The Anglican Church in North America Begins
This is a letter I just sent to my congregation.
The Feast of the Martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul
June 29th, 2009
From Father Thomas McKenzie
Pastor, Church of the Redeemer
To the Members of Church of the Redeemer
Greetings Brothers and Sisters,
Grace and Peace to you in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ! My prayers are with you today, as they have been every day of our nearly five years together as a congregation. I hope that your summer is going well, and I am sure that the Lord is at work among you.
I recently returned from Bedford Texas. I was there to witness the birth of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). This was the coming together of 28 full or emerging dioceses representing 700 congregations and about 100 thousand church members. The ACNA will be applying to the 38 Provinces of the world-wide, 79 million member, Anglican Communion for membership as a full Province. (It has already been recognized by some of these Provinces, including the world’s largest.) At this meeting in Texas, the Constitution and Canons of the ACNA were passed by representatives from all 28 dioceses, and Robert (Bob) Duncan, bishop of Pittsburgh, was elevated to the place of Archbishop over the ACNA.
Church of the Redeemer is a member of the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA). The AMiA is the largest of the founding bodies of the ACNA, and 10 of the first 28 dioceses are AMiA dioceses (which we often call “clusters”). We are members of the Anglican Church in North America because of our membership in the AMiA.
Ten years ago, I was ordained in the Anglican Communion by the Right Reverend Robert Duncan, the man who is now Archbishop. At the time, both he and I were members of the Episcopal Church (ECUSA), which was the Anglican Communion’s Province in the United States.
Five years ago, 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.
I have told this story to you before, but it could stand repeating. A couple of years ago, I was sitting with a bishop from Rwanda who told this story to illustrate the 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. The founding of the Anglican Church in North America is our homecoming.
We are still members of the AMiA, and AMiA is still a mission order of Rwanda. So, in effect, we have two archbishops. How can that be? A friend of mine compares our current situation to the era of the Articles of Confederation in American history. You may recall that before the Constitution was adopted, our nation came together under these Articles. It was a time of transition from being ruled by local colonies to being part of a republic of united states. I believe we are in the same process. It is my hope that all of these separate jurisdictions, like the AMiA, will eventually fade away into the Anglican Church in North America. In the meantime, we are blessed to be part of a vibrant and mission minded jurisdiction with a great bishop. We have the freedom to minister the Gospel in our local context, and that is a grace that should not be underestimated.
The Constitution and Canons of the Anglican Church in North America gives a great deal of latitude to local dioceses. Our AMiA diocese has not changed. Therefore, I don’t see any direct impact on Church of the Redeemer at this time. We are as we have been, with one important exception: our family has now expanded. This expanded family is the subject I would like to dwell on for the rest of this letter.
I went to Bedford for two reasons. First was to see the elevation of Bob Duncan as Archbishop. This was an historic event, perhaps the most historic thing I have ever been in the room for.
Second, I went to speak to the Youth Delegates at the convention. My talk went well, though there were not many of them present (it was very late, and the event wasn’t well organized or communicated). You can see my talk on-line, if you would like, by following this link.
While I was in Bedford, I got a first-hand look at the great variety in the Anglican Church. One of the great strengths of Anglicanism is its ability to hold a vast number of differing opinions on secondary issues. Unfortunately, there are some in the Anglican world who have disagreements about which issues are secondary and therefore hold tightly to their own opinions. Also, there are many Anglican churches that are embroiled in conflict with the Episcopal Church USA over property issues. Further, there are Anglican congregations that one would not easily characterize as missional or vibrant.
I saw a great deal of joy and hope and Christ-centered living at this event. And I saw some mean-spiritedness, some religiosity, and more fear than I would have liked. There are disagreements, and there are even those who are disagreeable. It is for this reason I would characterize the ACNA as a “weak vessel.”
And that is exactly what we need to be, a weak vessel. If the ACNA not only survives but thrives, if it fulfills its consistently stated goal of reaching the lost with the Gospel of Christ, it will not be because it has all the money, power, and personality on its side. It will be because Jesus Christ Himself is doing a work by the power of the Holy Spirit. No one will say “oh, of course it worked, look how much they had going for them!” Rather, it will be said of us “God was with them.” As Jesus Christ said to St. Paul “"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
On Wednesday night, we gathered at the huge AMiA church called Christ Church in Plano, Texas. (You can see a video of the event from my perspective by clicking here.) There I processed with hundreds of clergy from the U.S. and Canada, representatives from all the various jurisdictions. Charismatics, Anglo Catholics, Evangelicals, Conservatives, Seeker-Sensitive Types, and lovers of Tradition. We may have been disagreeing that morning, but we were united that evening and forever in Christ.
I sat next to Steven Tighe, a man who had helped disciple me in my college years. Beside him was Keith Pozzuto, one of the kids from my first youth group and now a priest. Behind me was Ray Kasch, formerly a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee and a man I had not been in the same church with since I left that denomination. Just in front of me was the head of my seminary, and around us were men and women I have known for many years.
I have to be honest, I suspected this would never happen. I did not know that I would ever again join in one unified Body with the men and women who had discipled me, the leaders I had looked up to, and the young people I have poured my life into. Who knew that I would ever again be in the same Church with Bob Duncan who ordained me, with Rod Whitacre who taught me, with John Rogers who loved me, and with Chuck Murphy who led me? When the presentation was made, when they said “here is your archbishop,” they were talking to all of us. We all shouted and applauded and laughed and sang for joy. I couldn’t help but weep, and tears come to my eyes even now with the thought of it.
The Anglican Church in North America is a family, and you are part of it. We are weak in many ways, but we have the love of God in Christ and a deep commitment to one another. We have a great future, a future of both suffering and triumph, of Cross and Resurrection. We are one Church, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, with Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone. I wouldn’t have us be any other way.
The Reverend Thomas McKenzie
Pastor, Church of the Redeemer
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