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The State of Anglicanism in North America

The State of Anglicanism in North America
A review of where things now stand

By David W. Virtue DD
April 9, 2013

Anglicanism in North America is developing and evolving rapidly.

While the Episcopal Church (TEC) remains static in church growth with declining membership in nearly all dioceses with some notable exceptions like the Diocese of Albany and what was formerly the Diocese of South Carolina, its numbers are on an overall downward trajectory due to smaller, aging congregations, declining income, the push for pansexual acceptance, and a failed effort to double the church by 2020.

By contrast, orthodox Anglicanism, which struck out on its own following the election of Bishop Gene Robinson in 2003, is on an upward trajectory that sees new congregations aborning weekly in both the US and Canada.

The umbrella movement holding this new Anglicanism together - a province in formation in the Anglican Communion - is the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) under the leadership of the Most Rev. Robert Duncan. He is also Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh that formally broke from the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and TEC over the theological and moral trajectory of the Episcopal Church.

Today there are 25 dioceses with some 810 congregations and 235 Ministry Partner congregations in 58 U.S. states and Canadian provinces all under the banner of ACNA. They are:

Missionary Diocese of All Saints, (ministering mostly to Anglo-Catholics in Forward in Faith)
Diocese of the Carolinas,
Diocese of Cascadia,
REC Diocese of the Central States
REC Diocese of the Fort Worth,
Diocese of Great Lakes,
Anglican Diocese of the Gulf Atlantic Diocese
International Diocese
Mid-America, REC Diocese of Mid-Atlantic,
Anglican Diocese in New England
REC Diocese of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic
PEARUSA (North American Missionary District of Province de L'Eglise nglicane au Rwanda)
PEARUSA Regional Networks: Middle Atlantic, East Coast, South and
Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh,
Diocese of Quincy,
Diocese of San Joaquin,
Anglican Diocese of the South,
Diocese of the Southeast, REC
REC Diocese of the West,
Diocese of West,
Dioceses in formation:
Diocese of the Southwest,
Anglican Diocese of the Western Gulf Coast
Several overseas African provinces with diocese in North American hold dual citizenship with ACNA including the Convocation of Anglicans in North American (CANA). CANA is composed of four missionary dioceses presently organizing, but not yet admitted (Holy Trinity, East, West, and Chaplaincy)


Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) affiliated with the ACNA.

Diocese of Western Canada and Alaska and the Mission District of Cuba of the REC (Anglican)

While not a part of the ACNA in the US the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA) recently renamed A Society for Mission and Apostolic Works includes a Canadian branch, The Anglican Coalition in Canada (ACiC).

Of the Continuing Anglican Church movement front there are five serious contenders: the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC), Anglican Province of Christ the King (APCK), United Episcopal Church of North America (UECNA), The Anglican Church in America (ACA) and the Anglican Province of America (APA). Several are in serious unity talks brought about by the recent effort of Pope Benedict promoting Anglicanorum Coetibus which had the unforeseen effect of renewing commitment among Continuers to Anglicanism, and, with it, a desire to bring about unity among the major jurisdictions of Continuing Anglicanism. They have each credited the Holy Spirit for this. The Ordinariate, still in its infancy has not made a serious dent in Anglo-Catholicism. Leading Anglo-Catholic bishops like Keith Ackerman and Jack Iker remain firmly Anglican. To date the Ordinariate has drawn in a total of 25 parishes, 22 from the USA and 3 from Canada.

Overall the picture is good for Anglicanism in North America with some church plants growing faster than others.

Most new startups are comprised of former Episcopalians who could no longer accept the moral and theological innovations of The Episcopal Church. Today that is less so. An endless stream of mission conferences across the country have fired up and galvanized once listless Episcopalians into action when the call went out from Archbishop Duncan to plant 1,000 new churches in the next five years. He may well reach his goal, perhaps even exceed it.

Most church plants meet in rented quarters having lost their original buildings in legal property disputes with The Episcopal Church, with some legal battles drawn out over years. Others simply walked away, leaving the key and checkbook behind, and found alternative worship spaces. Renting new space has benefited the start-ups with less overhead to worry about; the meager resources they have are being pushed into mission-minded church planters.

Furthermore, it should be noted that where growth occurs has a lot to do with demographics, geographical locations, and the charisma of the church planter. The picture is very mixed. If a congregation splits or takes 90% or more of the congregation, the pain is much less, once the initial shock of losing the property is absorbed and the realization dawns "that God dwells in temples not made with hands." (Acts. 7:48) Finding a sympatico Presbyterian, Methodist, or even a Roman Catholic building can be a relatively simple process. Once stories of dumped Episcopalians and legal fights hit the local press, things start happening. This was certainly the case in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Local Roman Catholic officials were more than happy to help Bishop Duncan relocate his fleeing flocks.

Other start-ups vary. A recent church plant on Philadelphia's historic mainline by a group of former Episcopalians found little difficulty finding a sympathetic evangelical Methodist Church in the city of Wayne. Without a church planter but with high Internet visibility, Christ Church Anglican on the mainline is now a reality drawing some 30 on a Sunday afternoon.


Canon Phil Ashey of the American Anglican Council has done significant research on the future of The Episcopal Church. Any way you cut it, it doesn't look good. He paints a grim future for TEC. He recently wrote, "A lot of dioceses will wait until it is too late and eat up their endowments before they merge: Delaware, Easton, and Maryland; Long Island and New York; Connecticut and Rhode Island. One could easily make the case that all the dioceses in upstate New York (Western New York, Rochester, Central New York, and Albany) ought to merge. The Episcopal landscape is going to look a lot different in the coming years. But, based on my estimates (taking into account the average age of Episcopalians, no conversion growth, low birthrate, and poor retention of young people), things start imploding at an alarming rate after about 2018--and that's only six years from now.

"When I say that the Episcopal Church will be out of business by 2050, I don't mean that every last Episcopal church will close its doors. Trinity, Wall Street, has enough money to operate in some form until the Eschaton. All Saints, Pasadena, (an openly gay parish) will continue to survive as long as there are liberals in Los Angeles who need religious validation of their lifestyles and political views. The same can be said for Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, although they will probably never have another dean who will succeed in pulling that off with such an unusual combination of gravitas and panache as Alan Jones."

In none of these cases has the gospel got anything to do with their survival

"The Proctor and Gamble endowments in Southern Ohio and the Eli Lilly endowments in Indianapolis, and a number of other examples elsewhere, will insure that Episcopal parishes in various places survive in some form, writes Ashey. "But, increasingly, the Episcopal Church will be a network of wealthy (but not necessarily well attended) parishes in various metropolises with very little in between. Thanks to the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes, these churches already have their network. But what it means for the Episcopal Church to exist as a denomination will change radically; and for people in many parts of the country, the Episcopal Church will simply cease to exist as part of the religious landscape."

Conservative Blogger Dale Matson noted that one problem for TEC is that in an effort to be relevant in a contemporary society, it is chasing the social trends in an effort to catch up, embrace and include them. Orthodox theology has really become an impediment. Doctrine that once served as an anchor has become a millstone. That is why the theology, currently mushy (some within TEC would say evolving), is of necessity more malleable. TEC thinks of itself as a global church but has forgotten that it has actually downsized. It used to be part of the cosmic church.

The same will not be said for the emerging evangelical Anglican Church in North America which is driven by a different mission model than its liberal counterpart which sees mission as largely social amelioration dealing with global poverty, a variety of women's issues wrapped up in the Five Marks of Mission and Millennium Development Goals.

By contrast, born again Anglicans see Mt. 28 16-20 - The Great Commission - as the centrifugal force driving church growth. Proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom is their primary concern and making disciples for Christ is their number one goal.

Emerging orthodox Anglicans have not been without their faults and problems, however. The recent split in the AMIA was a black eye for orthodox Anglicans. In fairness, it was the vision of Chuck Murphy, as far back as 1999, when he saw the direction of TEC and pushed for a fresh expression of Anglicanism in North America that began the move towards reformation and renewal. Other criticisms of orthodox Anglicanism include unresolved issues over women priests and too many purple shirts consecrated in such a short period of time. Money, power and pride also lurk in the shadows waiting to pounce with Satan himself prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8) We are reminded to be alert and of sober mind.


Now it should also be noted that neither the ACNA nor the Continuing churches are "in communion" with the Archbishop of Canterbury, which means that they are not officially part of the Anglican Communion and do not have a formal relation with the See of Canterbury. This does NOT mean that they are not fully Anglican in heritage and origin even though they remain outside of the Anglican Communion.

Technically speaking, the Archbishop of Canterbury had no ecclesiastical basis for inviting Archbishop Duncan to his recent enthronement though he could have. By not inviting him, it sent a signal to orthodox African leaders that this snub will not soon be forgotten. Earlier, ultra-liberal Canadian Archbishop Fred Hiltz publicly asked Welby to not recognize ACNA. Several saw this as a sign of the internal paranoia now being exhibited by primates like Hiltz and his US counterpart, Katharine Jefferts Schori, over ACNA's growth.

It remains to be seen if Welby will honor that or set his own course recognizing fellow evangelicals like Duncan, John Guernsey, Ray Sutton and CANA Bishop Julian Dobbs. Duncan is on the Primates Council of GAFCON and has a front row seat to the Anglican Communion even though he would not be invited to the annual primates gathering called by the ABC.

With the formation of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and The Global Anglican Future Conference (FCA/GAFCON), the Anglican picture took a dramatic turn to the right and changed forever the Anglican Communion. GAFCON occurred one month prior to the Lambeth Conference, the ten-yearly gathering of Anglican Communion bishops. GAFCON arose because of a "false gospel" being promoted within the Anglican Communion, which denied the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and "promoted a variety of sexual preferences and immoral behaviour as a universal human right". These Anglican Communion blocs, African, Asian and Latin American believed that some provinces have departed from Biblical teaching.

While not recognized as one of the Four Instruments of Unity, GAFCON has become an instrument of its own. This solid evangelical phalanx of mostly African Anglicans stands in direct opposition to the liberally driven Anglican Communion Office -- especially the fourth instrument of Unity, the Anglican Consultative Council which hates anything remotely orthodox pressing the liberal agenda at every turn in the road. How all this will play out with a new evangelical archbishop remains to be seen and is anybody's guess. The jury is still out on Archbishop Welby.

For the moment, the numerical scales still tip in favor of TEC with its less than 700,000 ASA and declining. ACNA combined with other orthodox Anglican jurisdictions makes up well over 100,000 ASA. But that picture is rapidly changing. Much like Latinos in the Roman Catholic Church who once dominated Latin America, that picture too is changing with the rising tide of evangelical and charismatic Latinos leaving the RCC by the millions (see April 15, TIME mag.) TEC will continue to decline, ACNA will continue to grow.

Unless there is a revival of orthodox faith and praxis in TEC and the ACoC, their demise is inevitable. The ACNA will continue to grow fed by the authority of Scripture, the ageless call of the gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit.


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