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Plano, Texas — Conservative Anglicans disenchanted with the liberal drift in their U.S. and Canadian churches say they are confident that a new church body launched this week will one day gain a seat in the worldwide Anglican Communion.
The new Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) has been organized, its leaders say, as an alternative for Anglicans who disagree with the theology of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.
“This is the beginning of a recovery of confidence in Anglicanism as a biblical, missionary church,” said former Fort Worth Episcopal Bishop Jack Iker.
Iker and other former Episcopalians frequently criticized their former church’s embrace of female clergy and the 2003 election of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire. Iker seceded, with his diocese, late last year.
The ACNA, he added, will give “the mainstream of our clergy and laity a chance to recover confidence and enthusiasm about being an Anglican Christian.”
Delegates representing an estimated 69,000 active Anglicans from some 650 North American parishes met June 22-25 at St. Vincent’s Cathedral in Bedford, Texas, to ratify their church constitution and nine canons, or laws.
They also installed former Pittsburgh Episcopal Bishop Robert Duncan as archbishop in a ceremony Wednesday (June 24) at Christ Church, a Plano megachurch that cut its ties with the Episcopal Church three years ago.
Anglican Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya anointed Duncan, 60, as ACNA’s first archbishop; he will serve a five-year term. Duncan was removed from the Episcopal Church last year for leading his diocese to secede from the denomination.
In his sermon, Duncan urged those who align themselves with ACNA to focus on evangelism and mission by planting 1,000 new churches in the next five years, engaging Islam — “because there is only one way to the Father; it’s a matter of life and death” — studying Scripture and practicing works of mercy.
“It’s not about the past. It’s not about what we’ve come out of,”
Duncan said in his sermon. “We have been brought together for a noble work, and God has blessed this journey.”
Nine of the 37 provinces in the Anglican Communion sent official representatives to the inaugural Provincial Assembly, most of them from the rapidly growing “Global South” of Africa and Asia.
ACNA leaders say they have the momentum to eventually be recognized as an official province within the Anglican Communion, but they will need the approval of two-thirds of the world’s 38 Anglican primates, and a key international Anglican council, before they can be granted full membership.
Episcopal Church headquarters in New York kept a low profile during the ACNA launch, sticking to its long-held position that it is the only official branch of Anglicanism in the United States.
Duncan said he is in regular contact with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the head of the Anglican Communion, but had not received a formal acknowledgement of his election.
Church leaders will be working “relationally” to gain recognition from the larger Anglican Communion, said Bishop Martyn Minns, who leads the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, one of ACNA’s member bodies.
“The majority are already siding with us,” he said. “I think it will take time. Relationships take time to build. … But we don’t need a Plan B because Plan A is already working.”
Michael W. Howell, executive director of Forward in Faith North America, agreed, calling the ACNA “an answer to prayer” for many disenfranchised Anglicans. His own group split with the Episcopal Church long ago, partly over women’s ordination.
“Some of us have felt like we have been in exile for a while,” he said.
The Texas gathering also drew solid ecumenical support from groups such as Southern Baptists and the National Association of Evangelicals.
Speakers included California megachurch pastor Rick Warren and Metropolitan Jonah, an Episcopal convert who now leads the Orthodox Church in America.
Duncan said he plans to open official ecumenical relations with Jonah’s church. “All of a sudden, they see Anglicans who look like the Anglicans they always knew,” Duncan said.
“We are focused on keeping the main thing the main thing. And the main thing is the mission of Jesus Christ, reaching out to North America and now to the whole world with the transforming love of Jesus Christ.”
A governance task force devised a “minimalist structure” that leaves much of the church’s oversight to local dioceses, said Cheryl Chang, chancellor of the Anglican Network in Canada and a lawyer who helped draft the new church constitution and canons.
The preamble to the newly adopted constitution states the ACNA is “grieved by the current state of brokenness within the Anglican Communion prompted by those who have embraced erroneous teaching and who have rejected a repeated call to repentance.”
The church’s canons define marriage as “a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman,” prohibit the blessing of same-sex unions and female bishops, as well as non-celibate gay clergy.
Four of the 28 dioceses participating in ACNA are still involved in legal disputes with the Episcopal Church over church property, said the Rev. Peter Frank, Duncan’s spokesman.
Jurisdictions that have formed the ACNA’s 28 dioceses and dioceses-in-formation are: the dioceses of Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Quincy, Ill., and San Joaquin, Calif.; the Anglican Mission in the Americas; the Convocation of Anglicans in North America; the Anglican Network in Canada; the Reformed Episcopal Church; and the missionary branches of Anglican churches in Kenya, Uganda and South America.

By Robin Galiano Russell
Religion News Service
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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