In a ceremony in Singapore last year, two Anglican archbishops — one from Africa, the other from Asia — shocked leaders of the Episcopal Church by consecrating two Episcopal priests as bishops.
Then, the archbishops sent the men back to the United States to work as missionaries. Their constituency would include some conservative Episcopalians disaffected from their denomination, which like many other mainline Protestant churches is rattled by internal debates, particularly about whether to allow ordination of gay men and lesbians.
At the time, the consecrations were denounced by the Episcopal Church's top official, Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold III. He made it clear that he regarded the action as interference in the life of the 2.4 million-member church, which belongs to the worldwide Anglican Communion, an association of more than 30 churches, along with the Church of England, to which the others trace their roots.
Since then, a small movement has formed around the missionary bishops. It calls itself the Anglican Mission in America, now comprising 37 parishes, many that left the Episcopal Church and others that are newly founded or were not a part of it. (The Episcopal Church, by comparison, has 7,400 parishes.)