For the record: correcting a common mistake about ECUSA

A couple of weeks ago, the Magazine of the New York Times carried an interview with Archbishop Robert Duncan, formerly of ECUSA and now of some bit of Anglican alphabet soup. In an effort to correct several errors in that interview, Bishop Clifton Daniel, Episcopal Bishop of East Carolina wrote a letter to the editor which was published November 17. Both the interview and the letter are worth reading.

When I read the letter, I noticed an error. I was prepared to ignore it, but I’ve since seen it repeated around the interwebs. It’s this sentence: “The Episcopal Church is the sole Anglican presence in the United States recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury.” That’s not quite right. It turns out that the Church of South India has been peacefully coexisting with the Episcopal Church in the US for many years. The CSI is absolutely recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

People on the left and institutionalist conservatives make the point repeatedly that parallel jurisdictions are an unwarranted innovation. For this reason, they say, we cannot have a conservative province (e.g. ACNA or CANA or whatever) operating in parallel with ECUSA. Of course, there are parallel jurisdictions all over the place in the Anglican Communion. ECUSA and the Church of England coexist on continental Europe, for instance. The real point should NOT be that parallel jurisdictions are unprecedented. It’s just not true. The point should be that unwelcomed parallel jurisdictions are not, well, welcome.

I can see why that’s not a popular talking point. It admits the possibility that ECUSA could peacefully coexist with additional provinces, beyond the two (CSI and C of E) with which it now coexists. Not many would say that. I’m glad I don’t have to contemplate these things much. It’s way above my pay grade. But, from this parish priest’s viewpoint, I don’t see the harm in parallel jurisdictions. If ACNA wants to set up shop across the street from the parish I serve, it will not worry me. We should agree on some good manners toward one another, but that’s not impossible to imagine. Likewise, we as a province should shun unwelcomed parallel jurisdictions, whilst admitting the theoretical possibility of further, welcomed parallel jurisdictions.

Perhaps I simply don’t have the correct information or the right perspective, and I’m wrong about the potential goodness of further parallel jurisdictions. As with just about all the opinions I hold, I’ll freely change them if persuasive data appear. But whether I’m right or wrong about this issue, liberals and institutional conservatives should not make erroneous statements about parallel jurisdictions. We should make our case based on sound data and clear logic.

By the way, if you want to read more about parallel jurisdictions and the many provinces operating in North America, read this older post from the 7WD archive.

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7 Responses

  1. DcnScott says:

    A few years ago, Bp Pierre Whalon, Suffragan of the American Churches in Europe, wrote a very enlightening article for Anglicans Online on the topic of parallel jurisdictions – something in which he naturally takes a strong interest.

    It may be found here:, or, perhaps better, here:

  2. DcnScott says:

    Make that Bishop-in-Charge.

  3. Bosco Peters says:

    I did not know about the CSI parallel in USA. Fascinating. It would be great to hear a bit more about how that works in practice – how big is the CSI, do they come to your meetings, USA CSI website, etc?

    My understanding of the Europe situation is that since our communion with the Old Catholics they have not appreciated the CofE TEC presence there & that there is a process underway to hand over CofE & TEC European churches to Old Catholic oversight.

    In NZ we have a Tikanga structure – three cultural streams with parallel jurisdiction. Interestingly, the first ever motion of the Primates’ Meeting was to try & prevent NZ setting up the Tikanga structure – I guess if there’s ever a covenant, we might lose that?

    RCs of course have long had parallel jurisdiction with different Rites operating in the same geographic area.

    Is the difference with CANA, ACNA, FOCAs, etc. that they are set up in opposition to TEC? Aren’t they trying to be “Anglican but not TEC”? Which is a different dynamic to CSI?

  4. Bosco Peters says:

    ps. just read Of provinces and math post that you point to. I’m surprised you don’t highlight there that TEC has – am I right? – nine provinces. But they are not provinces led by an archbishop.

    CofE I’m pretty sure has 2 provinces – each led by an archbishop.

    NZ has 3 archbishops – but I think people balk if we describe ourselves as 3 provinces.

    I have a Maths degree & university papers in logic. Useless within Anglicanism 🙂

  5. Scott Gunn says:

    Bosco, you’re exactly right — the difference is that CSI is peacefully coexisting, while the others aren’t. I hold out hope that this might be possible; others do not.

    The term “province” within ECUSA is odd, I think. I wish we called them “metropolitans” or some derivative. The nine provinces are mostly pointless in our case, since the head bishop of each province has no authority over other bishops inside the province. (The president of a province can also be a lay person or a priest/deacon, incidentally.)

    You can learn more about the CSI in the USA here:

    I think the NZ model might be instructive for others. Your parallel structure is based on cultural/ethnic difference. Is it so horrible to imagine a parallel structure based on theological difference? Perhaps so to many conservatives, if there’s the potential that a woman/liberal would be at the top of the heap.

    Good luck sorting it all out.


  6. Peter Carey says:

    interesting post…thanks for offering it..I had not heard about CSI

    (…just to quibble on a minor point, perhaps, aren’t we using TEC instead of ECUSA these days…)

    Thanks for posting this,

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Peter Carey

  7. Norah Bolton says:

    On the whole subject of provinces and metropolitans you might enjoy looking at your neighbour to the north. We have four ecclesiastical provinces, all of whom elected new metropolitans this year. The provinces span more than one geographic province in all cases but one – that has tiny portions of adjoining ones, but all have their own structures and by-laws. I’ve been spending much of the past two years working on the canon for the primacy. The primate, – parallel in many ways in function to the Presiding Bishop is described as the Senior Metropolitan.

    The issue of parallel juristiction will also figure in our 2010 general synod. Indigenous people have had aspirations for some years of more self governance and are looking at achieving that in interesting ways – including some areas where they will cooperate while still remaining part of their dioceses. And we now have a national indigenous bishop (formerly the Bishop of Alaska) who has a pastoral function across te country. So new times and new means of communication bring new structures.

    Happy Thanksgiving!