JIM INCE stood in the Memorial Hall at his parish church on a Tuesday night
and welcomed 30 people to the latest conservative revolution in the Episcopal
Church in the United States (ECUSA).
Not everyone in this quietly elegant room of Christ Episcopal Church, Chevy
Chase, Maryland, was ready to sign up. Three were reporters, and Mr Ince
welcomed six fellow parishioners "from the other side" of the denomination’s
decades-long discussion of homosexuality.
Even so, Mr Ince and his fellow organisers have formed Lay Episcopalians for
the Anglican Communion (LEAC) (News, 10 and 17 March). They are dreaming big.
Mr Ince said that the nascent group spent only $600 on its first project, a
three-question blind survey of whether Episcopalian bishops have changed their
minds since a majority voted to consecrate Gene Robinson, an openly gay man
with a partner, as Bishop of New Hampshire.
LEAC — Mr Ince pronounces the acronym as "Lee-Ack", and jokes that he
welcomes media attention "as long they spell our name right" — plans four other
initiatives, possibly including other surveys, before the General Convention
convenes in June. Mr Ince was not ready to disclose the details of those
initiatives, but he estimated that achieving LEAC’s dreams would cost $90,000.
Mr Ince said that LEAC’s efforts might have to include "vivid, hard-hitting,
sometimes grotesque education" if Episcopalians were to be roused from their
As Mr Ince described it, LEAC is more ambitious than both the American
Anglican Council and the Anglican Communion Network, its larger forebears among
conservative activist groups in ECUSA.
He says that he has talked to leaders of both organisations, and he
disagrees with what he describes as their strategies to save only the members
of their groups from the wayward ship of the Episcopal Church. "That seems to
me to be too small a goal."
Mr Ince believes that 15 per cent of the Episcopal Church consists of
conservatives who are active in trying to preserve the Church’s traditional
teachings, and that liberal activists account for only five per cent. "LEAC
believes there’s potential to save a lot of those people in the 80-per-cent
But votes at the General Convention and diocesan conventions, and the
memberships of both the AAC and the Network suggest that Mr Ince overestimates
the conservative percentage, and underestimates liberal forces.
"We anticipate this is an organisation that will grow to considerable size,"
Mr Ince said. "Maybe it will be something like Howard Dean discovered about the
potential of the internet."
He also reflected briefly on Lord Carey’s endorsement of LEAC’s survey. He
said that he had approached Lord Carey while the two men were running errands
one day. The former Archbishop has been serving as an assistant curate at
Christ Church while doing research at the Library of Congress.
Mr Ince was initially reluctant. "I thought it could put Lord Carey in an
awkward position." But, once he had approached Lord Carey, "within 15 seconds
he was writing his note, on his knee, in the car."
Fighting fund allocated. The Episcopal Church has allocated $100,000 from
its short-term reserves as seed money for the legal costs of dioceses and
congregations caught up in property disputes, writes Pat Ashworth.
In the power struggle between liberals and conservatives, there has been a
string of protracted disputes with dioceses over property rights when clergy or
congregations have chosen to break away from ECUSA or affiliate themselves with
other Anglican bishops or church bodies.
Some have gone right to the Supreme Court. An ad hoc Task Force on Property
Disputes was set up by the House of Bishops last October, amid concerns that
future litigation could jeopardise the finances of dioceses and congregations.
The Bishop of Lexington, the Rt Revd Stacy Sauls, told ECUSA’s Executive
Council meeting in Philadelphia last week that it was important to be prepared
for an increase in the number of property disputes.