.ADDRESS TO PROVINCIAL COUNCIL
On the State of the Church
“Freely you have received. Freely give.” [Matthew 10:8]
The opening of this 2013 Provincial Council marks the fourth anniversary of the constitution of the Anglican Church in North America. Following the Inaugural Assembly of 2009 which met at Bedford, Texas, Provincial Council first met at Toronto, Canada. Then we met at Amesbury, Massachusetts. Then we travelled to Long Beach, California. Next we gathered at Ridgecrest, North Carolina, in connection with Assembly 2012. Now we find ourselves at Nashotah, Wisconsin. What a journey it has been!
It is my responsibility to make some comments on the journey and to help to focus us on the work we are called to do in the two days of this 5th Provincial Council. Because we understand so clearly that we are synodically governed and that we are episcopally led, I will also share some of the challenges – and the joys – before the College of Bishops in the work they will do in the two days that follow-on from this Provincial Council. There is a tremendous amount before us in these four days.
The volume of work is a sign of the immense favor God has granted us in these four short years. We must not forget that agreement in the Word of God (“biblical”), agreement about the mission to North America (“missionary”), and the will to be one despite our differences (“united”) are a huge part of the reason there has been such favor. It is also this fundamental agreement about Scripture and the mission, and this will to be one, that have enabled us to accomplish so much in such a short time. My prayer for this Church is that its founding vision – “a biblical, missionary and united Anglicanism in North America” – will always remain its vision and its commitment.
“The main thing is keeping the main thing the main thing.” So spoke the great American philosopher Yogi Berra. As we mature, it will be our “main thing,” too. God has given me the privilege of leading this movement for ten years. The tempest – the storm, the cataclysm – in which we were born motivated us – with the help of countless international and ecumenical friends – to put away lesser differences and band together to imagine and structure a future for a renewed and re-invigorated Anglicanism.
I believe that a major part of what brought us together was not only the desire for refuge from the long-developing super-storms of 2002 (Canada) and 2003 (United States), but also a sovereign act of God to change and re-make our hearts. The trajectory of faithful Anglicans whether dated from the 1970’s (the Continuum) or the 1870’s (the Reformed Episcopal Church) was division and dis-integration. The foundation of the Anglican Church in North America was a change of direction for North American Anglicanism – God’s gift that went way beyond the content of our cries for help. English church historian Colin Podmore says of our foundation: “This coming together was unusual in all of Church history.” 1
Organizational development theorists speak of four stages of organizational life: forming, storming, norming, and performing.2 Agreement characterizes the first stage. Then come the growing pains: the normal conflicts and legitimate disagreements over how to resolve important questions of organizational life. “Storming” is where we are as a Church. How shall we keep the main thing the main thing? How shall we resist reversion to the patterns we came out of? How shall we begin to establish the organizational norms that will make for healthy church life and the fulfillment of the course our God surely has in mind? Everyone here is responsible. To be a New Testament Church will require New Testament behaviors of every last one of us here, and of many, many others. God has done a wonderful new thing among us. Now the stewardship of the “thing” is ours.
Over our meeting must sit the vision: “biblical, missionary and united.” Over our decisions must sit the mission: “reaching North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ.”
In this meeting we will wrestle with many questions:
- Where are we with Anglican 1000?
- How can geographical “overlap” of dioceses be coordinated for local “coherence”?
- What is the minimum size of a diocese?
- What happens when we think we need to alter canonical interpretation?
- How do we relate to our partners in Nigeria and Rwanda, in GAFCON, Global South and
Church of England?
- How can every diocese do its fair share in supporting the province?
- What is the balance between support for provincial sub-jurisdictions and the province?
- Can we agree about provincial liturgies with a right and generous spirit?
- Are we able to carry forward our foundational “two integrities” practice?
- Can we invite other existing jurisdictions into our fellowship?
- Can we give the energies to discipling (catechizing) we have given to church-planting?
- Is it possible to do better at gathering statistics so that we can know more fully who we are and what we have done?
Please do not be alarmed if our fellowship is a bit more “vigorous” than usual. This is where we are supposed to be. This does not need to turn out badly, quite the contrary. These discussions will build godly muscle. It all just depends on keeping the main thing the main thing. Keeping God’s purposes before us will insure that our fellowship is even stronger when these meetings conclude. “A biblical, missionary and united Anglicanism in North America”… “Reaching North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ.” This is the main thing.
Things to Celebrate
We continue to plant churches. We changed the subject. Everywhere you go, it is church-planting that is being discussed. The statistics we do have tell us that there is at least one new congregation launched every week, something like 300 in four years. Will there be 1000 new congregations in five years? With the 1-2-3 challenge put forth by Can. Alan Hawkins and his A1K team – every congregation planting one new church in the next two years using one of three strategies – it could still happen. Whether it does or not, I think we can reasonably say that church-planting is now fixed in the genetic code of this Province. What a triumph that is!
For every two children baptized, there is one adult baptized. While the statistics for 2010 had the ratio at nearly one for one, these continue the statistics of a Church reaching people who have never known Christ. There is additionally the report of 1932 conversions to Christ in 2012, not all of whom had yet been baptized, given the 740 youth and adult baptisms reported. 3
To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism is close to publication as a “Working Text.” Not perfected but copyrighted and ready for use, this Catechism is an awesome achievement. Intended for adult converts, intended to be far more comprehensive than previous Anglican catechisms of the Christendom age, there is already global interest in this work of our Catechesis Task Force, including requests to translate it into Chinese and Farsi. For a four-year old Province to have produced this is a sign of just how much of God’s favor and of human giftedness are with us. Oh yes, and our own Anglican House Publishers will put it in print, just as they have done with our first teaching video Surprising Merrily.
Classical Anglican texts for worship are now also ready to be put into wide use. The Prayer Book and Liturgy Task Force wisely began with constructing a “theological lens” through which all efforts would be assessed. The Ordinal, Eucharistic Texts, and the Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer – while still being subjected to Task Force assessment by feedback from their use – are very nearly in the form that will serve our Province as standards for Divine Worship for years to come.
Half our College of Bishops marched in the fortieth anniversary March for Life in January. We continue engaged, facing into issues surrounding religious liberty and the challenges of Islamism. Anglicans are suddenly one of the largest groups of military and institutional chaplains, thanks to the efforts of Bishop Derek Jones and the foresight of CANA. Our ecumenical partnerships continue to build bridges and to delight us. Where do I stop?
The Anglican Church in North America continues to secure its place in global Anglican circles. The amazing work of the Anglican Relief and Development Fund is a huge part of the story: 134 development projects in 36 nations, alongside of millions of dollars of relief work in global disasters, has shown the Anglican world that we desire to be agents of the transforming love of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. In a different way, as a GAFCON/GFCA Province we are full partners with a majority of the world’s Anglicans. Twice a year I participate in the GAFCON/GFCA Primates Council. An even larger constellation of Anglican Provinces – the so-called Global South – also always includes our leadership in their global gatherings. The Church of England continues to follow-through on the General Synod motion of 2010, a follow-through that, I am convinced, will lead to the recognition of our orders within another year or so. Recently I spent four and a half hours with the Archbishop of Canterbury, at his invitation. Last week I spent five hours of private time with the Primate of Nigeria, deepening our relationship and commitment to one another. The role of the Anglican Church in North America in GAFCON 2 in October in Nairobi – some one-hundred-thirty-four of us – will be an immensely significant one. The Anglican Church in North America is a significant player on the Global Anglican stage.
Final Questions and Exhortation
The Bishop and a member of the Clergy of the Diocese of South Carolina are with us as observers. Will they find us the kind of Church they believe they are being called into union with? I surely hope so. Whether we keep the main thing the main thing will affect their assessment, I am sure. An observer from the Jubilee Pentecostal Fellowship of Churches is also here. That Fellowship is on the Nairobi (Canterbury) trail. Will the Anglican Church in North America be found to be the body with whom they can journey forward? Can we keep the main thing the main thing in order to find a godly, creative and Anglican way for such a union to take place? As with South Carolina, I hope so. Imagine what these two unions would say – in very different ways – about 21st century Anglicanism and about the place the Anglican Church in North America might have in the effort to re-evangelize this continent. “A biblical, missionary, and united Anglicanism.” “Reaching North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ.”
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus instructs the twelve that they are to:
Preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts…
As it turned out, few of us got to take any gold or silver or copper… But our whole story has been that “freely [we] have received.” That’s our story as a Province. We have attempted to preach the Word and do the Works, attended by the Worship and by the Wonders. The main thing is the kingdom of heaven, and, by God’s grace it has come very near to us. We have received God’s favor, not because we deserved it, but because God gave it. Our formation, and our early years, have been amazing. Let’s not retreat. Let’s not turn back. Let’s not settle for less than the vision and the mission, and let’s not compromise them. Freely we have received. Freely give. The main thing is keeping the main thing the main thing.
1, Private interview, London, April, 2012
2, Bruce W. Tuckman, Team Development> (1965)
3, Statistics drawn from the 2012 Congregational Report, Anglican Church in North America