Anglican Church in North America wraps up inaugural assembly

Published June 27, 2009

The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) elected its first archbishop and ratified a constitution and canons at its first Provincial Assembly in Dallas and Fort Worth, Tex. from June 22 to 25. However, the church is still seeking recognition as a new province within the worldwide Anglican Communion.The Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church in the U.S are presently the only ecclesial bodies in North America recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury. ACNA leaders say the new province would be defined along theological lines rather than be based in a particular geographical area as provinces in the Anglican Communion traditionally are. The preamble to the constitution says that ACNA members are “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.”ACNA, composed largely of clergy and parishioners who have left the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church in the U.S over theological issues such as the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of a U.S. gay bishop, announced its formation last December. About 260 clergy and lay delegates, including 13 from Canada, attended this inaugural assembly.Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh was elected by the college of bishops as the ACNA’s first archbishop. “It is a great day because working together, we have been able, by God’s grace, to reunite a significant portion of our Anglican Church family here in North America,” he said before his installation.Describing the assembly, Bishop Donald Harvey, moderator of the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC), said “There was a marvelous mood of co-operation and hope there. We had allowed three sessions for the adoption of the constitution and the canons and it was done in less than two. Everything passed unanimously all the time.”He was quick to add, however, that he was “not naive enough to think that in future synods there won’t be discontents of some sort arising,” noting that ACNA is a coming together of a number of different groups. Along with ANiC, which says it represents about 4,000 Anglicans in 30 congregations across Canada, ACNA includes dioceses and parishes that have left The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Mission in the Americas; the Convocation of Anglicans in North America; the Anglican Coalition in Canada; the Reformed Episcopal Church; and the missionary initiatives of Kenya, Uganda, and South America’s Southern Cone. Additionally, the American Anglican Council and Forward in Faith North America are founding organizations. ACNA says it represents approximately 100,000 Anglicans in 700 parishes.Bishop Harvey noted that some of the groups that have united have been out of the mainline of Anglicanism for a long time, in the case of the Reformed Episcopal Church, for more than 100 years. “The big issue that’s there, though certainly not for us in Canada at this stage, is the ordination of women,” he said. Some of the churches within ACNA are opposed to this, but Bishop Harvey said ANiC’s policy is that “any office that can be held by a man can be held by a woman.” However, he explained, that “for the sake of launching this province,” ANiC agreed to abide by the ACNA decision that no diocese would appoint woman to the episcopacy in the immediate future. Women can hold positions as priests and deacons. “I’ve spoken to all of the women priests in ANiC about the reasons for us going along with something that is not really part of our own constitution,” he said, to reassure them that this temporary agreement does not represent a change in ANiC’s position. “It was to facilitate something rather than to change a doctrine. And they have all been very supportive. They know why we’re doing it.”Bishop Harvey said that the Anglican Network in Canada will continue to operate much as it did before becoming a diocese of ACNA. “To the average person in the pew, you won’t see any difference at all,” he said. Congregations that left the Anglican Church of Canada aligned themselves with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone in South America and Archbishop Gregory Venables.Bishop Harvey said that relationship will diminish as the relationship with ACNA grows. “We have assurance from Archbishop Venables that for a period of time, there may be sort of a dual relationship. We are reluctant to sever our ties with the Southern Cone … until we know a sufficient proportion of the Anglican world is recognizing this as a province.” Bishop Harvey noted that the voluntary 10 per cent tithe that ANiC has been sending to the Southern Cone will now go to ACNA, “with perhaps some money still going to the Southern Cone, in gratitude for what they have done.”ACNA reported that nine provinces in the Anglican Communion sent representatives to the assembly: West Africa, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya (Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi), Southern Cone (including Archbishop Venables), Jerusalem & the Middle East, Myanmar, South East Asia and Rwanda. The provinces of Nigeria and Uganda have officially recognized ACNA.”Together, these provinces represent the Anglican Communion’s two largest provinces and tens of millions of Anglicans,” Archbishop Duncan said at his installation. ANCA leaders hope support of this kind will grow.


  • Leigh Anne Williams

    Leigh Anne Williams joined the Anglican Journal in 2008 as a part-time staff writer. She also works as the Canadian correspondent for Publishers Weekly, a New York-based trade magazine for the book publishing. Prior to this, Williams worked as a reporter for the Canadian bureau of TIME Magazine, news editor of Quill & Quire, and a copy editor at The Halifax Herald, The Globe and Mail and The Bay Street Bull.

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