Almost a week before liberal bishops consecrated the first openly gay bishop in New Hampshire, conservative bishops from Canada and the U.S. met privately in Toronto to forge a new alliance. While they prayed fervently that Gene Robinson would repent and refuse the rite, they knew they had to have a plan in place if he was consecrated.

They felt too many dioceses and congregations across the continent could not, in good conscience, belong to a church body that defied biblical teaching on sexuality.

The new network, the Conference of North American Anglican Bishops, also met just hours before the Canadian House of Bishops held its semi-annual gathering in Mississauga. However, no public announcement was made at the HOB of the cross-border network. It was not revealed until Robinson’s consecration was confirmed.

“Conservatives are allying across the border now. That’s a pretty significant development,” said Chris Hawley, a spokesman for 11 conservative Anglican parishes in New Westminster. “I don’t think there’s ever been a cross-border allegiance of conservatives before.”

The Oct. 27 meeting was facilitated by the Essentials movement in Canada and the American Anglican Council.

Robert Duncan, bishop of Pittsburg, was enthusiastic about the new alliance. “In the U.S. and Canada, we face great challenges from the decisions of the General Convention to recognize same-sex blessings and confirm the blessing of Canon Gene Robinson, an openly gay candidate for bishop of New Hampshire. These decisions, like the action of the Diocese of New Westminster to bless same-sex unions, have had a terrible and destabilizing impact on the mission of the church.”

The bishops also drafted a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, informing him of their progress in providing oversight for those who remain committed to historical biblical faith and discipline. The new conference is planning a gathering for early 2004.

Canadian Bill Anderson, bishop of Caledonia in B.C., also endorsed the network. “This meeting has given new birth to new partnerships that I believe will bear great fruit for the Gospel.”

His words a few days later in the Canadian House of Bishops were blunt. Anderson said approving same-sex marriage “is sinful, heretical and schismatic.” He told Bishop Michael Ingham, who approves blessing same-sex unions, “Our souls are compromised if we go down the road you demand.”