(Editor’s Note: This is a delegate report from the recent meeting of the conservative Episcopalians and Anglicans who have formed a new “communion.” The delegate is reporting back to a neighboring conservative Anglican congregation – All Souls, Wheaton, Illinois – that I became acquainted with through our work with a local pro-life group. It is good to see these folks react against the liberalism in their denomination but as others have said on other comment strings on this site, I am not sure that in the end that this will be much of a good thing for confessional/Biblical theology based on what is reported below. I pray that confessional Lutherans will never end up rallying around the liturgy apart from the pure Gospel.)
This last week, 21 – 25 June, delegates, visitors, ecumenical guests and ministry partners – over 800 of them – braved 100 degree heat in Bedford,Texas, to attend the birth of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). The Constitution passed Monday with some interesting and respectful debate. The same went for the Canons which were passed in under half the time slated for discussion and ratification. With the installation of the Rt. Rev. Robert William Duncan, Jr., as Archbishop and Primate of the ACNA on Wednesday evening at Christ Church, Plano, we were launched. We have been recognized by nine of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion, representing the vast majority of Anglicans worldwide. The Orthodox Church of America opened ecumenical relations with us on Wednesday morning.
The joy of this birth is tempered by an awareness of the amount work and sheer Grace that will be required to bring us together. As Bishop Lyons noted when he was here, the ordination of women is going to be a challenge at all levels. But I did hear understanding that we will proceed on that slowly and prayerfully.
The other challenge that Bishop Lyons had said we’d face was in regard to liturgy, and that was evident at Bedford. At the conference, the three streams of Anglican Christianity came together in ways that placed us all, at times, outside of our comfort zones. During the week, we attended a high Anglo-Catholic mass, a low church service accompanied by guitars, and a blended worship service put on with professional musicians. There was something for almost everyone and things each of the varying groups didn’t like. But it was in that setting, oddly, I could begin to see our commonalities.
I talked to a wide range of people and asked them about their churches. From the Reformed Episcopal Church deacon who’s got a church of about 15 people in west Texas where his daughter plays the melody with her right hand on their electric piano, to a guy in Birmingham, whose church plant is doing high church Anglican liturgy in a donated Methodist chapel, to the pastor of a church in San Diego with 1100 attendees with contemporary music, this was a widely disparate group of folks on the face of it. They are former Episcopalians and they are folks who’ve never seen the inside of an Episcopal church. They were annoyed by the modern music, they were bored by the old music, or they loved both. Praise music folks with their hands up in the air – hands that they lifted up from their walkers. Classical hymn fans who came as part of the 20 percent of the delegates who were under 25 years old. It was a group that confounded expectations.
These folks I met, despite differing in worship style and on women’s ordination, are our brothers and sisters in Christ. They love the liturgy and they love the Book of Common Prayer. They are serious about doing exactly what we are serious about doing – ministering in our local contexts, seeking to reach the lost. There is tremendous will to make this work in order to reach the nation with the transforming love of Jesus Christ. The exciting part will be partnering with them, locally and across this continent, in mission.
Thank you all for sending me, it was, as they say in Texas, a blessing and a privilege to be there.