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Archbishop’s Address: On the State of the Church


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Archbishop Robert Duncan reports to the Provincial Council on the State of the Church.  Read and watch his entire address:

Archbishop’s Address: On the State of the Church given at Provincial Council on Tuesday, 24 June 2014, the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, by the Most Revd Robert Duncan, meeting at St. Vincent Archabbey and College, Latrobe, PA.


Those who sowed with tears, will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves. -Psalm 126: 6,7

We sowed in tears.  We reap in joy. 

It is five years to the day since I was invested as your Archbishop at Christ Church, Plano, Texas.  It was a service of trust and hope in the context of many tears.  Many of us had been exiled from—or were walking away from – the Church that had shaped and formed us.  Many of us had lost – or were in the process of losing – buildings and friends, resources and relationships that were precious to us.  Others just knew that where they were in their Christian journey was not yet where they needed to be and were prepared to risk what they had, trusting God for something better, though not yet realized. 

There was both sadness and resolve in June of 2009.  The context was weeping, but that did not stop us from planting seeds.  It was springtime – planting time – and sorrows must not keep you – and did not keep us – from laboring in the trust that there would be a better day, and that a harvest would follow if we would – wounds and sorrows notwithstanding – faithfully plant.  The Inaugural Provincial Assembly (of which that Plano Investiture was a part) – meeting at another St. Vincent’s (Bedford, Diocese of Fort Worth) – planted faithfully.

There were ten things the Lord moved me to call for on June 24, 2009:
a) Embracing our John-the-Baptist identity as Messengers/Forerunners… Anglicans
b) Growing in unity and charity – as the visible Body of Christ
c) Welcoming back the wounded/loving them/healing them/integrating them
d) Calling and equipping a new generation of leaders
e) Planting 1000 new churches in five years
f) Engaging Islam, secularism, and materialism with the Christian gospel
g) Loving the hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick, and imprisoned
h) Blessing creative ministry responses
i) Getting Scripture by heart
j) Rejoicing and giving thanks in all circumstances.

We sowed in tears.  We reap in joy.

From four former dioceses of the Episcopal Church, from six dioceses of the Reformed Episcopal Church, from ecclesiastical “lifeboats” launched by the Anglican Provinces of Rwanda, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya and Southern Cone, as well as by the Diocese of Recife in Brazil, and from congregations in an even wider Anglican Diaspora, we are now 28 dioceses and a special Armed Forces and Chaplaincy Jurisdiction in a unified Anglican Church in North America.  There is still more work to do, but the present harvest is is abundant: Si monumentum require, circumspice. 

Overlapping jurisdictions are the heritage of this history, so “geographical density” is an ongoing challenge.  But here is the thing.  Any Province can have several forms of “ecclesiastical density:” among them relational, missional, and geographical density.  Five years down the road, we score higher than most Provinces on two out of three.  The challenge of two understandings (“integrities”) of who may be ordained to the priesthood also remains, but have we not come very far in charitably and respectfully working through this, enabling every other part of our life? 

We sowed in tears.  We reap in joy.

983 congregations of the Anglican Church in North America were known to be active at the end of 2013.  That compares to 700 known congregations in June of 2009.  This is a 40 per cent growth in absolute numbers of congregations.  105 new congregations are reported (in the 2013 congregational/diocesan reports) as anticipated start-ups in 2014.  So as this Provincial Council meets the number of our congregations could be as high as 1088, or a fifty-five per cent increase in congregations since 2009.  This is our “net.”  What about our “gross?”  I called Bp. Philip Jones the other day.  We had a lovely conversation.  There are now 50 congregations of the Anglican Mission.  These 50 congregations are no longer numbered in our congregational count in the Anglican Church in North America.  Additionally we believe that at least 50 start-ups have closed, maybe more—we knew all along that not every church plant would succeed.  So what is the gross number of church plants for 2009 to 2014?  We might suppose that number to be not less than 488 congregational start-ups. 

So what about 1000 church plants?  Well, 488 is not 1000, but it sure is an awesome harvest.  Almost immediately, we changed the subject in the Church.  We threw away the rear-view mirror.  This was God’s doing, enabled by our cooperation in His call.  To my knowledge, no other Christian group in North America has done anything like this in the last five years.  (Has it been hard?  Have we encountered difficulties and opposition?  You bet.  The devil does not like what we Anglicans are up to!  But it has been transformative and given us unparalleled joy.)  The call for 1000 new congregations was God’s call.  The call is not ended.  It carries on, and in any case, this is just the first thousand for a Church whose mission is to reach North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ.  What has been established is the understanding that our chief form of domestic mission is achieved through church-planting.  It is what Dr. Tim Keller has said:  “If you want to reach a city [or a people group] for Christ, plant churches.” Sixty Hispanic congregations are a part of the 488. Other ethnic congregations have also been established.  Congregations have been established in assisted living communities, on college campuses, in store-fronts and even in prisons.  Our DNA all across this Church has been coded for church-planting.  (Chapter Two is ahead.)  Thanks be to God, and thanks be to those like Dave Roseberry, Daniel Adkinson, Alan Hawkins and Stephen Leung who gave themselves to encourage us all to embrace this call and this mission.

We sowed with tears.  We reap with joy.

The 2013 congregational reports reveal a healthy Church.  Most of our people are at worship most Sundays.  Of a total number of 3097 baptisms, thirty-one per cent, 969, are of those above the age of 16, converts not transfers.  There were 3197 conversions reported.  There were 6011 new people reported to have been brought into our congregations through evangelism and outreach.  There were 2079 confirmations, 1312 receptions and 293 reaffirmations of Faith.  (These figures are for the 763 congregations reporting.)  Tremendous thanks go to Fr. Andrew Gross, Director of Communications, for his efforts at giving us a congregational reporting system that is finally adequate to our needs, and that most congregations are employing. 

We sowed with tears.  We reap with joy.

Globally our mission is carried out through an incredible network of relationships.  We are partners with Anglican and Christian brothers and sisters in countless settings.  Long and short term missionaries, short-term mission trips, and the mission agencies of the Anglican Global Mission Partners are all aspects of our commitment.  The Anglican Relief and Development Fund is our principal Provincial arm of this commitment, with millions of dollars shared and projects organized in 36 countries.  Lay Canon Nancy Norton, who has led the Fund for nine of its ten years, retires with this Assembly and deserves our heartfelt thanks.  (While this Provincial Council is meeting, simultaneously ARDF has its Global Trustees Meeting.  Among those present for this trustee meeting are the Primates of Southern Cone, Congo, Jerusalem and the Middle East, Myanmar, and South East Asia, together with national trustees representing boards in Australia, Canada and the United States, considering multiple Two-Thirds World development projects for funding.)

The Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) movement has blessed us immeasurably.  GAFCON 1 in Jerusalem (2008) called us to organize as an Anglican Province.  At GAFCON 2 in Nairobi (2013) we were that Province, fully formed and fully recognized.  I, of course, am recognized as a Primate and sit with the Primates.  At GAFCON 2 our own John Guernsey was asked to be chair of the conference statement committee, giving us those amazing words “Instrument of Communion” to describe the GAFCON reality.  Canon Phil Ashey was also tapped to be the chair of the Strategic Planning Team. And to this Assembly three GAFCON Primates are present (Chairman Eliud Wabukala of Kenya, Stanley Ntagali of Uganda and Tito Zavala of the Southern Cone), as well as the movement’s General Secretary, Peter Jensen of Sydney.  The wider Global South Fellowship, with a total of eight Primates here (spread between ARDF and Assembly gatherings) are also our very great friends and allies. Also present is a very senior delegation from Nigeria.

Ecumenical partners have embraced and astounded us.  As Elisha the prophet said, “Those who fight for us are more than those who fight against us.”  We never imagined it as we began.  But courage does breed courage.  And standing for Christ and in Christ brings allies, both visible and invisible, both human and angelic.  The Benedictines of St. Vincent Archabbey, and my very great friend, their Archabbot, the Most Revd. Douglas Nowicki, are the visible signs of just how remarkably God has worked through the ecumenical community to bless us.  Thursday’s Evensong will be a sign and a celebration of the blessing all our ecumenical friends have been to us.

We sowed with tears.  We reap with joy.

I have sometimes spoken about “Anglican fever.”  It is a condition to which twenty-somethings seem to be particularly susceptible.  The Greenhouse Movement, led by Can. William Beasley, has been a particular instrument through which Anglican fever has been transmitted. And Caminemos Juntos has been a particular strain of the “infection.”  For this fever we thank God.  We could not have imagined any of this five years ago. 

We prayed for a new generation of leaders and they are emerging at every level.  This Council and Assembly are about “passing the torch:”  A new Archbishop and new leadership—at every level, and from all the successor generations – will be carrying on and enlarging what has gone before.  Not least, when Assembly 2014 opens tomorrow, note all the teenagers and twenty-somethings among us.
We sowed in tears.  We reap in joy. 
 
Late in the fall of 2013 Texts for Common Prayer appeared, containing The Ordinal and forms for the Offices and Eucharist.  Hopefully by January the College of Bishops will be able to release rites for the Admission of Catechumens, for Baptism and for Confirmation.  Our texts are evolutionary, not revolutionary, bearing the Anglican Patrimony into the 21st century.  What an achievement!  Bp. Bill Thompson, who retires with this gathering, has led a three-streams task force to begin to restore to us a common language for prayer.  (We know that Bill, with Claudia alongside him, faces into a difficult diagnosis, and we commend them to God’s mercy and safe-keeping.)

To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism is a milestone achievement.  Two of our “younger Turks,” Dr. Jack Gabig of Nashotah House and Fr. Lee Nelson of Fort Worth –  aided by the likes of Canadian Bronwyn Short, Trinity School’s Joel Scandrett, and our most senior statesman and teacher, Jim Packer… and a host of others— have given the Anglican world and the whole Christian Church a work of unparalleled importance and utility.  Drafts were seized by our partners in other regions of the world for translation into Farsi and Urdu and Mandarin – and here at home into Spanish – so that catechumens might learn the fullness of the Faith and that every disciple might be better instructed. 

For the Anglican Church in North America we have a very great challenge before us.  Generally speaking, our people are Biblically illiterate, prayerfully anemic, and starved of doctrinal understanding and Christian world-view.  But five years down the road, our Church finally has extraordinary new tools for the crucial work ahead of us.

We sowed with tears.  We reap with joy.

Stewardship remains a great challenge, both personal and corporate.  Tithes should produce more than enough for our congregations to be effective, our dioceses to prosper and our Province to flourish.  We are far from that reality.  It was stirring at the conclave to hear about bishops and their wives who were giving 20% of their income to the work of God – and in every place I know that our clergy are among the best givers to their congregations –  but ALL of us must become (to translate St. Paul precisely) “hilarious givers.”  We have been blessed by lay leaders who give half of what they have away, a part of why we have been able to raise an annual average of $700,000 from individual donors to the Province, or almost 3.5 million dollars over the last five years.  Most congregations are tithing what they do have to their dioceses, and most dioceses are in turn tithing their incomes to the Province.  But there are still challenges ahead, especially for a group like our Reformed Episcopal Church dioceses (that have significant systems and institutions to maintain deriving from their long history as an independent denomination) or a sub-Provincial grouping like PEAR-USA (Province de l’Eglise Anglicane au Rwanda) that have made substantial financial commitments to a sister GAFCON Province.  We have come a long way, but the road before us still very long.

We have elected a new Archbishop.  Many of those critical of our movement said this could never happen, that the Anglican Church in North America would not endure – would not hold together – beyond its first Archbishop.  The College of Bishops held a conclave in these last days.  It was hard and honest work.  Please believe me when I testify to you that we come out of our conclave more united than ever before and unanimously united behind the one who on Saturday will become my successor, the Right Reverend Dr. Foley Beach, Bishop of the Diocese of the South.  Pray for him.  Lead with him.  Be for and with him as you were for me.  Pray for his Diocese.

Who could have imagined that the rest of our immediate succession requirements would also be so fully in place?  Hugo Blankingship, our Chancellor, will be succeeded by Scott Ward.  Bill Roemer, our Treasurer, will be succeeded by Brad Root.  Brad Root will be succeeded, at least until the new Archbishop is clear about the staff he believes he is called to gather together, by Canon Jack Lumanog as Acting Chief Operating Officer and by Canon Alan Hawkins (presently Vicar of Anglican 1000) as Chief Development Officer.  Mr. Bill Deiss of the Falls Church will succeed Nancy Norton as Executive Director of ARDF.  All the members of both Provincial and ARDF support staffs want to continue in their ministries.  What blessing!  What favor we have from God!

Of course, there are very important roles that my successor will need to fill as he constructs the team necessary for the next phase of our Church life.  Who will the next Deputy Chair of the Province be?  Hugo Blankingship has been my sage counselor over many years in ever-so-many situations.  Hugo is one of my heroes, the quintessential layman.  Who will be Dean of the Province?  I have had a fabulous one in Newfoundlander Don Harvey.  Anglican polity wisely provides such an office.  I have literally sent Don around the globe and throughout our Province when I could not be somewhere or when a situation might be better handled by someone other than the Archbishop.  My Cabinet – my program advisers and the leaders of the Task Forces that have enabled so much of what I am reporting here – have helped me to wise decisions and right actions over and over again. The next Archbishop will rightly put together his own Cabinet and make his own program appointments.  Who among you will these be?  Say “yes” to him when he calls. 

Executive Committee has transitioned from being the leaders of the Common Cause Partnership days to an elected body of six clergy and six laity, with an orderly pattern of selection by this Provincial Council.  In all these offices and teams, no Archbishop could have been better served. 

A word, too, about Brad Root.  Brad is another believer, a layman – a quintessential layman of the rising generation – who heard the call of God and led his family to great sacrifices for the cause of Christ.  He began as chief operating officer of the Province without a salary, leaving a lucrative career in business to be my right hand in the creation of ever-so-many things that did not exist before.  And he raised the financial, staff and people resources that enabled this ex nihilo creation.  In a very special way, what I have been able to do as Archbishop he made possible. 

There will be some “Passing the Torch” awards on Friday.  David Anderson and Leonard Riches are two among them.  (The rest are best left as surprises.)  I can safely say that without these two men – each with a very different contribution – we would not be here.  I can also say that the very first St. Cuthbert’s Cross for Unparalleled Contribution to Anglican and Global Christianity will also be awarded in these days to Jim Packer.  “Three Streams: One River.”

We sowed in tears.  We reap in joy.

Nara Dewar and I were married on August 16th, 1969, the weekend of Woodstock.  We met in youth group, when she was 14 and I was 16.  This summer we will celebrate forty-five years of Holy Matrimony.  She has stood by me through all the trials and challenges of the years.  She has my profoundest gratitude.  She should have yours, too.

Last Sunday, the College of bishops went to Ascension Church Pittsburgh to say thanks to the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh for its extraordinary contribution to the Anglican movement, both provincially and world-wide.  Trinity School also deserves recognition for what they did to make both the Diocese of Pittsburgh and this movement what it is, and for all those whose vision it was that “someday Pittsburgh would be more famous for God than for steel.”  After some sabbatical time I get to return to this great diocese as her bishop. 

We sowed with tears.  We reap with joy.

Thank you for the privilege of calling me to be your first Archbishop.  Thank you the prayers and love that sustained me, for the forgiveness you extended when I failed you, and for the teamwork that fulfilled – by God’s grace – so many dreams and made us the movement me are: “Biblical, missionary and united”…”Reaching North America (and the globe) with the transforming love of Jesus Christ.” 
We sowed with tears.  We reap with joy.  To God be the Glory.