Archbishop of Canterbury Should Lead or Get out of the Way
By David W. Virtue
Four leaders of the emerging Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) say that the Episcopal Church is a spent theological and ecclesiastical force. They also predict that the vast majority of Anglicans worldwide will recognize the new province in the coming months.
Outlining their blueprint for the future of Anglicanism in North America, The Rt. Rev. David Anderson, (CANA); The Right Rev. John Guernsey, (Uganda); The Rev. Dr. Foley Beach, rector and The Rev. J. Philip Ashey, CEO of the American Anglican Council (AAC) told Episcopalians and Anglicans meeting recently at Holy Cross Anglican Church in Loganville, GA, that the constraints of the orthodox presence has not stopped the Episcopal Church revisionist agenda -- only slowed it down with significant numbers of orthodox Episcopalians continuing to depart the church.
Anderson described as "alarming and frightening" the long list of things the revisionists have planned for GC2009 scheduled for this July in Anaheim, California.
Ashey said that of the 46 resolutions currently submitted to GC2009, nineteen concern the blessing of same sex unions, the lifting of the Moratoria, the revocation of B033, redefining marriage and encouraging Episcopalians to fight against the defense and legalization of marriage in various states.
The construction and formation of ACNA is well underway according to Anderson. "The recognition of this body by other provinces of the Anglican Communion will happen one after another. We anticipated recognition would come after the June meeting when final votes were taken, however the Province of Nigeria has gone ahead and granted recognition, full and abiding communion with us already. The word we cling onto is 'recognition' - the R word. Overseas, our brothers and sisters specifically in Africa the word "communion" is more important and exceeds (mere) recognition." Anderson said Nigeria constitutes a quarter of the entire Anglican Communion. "We do anticipate more will follow them after the June meeting in Ft. Worth."
Guernsey said the Provincial Council of ACNA will meet in Ft. Worth April 23-24. At that time there will be approval of additional canons (initial canons were adopted provisionally in December). "They will be acted on by Provincial Council at that time. We expect to look at new applications and add existing and new dioceses coming into the province. The June 22-25 Provincial Assembly will adopt, finally ratify the constitutions and canons and will be up and running as a province."
According to Guernsey things are accelerating dramatically and leaders are racing to keep up with the move of the Holy Spirit.
Ashey acknowledged that there have been communication problems in conveying the message to many Episcopalians about what is going on. "There are difficult issues that we have agreed to disagree on with some disagreement over Women's Ordination and the Prayer Book that will challenge us as we go ahead."
Ashley is encouraged by bishops who have been willing to set aside their egos and humble themselves to do work for the greater good. "Humility comes from the Holy Spirit. The Lord is truly doing the work."
The idea of a Covenant and how it will be handled by ACNA is presently being discussed across the communion, Anderson said. ACNA has to be signed, sealed and delivered before they tackle the Covenant. "It might seem we are over-reaching in areas and barging in areas we are not qualified to do so. We need to secure our place in the family."
Ashey said the challenge was both internal and external. "The external challenge to ACNA is The Episcopal Church and its proxies will do everything in the communion to challenge and delegitimize the ACNA. We will do what we can so that the rest of the Communion has the absolute truth about what the ACNA stands for and represents.
"We have come out of Egypt and some of the old think is that we have to wait for permission to get on with mission of the church...wait for recognition before we go out and evangelize our neighbor. That is a trap we will not fall into. We must carry on the task of The Great Commission," he concluded.
Guernsey praised the work of the American Anglican Council. "The AAC plays a vital educational role throughout the church. There are thousands of isolated laity who feel they cannot connect with the new province." He praised the vital educational role the AAC plays. Guernsey said it was crucial to minister to isolated laity and to offer the AAC as a lifeline.
"We are a non ecclesial body we can go where other Anglicans cannot go in the councils of the church and the communion. We can provide strategic council for Anglicans in distress but also for our friends overseas who are having to deal with a well-financed TEC and its proxies that are spreading a false gospel in the communion."
Anderson said the AAC has a three-fold ministry inside TEC --- to those in a departure mode, to those who have left TEC or were never a part of TEC.
"We want to teach people how to be effective in a hostile diocese and to protect themselves. Orthodox parishes are on the bishop's radar screen and they have a wonderful plan for your removal. You need to be aware of that and take precautions, to make it more difficult and have the ability to be more outspoken about the issues that matter and to have a measure of security."
Anderson said the AAC has compiled a vast amount of useful information when congregations feel they have to leave. "They will pay a terrible price. They will make all the mistakes others have made. We have compiled the wisdom of churches that have left and information for what works and doesn't work to share that with congregations in the departure mode giving clear advice how to do this so they don't that they personally don't have to personally pay the price all over again.
"We will always be an advocate of orthodox Anglicanism to support the ACNA and the GAFCON Primates and Global Anglican scene. We see the AAC positioning itself and being a combination of advocacy, diplomacy and Special Forces. We are not an ecclesial body and we do go places where we are not wanted," Anderson continued. "We can arrive on the beach and be effective."
Anderson said the different Prayer Books in use pose a problem. He recognizes the situation as "difficult" but not irresolvable. "We will put together something and have an option of liturgies." Guernsey said there is a committee working on liturgy and Prayer Book. "We need to catalogue what is out there and being used. The Church is not aware of some of these resources. There is the desire to create liturgies to be used for provincial events so we don't have a different liturgy each time. There is also a sense that given the dynamics and issues of trust and to see where churches have come we are not prepared to see this church break apart ramming through a vote on a single liturgy, that is not worth it right now. I would like to see the Holy Spirit bringing some convergence about. A simple reversion to the 1662 Prayer Book can be very jarring. This is a long term process and not an immediate quick resolution."
Anderson said the Anglican Communion is increasingly fragile and is coming to a point when it could simply pull apart. "I would rather live in creative tension for a while longer and see if we can recover orthodoxy and delivered from the false gospel of The Episcopal Church. A key part of the equation is the Archbishop of Canterbury and he could do a great deal to establish to establish orthodoxy to hold the communion together, but when he says and does foolish things it increases the likelihood of the Communion falling apart."
Ashey cited Bishop Robert Duncan who said the global north is characterized by a false gospel, but is resource rich. "TEC is resource rich but there is a vacuum in leadership from Canterbury. Praise God we have the GAFCON meeting and GAFCON primates and the Jerusalem statement and the reaffirmation of Anglican orthodoxy. The Primates will exercise Anglican leadership therein lies the future of Anglicanism."
On Rowan Williams, Anderson said that despite his white hair, the archbishop's mandatory retirement age is some ways in the future. If he were to be called to another office, write more or teach courses at Oxford or a seminary that would be different. He certainly has the right to stay on as ABC (at the Queen's pleasure) and to continue in office for a good long time, so some supernatural help will be needed in convincing him to reshape in a positive way.
Anderson said he expects a number of ecumenical leaders will be invited to the June event in Ft. Worth. "It would be premature as to who might be invited."
Guernsey said the Network is coming to an end in favor of the new province. ACNA is the label and the logo in looking for a new church. The reality is that sacrifices are called for. Taking a stand and being clear draw unfavorable attention. It is not risk free being part of the faithful band. There is a price to be paid.
The Rev. Foley Beach said that preaching the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and preaching that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life will distinguish you big time from the national church. (Loud applause).
Anderson said that at GC2009 an Episcopal desk and booth to focus on ministry to those inside the TEC would be created. "We realize that for many bishops in TEC that are hostile to orthodoxy, being very open about your participation with the AAC can get you in trouble. Some of the people working with us are "in pectore" - very private and quiet. We don't publish their names. They are known to us. We work with them, but don't expect them to fly an AAC flag. It would create a big target on them from their bishop. We don't want to see (revisionist) bishops do a Pearl Harbor on them."
This AAC sponsored conference was for leaders of Anglican Churches in the South who are part of the Common Cause Partnership.