North American Anglicans hold inaugural gathering

by
25 June 2009

by Pat Ashworth

First meeting: above: the ACNA Provincial Assembly in St Vincent’s Ca­thedral, Bedford, Texas, on Monday; left: the former Archbishop of Kenya, the Most Revd Benjamin Nzimbi, at the assembly PHOTOS ACNA

First meeting: above: the ACNA Provincial Assembly in St Vincent’s Ca­thedral, Bedford, Texas, on Monday; left: the former Archbishop of Kenya, the Mo...

REFORMATION is now under way, Bishop Robert Duncan told the inaugural gathering of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) in Bedford, Texas, this week.

Of the 800 people present, 234 are delegates from the 28 groups that have broken away from the Episcopal Church of the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada. Bishop Duncan, deposed from the Episcopal Church in 2008 and now a bishop in the Province of the Southern Cone, was due to be installed as Archbishop of the would-be province on Wed­nes­day at St Vincent’s Cathedral.

The assembly has ratified its canons and constitutions, and pro­claimed its support for the Anglican Covenant, which it would like individual dioceses to be able to adopt, rather than provinces. It has retained a declaration that says: “We are grieved by the current state of brokenness within the Anglican Communion, promoted by those who have embraced erroneous teaching and who have rejected a repeated call to repentance.”

ACNA says it has 693 congrega­tions, 81,311 worshippers, and an average Sunday attendance of 69,197. It seeks to become a legitimate province of the Anglican Com­munion. Its intention to replace the jurisdictions of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada was conveyed in a memo from the American Anglican Council in December 2003.

The memo declared: “Our ulti­mate goal is a realignment of Anglicanism on North American soil, committed to biblical faith and values and driven by Gospel mission. We believe, in the end, this should be a ‘replacement’ jurisdiction with confessional standards, maintaining the historic faith of our Communion, closely aligned with the majority of world Anglicanism” (News, 24 January 2004).

Bishop Duncan told the gathering: “There is a great reformation of the Christian Church under way. We North American Anglicans are very much in the midst of it. While much of Protestantism is finding itself adrift from its moorings — sub­mission to the Word of God — just like Western Anglicanism, there is an ever-growing stream of North American Protestantism that has re-embraced scripture’s authority, just as we have.”

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Bishop Duncan told the gathering: “There is a great reformation of the Christian Church under way. We North American Anglicans are very much in the midst of it. While much of Protestantism is finding itself adrift from its moorings — sub­mission to the Word of God — just like Western Anglicanism, there is an ever-growing stream of North American Protestantism that has re-embraced scripture’s authority, just as we have.”

He insisted: “There is no one here who would go back. I hear it over and over. There has been suffering and loss. Some of it was very wounding. But we are so much better off than we were before.” He called for a return to “that muscular Christianity that once reigned in these lands — no cross, no crown. No pain, no gain.”

Messages of support came this week from Anglican Mainstream: “It has been our privilege to stand with you in fellowship and prayer on these occasions as we battle for biblical orthodoxy and the truth of the Gospel in worldwide Anglicanism”; and from the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC): “We are especially grateful for your unity expressed among Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical traditions.”

The Revd Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in California, is reported to have “jumped at the chance” to address the gathering. He told them: “We are to love the people of the world, no matter what they believe; we are not to love the value system of the world. And the problem today is a lot of Christians are getting that reversed. They love the value system and hate the people.”

The Bishop of Seychelles (Indian Ocean), the Rt Revd Santosh Marray, and one of the Pastoral Visitors appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury for conflict resolution in the Communion, is present as an Anglican Visitor, representing the Anglican Communion Office. Canon Chris Sugden of Anglican Main­stream, the Ven. Norman Russell, Archdeacon of Berkshire, the retired Bishop of Paraguay, the Rt Revd John Ellison, and Bishop Alpha Muhammad of Tanzania, are also Anglican Visitors.

The Bishop of Seychelles (Indian Ocean), the Rt Revd Santosh Marray, and one of the Pastoral Visitors appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury for conflict resolution in the Communion, is present as an Anglican Visitor, representing the Anglican Communion Office. Canon Chris Sugden of Anglican Main­stream, the Ven. Norman Russell, Archdeacon of Berkshire, the retired Bishop of Paraguay, the Rt Revd John Ellison, and Bishop Alpha Muhammad of Tanzania, are also Anglican Visitors.

Official Anglican delegations have come from West Africa, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Southern Cone, Chile, Bolivia, Jerusalem and the Middle East, Myanmar, South East Asia, and Rwanda. Archbishops Benjamin Nzimbi (Kenya), Gregory Venables (Southern Cone), and Justice Akrofi (West Africa) were the only Primates present.

A potentially challenging situation has arisen in Northern Malawi, where the only candidate for the vacant bishopric is an American priest, the Revd Scott Wilson. His bishop and diocese are part of ACNA, but the Central African Province is not.

www.acnaassembly.org

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