The Great Realignment of 2004-2012: The Catholic Church Splits, The Episcopal Church Triumphs

December 2000By Lee Penn

Lee Penn, a health-care information systems consultant in San Francisco, is a member of Our Lady of Fatima Byzantine Church, a parish of the Russian Catholic Church (one of 21 Eastern Catholic Churches in communion with the Holy See).

November 1, 2015
All Saints’ Day (Roman Catholic calendar)
All Peoples’ Day/Samhain (Episcopalian calendar)

In the fall of 2000 many observers had consigned the Episcopal Church in the U.S. (ECUSA) to the dust-bin of history. ECUSA’s General Convention — the highest decision-making authority for the denomination — had officially recognized “life-long committed relationships” outside of marriage, and had voted to send teams of enforcers to the three ECUSA dioceses that still refused to ordain women. In response, dozens of Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical parishes defected, seeking oversight from conservative Anglican provinces overseas. There were threats that Anglican primates worldwide would expel ECUSA from the Anglican Communion for apostasy. At the time, the General Convention resolution calling for a doubling of ECUSA membership by 2020 seemed to be sheer fantasy.

We now know that ECUSA was on the verge of its greatest period of growth, influence, power, and wealth. Events within and outside the Anglican Communion have again made ECUSA the pre-eminent church of the American establishment and intelligentsia, as it had been in the nation’s early history. With its partner, the newly-formed American Catholic Church (discussed later), ECUSA is now the spiritual spokesman for Americans who reject fundamentalism, pursue spiritual growth, and uphold “Unity in Diversity.”

Two Perils Averted

Before ECUSA could move to the center of the national stage, it had to overcome two threats to its survival.

The first peril was the threat of discipline from overseas conservative primates. This never occurred.

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