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New Anglican Church Faces Fiscal Challenges

AMESBURY, Mass. (RNS) When the Anglican Church in North America launched last year, founders were clear on what they didn’t want to be: the Episcopal Church.
But as the ACNA marks its first anniversary with a meeting here this week, members are finding that carving out a new identity requires a good dose of patience, and more money than they have on hand.
The ACNA knows what it wants to be: a church-planting, soul-saving province officially recognized by other churches and leaders in the 77-million-member Anglican Communion.
Leaders reported some progress on those goals this week, but fiscal hurdles remain.
Archbishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, who leads the ACNA, said Tuesday (June 8) that membership grew from 703 congregations to 811 during the last year, a step toward fulfilling his mission to plant 1,000 new churches within the first five years.
Meeting those goals, however, will mean surmounting financial challenges. The church’s $1.36 million budget, approved by the ACNA’s Provincial Council Tuesday, counts on a new initiative to raise $500,000 within the next six months. If the fundraising comes up short, projects central to establishing the young church’s identity may stall.
“The vision for `Anglican 1000′ is contingent on us being able to raise $500,000,” said treasurer Bill Roemer, referring to the church-planting plans.
Delegates to the ACNA’s meeting here said these early years are critical for establishing it as a dynamic alternative to the Episcopal Church, which has been wracked by internal disputes and losing members for decades.
“The fear is that if we don’t push forward with a mission effort, we’re going to fall back to the old settled denominational pattern, which didn’t serve the Episcopal Church well and won’t serve us well, either,” said the Rev. Tom Finnie, Rector of Christ Church in Midland, Texas.
Many parts of the ACNA, which is composed of a number of conservative Anglican bodies, split from the Episcopal Church in recent years after long battles over homosexuality and theological issues.
Some Anglican critics worry it threatens church unity to have overlapping jurisdictions for competing forms of Anglicanism in a single geographic area.
But the ACNA, which says it hasn’t yet petitioned for official standing in the Anglican Communion, enjoys significant support in Africa and other developing regions.
At an April meeting in Singapore, delegates from 20 of the communion’s 38 provinces affirmed the ACNA as “a faithful expression of Anglicanism” in a region they said is in need of one.
The new church would need official approval from two-thirds of the world’s nearly 40 Anglican primates and the imprimatur of a key Anglican committee before it could be granted membership in the communion.
Even within the ACNA, hot-button issues aren’t entirely settled.
Some ACNA dioceses ordain women as priests, while others regard the practice as un-biblical. A closed-door panel during the College of Bishops meeting Friday will feature arguments for and against ordaining women.
“The ordination of women to the (priesthood) remains a matter that divides us,” Duncan said in his state-of-the-church address. “Despite the deep theological and ecclesiological divide we have remained committed to each other, and have honored each other as our Constitution envisions.”
Still recovering from emotionally bruising fights within the Episcopal Church, members of ACNA congregations seem to have little appetite left for pushing one another to conform. The council voted, for instance, to waive its size requirements for dioceses and accept new ones from the Great Lakes region and the South.
But on highly charged issues, observers say, time will tell how much diversity the church can tolerate within its ranks.
“On matters of women, polity and the role of the bishop, they may have different views — and they’re going to have to work it out,” said David Holmes, a professor of American religious history at the College of William and Mary and author of “A Brief History of the Episcopal Church.”
“I don’t see why an Anglican schismatic group would be doomed to fail, (but) I would be surprised if they didn’t encounter such problems that some groups split off.”
For now, the ACNA is focused on laying foundations. Task forces on topics from liturgy to prayer book and ecumenism reported to the council this week.
Chief Operating Officer Brad Root, a former entrepreneur, likens the organization to “a start up” in the business world; it aims to grow rapidly and all administrative systems need to be built from square one.
Delegates raised some concerns during discussion of the budget.
“It’s said that staff expands to consume the money available, and this has been a problem in the Episcopal Church,” said John Whelchel, a delegate from Atlanta.
Others put a finer point on how to be distinct from the church they left.
“The longest report we have is about money, and the most time is spent on money,” said the Rev. Mary Maggard Hays of Pittsburgh. “The concern is that we not repeat the mistakes of the past.”

Copyright 2010 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

  • pagansister

    They’re not the only ones with money problems…every church around has problems.

  • ACNA-er

    Archbishop Duncan gives a wonderful “State of the Church” presentation here:
    It is an exciting time!

  • Rob the Rev

    Gee, I thought fundi-literalistic-conservative churches were supposed to be over-flowing with money and members. Guess not. Too bad for this breakaway sect.
    Capticha: darned and – that’s what this new American Anglecan denomination is saying.

  • Heretic_for_Christ

    Money, money, money–it takes so much money to speak about God and faith. Can’t preach without a fancy building.
    I forget now–what tax-bracket was Jesus in?

  • Henrietta22

    Maybe they should all go visit Ted Haggards new church, St. James, in Colorado. He’s starting his in a Barn on his property.

  • Ann McCarthy

    I was at the conference. Actually the largest amount of time spent, by far, during the two days when the Provincial Council was there was not spent talking about money at all, it was spent talking about mission. There were presentations about the work that is being done for relief, ecumenical discussions, and evangelism. The concern was raised that we not repeat the mistakes of the Episcopal Church past – that we not spend the bulk of the time talking about money – and we didn’t.
    The discussions surrounding the ecumenical relationships that have been and are being formed where wonderful. Further the work that is being done, particularly with the refugees from Myanmar, was extremely encouraging.

  • Scout

    I read this article this morning and felt compelled to respond. I will not be able to follow-up with further replies as I am catching up on work today.
    Some of these comments are just an extended riff on the article, which gives a superficial and selective summary of what was discussed over two days of meetings. I was there as a lay representative.
    We did not talk about the need for fancy church buildings. The reference to “1,000 churches” should be understood to mean 1,000 local groups of believers, not 1,000 new worship houses. The speakers made repeated reference to the churches in Africa as our model for growth. The discussion about the budget was how do we remain fiscally responsible in view of the effort that is before us — a massive outreach to those who do not know Christ. ACNA’s provincial budget calls for paying a modest wage to a very lean staff. The biggest part of the budget is to support the efforts of the 1,000 start-ups.
    If 2 or 3 or 6 people want to get together in a living room to start a church plant, ACNA’s leadership is genuinely excited about that. (I met laypeople at the conference who are planning on doing exactly that.) Our bishops and other leaders want to know about it and provide a spiritual lifeline. This endeavour takes money — but not for buildings.
    My local congregation has been meeting in a school cafeteria and, more recently, at a school auditorium — for 12 years. We were blessed to have a minister from day one, but he worked at another full-time job for our first year because we couldn’t afford to pay him a living wage. Our congregation is now established enough that we can afford to pay the salaries of a full-time staff (in addition to other budget items such as missions, charitable support, rent, insurance, etc.).
    And we pray that our experience is going to be repeated all over the US and Canada.

  • cknuck

    Ann and Scott it is very refreshing to read the truth. So much hate and prejudice is posted here about the church. It is good to read the mission commitment even in the face of adversity. Truth over slanted speculation is very refreshing indeed.

  • Ann McCarthy

    Thanks cknuck,
    I have no problem with an article that outlines challenges or problems – everyone knows that we face them, and being frank about them allows us to pray about and work for solutions. The ACNA absolutely faces challenges, but what I love is that those challenges are coming from reuniting groups that have been separate – and we are building something good.
    What should be noted in the article is that we are addressing these challenges head on; looking carefully at budgets; asking questions; and not papering over our differences on women’s ordination. Building something that will last, following God, being obedient, these are all great goals, and we will make mistakes, but what was lovely overall about the conference is that we leave it energized to do the work, not grumbling over the difficulties.

  • pagansister

    Ann and Scout, thanks for your imput as people who were at the meeting.

  • Mary Maggard Hays

    I am Mary Maggard Hays, and I was not at the ACNA meeting in Amesbury, nor did I say the words attributed to me. I hope this is the only misquote in the article.

  • cknuck

    That is very interesting MMH, thanks.

  • pagansister

    Yes, that is indeed interesting, MMH. If you weren’t there, how did they get the quote?

  • cknuck

    How on earth can she answer that pagan?

  • cknuck

    sorry pagan I did not consider that might be a rhetorical question.

  • Kip Henderson

    If only more than 97 people could hear about this!

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