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New US Province is formed: CEN 6.24.09 June 24, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Church of England Newspaper.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Anglican Communion’s 39th Province-in-waiting was formed this week, as the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) held its founding convocation at St. Vincent’s Cathedral in Bedford, Texas.

God, history, and provinces representing the overwhelming majority of the members of the Anglican Communion were on the side of the ACNA, Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan told the 234 delegates drawn from the ACNA’s 28 founding jurisdictions including four former dioceses of the Episcopal Church, representing some 700 congregations and 100,000 Anglicans in the US and Canada.

The break with the Episcopal Church was now complete, Bishop Duncan said. “There is no one here who will go back.”

Delegates attending the June 22-25 convocation formally adopted the ACNA’s Constitution and Canons and were also addressed by Bishop Duncan—who was elected archbishop on June 21 by a meeting of the ACNA’s House of Bishops—and California megachurch pastor Rick Warren, and Metropolitan Jonah, the head of the Orthodox Church in America.

Archbishop Duncan lauded the comprehensiveness and unity of the new province, which bridged the traditional theological divide between High and Low churchmen, Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals, in addition to the modern question of the ordination of women.

It was a “miracle” that those who “believe the ordination of women” was a “grave error” along with those “who see it as a being justified by Scripture” can “work together towards mission,” he said.

The themes of martyrdom and mission were central to the new archbishop’s vision. The ACNA served to win souls for Christ, while also providing a haven for those “who are harassed because of him.” He also urged the province to take up the “battle cry” of muscular Christianity as its own—“No cross, no crown.”

The future for the new province was bright, he argued. “We are proud to be part of the great reformation of the Christian church” now taking place as there was “an ever growing stream of North American Protestantism that has embraced” a foundational view of Scripture, while “at the same time Pentecostals and Evangelicals are moving towards Tradition.”

The ACNA was the outworking of this movement of the Spirit within North American Anglicanism, he argued, as the “whole world is looking here to Bedford.”

“Our adversary, the devil, is also interested in what is happening here,” he said, for a “reformed Anglican Church in North America is one of the enemy’s greatest concerns,” and he will “try to draw us into old ways and old fights.”

“It is essential that we stand together” and “move on,” Archbishop Duncan said.

California evangelist Rick Warren built upon Archbishop Duncan’s comments on the second day of the convocation, also telling the ACNA to let go of the hurts of the past and focus on the future.

Referring to the lawsuits over parish property and the recent spate of California decisions in favor of the Episcopal Church, Pastor Warren said “you may lose your steeple, but you won’t lose your people,” and urged the ACNA to make making relationships not location the “glue” holding the church together.

In his first speech since he offered the invocation at the inauguration of President Barack Obama in January, Pastor Warren gave the ACNA his full support, telling the delegates his “heart was full for you.”

For the ACNA to prosper and grow, it now had to put aside the past and focus on evangelism. “A great commitment to the great commandment and the great commission will grow a great Communion,” Pastor Warren said.

The work of building the new province lay with the parish priest, he said, urging them to be faithful their ministries and eschew politics and secular temptations. “If God has called you to serve in a local church, as a parish priest, lay leader, staff member, don’t you ever step down to become the president of the United States, or anything else, because nothing matters more,” he said.

This commitment to faith first, should be kept in mind when contemplating litigation over parish properties, he added. “Christ did not die for property,” he said. “God’s agenda is that he is building a family” of believers.

To do this he told the ACNA must model its ministry on the Trinity. “Get the Father’s perspective, follow the Son’s pattern, and appropriate the spirit’s power,” he said, but do not use the tools and weapons of this world. “I have no interest in politics,” Pastor Warren said, adding that if “you can change hearts through politics, I would have been a politician.”

“Jesus did not die for America, he died for Americans,” he said, urging the ACNA not to make the mistake of asking God to bless what it wanted to do, but to be patient and ask for God’s blessings that will allow it to be faithful to his word.

During its two afternoon business sessions, delegates ratified the ACNA’s constitution and canons offering only minor changes to drafts first published in December. “We have done the work dear brothers and sisters. The Anglican Church in North America has been constituted,” Archbishop Duncan said at the close of business on June 22.

The Book of Common Prayer and the Articles of Religion served as the theological bases for the canons, which were designed to permit structural flexibility while assuring confessional unity as expressed in questions of Faith and order. The new province permits women priests, but not bishops—but allows dioceses to opt out of women clergy, vests the ownership of parish property with the congregation and church wardens, requires a clergyman wishing to remarry after a divorce to seek a licence from his bishop, and adopted a strong stance against abortion on demand.

At the close of the business sessions, the Bishop of Okigwe-North in the Church of Nigeria, the Rt. Rev. Alfred Nwaizuzu rose to congratulate the delegates. He noted that his province had been criticized for its intervention in the United States in recent years, but today “Archbishop Akinola is happy.” For “today it is America solving the problem.”

The convocation continues through June 25, with presentations by Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America—who is expected to welcome the ACNA as its dialogue partner with Anglicans in the US, presentations on church planting, and the formal ceremony of installation for the new primate, Archbishop Duncan.

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