Saturday, December 6, 2008

THE FUTURE OF THE ANGLICAN CHURCH IN NORTH AMERICA

People are asking two questions about the Anglican Church in North America:

1. Does ACNA want recognition as part of the Anglican Communion?

2. What makes ACNA different from the alphabet soup of continuing bodies in North America?

To some extent the answer to both these questions is: GAFCON!

The GAFCON Final Statement not only makes clear that the participants, including all those who are in ACNA, wish to be part of the Anglican Communion but they consider themselves to BE part of the Communion. Would they like recognition by the “Instruments” of the Communion? Sure. Do they consider that such recognition is the only means of recognition? No, they do not. Are they willing to wait for full and final recognition in a reformed Communion? You bet.

Secondly, the Global Anglican Future Conference itself was a sign of something new in the Communion: a movement, not a moment, as we said. Pulling off the conference was something of a miracle and showed the high degree of commitment and creative energy behind this movement. It was the fruit of a global alliance that has been developing for more than a decade (see Miranda Hassett’s Anglican Communion in Crisis). This is not Naughton’s bevy of gay-bashers and “handful of likeminded leaders in Africa” (Jim, think Nigeria! think Uganda). I have personally been on the ground floor of much of this movement and tell you the relationships that were manifest at GAFCON are rich and deep.

Finally, GAFCON endorsed and encouraged the Common Cause leaders to move ahead. Let me observe that the North American leadership represented in the ACNA College of Bishops represents much of the best talent that has grown up in the Episcopal Church since the 1970s. Most of these leaders were successful parish priests who in a better world would have been bishops in TEC. Most of them, even the Anglo-Catholics, have a strong commitment to church growth and world evangelization. Many of them and their congregations have made hard choices to leave their property behind and start over. They are risk-takers. And above all, they really do believe in the grace of God working through His Church.

The way ahead is not going to be easy for anyone at this point in history. We are dealing with an increasingly secularized society in the USA, and in many parts of Africa and Asia an aggressive Islam backed by oil money. What are the alternatives? A dying TEC? The Communion Partners, I think, can hold their own territory and get the endorsement of the Communion hierarchy, but I do not see how they get far beyond that (I continue to believe that in time CP and ACNA will work together more fully). ACNA is no sure bet, but it does have a “hope and a future.”

This comment was posted on several blogs following the announcement of the Draft Constitution of the American Church in North America on 3 December 2008.

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