Three years ago the Anglican Communion Network put together a short video about what they were about. Accompanied by a spooky piano background it took the viewer through a simplified graphic plan for what was to come, the mission to build a "biblical, missionary and united Anglicanism" in North America. Here is the video:
If one disregards the repeated title for several slides, there are only 111 words. They are as follows:
The Anglican Communion Network
Christianity 33% of humanity
Anglicanism 4% of Christianity
The Episcopal Church 3% of Anglicanism
The Episcopal Church has been the main Anglican body in the United States.
But The Episcopal Church is departing from Christianity
The Episcopal Church, in the process it is leaving behind a number of remnants.
Common Cause, Seven, with three Canadian groups, have formed the Common Cause Partners.
The Network, The Network is one of these Common Cause Partners
The mission of the Network is this:
To build a biblical, missionary and united Anglicanism in North America
Our Mission: To build a biblical, missionary and united Anglicanism in North America
The text is very simple, brief and very well done.
Its meaning is clear:
(i) The Episcopal Church is leaving Christianity, that is, it is heretical.
(ii) It is the remnant faithful that are partners.
(iii) They are a net - working to build a new single entity, a biblical, missionary and united Anglicanism in North America.
Now three years later the shift has been from the Anglican Communion Network, with its partners, to the Anglican Church in North America. The "partners" have been reduced in numbers, ACNA has been formed as a federation of churches, and there it is.
The slide of The Episcopal Church off the Anglican Communion sphere hasn't happened. ACNA hasn't become the recognized voice of Anglicanism in North America. The video is as yet an unfulfilled hope.
Still, how are they doing at being biblical, missionary and united, and how are they doing at being an expression of Anglicanism, never mind the true expression of Anglicanism in North America?
Biblical: That's mostly a hot button to show that they are real Christians and we in The Episcopal Church are not. There's nothing to suggest that ACNA is any more "biblical" than regular old Episcopalians. As far as I can tell ACNA reads the bible. TEC reads the bible. We are biblical, etc. What ACNA means, of course, is that they "conform" to the bible. They do so with reserve, although a different sort of reserve than TEC apparently. But they are unremarkable in their biblical formation.
Missionary: Well, as I have suggested elsewhere they are either quite missionary in their use of bishops, or they are simply top heavy, but to their credit they continue to have a strong emphasis on expanding the work to the unchurched. This is an important effort on ACNA's part. It would appear that they have about exhausted the recruitment from The Episcopal Church. Indeed, if the property issues result in return of some of the churches to TEC, they may loose some of the members who went with the prevailing group that held the property simply because it was their church of habit. The long term success of ACNA as a denomination among denominations will have to be, as it is with AMiA, to reach people not already Anglican who are attracted to a form of Anglicanism that they espouse. In terms of their efforts in mission elsewhere in the world ACNA has mission partners with whom they work and there it is.
United: This is, of course, the real problem. They are just barely united and unless there is something to suggest that they will be recognized by the Anglican Communion as a province, they are having to hang their Anglican hat on secondary hooks. Some member bodies in the ACNA federation have "dual" connections, one connection to ACNA and the other to another National or Regional Church of the Anglican Communion. Others, The Reformed Episcopal Church, for example, do not. Those who are a bit nervous about their continued relation to a church in the Anglican Communion will remain nervous so long as ACNA is not recognized. Then there is the matter of the ordination of women, as yet unresolved. It takes an amazing amount of intellectual juggling to allow the ordination of women as priests and disallow their ordination as bishops. Not all member churches of ACNA's federation will want to keep those balls in the air. Alternately, those churches not at all interested in women's ordination will keep saying they were right - disallowing ordination to women at all is the only way to go. So, on the matter of being "united," the jury is still out, and likely to remain so.
Meanwhile, ACNA's leadership has also tested out words and phrases that might also make it into the description of ACNA's future form. An Anglicans Ablaze blog notes, "In his address to the inaugural ACNA Provincial Assembly Archbishop Duncan described the ACNA as “truly evangelical, truly Catholic, and truly Pentecostal.” So there the descriptors, evangelical, catholic, and pentecostal are used
Frankly I am glad to see an Anglican body willing to consider itself "pentecostal." Anglicans are pentecostal, but its harder for us to say than then to use the word "evangelism." We should all be using that word more often, and with greater clarity of purpose.
Of course the problem with the Archbishop is that the says, "truly evangelical, truly Catholic, and truly Pentecostal." My guess he means truly those things as opposed to The Episcopal Church which is not so truly whatever.
How is ACNA doing? Doing what it can. It is apparently trying to use the right words to be inclusive in its own way - after all who can be against being biblical, missionary, united, evangelical, catholic and pentecostal? If you are any one of those might not ACNA be attractive?
The problem is ACNA still primarily identifies itself by what it is against, it is "truly" Anglican as opposed to the unChristian Episcopal Church. But aside from being a particularly conservative blend of the descriptors listed above it has nothing much to say. There is no final unity in negation, and barring negation what is ACNA saying that is particularly of interest?