5/19/2010

The ACNA "Anglican Future" express is losing passengers.

The Anglican Church in North America, ACNA, is an amalgam of dioceses, networks, churches clergy all both attached to ACNA and often having parallel church connections in other bodies - in some cases existing Provinces of the Anglican Communion, in others in long established independent churches (the Reformed Episcopal Church), and churches begun by other Provinces as incursions into The Episcopal Church (AMiA & CANA). Many of the clergy and bishops that left The Episcopal Church hold license / canonical residence in the Global South, notably the Province of the Southern Cone. Since its inception there have been signs that the ACNA amalgam would be prone to disintegration.

Recent events seem to confirm that the fabric of ACNA is a bit thin in places, frayed in others. The leadership of the groups that left TEC with bishops who left - Duncan, Schofield, Iker and Ackerman - have been in disagreement about the ordination of women, Duncan ordaining and the three others not. While Duncan has made the case for living with the disparity, it is not clear that the ACNA will be able to do so.

Now there is the report that AMiA (Anglican Mission in the Americas) wants to change its status from full member to "mission partner." AMiA is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Church of Rwanda and they are apparently glad to remain with Rwanda.

So the upshot is that a considerable portion of the ACNA crew has some second thoughts about this particular train and is making sure options are secure and in their hands. It may well be that the Church of Rwanda will make some adjustments in the future by which AMiA folk can leave that jurisdiction for ACNA, but for the moment - no go. It may be that Forward in Faith US will eventually become smaller and smaller in number and more or more supportive of the ACNA position ordaining women as priest but not as bishops. But for now there is real difference when Duncan ordains women as priests. It may be one day that the Reformed Episcopal Church will really cease meeting as a separate college of bishops and work within the college of ACNA bishops, but not for now.

Jim Naughton has done a rough calculation of the numbers in ACNA. He says, "If you subtract the REC, which left TEC more than 130 years ago, the AMiA, which is no longer a member of ACNA and the Canadians, you end up deducting just over 37,000 members from the original figure of 81,000+. That leaves you with 44,000, which is 2 percent of the 2.2 million Episcopalians. I suspect that both the 44,000 and the 2.2 million are somewhat inflated. But I think 2 percent holds nicely as a shorthand." Remembering that of the ACNA number only a percentage are actually "former Episcopalians."

I stand totally opposed to AMiA, CANA and ACNA as purified Anglicanism in America. But to their credit, their forward edge - their mission directed stem cells - that speak of growing to 1000 congregations (ACNA) or reaching unreached North Americans (AMiA) do not make those goals based on pulling more Episcopalians away from The Episcopal Church (although I am sure they wouldn't mind doing so) but on being attractive to those who in the past would have perhaps come to TEC but are more conservative than they believe TEC is capable of being.

That being said, I am also sure that ACNA, AMiA and CANA will continue to mount the claim that TEC has abandoned the faith, thereby justifying their schismatic behavior. They will continue to talk about our falling numbers and their rising numbers. In that light it will be unfortunately necessary to continue to point out that over all, and over the long haul, ACNA will perhaps draw off 2 or 3 percent of TEC, pull another 2-5 percent away from TEC but not to them, and that the real drain on TEC will be low reproduction rate, stale story and stagnant mission life.

What we need is good reasons for people to be Episcopalians (including inclusiveness), inclusion of peoples other than our own (mission to new groups), and lively witness by Episcopalians already in place.

ACNA's train is becoming apparently less attractive. We need to be concerned about how we make our case for a better future.

4 comments:

  1. Fr. Mark,

    Can you elaborate on your statement: "AMiA is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Church of Rwanda and Rwanda".

    To the best of my knowledge, Rwanda does not claim any ownership interest in AMiA properties, etc.

    RalphM

    ReplyDelete
  2. RalphM...sure. The elaboration is that I goofed... the words "and Rwanda" were left over from another effort to write a sentence, a dangling half-thought. (Sigh... ) A sign that I am on the road doing really important things like going to a ball game with my son now in Boston with his family.

    Thanks for catching this.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi, Mark.

    I think you overstate the numbers leaving for the schismatic churches. The back of my envelope says 1-1.5% of TEC will leave for more conservative churches when all is said and done. I expect some in Pittsburgh and San Joaquin to return to TEC rather than lose their property. This is a microschism, and those opposed to women and homosexuals are a small minority in the church.

    As you touched on, the real tragedy is that so much of our time and energy is wasted on these stupid arguments rather than preaching the Gospels. If we put so much focus on growing the church, think what we might accomplish for Jesus!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Mark,
    I and others have stated the rather obivous need for the Epsicopal Church to focus on the "mission" and what makes us uniques years ago -- even before the "schism".

    Our losses continue because we are not focused on the obvious.

    "Frustration grows where water flows".

    ReplyDelete

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