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Anglican Communion in Crisis:
How Episcopal Dissidents and Their African Allies Are Reshaping Anglicanism
Miranda K. Hassett

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A Communion in Crisis?

THE WELCOMING RED DOORS of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church face onto the main street in a small southeastern town. Arriving at the church for the first time at 11 A.M. on a Sunday in mid-2001, I join the stream of members entering the nave, receiving bulletins and warm greetings from the ushers. Sitting among the parishioners of St. Timothy’s, I observe what looks to me like a typical Episcopal congregation: some diversity in age, but largely white and middle-class. The worship service, too, is familiar to me as a cradle Episcopalian. Apart from the addition of some praise and worship music, it closely follows the order of service from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer and takes its music from the Episcopal Church’s Hymnal 1982. There is little here to suggest an international identity—until the people of St. Timothy’s begin to talk about who they are. In the sermon and in the announcements, in the fine print on the bulletin that proclaims that this church is under the authority of the archbishop of Rwanda, in the sign on the lawn that informs passersby that St. Timothy’s is a member parish of the Episcopal Church of Rwanda, come the surprising clues that all is not as it seems.

What looks at first glance like an ordinary Episcopal church is actually part of a challenging and unprecedented global movement that has brought American Episcopalians into relationships with Anglicans in the global South—Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Although St. Timothy’s congregation and liturgy are in many respects typical of the national Episcopal Church to which the parish once belonged, St. Timothy’s has rejected its American denomination and affiliated with a poor African church. A growing socially conservative and religiously evangelical orientation among the leaders and members of St. Timothy’s, along with moves to the left by the larger Episcopal Church, created a divide that eventually proved irreconcilable. In mid-2000 the leadership of St. Timothy’s decided to separate the parish from the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA) and formally join the Anglican Church in the African country of Rwanda. In so doing, St. Timothy’s became one of approximately fifty churches making up a new church organization called Anglican Mission in America (AMiA). AMiA’s head bishops are themselves Americans and former Episcopal priests, who were consecrated as bishops in January 2000 by the archbishops of the Anglican provinces of Rwanda and South East Asia in order to lead and serve conservative Episcopal dissidents in the United States.

Nor are AMiA’s member parishes the only Episcopal or formerly Episcopal churches with newfound international connections. On November 26, 2000, a festival Evensong service filled the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, in Rosemont, Pennsylvania. Seventy people were confirmed, affirming their commitment to the faith of the church and receiving the laying on of hands by a bishop. Usually the rite of confirmation is performed by the local bishop, the church leader who holds authority over priests and church members within a given region or diocese. At the service at Good Shepherd, however, the two bishops who performed the confirmations came from far beyond the nearby diocesan headquarters in Philadelphia. These bishops came from South America and Africa to lay their hands upon the bowed heads of American Episcopalians, at the invitation of the leaders of Good Shepherd, who believe their American bishop is so radically liberal that he is not qualified to administer the sacrament of confirmation.


These two examples hint at the contours of a diverse and dispersed movement opposing liberal policies and leaders in the Episcopal Church in the United States. This movement brings together theologically and socially conservative Episcopalians with those of the same faith elsewhere in the world, especially in the global South. The Episcopal Church in the United States is a member province of a worldwide federation called the Anglican Communion, consisting of Anglican and Episcopal national and regional churches in Europe, Africa, Asia, and North and South America. These churches, though sharing a common bond of Anglican heritage, are diverse in their histories, their worship styles, their spiritual concerns, and their social and political orientations. Church services in Uganda, where I conducted part of my fieldwork for this book, differ from those at St. Timothy’s in everything from the music style to the dominant sermon themes. An increasing sense of alienation within the Episcopal Church, however, has motivated Episcopal conservatives like the people of St. Timothy’s and the Church of the Good Shepherd to seek allies in the global South who might share their positions and concerns.

Signs of tolerance for gays and lesbians in the national Episcopal Church, beginning in the early 1990s, made conservative Episcopalians feel increasingly oppressed and embattled.1 As a result, in the late 1990s they began looking for help from the Anglican world beyond the Episcopal Church, building a network of relationships and a common agenda with Southern Anglican leaders from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Some Southern bishops have responded to these calls, moved by a complex assortment of motives that include anger at the Episcopal Church, concern about Western morality and cultural dominance, and eagerness for strengthened relationships with American Christians and stronger roles in the worldwide Communion. Some speak out against the Episcopal Church, asserting that the Bible condemns homosexual practice and that churches may not condone immorality. Some assist by offering the rites that only a bishop can provide—confirmation, ordination to the priesthood, consecration as a bishop—to Episcopalians unwilling to accept those rites from their own bishops. Some claim jurisdiction over conservative Episcopal parishes, enabling these churches to declare their independence from the Episcopal Church. In all these ways, Southern Anglican leaders and their churches have become more and more intimately involved in struggles over morality and orthodoxy within the Episcopal Church.

Together, these Southern Anglicans and Episcopal dissidents constitute a profoundly influential movement within world Anglicanism. Their collaborative activism aims to establish conservative sexual morality within the Episcopal Church and to increase the influence of Southern Anglicans in the Anglican Communion, a goal attractive both to formerly marginalized Southern leaders and to American conservatives, who hope Southern Anglicans will exert a conservative moral influence on the global church. Working across national and provincial boundaries and through diverse channels and tactics, this transnational religious movement seeks to challenge policies and power structures—not those of particular nation-states, but of national and global Anglican institutions.

In this book, drawing upon textual sources, interviews, and fieldwork with Anglicans in the Church of Uganda and Episcopal dissident groups in the United States, I explore the history, dynamics, and implications of this transnational movement, focusing largely on the formative period of 1997–2002 with some attention to more recent events. I challenge the tendency among conservatives and liberals alike to explain the increased global activism of Southern church leaders as part of a long-term global historical shift in the center of gravity of world Christianity to the global South—a theory expounded by scholar of religion Philip Jenkins and widely invoked by observers of the current Anglican scene. I question whether such global-shift arguments constitute an adequate or helpful account of recent developments in the Anglican Communion. Working from my analysis of inter-Anglican North/South alliances, I argue that the globalization of Episcopal Church conflicts is not primarily due to the inevitable rise to prominence of conservative and zealous Southern Christianity.2 Rather, the increasing involvement of Southern Anglicans in the Episcopal Church and the global significance now widely ascribed to Episcopal Church events result primarily from the cooperative globalizing work of American conservative dissidents and a number of sympathetic Southern Anglican leaders since the mid-1990s. The Episcopal Church’s dissidents and their Southern allies are not merely carried along by global trends, but have actively shaped the character and impact of globalization on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.


Conservative in its agenda and outlook yet global in its membership and scope of action, this movement presents an intriguing challenge to common views of globalization and global movements. Globalization is a term of great currency and great complexity. The late 1990s and early 2000s were characterized by the proliferation of globalisms, or “endorsements of the importance of the global,” in economics, politics, culture, and religion.3 The terms “globalization” and “global” are invoked to refer to many different developments, including the worldwide spread of cultural elements, the domination of the world economy by transnational corporations, the increasing speed and accessibility of transport and communication technologies, and the new and subtle forms of domination of poorer countries by wealthier ones. Those of liberal or multiculturalist commitments are attracted to visions of globalization promising opportunities for cross-cultural sharing and increased self-determination for minorities and the poor.4 Capitalist elites around the world look favorably on globalization because it presents opportunities for flexibility, cost-cutting, and market-opening; defenders of cultural diversity and economic self-determination fear it for the same reasons. Some apologists for globalization argue that the persistent inequities of the global order are holdovers from the era of colonialism and that globalization will eliminate such problems; critics suspect that inequality is perpetuated and even produced in new ways by the processes of globalization.

Corresponding with this heightened public interest, scholars have taken an increasing interest in the global and globalization. Sociologists Zsuzsa Gille and Sean O Riain find that the number of sociological studies listing “globalization” as a keyword increased from 29 between 1985 and 1990 to 985 in 1998 alone. Similarly, anthropologist Susan Brin Hyatt, reviewing anthropological studies of globalization, observes that “globalization” has virtually replaced “culture” as anthropology’s “master trope.”5 Academic approaches to globalization are diverse, but most scholars agree that the term refers to transnational flows of capital, people, commodities, images, and/or ideologies.6 Moreover, the term suggests that such flows are increasing in speed and density.7 These processes mean that the world is becoming in some sense smaller, with remote encounters and relationships becoming increasingly important relative to more traditional face-to-face interactions.8

This increased networking has enabled the proliferation of global social and religious movements. A substantial scholarly literature examining such movements has developed. This literature, however, provides few parallels to the case I examine here. Studies of global religious movements or the impact of globalization on religious communities tend to focus on religious traditions defined as “other” by scholars in the Northern academy, such as fundamentalist Islam and Pentecostal Christianity. Few scholars examine globalization in the context of a mainline, Northern-headed religious body like the Episcopal Church or the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Furthermore, the conservative globalism of this Anglican movement challenges the assumptions of much of the existing scholarship. Recent years have witnessed increased scholarly and public attention to conservative religious movements that are worldwide in their scope and orientation. Yet observers of these movements tend to treat conservatives’ globalism as if it were merely a rhetoric or veneer over an underlying reactionary antiglobalism. In the theoretical literature, conservative religious movements are often explained as a retreat from the radical openness and interconnectedness of the global world into faith-based fundamentalism or, at least, parochialism. Globalization scholar John Tomlinson associates religion with security and locality, as against the insecurity and openness of globalization.9 Peter Beyer, in his book Religion and Globalization, identifies the conservative religious response to globalization as a retrenchment, a return to absolutes in the face of the relativization of identities brought about by increased intercultural contact.10 Sociologist Manuel Castells likewise argues that evangelical Christianity is essentially a reactive movement seeking a return to traditional values in the face of “the threat of globalization.”11 Castells contrasts such reactive movements “against the new global order” with “proactive” movements that engage productively with globalization, like the environmental movement.12 These scholars acknowledge that conservative religious responses to globalization reflect the forces and forms of globalization. But they, and many others who deal with these issues in depth or in passing, assume that the content of such conservative religious movements is always fundamentally antiglobalist, opposing the increased networking and exposure to difference that globalization brings. This conception of the relationship between religion and globalization may be summed up in Benjamin Barber’s dualism “Jihad versus McWorld”— with religion placed firmly on the side of reactionary resistance to globalization’s cultural and economic currents.13

At the same time, scholars examining global social movements tend to focus on progressive movements, such as the environmental and feminist movements and the movement against economic globalization. Compendia of case studies of transnational activism rarely include conservative movements, and if they are touched upon, they are usually described as reacting against globalization, rather than embodying it.14 This limited focus reflects the widespread assumption that progressive agendas are closely, even inevitably, linked with globalist orientations and movement structures. This literature, too, seems dominated by a dualism—that between corporate globalization (viewed negatively) and activist globalization within progressive social movement networks, a dualism epitomized by the clash between the World Trade Organization and anti-(corporate) globalization protesters.

In either the Jihad versus McWorld view of globalization or the WTO versus protesters view, no room seems to exist for a conservative religious movement that is substantively or, in Castells’s term, proactively globalist in its outlook and actions. Yet the transnational Anglican movement I focus on is both explicitly conservative and explicitly globalist. Simon Coleman, who has studied the globalism of Swedish Pentecostals, notes that movements can be conservative in fixing certain identities, doctrines, or behaviors while in other respects embracing global flows.15 Similarly, James Peacock observes that movements can simultaneously be conservative in their content and positively oriented toward the global context.16 This global Anglican movement’s fixed conservative content consists in its strong opposition to the acceptance of homosexuality. This position is literally conservative, both socially—in that the historical norm in movement members’ host societies has not been public acceptance of homosexual identities—and scripturally, in that the Church has traditionally not read scripture as permitting such acceptance. Furthermore, opposing the acceptance of homosexuality is associated with the conservative side both in American public debate and, increasingly, in many Southern societies.

Simultaneously, this globalizing conservative movement is engaged with the flows of the global context in many respects: its use of transportation and communication technologies, its efforts to build cross-cultural solidarity, its denial of the relevance of distance and geographical boundaries, and its express goal of replacing the Anglican Communion’s Euro-centric structure with transnational networks. This movement has had at least two distinctly proactive effects, heightening African Anglicans’ sense of importance and empowerment within the worldwide Anglican Communion and heightening American conservatives’ awareness of those living in the world’s poorer countries. These changes not only affect movement leaders but have also shaped the identities and thoughts of ordinary Anglicans and Episcopalians globally, in both the North and the South.

The mix of fixity and flow, of conservative content and global orientation, in this movement casts new light on scholarly debates about globalization. Many scholars describe globalization as merely a refinement of Western/Northern imperialism, but in analyzing this movement, the useful question is not simply whether or not it spreads Northern hegemonies. Rather, this movement’s hybrid nature demands attention to where and how it has extended or left intact Northern dominance, and where and how it has unsettled the old patterns of the Northern-headed global Communion. The fact that the alliances constituting this movement are largely initiated and maintained by the Northern partners, by virtue of their greater wealth, suggests that Northern dominance is one dynamic of these relationships. Northern conservatives’ need for the assistance of poor and globally marginal Southern Anglicans, however, creates a situation of surprising reciprocity.

Participants often describe these North/South relationships in terms of exchange: the Northerners share material resources, while the Southern partners lend their ecclesiastical rank, moral authority, and general spiritual wealth to Northern dissidents. This vision of exchange, which was the most commonly voiced description of North/South relationships I encountered in my fieldwork, encapsulates the widely shared model of a bifurcated world Christianity and the presumed characteristics of its Northern and Southern “halves.” One example of exchange talk comes from the website of the Ekklesia Society, a conservative American organization devoted to creating networks among bishops around the world:

Each Member, Each Region Shares Its Strength: . . . . Materially wealthy US parishes can be greatly enriched by contact with (and exposure to), preaching and evangelists from Asia and Africa. At the same time, sharing even a small percentage of the relatively opulent Western parish budgets can provide resources that will make a tremendous difference in areas of great poverty in the under developed nations which make up what is called the “two-thirds world.”17

An understanding of these relationships as fundamentally reciprocal views the materially poorer partners as sharing spiritual resources of equal or greater value than any material resources they may receive. The exchange model therefore represents an innovative solution to the common problem of asymmetry within global activist alliances, and may well be a significant reason these relationships are attractive to Southern Anglicans, who want to feel like partners rather than petitioners.


In my analysis I focus on the ways movement leaders and members not only have taken advantage of general processes of globalization but have also undertaken globalizing work themselves in the context of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. Certain aspects of globalization theory are useful in framing this analysis, particularly those addressing cultural and religious aspects of globalization, though inevitably economic and political aspects are intertwined with the circulation of ideologies, cultural products, and people in these Anglican networks. Approaches to globalization that focus on the lessening importance of geographic and cultural distance and the increase in long-distance relationships and global awareness are relevant to this analysis as well, to help explain the dynamics and conditions of possibility for these relationships. But although I take up some threads of globalization theory in the chapters that follow, I differ from many theorists in my fundamental approach.

I approach globalization neither as a defined process or teleology nor as primarily something that happens to people, but as something people do. In her 2000 article “The Global Situation,” anthropologist Anna Tsing called for greater scholarly attention to the production and propagation of particular global visions. Susan Brin Hyatt likewise argues that many scholars apply the concept of globalization too loosely and uncritically, thereby masking particularities and processes and perpetuating conceptual oppositions between the cosmopolitan, “globalized” North and the “local” societies of the global South. She suggests that the notion of globalization ought to be “textually resisted” or “written against,” rather than accepted and reified.18 Anthropologists have examined the concepts of “modernity” and “culture,” not by taking them for granted, but by critically analyzing how they are defined, circulated, and deployed; a similar approach should be taken with “globalization.”19

Such an approach involves looking at people fundamentally as authors of globalization, not as subjects or victims. As Coleman notes, “processes of globalization do not simply happen to believers; they also create them in their own image.”20 These Anglicans, Northern and Southern, are globalizing both the Episcopal Church, by insisting that its policies are globally significant, and the Anglican Communion, by challenging the historical dominance of the Northern provinces. My analysis of this movement’s development, based on ethnographic and textual data, demonstrates the effectiveness of globalizing as a strategy to change the balance of power in a situation of conflict. Globalization also serves here as a mobilization tactic in which, as Hilary Cunningham observes, “social actors appropriate distinctive kinds of global imagery and rhetoric to create new forms of activism.”21 Tracing the development of conservative Anglican globalism as a strategic response to particular circumstances of church conflict leads away from understanding “globalization” as a known process and into an examination of the relationships and motives of particular Anglican agents and groups, Northern and Southern, as they collaborate or clash in globalizing the Anglican world.

This movement has globalized the Episcopal Church by arguing for the relevance of the whole Anglican Communion as the appropriate frame of reference for events in the American church. Globalist discourses frequently involve the assertion, explicit or implicit, of the global scale—the whole world—as the appropriate frame of reference for whatever is at stake. Much of the globalist discourse among Episcopal dissidents and their Southern allies asserts that Episcopal Church policies are not only that province’s business but the world’s. Understanding the significance of this discursive move requires a basic understanding of worldwide Anglican polity. The Anglican Communion consists of nested jurisdictional structures.22 An individual Episcopalian belongs to a particular parish church; churches are aggregated into geographical jurisdictions called dioceses, overseen by a bishop. The Episcopal Church, for example, has roughly one hundred dioceses. Dioceses belong to national or regional churches, or provinces, such as the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, or the Anglican Church of Uganda. These provinces are constituent bodies of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Provinces have a high degree of autonomy in governance and are not normally involved in one another’s affairs, nor are the decisions of individual provinces usually held up for the approval of the worldwide church.

In arguing that the worldwide Communion should be considered and consulted in Episcopal Church policies, Episcopal dissidents are challenging the historical modus operandi of the Anglican Communion. The movement’s globalist assertions raise questions over matters of scale and authority that formerly had clear answers. Is a conflict between a priest and the bishop who oversees her or him contained by the boundaries of that bishop’s diocese, or can bishops from other dioceses in the province, or even from other provinces, legitimately intervene? Do individual Anglican provinces have the authority to separate themselves from another province in response to a decision made by that province affecting only its own constituents? The relevance of the global scale has itself become a contested strategic issue.23 The recent history of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion can be seen as a history of contention over what people, places, and connections have a role in resolving particular church conflicts.

In this book, drawing on my critical reading of recent Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion history and my fieldwork with Anglicans in the United States and Africa, I offer an account of conservative claims for the global scale as the appropriate frame for events in the Episcopal Church.24 This process of asserting the relevance of the global has had both discursive and practical aspects. Tsing and Coleman each distinguish between two aspects of globalization: ideas and discourses about the global, and material connections and flows or movements.25 My study of movement documents and my conversations with participants both reveal the articulation and circulation of discourses describing events in the Episcopal Church as of global relevance. Likewise, my research also casts light on the proliferation of networks physically connecting Anglican leaders from outside the United States with dissident groups and parishes in the Episcopal Church. The most symbolically powerful of these globalizing projects are interventions cutting across jurisdictional boundaries, which assert the global relevance of Episcopal Church events in visible and concrete terms—for example, in the form of a bishop from Congo, Uganda, or Rwanda laying hands on a dissident Episcopalian to confirm, ordain, or consecrate. In the chapters that follow, I trace the parallel development of projects and discourses as this Anglican globalism has taken shape. I analyze the evolution and outcomes of these globalist ideas and tactics from 1997, when this movement first coalesced, through 2002, though I also touch on later developments. In this task of description and analysis, I “write against globalization” by revealing how this Anglican globalism works—how it has developed and spread and how it has been enacted, negotiated, and challenged along the way.

A note on terminology may be helpful here. My use of the term “discourse” in describing the spread of globalist vocabulary does not mean that these things are just talk. As used by scholars in the social sciences and humanities, the term “discourse” does not imply that something is not “real.” Rather, discourses can be powerfully constitutive of reality. Widely accepted discourses can shape and even determine what people count as salient problems and rational solutions. Perspectives and actions that do not make sense in terms of a dominant discourse may be misinterpreted or ignored altogether. To refer to globalization as a discourse (or, more accurately, as a set of interrelated discourses) is not to suggest that globalization is not real. It is, instead, to indicate that the reality of globalization is located in the ways people and institutions think and talk in global terms, as well as in the myriad ways that thinking and talking produce projects making globalization manifest.


Central to the globalist discourse of this Anglican movement is the idea of a shift in world Christianity from North to South, and I examine the use and implications of this vision of the globe. The idea of global shift is often invoked by movement members and observers as an explanatory framework for collaborative North/South activism opposing the Episcopal Church. This vision of global Christian reconfiguration consists in a narrative of the decline of the churches of the North (Europe and North America), beset by modernism and secularism, and the concomitant rise in vitality and influence of the churches of the global South, characterized by a zealous, conservative scriptural faith. According to this narrative, this rising Southern Christianity—what Philip Jenkins names as the “inexorable” coming of “the next Christendom”—constitutes the force with which Northern Christians must reckon.26

This view of North/South division subsumes the rhetoric of “culture wars,” the language of conservative/progressive polarization prevalent in the 1980s and early 1990s. In the past, Episcopal Church conflicts were often described in the culture wars discourse of polarization then common in American society.27 Today similar conflicts are instead described in terms of a new vision of global moral polarization. American conservatives describe themselves as a “faithful remnant” struggling to survive the North’s moral decline, and thus as natural allies of Southern Christians. In addition, travelers and scholars often describe Southern Christians as “conservative,” inviting the assumption that their conservatism corresponds to that of American dissidents. Conservative Episcopalians, in identifying with Southern Christians, seek to minimize the significance of geographic distance and cultural difference, exemplifying the growing irrelevance of national boundaries seen by some scholars as a central dynamic of globalization. American dissidents hope to transcend their Northernness and ride the rising wave of Southern Christianity to a renewed and realigned Anglicanism that reflects their values and convictions.

The global-shift vision, propagated by conservative dissidents and popularized by Jenkins’s work, has become widely accepted in the Episcopal Church and other mainline American bodies. But although it is true that Christianity in the global South has grown dramatically in recent decades, the character of these churches and the implications of this growth are more complex than the global-shift model suggests.28 Anthropological analysis shows that “North” and “South” as categories bear little descriptive or explanatory value. Yet preconceived ideas about the North and South play an important role in shaping North/South relationships such as those between Episcopal dissidents and Southern Anglicans. I offer here not a further reification of these categories, but an illustration of how their logic is propagated and becomes part of people’s understandings of the world.

The extent to which global-shift language has become dominant in talk within and about the Episcopal Church was vividly illustrated in the controversy surrounding the Episcopal Church’s decision to consecrate a gay man as a bishop a year after I finished this research. In the summer of 2003, the national General Convention of clergy and lay (nonordained) leaders of the Episcopal Church voted to accept Gene Robinson, an openly gay and partnered man, as the next bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire. This decision, and Robinson’s subsequent consecration in November 2003, drew an intense outcry from Anglican leaders around the world.29 Several Anglican provinces broke off relations with the Episcopal Church, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, formal head of world Anglicanism, convened a commission to examine the implications of Robinson’s consecration for Anglican unity. Even the secular press gave the situation considerable attention; the New York Times and National Public Radio carried frequent updates on Anglican news during the summer and fall of 2003.

The vocal international response to Robinson’s consecration led many Episcopalians and observers to conclude that this event had unprecedented global implications. Conservatives argued that the international outrage proved that the Episcopal Church had abandoned “the Global Anglican tradition” and that permitting homosexual clergy was an absolute moral error, qualitatively different from previous changes that eventually became widely accepted (such as the full inclusion of racial minorities and the ordination of women).30 Liberals in the church, too, saw the controversy in global terms. One liberal Anglican source stated, “The threat of [global] schism over the election of a gay bishop is like nothing the Church has ever seen before. The response isn’t just larger and more organized. It’s also global.”31

This global response to Robinson’s consecration was widely attributed, in both church-related and secular sources, to the worldwide reconfiguration of Christianity. In such sources, Episcopal Church events are described as of global significance because they represent the waning of Northern Christianity and thus demand the intervention of the orthodox, zealous Christian South. An editorial in the Dallas Morning News, covering a meeting of conservative Episcopalians to plan their reaction to Robinson’s consecration, makes reference to this global-shift narrative: “[Conservatives] may be on the losing end of [the debate over homosexuality] within the Episcopal Church, but their meeting is worth considering in the context of a worldwide struggle that may transform Christianity in this century.” Conservative Episcopalians called for a “dramatic realignment” of worldwide Anglicanism, separating the “archbishops of the dynamic Global South and the archbishops of the disintegrating Old West.”32

The response to Gene Robinson’s election and consecration is truly unprecedented in scope. Past seasons of conflict in the Episcopal Church’s history have not been accorded such global significance. In the late 1970s a group of conservative Episcopalians broke from the Episcopal Church in response to the national church’s revision of its liturgical manual, the Book of Common Prayer, and the decision to ordain women to the priesthood. The dissidents of that era issued no global appeals for help and received no global responses. Yet although the scope of the controversy over Robinson was unprecedented, it should not have been unexpected, given growing ties between American conservatives and Southern Anglicans.

The outrage of African, Asian, and Latin American bishops concerning Robinson’s consecration may be due in part to a large-scale historical process in which Northern Christianity’s traditional dominance is giving way to Southern Christianity. Such an assertion is difficult to prove or refute without the long-term perspective that only time can bring. But it is clear that the global response in the Robinson case was also due to the recent history of alliance building and globalizing carried out by American conservatives and sympathetic Southern Anglicans.33 This globalizing work has profoundly entangled two processes: first, the growing power and assertiveness of Southern Anglicans in an Anglican Communion still struggling with the implications of decolonization; and second, American conservatives’ search for Southern allies to help discipline the Episcopal Church. As a result, Episcopal Church politics over doctrine and morality have become wrapped up with Anglican Communion politics over inclusion, decolonization, and power. This entanglement, in large part, constitutes the conditions under which the Episcopal Church’s vote to accept a gay bishop is seen as having—and, perhaps, actually has—the potential to provoke a total realignment of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

In exploring how we arrived at this point, I am laying out a history that, though recent, seems now in danger of being forgotten. The vision and language of “global shift,” of rising Southern Christendom and worldwide realignment, so pervades perceptions of current events in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion that it is difficult to step back and recall that this interpretation is not inherent in the events themselves. The degree to which this vision of the Anglican Communion now seems self-evident masks another perspective from which it appears quite surprising. I first undertook this research because I was intrigued, as both an anthropologist and an Episcopalian, by developing alliances between some unlikely allies: American social conservatives, commonly stereotyped as having little interest in including the marginalized, and Southern church leaders, whose demands for greater influence threaten the Northern-dominated status quo. When these groups first began to collaborate, many observers expressed perplexity or cynicism at the puzzling convergence of interests between these constituencies. Today, however, the naturalization of these alliances through the language of global shift has muted curiosity about how they came about.

The premise that the Anglican Communion has reached a moment of crisis in North/South relationships primarily as a result of a global shift in world Christianity deserves critical scrutiny. Instead of explaining the Communion’s predicament on the basis of large-scale historical trends, I present here some of the particular people, places, interests, and motivations involved in bringing about the current situation. This story is both more complex and more interesting than the oft-invoked grand narrative of Northern moral collapse and Southern Christian triumph, which is compellingly simple and dramatic, yet largely bereft of historical or ethnographic grounding.


The complex entanglement of Northern and Southern aspects, and of Episcopal Church–level with Anglican Communion–level dynamics and implications, demands a multifaceted analytical approach incorporating ethnographic fieldwork. The empiricism and potential for nuanced qualitative analysis of ethnographic study make it ideal for exploring processes of globalization and moving beyond a reductionist North/South model of contemporary Anglicanism. Rather than taking the categories of Northern and Southern Christianity as given, my approach, based on participant-observation, interviewing, and reading of relevant texts, allows an analysis of how ideas about Northern and Southern Christianity play into these relationships, sometimes challenged, sometimes confirmed; sometimes enabling, sometimes constraining. I demonstrate that these new transnational alliances are best understood not as by-products of a global moral shift but as the work of particular people and groups striving to live their faith, achieve their strategic aims, and create new ways to be Anglican together.

The fieldwork component of my research was multi-sited in order to capture the complexity of this situation. Anthropologists, qualitative sociologists, and others have remarked upon the need for multi-sited research designs for studies of global institutions and relationships.34 In their review of ethnographic approaches to the global, Gille and O Riain describe such research: “Multisited research is designed around chains, paths, threads, conjunctions, or juxtapositions of locations. . . . What ties together fieldwork locations is the ethnographer’s discovery of traces and clues, her logic of association. The methodological imperative of being there is replaced by that of chasing things around” (emphasis added).35 Whereas in traditional ethnographic research, the anthropologist would spend extended time in one site, “being there,” I divided my time between two sites and structured my research questions around tracing connections between American and African people and places. In anthropologist Ulf Hannerz’s terms, I explored one field that consists of a network of localities—a network including my primary fieldsites, domestic and international conferences, and other interconnected sites.36

The central set of connections I followed were those between an American parish, now under African ecclesial leadership, and one of its African associations. At the first service I attended at St. Timothy’s, my American fieldsite, the visiting preacher was an American priest and former conservative Episcopalian activist who had since moved to Uganda to work for the church there. The presence of this American priest, bringing greetings from Uganda to an American parish under the authority of the archbishop of Rwanda, is one direct connection between the sites of my ethnography. This conjunction of people and places also hints at the much wider circulations of people, objects, and discourses that connect the Church of Uganda—together with a number of other African, and some Asian, Anglican provinces—with conservative Episcopal dissidents.

When I heard that sermon at St. Timothy’s, I had already chosen the Church of Uganda as the site for my African fieldwork because the names of Ugandan bishops, Ugandan sites, and even Ugandan martyrs often came up in textual materials associated with Episcopal conservative activism. Although the Province of Rwanda is the African province best known for its involvement with the conservative Episcopal cause (see chapter 5), the Church of Uganda has multiple lines of connection to the conservative Episcopal movement as well. A 2001 analysis of conservative Americans’ growing relationships with African Anglicans commented that “Ugandan bishops make up the largest contingent in [the Episcopal Church’s] right wing’s growing international network.”37

In moving between St. Timothy’s and my central sites in Uganda, both literally in the course of my fieldwork and now metaphorically in my writing and analysis, I follow North-South trails in order to clarify the meanings, dynamics, and implications of such connections. What I “chased around,” as the uniting theme in this multi-sited research, was talk and ideas about the Northern (or American) and Southern (or African, or Ugandan) Anglican churches, their respective strengths and weaknesses, and how they do and should relate to each other as sister churches in the worldwide Anglican Communion.


The American component of my fieldwork consisted of four months with St. Timothy’s Church, a parish in the southeastern United States that broke from the Episcopal Church and placed itself under the authority of the archbishop of Rwanda. I chose St. Timothy’s because I wanted to focus on a parish that had broken from the Episcopal Church in the United States and formed new African associations. I contacted the rector, asking permission to do research on the congregation, and he and the vestry agreed to welcome me. At St. Timothy’s I participated in worship services, prayer groups, discussions, and other events, paying particular attention to the congregation’s self-understanding in relation to the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion, the Anglican Church in Rwanda, and American and African Christianity more generally. I also interviewed approximately sixty leaders and members of this congregation face to face and several leaders in other conservative parishes and organizations by phone. In these interviews, I focused on how these individuals see their relationships with Southern churches as solutions to their conflicts with the Episcopal Church.

In addition to my work in this American fieldsite, my husband and I spent almost six months in central Uganda, where I studied the Anglican Church of Uganda. Working in Uganda gave me the opportunity to explore the character of lay support for Southern leaders’ involvement in global church politics, as well as Southern laypeople’s ideas about Northern and Southern churches and their relationship. This fieldwork was particularly essential because Southern perspectives on these alliances are underrepresented in movement documents, partly owing to Southern Anglicans’ limited access to the Internet. The extent to which the Church of Uganda is truly “typical” of other Southern Anglican churches in these matters could be ascertained only through much more extensive field research, but my work in Uganda nonetheless offers at least a limited look at the realities of Southern Anglicanism, and my occasional quotations of other African bishops demonstrate that church leaders in many other African countries have much in common with their Ugandan colleagues.

I focused my attention on the services and other events, teaching, and talk at Uganda Christian University (UCU), an Anglican seminary and university located twenty miles outside the capital city of Kampala.38 I chose UCU because many Americans and other Northerners visit the campus, making it a nexus of North/South relations. In addition, the academic community provided a comfortably familiar atmosphere, and the location permitted easy access to churches and provincial offices in Kampala. In Uganda, my fieldwork was less focused on a single site than it was in the United States, though UCU provided both a home and a primary site for my day-to-day learning about Ugandan Anglicanism, and I interviewed many of its staff and students. I took a broader approach in Uganda because I sought the kind of general familiarity with the Ugandan church that I had with the American church. Furthermore, the small size of Uganda (and my status as an American researcher) made it relatively easy to travel to different dioceses and meet with different bishops.

In addition to UCU and the adjacent cathedral, I observed and interviewed at other Anglican parishes in the Kampala area, including Namirembe Cathedral. I interviewed a number of provincial officials and bishops, usually by traveling to their offices. My husband and I also traveled to dioceses in Rwanda and western Uganda that had significant contact with transnational Anglican dissident networks, and I interviewed laity and leadership in these locations. I found little regional variation among Ugandans in views regarding North/South relationships; hence, I offer my findings as generally descriptive of the Church of Uganda as a whole.39 Although I sometimes targeted particular individuals (especially leaders involved with these alliances) for interviews, in both Uganda and the United States my search for consultants usually followed the pattern of “snowball sampling,” asking each consultant for recommendations of other people I ought to talk with. I completed about seventy interviews in my Uganda research, including interviews with bishops from nine of the Church of Uganda’s twenty-two dioceses.

The Ugandans quoted in this text represent a broader range of positions in the church than those of the Episcopalians quoted. My Episcopal consultants were largely actively involved in the dissident movement, with the exception of a few moderate or liberal leaders I also interviewed for their perspectives. I quote a wider range of Ugandans partly to provide a fuller perspective on the Ugandan church, less familiar to many of my readers, but also to illustrate that the Ugandan church is not sharply divided on questions of morality or the relative merit of Northern and Southern Christianity in the way the American Episcopal church is divided. Although I discovered a range of opinion on these issues among Ugandans, a generally coherent sense of the quality, position, and power of African Christianity emerged from my Ugandan interviews. My account of Ugandan attitudes thus integrates the views of Ugandans of various liturgical and social ranks and leanings, while my account of American attitudes is focused only on the dissident conservative wing of the Episcopal Church.

In approaching prospective consultants in both countries, I told them that I was an anthropology student at the University of North Carolina, working on a research project for my dissertation. I explained that I wanted to learn about relationships between Anglicans in the United States and Africa, about conflicts within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, and about similarities and differences between churches in the United States and Africa. Nearly everyone I approached was willing to talk with me, and most had thoughts about some or all of these issues. I suspect the facts that I was engaged, and then married, during my year of field research helped me to be accepted comfortably by my consultants and communities; it reassured people that, though inquiring about issues surrounding homosexuality, I myself was safely heterosexual. In Uganda, when my husband was with me, a few consultants were so much more comfortable in his presence that we had a hard time convincing them that I was the one to talk to. My acceptance into my field sites was also eased by the fact that I am a practicing Episcopalian and was willing to participate in worship with my consultants, which was a tremendous help in establishing rapport. My Episcopalian identity also raised the question of my position vis-à-vis current church conflicts. However, few of my consultants in either the United States or Uganda ever asked my opinion. Some probably assumed I shared their views, though I suspect that my status as a woman pursuing higher education at a secular university led others to guess that my personal sympathies were with the liberal side. In explaining my work and framing my interview questions, I endeavored to convey my commitment to conducting this research, not as any sort of ecclesio-political exposé, but as a search for fuller understanding of dissidence within my own church and Communion. Apparently my consultants were satisfied with this, and willing to help.

All the names of individuals quoted in the chapters that follow (as well as the name of St. Timothy’s parish) are pseudonyms.40 The atmosphere of division and mistrust surrounding the issues I was concerned with in the Episcopal Church and abroad complicated the issue of citing my consultants. Anthropologists normally use pseudonyms to protect the privacy of the community and individuals studied; the conflictual context of my research made such protection all the more important. For Ugandans to speak frankly about their experiences with American visitors, sponsors, and hosts; for members of a dissident Episcopal parish to talk freely about the details of their long struggle with their former bishop; and for leaders in the dissident movement to discuss matters of past and present strategy that other leaders might not wish disclosed, I had to be able to make assurances about the protection of my consultants’ identities. I have tried to provide readers with some details about the consultants I quote—age, gender, position in the church, placement in terms of larger debates and divisions. In the cases of some prominent church and organizational leaders, however, I have altered details to further protect identities, while still seeking to retain some sense of such individuals’ significance as leadership voices.

My consultants in both the United States and Uganda included both laity and clergy. Although many of the controversial actions and relationships I focus on primarily involve a limited number of church leaders and activists (both Northern and Southern), I have found lay perspectives to be an important part of the whole picture of how and why these new transnational Anglican relationships developed and what they mean for the present and future of the Anglican Communion. Local church communities are tied together in various ways through this movement’s globalizing projects, and they participate in the circulation and elaboration of globalist visions.

Although my consultants represent a diversity of ecclesiastical roles, they are less diverse in terms of gender proportions. The vast majority of the consultants quoted here, both American and Ugandan, are male. This reflects not a bias of my fieldwork but the reality that lay and clerical leadership in both the American and the Ugandan churches is predominantly male. This is less true in the United States, but the American conservative movement is more male-dominated than the church at large. Evangelical Episcopalians do not all oppose women’s ordination, but these churches tend to be more socially conservative and thus maintain a tradition of male spiritual leadership. Female voices, both American and Ugandan, do appear in this book, but almost all are those of laypeople.

In addition to the interview and observational data I gathered, textual data sources have also been central to my research. Hannerz has observed that “text and media studies take up a central space in many contemporary field studies,” because of the character of today’s information-based society and the multi-sited fieldworker’s need to utilize all available data sources.41 My analysis integrates a critical reading of a variety of texts dealing with Episcopal Church, Church of Uganda, and Anglican Communion politics, produced by sources of various leanings (conservative, moderate, or liberal within the church, as well as the outside press) and in various genres (expository, persuasive, and declaratory). These texts have been used both as sources of historical data, to fill in the record of events from the years preceding my research, and as sources of data concerning the development and contestation of particular discourses about homosexuality and morality, the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion, and the global North and South. I draw extensively on the wide range of texts produced and distributed by conservative Episcopal individuals and organizations, frequently by means of the Internet, though also as mailings, press releases, and so on. As a vocal minority seeking wider support, conservative Episcopalians have been prolific in producing and circulating such texts, not only among their immediate allies but also, where possible, to larger audiences, including Southern Anglicans. These conservative Northern sources provide a vast body of data for tracking the development of particular ideas and discourses as conservative Anglican globalism has evolved and spread.


In chapter 1, I present relevant background and history for understanding the rest of the book. I describe the history, character, and current concerns in the Church of Uganda and the Episcopal Church in the United States, respectively, and use the issue of homosexuality to illustrate the divergent perspectives of moderate/liberal Episcopalians, and conservative Episcopalians, regarding scripture, orthodoxy, and morality.

Chapter 2 presents an account of the development of conservative Episcopalians’ globalist discourses and projects, in cooperation with Southern Anglican leaders. Frustrated by their failure to maintain or restore orthodoxy, as they understood it, in the Episcopal Church, certain Episcopal conservatives began in 1996 and 1997 to reach out to Southern church leaders. At meetings before and during the 1998 worldwide conference of Anglican leaders in Lambeth, England, American conservatives and Southern church leaders developed networks, shared their concerns, and strategized to pass a conservative resolution on sexual morality at that conference. In chapter 3, I take up questions of Northern hegemony within this movement as I continue my analysis of Lambeth 1998, exploring Southern views of homosexuality and Lambeth’s other central issue of international debt forgiveness.

In chapter 4, I recount the ways in which the Lambeth Conference of 1998 was experienced and portrayed as a North/South battle, despite efforts by organizers to stress themes of global inclusiveness and unity in diversity. I describe and analyze Northern conservative “accountability globalism,” an ideology of global scale first fully articulated in talk about Lambeth immediately following the Conference. This globalist discourse served as the foundation for Northern conservatives’ post-Lambeth efforts to seek international assistance in enforcing the Lambeth sexuality resolution.

Chapter 5 begins with a brief account of the founding of the transnational dissident organization Anglican Mission in America and its implications and reception. I then broaden the picture, describing several other globalizing projects—in the form of activist North/South alliances, parallel to AMiA—that developed in the period following Lambeth 1998. I explore the depth of the impact of such globalizing projects through an account of how these transnational relationships are talked about in the congregational life of St. Timothy’s, a member parish of the AMiA. This chapter completes my analysis of how, from the late 1990s through 2002, the Anglican globalist ideologies and projects endorsed by conservative Northerners and many Southern Anglicans developed, spread, and mutually reinforced one another.

In chapters 6 and 7, I take up the ways in which this innovative conservative Anglican globalism, in its discourses and practices, transforms or re-creates established patterns of Northern dominance within the worldwide Anglican Communion. Chapter 6 examines the discourses used to explain and justify such transnational Anglican relationships, especially images of the churches of the global North and South. An analysis of assumptions about the degree, character, and source of African Christian moral authority, or spiritual capital, provides the substance for this chapter. I lay out the common arguments that African Christian moral authority derives from African Christian youth, zeal, numbers, suffering, and poverty, giving particular attention to the ways Ugandan Christians both use and question these discourses, and to the continuity of this language with colonial constructions of the global South.

Money, power, and influence are the topic of chapter 7. In this chapter, I start with an account of mutual accusations exchanged between Northern liberals and conservatives that the other side is trying to use money inappropriately to influence Southern bishops. I then turn to the implications of such accusations in the African context, and in Uganda in particular. I describe the general cultural-economic predicament of the Ugandan church and society in relation to American cultural and economic power. I use the case of the controversy over Integrity-Uganda, a Ugandan Anglican gay-rights organization, to explore the dimensions and dynamics of influence and agency that emerge in Ugandan talk about North/South relationships. I argue that the question Americans tend to ask—Are African leaders doing this for money, or not?—is too stark and simplistic a question in the Ugandan context; and that, in spite of the best efforts of many, the material inequality between Northern and Southern partners in these transnational alliances continues to subtly determine patterns of thought and relationship.

In chapter 8, I return to the North/South conflict and the global-shift thesis, particularly to the ways that Philip Jenkins’s work has been taken up by conservatives in the Episcopal Church as a description and justification of current developments in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. I look ahead to the implications of widespread acceptance of this polarized global vision, questioning whether this view of the worldwide church, even as it has undeniably made Anglicans around the world more aware of one another, may also have undermined the potential for greater global mutual understanding.


Throughout this project, I have often thought of a line by Agha Shahid Ali, from the introduction to Faiz’s The Rebel’s Silhouette, which I noted down long ago: “Someone of two nearly equal loyalties must lend them, almost give them—a gift—to each other and hope that sooner or later the loan will be forgiven and they will become each others’.”42 I began this research as I complete it, as someone with two nearly equal loyalties: to the analytical perspectives and central questions of my discipline as an anthropologist, and to the Anglican tradition to which I belong.

I took up what would become the first threads of this project during my first year of graduate study in anthropology, as a project for an ethnography class. I had then only recently learned of the existence of the Continuing Church movement—the body of small breakaway American Anglican churches formed in the late 1970s. I decided to try my ethnographic skills at a local Continuing Church congregation in order to reach an understanding of why people would want to leave the church in which I had been raised. Now, after following those threads of discord from the Continuing Churches to the study of more recent divisions and alliances, after reading countless documents, holding countless conversations, hearing countless sermons and discussions, I have arrived at some understanding of why people are angry at, and choose to leave, the Episcopal Church. But I have also gained a greater understanding of why people love it, and choose to stay.

Both burdened and enlightened by all that I have learned of loyalty and loss, I offer this account of recent conflicts in the Episcopal Church. This work is too partial, no doubt, in both senses of the word—in some areas, too incomplete; in others, too much informed by one or another of the contested positions in the current Anglican world. But I have tried, sometimes with conscious struggle against my eagerness to offer my own solutions or conclusions, to avoid adjudicating on matters of debate. Instead I have striven to cast light on the terms of debate themselves: how Episcopalians and Anglicans came to be arguing about these particular issues, in these particular ways, among these particular parties. In his incisive piece on the anthropology of Islam, Talal Asad concluded with a note on the challenges of writing about contemporary religion: “There clearly is not, nor can there be, such a thing as a universally acceptable account of a living tradition. Any representation of tradition is contestable.”43 My account of current debates in the Anglican tradition will no doubt be contested; my hope is that people on all sides of current debates will find an equal measure in this text with which to take issue. I ask that my readers, especially those with hearts and minds invested in these disputes, will accept this work in the spirit in which it has always been intended—as a gift.

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File created: 8/7/2007

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