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Episcopal Diocese of Quincy seeks alternative oversight

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
Photo: Episcopal Diocese of Quincy
Quincy Bishop Keith Ackerman   (Photo: Episcopal Diocese of Quincy)

[Episcopal News Service] 

The Episcopal Diocese of Quincy, based in Peoria, Illinois, decided September 16 to seek oversight with a primate other than the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

Some 39 clergy and 68 lay people approved five resolutions related to the issue of alternative pastoral oversight (APO) by a "wide margin," according to a diocesan news release.

In addition to the resolution asking for APO, the other four resolutions:

  • Reaffirm provisions in the diocesan constitution that say the diocese is in full communion with the See of Canterbury and "all Provinces of the Anglican Communion that uphold the historic faith and order of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church;"

  • Reaffirm the language of a resolution from Quincy Bishop Keith Ackerman that the 74th General Convention declined to pass; reject actions of the 75th General Convention that "are inconsistent with our Diocesan Constitution and failed to adequately respond to the requests of the Windsor Report;" and affirm diocesan acceptance of 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10 on human sexuality as the "official and accepted teaching" of the Anglican Communion;

  • State a willingness to consider as "Companions of the Diocese" individuals or congregations outside the diocese who "uphold the historic faith and order the Church as received by the Anglican Communion and who wish to have such a relationship;"

  • Withdraw diocesan consent to be included in Province V of the Episcopal Church; and suspends requirements that the diocese send deputies to the Provincial Synod or General Convention (first reading of constitutional change).

The General Convention resolution referred to in Quincy's second resolution failed in the House of Bishops on August 1, 2003 on a roll-call vote of 66-84 with eight abstentions, because the bishops said previous conventions had passed similar legislation. Ackerman's resolution called on Convention to affirm articles VI and XX of the Articles of Religion (The Book of Common Prayer, pages 868, 871) and the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral (The Book of Common Prayer, page 876-877). It also would have had the Convention state that individual Christians are "conscience-bound first of all to obey the teaching and direction of Our Lord Jesus Christ as set forth in Holy Scripture" in any instance where the Convention or the Church "departs from that teaching."

In 1991, the Convention passed an amended Resolution C047, which stated that the Convention holds to "the historic appeal of Anglicanism to Scripture as interpreted by the Church's tradition, and applied with reason."

Ackerman told the Peoria Star Journal in a September 17 article that the focus of the September 16 meeting was on "how can we stay in the Anglican Communion?"

Ackerman is attending a meeting of Episcopal bishops in at Camp Allen in Texas and was not available for further comment.

The news release said the diocese objected to certain actions by the leadership of the Episcopal Church. It also said that part of the reason for the diocese's APO request was the theology of Presiding Bishop-elect Jefferts Schori, who has approved blessings of same-gender unions in the Diocese of Nevada and voted in 2003 to consent to the election of Bishop Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.

Quincy is "unwilling to accept the leadership" of Jefferts Schori, the news release said.

The September 16 special synod, or diocesan convention, was planned shortly after the conclusion of the 75th General Convention in June. The diocese of Quincy will meet again for its regular synod October 20 to 21 at St. Paul's Cathedral in Peoria, Illinois, "to consider what further actions may be needed at that time," according to the news release.

Quincy joins seven of the Episcopal Church's 110 dioceses in requesting some form of alternative pastoral oversight. They are Central Florida (Orlando-based), Dallas (which has requested a relationship with the Archbishop of Canterbury), Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, San Joaquin (California), South Carolina and Springfield (Illinois). The bishops of Fort Worth, Quincy and San Joaquin will not ordain women to the priesthood.

None of the other dioceses' conventions has yet ratified the APO requests. Dallas, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, San Joaquin, South Carolina and Springfield all have annual conventions later this fall. Central Florida's convention is set for late January.
The Diocese of Quincy consists of 2,200 Episcopalians in 21 congregations in west-central Illinois. Together the APO-requesting dioceses account for approximately 7.3 percent of the overall membership of the Episcopal Church, according to statistics in the 2006 Episcopal Church Annual. Not all Episcopalians in those dioceses agree with the request.

The Episcopal Church is made up of more than 2.4 million worshipers in about 7,679 congregations across the United States and elsewhere, including Europe, South America and the Caribbean.

The constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council, the Anglican Communion's main policy-making body, makes no provisions for alternative primatial oversight. Neither do the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.

The issue of how to handle such request was discussed by a group of bishops meeting in New York September 11-13. Despite what were described as "honest and frank conversations," the group was unable to reach an agreement on how to meet the needs of the requesting dioceses.

Jefferts Schori said after the meeting that another session may be called later this year, possibly with additional participants.