June 25, 2009
Winds of renewal are blowing through the Anglican Church this week bringing refreshing hope to some and perhaps a shiver to others.
In Plano, Texas, Anglicans from the United States and Canada this week completed the organization of a new church devoted to traditional Anglican beliefs with the ratification of a constitution and canons. Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh was installed as the Anglican Church of North America’s first archbishop Wednesday evening.
This fledging organization is in response to moves made by the worldwide Anglican Communion to ordain homosexuals into the priesthood, bless same-sex unions, and implement other teachings seen by many as moving away from orthodox biblical and Anglican doctrines.
The new constitution states that orthodox Anglicans are “grieved by the current state of brokenness within the Anglican Communion prompted by those who have embraced erroneous teaching and who have rejected a repeated call to repentance.” Called “The Covenant,” this four-part document outlines the basics of the Christian faith as Anglicans have historically understood and practiced it. It also provides for accountability among Communion members. The Covenant was initiated by the 2005 Windsor Report that, in turn, was prompted by the crisis in the Anglican Communion created by deviation from Biblical teaching and morality in North America.
“Our hope is that the Anglican Church in North America is the re-constitution of a faithful church,” said Archbishop Duncan before the meeting. “We are specifically trying to re-constitute a Church whose chief concern is the mission, rather than governance. The notion of a Provincial Assembly focused on mission rather than governance is among our deepest hopes.”
The more than 800 delegates and attendees from as far away as South America, Africa and Asia represented millions of Anglicans. All attended to renew their commitment to the Gospel as written in the scriptures and traditionally practiced by the Anglican/Episcopalian church.
The Cracking Communion at Lambeth, 2008
Almost a year ago, the once-in-a-decade Lambeth Conference in Canterbury convened with the announced purpose of worship, study and discussion. But chaffing beneath the surface and expressed via boycotts and discussions were flashpoint issues of the ordination of practicing homosexual clergy, same-sex union blessings/marriages, and other moves away from orthodox practice and belief.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, upon whose invitation Lambeth Conference conferees attend, attempted to sidestep the most divisive issues by not inviting Reverend Gene Robinson, a homosexual bishop of the New Hampshire diocese. Robinson was elected to the bishopric June 7, 2003, sparking action between opposing factions in both the Anglican Communion and Episcopal Church.
In the end, Anglican Communion leadership placed a moratorium on making any decisions. And nobody was happy.
Reverend Peter Frank, spokesman at the time for the Anglican Communion Network, an evangelical renewal movement, predicted that “[n]ether side will wait for another 10 years to act. The moratorium will empower the innovative to be freer to act because they know that nothing on the radar will happen to them. However, it (the lack of any official decisions) will empower the defenders of the faith to be realistic, not count on the leadership, and organize within the structure. And they are in the majority.”
Frank’s prediction rang true this week with the formation of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).
A Historic Week of Union
Meeting June 20-21, prior to the assembly, The ACNA College of Bishops completed the election of five bishops and welcomed three bishops-elect.
In addition to the election of bishops, selection of an archbishop, and ratification of a new constitution, on week included several Christian leaders from other denominations. Tuesday the assembly heard remarks from Dr. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church and Metropolitan Jonah, the leader of the Orthodox Church in North America.
Warren reminded the audience to stay focused on God and his love for people. The work of the church, he said, was to preach the Gospel and make disciples. “Don't ask God to bless what you are doing. Do what God is blessing."
Along that theme and in context of the current lawsuits brought against many in the ACNA, Warren said, “The church has never been made up of buildings, it’s made up of people,” and “Christ did not die for property… You may lose the steeple, but you will not lose the people.”
Rekindling the oldest ecumenical relationship in Christian history, Metropolitan Jonah addressed delegates and attendees by saying, “I am seeking an ecumenical restoration by being here today. This is God’s call to us.”
Metropolitan Jonah represents the North American branch of the Orthodox Church, a Christian denomination with a long history of strong relationships with the Anglican Church. “We have to actualize that radical experience of union in Christ with one another. Our unity transcends our particularity,” he said.
This significant gesture represents the possibility of full communion being exchanged between the churches.
Metropolitan Jonah’s message focused on unity but contrasted beliefs between the two churches. United in upholding the authority of the Bible and uniqueness of Jesus Christ, the Orthodox Church and Anglican Church in North America differ on the ordination of women and other doctrinal issues. Despite this, Metropolitan Jonah told the audience “our arms are open wide.”
Jurisdictions that have joined together to form the 28 dioceses and dioceses-in-formation of the ACNA are: the dioceses of Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Quincy and San Joaquin; the Anglican Mission in the Americas (including the Anglican Coalition in Canada); the Convocation of Anglicans in North America; the Anglican Network in Canada; the Reformed Episcopal Church; and the missionary initiatives of Kenya, Uganda, and South America’s Southern Cone. The American Anglican Council and Forward in Faith North America also are founding organizations.
The ACNA unites some 100,000 Anglicans in 700 parishes into a single church.
Rebekah Montgomery, author/speaker/teacher, is a gifted, dynamic communicator. She is the author of more than five books and has penned 1,100 articles. She shares tough real-life topics and biblical application in a simple easy to grasp manner. To book Rebekah for your next event visit www.rebekahmontgomery.com. Rebekah is also the editor of Right to the Heart of Women and a publisher at Jubilant Press.