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By Justin Murff
May 17, 2024

This June, the College of Bishops of the Anglican Church in North America will meet at St. Vincents College in Latrobe, PA from June 20 - June 23 to hold a Conclave to elect the next Archbishop of the ACNA. Many in the ACNA feel that the election of the next Archbishop will determine the future of the entire church.

Make no mistake, there are several elephants in the room that whoever the bishops elect, the next archbishop will require a unique set of skills and enduring fortitude to meet the challenges head on if the ACNA is to survive and meaningfully join the emerging re-formed global Anglican community.

The current Archbishop, The Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach has fought to grow the church in North America through the promotion of evangelism and discipleship across the more than 1200 parishes in the ACNA. Archbishop Beach has also strived to protect and defend the ACNA from hostile encroachments by external Anglican Provinces who continually seek to ignore the role of the ACNA in the Western Hemisphere and by internal "Anglican" movements and organizations that only seek to weaken and hurt the ACNA and often led by disgraced or defrocked former priests.

The ACNA has grown under Archbishop Beach's leadership, but the time has come to elect a new first among equals. So, whoever the College of Bishops elects, this Bishop will need to be able to lead the church where Archbishop's Beach and Duncan have yet to go. The following areas will need to be addressed in the years ahead and in doing so, the future of the ACNA will be charted. The Province's growth or decline very much hang in the balance.


As the number of new clergy continue to grow, many of the younger clergy come a variety of denominations and have struggled to be fully formed as biblically faithful Priests in the classic Anglican tradition. Without an official ACNA Seminary, the church is now left with 28 Diocese each with their own program and approach to training leaving the overall generalization of Clergy of the ACNA best to be described as inconsistent at best in form and practice. For the ACNA to grow, there must be a consistent and universal standard of education, training and formation across the Province.

Ultimately, the ACNA needs a dedicated house of training for our Deacons and Priests. Part of the current dilemma is that the current slate of schools that provide Anglican tracks for our clergy still wrestle with their own identity (Episcopal, Lutheran, Baptist, High church, Low Church, Deconstructed Evangelical, etc). It is amazing that a denomination with more than 1,200 parishes has no institution of higher learning of its own. The time has come to chart a way forward to remedy that.

The Global Church and Holy Orders

As the ACNA looks to the future, the giant elephant in the room must be finally addressed. What will the ACNA decide on the issue of Holy Orders? The current policy of each diocese deciding for itself is a position that only sets up the church for a painful split in the future with many wanting to avoid becoming TEC 2.0.

The current policy is seen by many as simply kicking the can down the road. But the next Archbishop will need to lead the church towards a globally acceptable position that honors the gifting and ministry calling of Women (especially in the diaconate) yet respects and reserves the historic and biblically faithful position of the episcopacy and presbytery.

Especially as the global Anglican Church is re-forming, the decision and firm position of the ACNA in the next year will largely determine if we will be an active member or a passive witness of the historic re-formation of the global Anglican Church being led by our sister Provinces in the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans.

Protecting our Provincial Integrity

The next Archbishop will not only need to defend the faith spiritually, but He will need to have the ability, and more importantly, the experience, to defend our faith from attacks both foreign and domestic. Threats to religious expression and freedoms in almost every area of society are increasing and Anglican's are subject to more scrutiny, especially during administrations that openly hostile to people of faith.

We need an Archbishop who is well known to our Anglican community, the broader religious community, and to our elected officials. When looking abroad, the ACNA has seen the Provincial integrity come under repeated attack, physically, legally, and spiritually, from the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). In a recent GAFCON meeting in Kigali, Archbishop Henry Ndukuba, Primate of All Nigeria, told the GAFCON primates that in an effort to make peace with the ACNA, he has ordered the disestablishment of two CoN Dioceses in North America.

The room met the announcement with applause and Archbishop Henry moved on, but what he neglected to mention to the Primates in Kigali, is that while he has dismantled two diocese, he has created 16 missionary districts with plans to assign missionary bishops over each district in North America. By his very actions, Archbishop Henry and the Church of Nigeria do not respect the ACNA nor are playing by GAFCON rules when it comes to respecting territorial sovereignty and boundaries.

If a weak Archbishop is elected, the ACNA runs the very real risk of being overran by Nigeria because the lifeboat that saved many clergy, has now become a U-Boat intent on firing with full effect.

When looking at the field of candidates there are very few Bishops, (made fewer by retirements) who have board international experience, are actively serving on the board(s) of Seminaries educating Anglican clergy, have current experience regularly testifying and meeting with our elected officials in Washington, D.C. advocating for religious freedom and liberty, who have more than a decade of Episcopal experience leading large and diverse groups of clergy, and who have significant experience standing up for their Diocese and the ACNA on a global stage.

Of the entire college only two Bishops come to mind that have the unique experience that it would appear the ACNA needs in this transformative season. Members of the ACNA must pray for the Holy Spirit to speak to our Bishops as they prepare for conclave. We must pray against ego's and agendas and pray that the Lord's will be done and let us all pray that the next Archbishop of the ACNA will not be her last.

The Venerable Canon Justin Murff is Executive Director, Anglican Office for Government & International Affairs and Canon to the Archbishop for Middle East and North African Affairs - Anglican Church in North America. He is the Archdeacon for International Affairs and Dean of the International Deanery - Jurisdiction of the Armed Forces and Chaplaincy, ACNA

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