A New Anglican Province
Following is a long letter I e-mailed out to my church today about the formation of the new Anglican Church in North America. I figured that some of you might be interested in this. So here it goes. Like I said, its long; so make some coffee.
Grace and Peace to you, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ! My warmest wishes for you on this cold December day. I hope that your Advent is going well, and that the Holy Spirit is doing a work of joyous expectation in your hearts.
You may have seen a news item that appeared yesterday about the formation of a new Anglican Province in North America. I am writing to you today to explain this situation, and to tell you what it might mean for us. This is a relatively long letter from me, but I do ask you to be patient and to read it all, at your convenience. Thanks.
Ten years ago tomorrow, I was ordained in the Anglican Communion by the Right Reverend Robert Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh. At the time, both he and I were members of the Episcopal Church (ECUSA), which was the Anglican Communion’s only Province in the United States.
Five years ago this July, I was received by the Anglican Province of Rwanda as a priest in that jurisdiction of the Anglican Communion. Church of the Redeemer joined the Anglican Communion as a missionary church under the authority of the Church in Rwanda. The Anglican Mission in the Americas, which we joined then and to which we belong still, was and is a missionary order of that Province.
Church of the Redeemer is blessed to be a part of the Province of Rwanda. We are blessed to have a strong connection with our home Church, both giving and receiving much encouragement in the Lord. I am personally deeply grateful to Archbishop Kolini of Rwanda who has been such a remarkable and faithful servant of the Gospel.
To some people, it is odd that Church of the Redeemer is part of the Anglican Province of Rwanda. After all, we don’t live in Rwanda. That is true, but many years ago missionary churches were started in Africa by English people. These mission churches were part of the Anglican Church, the Church of England. Churches all across Africa were under the direction of the Church of England, though the people and their leaders were not English. After some time passed, the Church of England released those African churches. Those churches formed independent Provinces of the Anglican Communion. Today, the largest and most vibrant Anglican Provinces are not found in England but in Africa, as well as growing ones in Asia and Latin America.
A couple of years ago, I was sitting with a bishop from Rwanda who told this story to illustrate the present situation among Anglican Christians in North America. He said that it is like he was sitting in his house and it started to rain. A man came to the door, and the bishop invited him inside. The man stayed inside until it stopped raining, then the man went home. He said that we Anglicans in North America are like that man. A great storm came up, and we could not walk in the Anglican Way in North America. The Episcopal Church, which had been the only Anglican Province in this country, had simply ceased to be a church of Christian character in its doctrine and discipline. So those of us who wished to be both faithfully Christian and fully Anglican came to the Africans. They have allowed us to stay with them during this time. However, the bishop hoped that soon it would stop raining and we could all go home.
Brothers and sisters in Christ: the rain has stopped and we are all going home.
Just yesterday in Wheaton, Illinois, there was a gathering of Anglican leaders. Included in that gathering were the leaders of the Anglican Mission in the Americas, our organization. Also included were leaders of several Anglican groups, including the man who ordained me ten years ago, Bishop Robert Duncan. This group of leaders announced that they have formed a new Anglican province: The Anglican Church in North America. This is not simply a new organization for Anglicans. It is The Anglican Church, a new Province in North America. It includes 700 congregations and approximately 100,000 people.
A press release has gone out about this. Also, you can view the draft copy of the Anglican Church’s Constitution and Canons on-line. I would recommend taking a look at all of these documents.
What does this mean to us? In the near-term, it means that we should be greatly encouraged. A great step forward in Christian unity has taken place, and we are part of that. Other than that, we are as we have been: a community with a mission to live and proclaim Christ’s redeeming love.
What will this mean in the longer term? Great question. No one knows exactly how all of this will work itself out. There will be many conversations about structure, I’m sure. Bishops and other national leaders will have to work out a great number of questions pertaining to how we do this mission together. Organizations within this new Province, like the Anglican Mission, will have to decide what roll they will have, or at what point their organizations has served their God-given purpose.
I would expect that at some point Church of the Redeemer will no longer be a mission of the Province of Rwanda. Instead, we will be a mission of our Anglican Church in North America. Still a mission, but a mission based here on our continent. Will we still be connected to our brothers and sisters in Rwanda? Certainly. We are like siblings who have grown up in the same house. At some point, we move out and start our own household. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t still deeply connected members of the same family.
We are now united with 700 communities on this continent, including six other churches right here in Middle Tennessee. It is likely that other churches will join us now that this new Province has formed. I have already received requests from people who are not members of our congregation who are asking how they might join this new Province.
Now, for the negative. At some point while reading the news stories, you will hear that this new Province was formed because its leaders have a problem with homosexuality. Let me address this directly. I grew up in the Episcopal Church, USA. I decided I could no longer be a part of that church when it decided to throw out the Anglican way of knowing the will of God. The authority of the Bible, along with reason and tradition, was ejected in favor of knowing God’s will through human experience and feelings. And, yes, the catalyst for this decision came around the Episcopal Church’s decision to place an actively gay man in high office, as well as accept same-sex marriage.
The place of homosexuality is far from the only issue that caused me to have to leave the Episcopal Church. The abandonment of the Christian doctrine, discipline, and worship was seen in many, many ways. If this issue had not been the catalyst, it would have been something else. Frankly, I wish it had been something else, something less personally sensitive to so many people.
Sex outside of marriage, whether they it be straight or gay, is sinful. That is a Christian teaching that we fully support. Unfortunately, I’m sure there are individuals who hate homosexuals in the Anglican Church, as there are sinners in every church in the world. I believe they should repent of their hate. But hate is not the reason for the formation of this Province. Not at all. Rather, it is faithfulness to the Gospel and a desire to do the work of participation in God’s Kingdom in this world.
You may have noticed we don’t often speak about issues like this at Redeemer. International Anglican politics, the machinations of bishops, and the strange doings of other denominations are not our normal topics of conversation. Many of us don’t know Anglicanism apart from Church of the Redeemer. I’m not writing today because I think this is the most important thing about our church. The most important thing about us is that we gather in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit in order to glorify our Father and love our neighbor. No, I’m writing today in order to share good news, as well as to help you in your understanding as you encounter this news in the secular media.
I am more than happy to answer your questions, either through phone, e-mail, text, or in person. Also, feel free to distribute this letter as you see fit. You will find it on our church website under "news." Here is a link.
May the Lord be with you this Advent Season; and may Christ’s Name be praised in the new Anglican Church in North America, to which we belong.