Little Rock, Ark.--A breakaway group of conservative Episcopalians recently wrapped up a winter strategy meeting here, saying they hold no animosity toward the Episcopal Church, even as they continue to challenge its leadership. The Anglican Mission in America met Jan. 17-20 for its second annual conference, which included about 500 clergy and laity from 27 states and six foreign countries.

The Anglican Mission in America was formed two years ago when a group of Little Rock Episcopalians sought oversight from a conservative overseas bishop in order to circumvent the leadership of its local bishop in 1998, and St. Andrew's Church was born.

Two years ago, two archbishops of the Anglican Communion, the Most Rev. Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda and the Most Rev. Datuk Yong Ping Chung of Southeast Asia, began consecrating new bishops to serve the mission to America. Eventually six bishops were named, including T.J. Johnston, pastor of St. Andrew's, who was consecrated a bishop last June. "Once a year the leaders, laity and clergy of the Anglican Mission in America are gathered as family to pray together, to wait upon God and to hear God's marching order for the new year," Yong said. "At this convention it's a very clear message that has emerged, that we need to be about the business of saving lost souls."

Lay leader Bill Haley said the Episcopal Church has the wrong priorities. "The vibrant witness to Jesus Christ is lost when the original church becomes more concerned about its institution than God," he said. Representatives of the Anglican Mission said they have no animosity toward the Episcopal Church U.S.A. and have not started a new denomination. "Orthodox Episcopalians need a place to go," said Fritz Rench, a spokesman for the group. "We are not a church. We are a mission of the Anglican Communion."

Still, the visiting bishops did not notify the Right Rev. Larry Maze, the Episcopal bishop of Arkansas, who calls the mission's consecration of bishops "irregular," of their meeting in Little Rock; notification has been a long-standing courtesy of the Anglican Communion. "Each of the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion are autonomous," said Yong, "but at the same time there is a relationship. Bishop Maze doesn't recognize us as any kind of whatever. There's not that kind of relationship. He doesn't recognize us."

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