3/10/2011

Well, How's It going in biblical, missionary and united Anglicanism in North America?

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

Our Mission:
Humanity
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?

8 comments:

  1. Based on The Dot and the Line, which was far better done, of course?

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  2. Mark, perhaps ACNA is in the adolescent rebellion stage, still trying to find themselves and establish their identity. Is it possible that they may yet grow into adult offspring of whom we can be proud?

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  3. Fr Mark,
    Let us not forget and in fact let us keep reminding everyone that will listen and even those who will not that ARCHBISHOP Duncan IS NOT.

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  4. There are a lot of codewords here, most notably “biblical.” “Biblical” implies the exclusion of both the historical Church and reason as sources of religious authority. It implies a literal (though selective) reading of the Bible in modern texts. This is the very antithesis of Anglicanism.

    Grandmère Mimi, don’t hold your breath.

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  5. God has always called forth the church to greater clarity of its teaching in response to heresy. As it was a great factor in producing the Creeds so it is in producing Anglicans in North America who actually aspire to, not just assent to, evangelism. The real issue is not that ACNA are biblical, missional and charismatic, but if they will actually be successful in the work of evangelism. That is fairly an open question. Time will tell.

    Assuming things don't accelerate, at current trends TEC should continue to decline something like another 13-15% over the next ten years. (Though I suspect declines will be higher like 20-25%.) If ACNA is to be what they say they are, they will not only grow at the current rate of 20-30% ANNUALLY but they will baptize significant NEW MEMBERS into the church as well. Right now, most of the growth is transfer growth from TEC and other increasingly liberal denominations. At the same time, the culture is less and less inclinded to Christianity. Most denominations are in decline, even some of the traditionally evangelistic denominations. And ACNA Anglicans have to get over the fact that the liberals have not only taken over their cherished TEC but have wrested most of the physical infrastructure from them as well.

    So yes, as an ACNA priest I can say that the verdict is still out. We will either share the gospel in culturally relevant ways and grow the church, or we will simply be a shift in church demographics for a season before following the eventual demise of TEC. Being able to buy shut down TEC buldings in 10 and 20 years would be a pyrric victory. Only winning new souls to Christ will please God.

    The really good thing about having your property taken from you is that it removes the giant lulling and somewhat subconscious lie that the building is the church. When the building is gone, the sight gets refocused on the right priorities. I have no doubt that in 20 years ACNA Christians will say the best thing God ever did for them was to take away their properties.

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  6. Rob, I could almost believe and accept your sincerity of belief in what you are doing in ACNA if you did not use the term “liberal” as an epithet and act as if liberal Christians were somewhat less than human. The fruits of your speech belie your words in claiming to want to spread the gospel. You sound like want to spread a political agenda instead. Nonetheless I am sorry that you and others have chosen to stand apart from us in the body of Christ. I could no more say to you that you are not a member than the hand could say to the foot that it is not a member. I’m sorry you can’t extend the same biblical courtesy to me, a liberal. Namaste

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  7. Brian, where did I say anything against liberals? Acknowledging membership decline and victory in the courts is factual not derogatory. And our properties have certainly been wrested from us in the courts. Where is the "less than human" coming from? I would think that "liberal" is a name you take to yourself with pride, both politically and theologically. So how is it derogatory?

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  8. “And our properties have certainly been wrested from us in the courts”.

    Lie! It’s OUR properties that people like YOU want to “wrestle from us,” The Episcopal Church!

    Kurt Hill
    Brooklyn, NY

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