ACNA College of Bishops Meeting Concludes
The Anglican Church in North America’s College of Bishops dedicated a week to meet together in Orlando, Florida under the leadership of the Most Rev. Robert Duncan, Archbishop and Primate, to worship, pray, take counsel together, and do Bible study. CANA Bishops in attendance included Julian Dobbs, Felix Orji, Derek Jones, Roger Ames, and David Anderson. (During this same time frame, Missionary Bishop Martyn Minns and Bishop Amos Fagbamiye were attending meetings of the Bishops of the Church of Nigeria in Africa.)
The ACNA College of Bishops was blessed to have a number of special guests, including two dozen of the bishops’ wives. Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali served as Biblical expositor, focusing on Ephesians and how it shapes our ministry to share the transforming love of Jesus Christ in North America. The College was also honored by the presence and witness of Bishop Azad Marshall of the Anglican Diocese of Iran.
Throughout the week, the Bishops pursued healthy ways of working together that foster greater unity in Christ while honoring the diverse styles and ministries of the dioceses. The College received reports from task forces on a variety of topics:
Theological Task Force on Holy Orders
The College of Bishops approved a Method of Procedure for the Theological Task Force on Holy Orders. It includes the following steps:
- Phase 1 of this five-phase procedure was to identify and appoint bishops and other scholars to the Task Force. This is now complete. At each subsequent phase, there will a report to and dialogue with the full College of Bishops.
- Phase 2 now begins. The Task Force will explore how the Authority of Scripture functions in the Church, addressing hermeneutical issues and the role of the Church’s Tradition in biblical interpretation.
- Phase 3 will explore the nature of the Church, clarifying the meaning of ordained Ministry and considering how the structure of the Church’s ordained Ministry relates to the whole.
- In Phase 4 the Task Force will discuss the arguments, pro and con, related to the ordination of women, considering the relevant Scriptural texts and historical arguments, and reviewing studies conducted within and without the Anglican tradition.
- In Phase 5 the Task Force will submit a report to the GAFCON/FCA International Theological Commission (ITC).
- Following a review of comments received from GAFCON/FCA, the ITC and the ecumenical partners of the ACNA, the final report and recommendations of the Task Force will be submitted to the College of Bishops.
The Task Force is committed to perform its mandate thoroughly and in a timely manner.
Development of Prayer Book Liturgies
The College of Bishops encouraged and supported the ongoing work of the Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force. The College worshiped using the Task Force’s draft liturgies and guided and gave specific comment on the important and prayerful work the Task Force has done thus far. The College used and discussed two draft Holy Communion liturgies and drafts of both Morning and Evening Prayer.
The College also received Draft 3.0 of the proposed Ordinal for Bishops, Priests and Deacons. The College was encouraged by adjustments the committee had incorporated as a result of comments arising out of the College’s provisional use of the Ordinal. Further adjustments of style still need to be made. The expectation is that the Ordinal, once approved, will be used in its entirety and not combined with other ordinals.
The College reaffirmed the commitment expressed in the Constitution of the Province to permit use of all the authorized prayer books and liturgies of the founding jurisdictions of the Province.
The Task Force will submit the draft liturgies to our ecumenical partners for their review and comment.
The College continues to commend the work of the Task Force and prayerfully looks forward to the day when the Province will have its own Book of Common Prayer.
The report on overlapping dioceses brought into focus both the excitement of the growth of this new missionary province in North America and the challenges of bringing us into conformity with historic Anglican practice. The goal of the work is to organize each region for the long-term sustainability of the movement in recognizable, godly Anglican Church structures.
Mission development has been structured through both geographical and affinity based dioceses and networks. A map of all 951 churches of the Anglican Church in North America helped the bishops to identify 11 regions of overlapping mission work among the various jurisdictions of the Province. Bound together by the Holy Spirit in historic faith and Gospel mission, we trust that these challenges will result in enhanced collaboration, responsive structures and ministry oversight, with better sharing of resources, clearer communication and more profound unity in the mission that we share.
The Ecumenical Relations Task Force
The Ecumenical Relations Task Force, chaired by the Rt. Rev. Ray R. Sutton, reported a number of exciting new developments. In its work with catholic jurisdictions, the Task Force was told by the second highest ranking bishop in the Russian Orthodox Church, the Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, that Orthodox dialogue with the Anglican Communion in North America would be directed through the Anglican Church in North America. In addition, Archbishop Robert Duncan and Bishop Sutton were invited with Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Anglican Primate of Kenya and Chair of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GAFCON/FCA), to have a public audience in Rome with Pope Benedict XVI on November 28, 2012. The delegation was cordially and graciously received and it was an occasion for good conversation. It is hoped that this visit will foster enhanced relations between Anglicans and Roman Catholics.
On the evangelical side of the kingdom of God, new efforts have begun with Messianic Jewish brothers and sisters. CMJ-USA, whose National Director is the Rev. Canon Daryl Fenton, former Canon to Archbishop Duncan, is partnering with ten ACNA congregations to launch pilot programs for reaching Jewish people with the Gospel. Already Messianic Jewish congregations have begun to meet in several ACNA parishes. In other work with evangelicals, the Rev. Canon Phil Ashey related how a new ecumenical coalition of confessing Christians has formed, with representatives from Evangelical Presbyterians, Good News Methodists, Lutherans, Anglicans, and other evangelical groups. This coalition adopted an agreed upon statement: “Jesus Christ: Our Common Ground and Common Cause.”
Relationships, Reconciliation, and Election of New Bishops
There was deep, honest, and profound conversation among the bishops as the College pursued Biblical patterns of reconciliation. There were apologies, conversations, tears, and prayers for healing. One result was the restoration of Bishops Thad Barnum, Terrell Glenn and Todd Hunter back into full fellowship of the College.
Meeting in consecrated space, the College also approved the consecrations of the Rev. Quigg Lawrence (Atlantic Regional Network of PEARUSA), the Rev. Ken Ross (Western Regional Network of PEARUSA), the Very Rev. Clark Lowenfield (ACNA Diocese of the Western Gulf Coast in Formation).
In addition, the College confirmed the election of the Rt. Rev. Charlie Masters as Bishop Coadjutor of the Anglican Network in Canada, and received into the College the Rt. Rev. Frank Lyons, former Bishop of Bolivia, as Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
These elections confirm both the wonderful growth and the healing of relationships that are taking place in the Anglican Church in North America. “The ministry of the new bishops will provide episcopal care and oversight in regional networks for clergy and parishes and sustain and expand our mission as a growing movement of healthy, reproducing Anglican churches,” said Bishop Steve Breedlove of PEARUSA.
Catechesis Task Force
The Catechesis Task Force, chaired by the Rev. Dr. Jack Gabig, presented a first draft of a new Catechism. The College was greatly encouraged by this work and offered direction to ensure that the Catechism fully expresses the transforming work of the Gospel, the sacramental life of the Church and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
The Rev. Alan Hawkins, Vicar of Anglican1000, reported on the exciting work of church planting, sharing the plan by which fulfillment of the vision of planting 1000 churches in five years is a real possibility.
Anglican Relief and Development Fund
Mrs. Nancy Norton, Executive Director of the Anglican Relief and Development Fund, shared about the important work of ARDF. In addition to the dynamic growth of ARDF in the U.S., ARDF-Canada and ARDF-Australia have been established.
We noted the communication of the House of Bishops of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) concerning the recent decision of the House of Bishops in the Church of England to allow those in civil partnerships to be eligible to serve as bishops. This impacts both the doctrine of marriage and that of episcopacy. The Nigerian bishops wrote:
When the Church of England failed to exercise its legal and moral right to opt out of the civil partnerships legislation in 2005 warnings were given in England and around the Anglican Communion that this was a first step towards the recognition and institutionalization of behaviour contrary to the plain teaching of scripture and reaffirmed for all Anglicans by the 1998 Lambeth Conference in its Resolution 1.10. Sadly those warnings were ignored and we now face the next step in a process that could very well shatter whatever hopes we had for healing and reconciliation within our beloved Communion….
As a House of Bishops, while we acknowledge that we all fall short of God’s call to holiness, we dare not compromise the clear teaching of our Lord on faithfulness within Holy Matrimony and chastity outside of it. Sadly we must also declare that if the Church of England continues in this contrary direction we must further separate ourselves from it and we are prepared to take the same actions as those prompted by the decisions of The Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada ten years ago.
The College agreed with the principle articulated in the Windsor Report that “what affects the communion of all should be decided by all.” The experience in North America has been that that the theological departures from historic Anglican norms have brought devastating consequences. The admonishment from the Nigerian Bishops will, if heeded, avoid further anguish.
The Task Force on Religious Freedom and Islam
This January marks the 40th remembrance of legalized abortion in the United States. For a country so rich in Christian heritage, the reality of 55 million aborted children scars our land and demands our attention. When the foundations of the Anglican Church in North America were laid, we acknowledged the sanctity of life and the sin of abortion (Canon II.8.3-4). This January, the Archbishop and at least fourteen bishops of the Anglican Church in North America will participate in the March for Life in Washington, DC and attend the ‘Silent No More’ program at the United States Supreme Court.
In additional to matters of religious freedom, the College heard from Bishop Azad Marshall and Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali who spoke about challenges of resurgent Islam and addressed issues of suffering, persecution and mission. We were encouraged as Bishop Marshall shared inspiring reports of ministry in the Gulf, Pakistan and Iran.