The idea is to gather the Network, CANA and FiFNA churches and dioceses (and some vaguely named "Windsor-loyal"--not just compliant, mind you, but loyal--churches and dioceses) into a new parellel North American province, in direct communion with Canterbury.
It would have the advantage of clarifying things somewhat--we'd know for sure who was who when someone walked up to an Episcopal, er, Anglican, er, Network, Church.
But while on the surface, it seems like a possible way out of the impasse by making both the Episcopal Church and this "39th Province" part of the Anglican Communion, it does not solve very much at all.
- It sets up a distinctly parallel province within the same boundaries as the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada (and would any other Primate at the table this week tolerate that in his own province?)
- This would be the first Province in the Anglican Communion devised for doctrinal not missionary purposes.
- It would be a new denomination. If it is separately incorporated from the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada, then it is a new denomination. If it has it's own constitution, canons, and articles of incorporation then would be as separate from the Episcopal Church as the United Methodists or the ELCA or any other denomination. People can form new congregations within the new province, people can form conventions to form dioceses within the new entity, but they cannot simply take their Episcopal congregations with them. Similarly, network dioceses, which arose out of the Episcopal Church cannot suddenly give over their jurisdiction to the new province.
- If is separately incorporated, then it does not matter that Canterbury might recognize it and that it would exist in the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Communion cannot tell the Episcopal Church simply to release these congregations and dioceses to the proposed new province. They cannot tell us, let alone force us, to violate our own constitutions and canons to allow this group to pop into existence. The Primates could theoretically vote to create this province--and the ACC would have to agree by 2/3 vote include it (once it has a constitution, canons, and has through it's synod or convention asked to be included)--but neither of these bodies can carve it out of the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church of Canada to make it happen.
- If the proposed 39th province does not want to be a separate denomination, then it would require the Episcopal Church in convention to create it and to create the means to transfer congregations and re-draw diocesan and provincial boundaries, and solve the canonical hang-ups. I assume the same would be true in Canada.
- Property issues: if the new province is a separately incorporated denomination, then property of parishes that voted to join the new group would still face the prospect of leaving their property behind in the Episcopal Church. Remember people may move from one entity to another, not congregations.
- Diocesan boundaries: If a diocesan convention or a diocesan bishop were to vote to seek to join the new entity, then they would be in effect dissolving any link with the Episcopal Church--these conventions would be in violation of their own constitutions as well as the canons of the Church, and these Bishops would be renouncing their orders. If, as Bishop Duncan has said, that the Diocese of Pittsburgh would cease to be a diocese of the Episcopal Church and become an element of the new entity, then he would need to resign from his seat as Bishop of Pittsburgh, give over any control of property and funds to the Episcopal ecclesiastical authority that would take his place and start over. The same is true for any clergy and lay members of their council, convention, standing committee and staff. The Diocese of Pittsburgh is simply not an entity separate from the Episcopal Church that sanctions it, no matter how many times they say otherwise.
- Other boundary issues: What about congregations on the fence? Would they jump back and forth between the two parallel Anglican worlds with every change of Rector?
- Episcopal oversight: This might get easier. The new entity would have to figure out how to give Episcopal ministry to the new congregations. An existing Episcopal bishop would lose no more sleep over the doings of a bishop from this separately incorporated denomination (calling themselves Anglican) as she or he would over the doings of a Lutheran, Methodist or Catholic bishop. This is probably the end point that these folks have in mind: you go your way, I'll go mine. But to do that, the entities have to be completely and totally separate, maybe coming together once every two to ten years to nod at each other from across the room.
- The lawsuits will still happen, because the new entity will stand on the principle of "we paid for it so its ours" and want to keep as much property as possible. (And why not? It takes a lot of money and time to build these places--much better to use our stuff rather than to buy and build their own!) They will try to convince judge after judge that the new entities are not new denominations but continuations of something old.
- General Convention would still have to pick up the pieces of realigning or reorganizing dioceses. A lot of dioceses would spend money they don't have on conventions, legal wrangles, deployment negotiations, and re-written constitutions and canons.
- Clergy depositions would still happen as people jumped from one entity to another.
One last thing: the new entity proposes that their primate would be chosen not by their own college of bishops or their own synod or convention, but by the other Primates! This one province of all the Anglican Provinces would have it's primate chosen by Primates selected by the 38 others Churches.
Would any of the Primates willingly take that on for their own provinces? Think about this: would Nigeria want their next Primate to be chosen by the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church of Canada or even the Archbishop of Canterbury, even indirectly?
If this is what they want, more power to them. But I cannot imagine that any Primate would tolerate this kind of arrangement in his own Church.
This underscores the basic problem with this whole process--a natural outgrowth of the approach the Windsor Report took in seeking structural rather than theological solutions to pastoral and common life issues. It seems incredible that the Primates should seek to impose on another province that which they would not do for themselves.
A Crummy Solution
All in all, it's a pretty crummy solution, but one that it is not without precedent. If our Lutheran sisters and brothers can live with different synods in the same space calling themselves Lutheran, then I suppose we can live with the Anglican Church-Missouri Synod sharing our geography.
But don't think that we can get out of our troubles by Primatial fiat or with a simple stroke of Rowan's pen.