp St. Christopher. The breakaways could keep all parishes that voted to break. They refused. It’s not just about property for either side, but about belief.

      • Carolyn Peet

        IIRC, the breakaway diocese had already won the litigation in court, so there would have been no need to give up the Church Camp, or any other property. The parishes already owned their property due to the quit-claim deeds. So, yes, it was about the property.

      • Hi, Carolyn, I’m not sure quite where, or whether, we disagree about the properties. It seemed to me that the Bishop and the legal team were willing to acknowledge parish property claims as valid, as per the court ruling, and the diocesan name As separate.

        It was certainly a compromise effort and the property is admittedly important to a lot of people. But even then, the land and the diocese seem to be intertwined for the parishes who left, and therefore, for the case.

      • Jeremy Bates

        “[T]he breakaway diocese had already won the litigation in court.”

        Actually, there is an appeal of the trial court’s decision. And it seems likely (from the video of the oral argument) that the breakaway diocese will lose the appeal.

        As for property versus doctrine, the breakaways disagreed over the theology of marriage, and they tried to leave with the property.

  8. Is the photo of the Old Sheldon Church ruins intended as a metaphor for the continuing TEC diocese or the rebels?

    • Jeremy Bates

      We’ll see, come some Wednesday morning soon.

    • Carolyn Peet

      Whatever the case, it is a beautiful photo.

  9. Carolyn Peet

    I’m curious as to why the [readers] of this site seem to be so obsessed with the ACNA. Why do you care whether it is part of the Anglican Communion or not? You say the AC has no say over you, so why does it matter who its so-called “members” are?


    • christopher seitz

      My point precisely. Thank you for stating it more economically.

    • We are concerned because the lies that have been told to parishioners have helped encourage support for the exit—I’ll try to be objective here—from The Episcopal Church.

      Additionally, it is a matter of litigation as to whether the group that recently held a convention is “The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina,” the diocese that dates from the earliest days of the church.

    • Thomas Coates

      The outcome of the SC case has repercussions for all hierarchical/connectional denominations on whether the property is held in trust for some local entity (congregation, diocese) or for the entire denomination. This case (and the one in Fort Worth) affects “trust clauses” (Dennis Canon) in all such denominations. It’s no wonder other denominational groups have filed amicus briefs in support of The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church in South Carolina– the findings in this case could give strength to a movement of congregations declaring their independence from denominations, even if their property is held in trust for the whole denomination and leaving is not permitted (either forbidden or by not having a process for this).

  10. Maybe we don’t believe one can steal the property of a chapter of the club, alienate its members and still remain a member itself.

    • Carolyn Peet

      But you don’t seem to like being a member, anyway. You dismiss the views of most of the African primates, and actually the views of any other members who disagree with your new doctrines on sexual behavior. Other than for the obvious purpose of shoring up your litigation over property, I’m surprised you guys even want to be a member.

      • Just because a bunch of foreign archbishops (including Justin Welby) abuse their positions doesn’t mean the Anglican Communion is useless. In any case, we are not members because we want some African archbishop from a society radically different from our own telling us how to minister to Americans.

      • You might be talking about two different, um, “clubs.” It sounded to me as though Paul referred to TEC, while you’re referring to the Anglican Communion…

      • Jeremy Bates

        The breakaways can leave, but they cannot take with them property held for TEC.

        TEC is a member of the Anglican Communion, which does not have the province-meddling power that some of the primates think it has.

  11. Dan Ennis

    Notice January’s “Primates Gathering” has been quietly morphed by the orthodox Anglican blogosphere into a “Primates Meeting.” That same slippage of meaning is also useful for including ACNA in the Anglican Communion. For some, as long as ACNA is recognized by any AC Church, ACNA is “in communion.” One little edit later and they are “in THE Communion.”

    I don’t know why we in TEC should object to this development. As the “Anglican Communion” settles into a more sustainable form as a loose confederations of churches with a shared history, we in TEC can focus on forging stronger bilateral bonds with provinces that want to collaborate. Really, who cares if Foley Beach gets invited to a series of increasingly low-stakes meetings and conferences?

    • John Chilton

      Lambeth floated the “loose confederation” notion before the primates _gathering_ and it went nowhere — I assume because that’s not what Gafcon wants. Their primates want to drum The Episcopal Church out of the Communion. I would be glad for a looser communion where connections are defined bonds of affection and caring — of which there are many diocese to diocese, and there would be more if Gafcon provinces weren’t enforcing a purity code.

      In a looser confederation you couldn’t be drummed out, and ACNA would have legitimate claim to membership of such a confederation.

      In fact, I would welcome competition that would come from overlapping jurisdictions. Compete for TEC’s flock. But don’t take the silver — hence the property disputes.

      • Jeremy Bates

        In light of Nigeria’s recent statement, I wonder whether GAFCON now realizes that the Communion-as-family is what they have, and is all they will ever get.

        Hence the demand for a “special status” within a family of churches that have no desire to be anything more than that.

  12. Thom Forde

    Seems to me when the “Anglican Communion” does something negative to TEC interests, all we hear is how TEC doesn’t need the communion and how TEC is its own international church. But when it fits the agenda, if you’re not in communion with Canterbury then your claims are illegitimate. Just about every other protestant organization manages to deal with “competing” claims. What’s your problem?

  13. Let’s say it once and for all—The Episcopal Church’s claim on property has nothing whatever to do with our membership in The Anglican Communion. The church’s rules were codified before there even was an Anglican Communion, and our church will be around long after the Communion is history.

    Personally, I have often felt that the Communion, per se, provides a single, unique benefit—an exclusive franchise for a geographic area. If we lose that by admitting ACNA into the Communion, we should leave the Communion and retain whatever connections between churches, dioceses, and parishes that are mutually agreeable. This will also free up money for doing useful things.

    The Communion has spent the last decade and a third fighting about sexuality. No souls have been saved in the making of this combat.

  14. Sadly these fights will become more and more common. Furthermore it seems that the ACNA will in fact one day be a member of the communion. The reconciliation of the FCoE and the welcome Foley received when discussing how the Spirit is moving in the ACNA does give me hope.

    • Jeremy Bates

      The day the Anglican Communion admits ACNA is the day the Anglican Communion loses all pretense of catholicity.

      I’m with Lionel. If the Anglican Communion is no longer TEC, and TEC only, in the United States, then I don’t see any benefit for TEC.

      At that point we should just leave the Communion. It will bring no benefit, and a lot of baggage. Such as institutional homophobia.

      • I’m seeing a few contradictions here.

        The more universal we make a Communion by adding Communion partners, the less catholic (i.e universal) it is.

        The Communion should be universal, which means if they expand it to people we disagree with, we should make it smaller by leaving and thus make TEC less universal.


      • David Allen

        There isn’t anything Catholic about competing provinces in the same geographical jurisdiction. Allowing ACNA into a Communion that already has TEC isn’t making the AC more universal, it is catering to the demands of a tiny schismatic group.

  15. Fr Enoch Opuka

    The TEC once a pillar in helping poor Anglican Churches is now fighting itself. ACNA and TEC embroiled in property claims. Time the Episcopalians in USA sat down together and find a way of all them and I mean all them feel comfortable being Episcopalians. Stop the issue we against them

    • John Chilton

      The Episcopal Church has not stopped “helping poor Anglican churches.” Where relations have been severed, it has been those churches who have severed the relationship because in their view The Episcopal Church is apostate. TEC would very much have preferred to maintain those relationships.

    • JC Fisher

      Those in ACNA don’t consider themselves Episcopalians, Fr Enoch. They marked themselves out as a “them” to the Episcopal Church, alas.

  16. Jim Naughton

    Just my read, but I think the Canterbury meeting moved ACNA further from communion membership.

  17. Bill Reeder

    The train has left the station on this. It doesn’t matter except to the church cognoscenti.

    Time to move on. Time to settle with Lawrence’s crew. We really don’t want to “win” that lawsuit.

    • John Chilton

      Uh, the loyal diocese offered a settlement. The Lawrence diocese declined. If we “win” will some of the assets be sold to the Lawrence crew? Probably. That’s what happened in Virginia for example.

    • Jeremy Bates

      Bill Reeder, I’m not sure what you mean.

      The loyal SC diocese is moving on.

      It has every chance of winning the appeal, and I don’t see why that is not (in your view) a desirable result.

      But leaving that outcome aside, ECinSC seems to be moving forward healthily. Among other things, it will soon have its first bishop transition since the schism. That’s a sign of stability and institutional capacity–in other words, normalcy.

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