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Celebrating 15 Years Of The ACNA



Fifteen years. In the span of fifteen years much can happen: rejoicing in the birth of a child, holding their hand as they take baby steps, letting go of the bicycle as they peddle all alone, and sitting nervously in the passenger seat as they drive home with their new driver’s permit. There are some days that seem particularly arduous as children are shuttled from soccer practice to piano lessons and grabbing a quick bite in between as they finish their homework. Other moments in life you want to hold onto and not let go, like when your children snuggle against you on the couch wanting to read their favorite book for the 20th time. Just as we walk through these developmental stages of life, so too we have seen the birth, growth, and maturation of the Anglican Church in North America from its founding in 2009, fifteen years ago.

This video briefly highlights perspectives on 15 Years of the Anglican Church in North America.

From birth by faith and conviction, we have followed the call to proclaim Christ and the fullness of His Word. There has been church planting, growth, the grounding of our worship in the Book of Common Prayer 2019, and the strengthening of discipleship through the catechism. Through it all, God has brought the Anglican Church in North America a long way.

This June, in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, we will gather to celebrate what God has done with gratitude and praise, but also to join in prayerful anticipation. A new Archbishop will be elected. We will give thanks for where God has brought us, and we will support one another in our burdens and triumphs, as we put our trust in what God has in store for us.In June 2009, the inaugural Assembly of the Anglican Church in North America met in Bedford, Texas where we approved and adopted the Constitution and Canons by which we order our life together. Archbishop Duncan and others remembered the meetings in Bedford, Texas as being hot, “really, really, hot.” However, through the literal hot temperatures and struggle to come to an agreement on how to remain together and remain faithful, he reflected, “you trust the Lord and you say your prayers. It’s amazing how the Lord shows up and shows you a way when you thought there was no way.”

Rachel Thebeau, Deputy Communications Director for the ACNA, was a Youth Delegate at the inaugural assembly: “I remember being in the gym in Bedford when we first passed the Constitution and Canons and the eruption of applause and cheering. There was just so much life there and it really was the Lord bringing us together, unifying us. Groups from all different areas of Anglicanism, really, some had left [the Episcopal Church] years ago. Others were just leaving – there were a lot of those dynamics, but at least for that week we were all together. We were family. We had this common goal and alignment, and I just remember the cheering and the joy. That was really special to be a part of.”

“There was such a strong desire to be faithful to the Scriptures and the historic faith of the church, and yet to remain within the Anglican communion,” recalled Bishop John Guernsey, founding but now retired bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic. “There was a willingness of our people to endure many sacrifices, losses of property and insurance and positions, and all the rest in order to remain faithful to the scriptures and to the faith once delivered to the Saints.”

Bishop Emeritus, Al Gadsen, of the Diocese of the Southeast Reformed Episcopal Church, explained the sentiment held by many in those days saying, “I had begun to feel like we were isolated and left alone as we watched the world going to hell in a handbag. I kind of had an Elijah experience where I began to feel dejected – like we were the only ones who were fighting the battle. Becoming a part of the Anglican Church in North America really gave me hope. Hope for mankind, realizing that there were more of us in the battle.”

The investiture of Bishop Robert W. Duncan as the first Archbishop of the ACNA was held at Christ Church, Plano, Texas on June 24th, 2009. There was +significance, particularly for Archbishop Duncan, that this day happened to also be on the feast of and nativity of Saint John the Baptist. Archbishop Duncan noted, “John the Baptist was the forerunner of the Messiah, the forerunner of the Christ that it seemed to us was God’s choice for our patron. And so, we sang Benedictus, which is about bringing salvation to the people and forgiveness of sins. The good news of the Lord. You know, that’s a pretty spectacular kind of Bible song for the foundation of the Province.”

Hugo Blankenship, Chancellor of the ACNA at the time, said, “I don’t know how people knew that George Washington was the man that he was, but they just did, and I think Bob Duncan was well known to be the leader and it didn’t seem to be any question about it. I mean, he was the guy that was going to pull us through this and lead us through what I called deep waters.”

The sound of drums in Christ Church stood out in the mind of the Rev. Dr. Travis Boline as she recalled the service of investiture: “It was an electric moment to realize that we needed each other, the clergy and the laity needed each other to take this bold step. As we were marching into Christ Church, they had lots and lots of drums being played. The drums kept coming and droning and droning and then it slowly changed into a hymn. I just thought it was remarkable and I didn’t understand the significance of it ‘til afterwards when somebody told me that the theme for that was we were coming out of Africa. We were coming into our own because when we [many parishes] left [the Episcopal Church], we had no one to give us the oversight that we needed, and the African bishops were so generous to open their arms and welcome us.”

Indeed, the House of Bishops in the Church of Uganda led the way by immediately recognizing the ACNA in 2009 and transferred Bishop John Guernsey, 53 churches, and 140 clergy into the new Province. The other Anglican Provinces such as Rwan- da, Kenya, Nigeria, and South America, that had provided “lifeboats” for congregations over the years followed suit. Under Archbishop Duncan’s leadership, task forces were formed for a new Book of Common Prayer, a new catechism, holy orders, ecumenical relations, and a Governance Task Force.

For Bishop Guernsey, in fact, one of his major highlights in considering the fifteen years of the ACNA has been the formation and publication of the Book of Common Prayer and Catechism. “It was so evident to me that the Holy Spirit was at work, seeing how the work on the prayer book and the catechism came together, seeing disparate perspectives and viewpoints about fundamental things. Worship, of course, is central for Anglicans, our theology is expressed in our catechism. To see groups work together in the spirit of, ‘How can we do this so that it works for all of us?’ It was approved unanimously by the College of Bishops. It is an extraordinary catechism being used all over the world in a growing number of languages – clearly the work of the Holy Spirit and a beautiful thing that is going to provide a bedrock, foundation stone for our church.”

Significant tests for any institution come at transition points. Meeting in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, the College of Bishops met in conclave and unanimously chose Bishop Foley Beachfrom the Diocese of the South to be the next Archbishop. ACNA Communications Director, Canon Andrew Gross, recounted the moments after Beach’s election: “After each Bishop came up from the crypt of the basilica at Saint Vincent, we had about one hour to work out the press release as we drove to Church of the Ascension, where it [the election] would become very much public knowledge – whether we got the press release out or not. So we ended up writing the press release from the back of a car as we drove.” Archbishop Beach decided to hold this June’s Assembly at St. Vincent to recall with gratitude God’s faithfulness over the past ten years of his leadership.

In a personal moment of reflection, Canon Andrew commented, “One of the reasons it has been a privilege to serve Archbishop Beach has been his getting to know him and his heart for people, not just at events where he’s up front and
speaking, but behind the scenes. During layovers and long flights you get to know someone really well. The truth is, with Archbishop Beach, what you see is what you get. He is who he seems to be, and he’s a man who cares about evangelism, cares about discipleship, and truly loves God’s people.”

Bishop Gadsen has been impressed with Archbishop Beach’s stamina over the course of his leadership and explained, “His motto was, ‘Forward, always forward’ and he led the ACNA in that direction, establishing all kinds of relationships with our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world. At some point, I envied him because of his stamina, and of his ability to just keep going. He kind of reminds me of the Energizer Bunny. You know, he’s just like, you change a battery and move on. So, his administration has been one, I think, that has built upon the foundation that Bishop Duncan laid, and he took it and he ran with it.”

“Archbishop Beach has a remarkable willingness to delegate,” Bishop Guernsey shared, “to trust the work to others, to draw forth those who are willing to carry responsibility under his leadership. He’s willing to make the hard call, no question about that, but he’s also willing to utilize the gifts of the body of Christ. And so we see that coming forth with the initiatives and many other ways in which he has raised up next generation leaders in tremendous ways.”

“It is remarkable to see the growth and development of the ACNA; by the end of 2022 we had grown to 977 churches with a membership of 124,999. As with most growth and transition there are growing pains and the ACNA is no exception, but through these challenges, the ACNA is learning and refining how to best edify, encourage, and love each other in Christ.”

Another dimension to the growth of the ACNA has been the strengthened global Anglican and ecumenical ties. Nowhere was this more evident than the GAFCON and Global South conferences held in Nairobi (2013), Cairo (2016, 2019, 2021) Jerusalem (2018), and Rwanda (2023). Each conference was marked by the significant presence of the ACNA delegation with Archbishop Foley being elected as the Chairman of the Gafcon Primates Council in 2018 and to the Global South Steering Committee in 2019. The world appeared just a bit smaller as we deepened fellowship with our brothers and sisters in the global Anglican communion and forged new relationships. The fulfillment of the promise of a new heaven and new earth where every tribe, tongue, and nation will worship together felt a step closer.

Indeed, in the span of fifteen years, the ACNA has come a long way with a future only God can imagine. In 2009 a group of Anglican laity, clergy, bishops, archbishops, and international partners took a huge step of faith forward to continue reaching North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ. “The joy that was there in 2009 is maybe driven a little bit differently now,” said Rachel Thebeau, “but it’s still there. So, when we gather together, the Lord is present and it’s really the joy of the Lord that’s there. But the joy is palpable, and the love is palpable. And I think that’s what’s helped us, as we grow and mature, to stay together.”

“I’ve never been drawn to form the International Church of John,” Bishop John Guernsey said, “I think I need to be under authority. I think I need to be accountable. I think I need my brothers and sisters. To constantly seek to form smaller and smaller groups that give me the mistaken idea that I’m now secure because I’m only with my own kind, however narrowly defined, I think is a dangerous solution. I think we need each other in the body of Christ…we’ve been a uniting group; a group that brings people together instead of a group that just fragments more and more and more into seemingly ideal, perfect monolithic groups. We’ve come together reversing, frankly, a common Anglican trend to increasingly fragment. But to come together, biblically united, and missionary focused.”

This June we will gather at Assembly with the theme of ‘Rejoice, Pray, Give Thanks’ for we have much reason to do all three. As we give thanks for the leadership of Archbishop Beach, we will look forward in prayer with the newly elected Archbishop, all the while rejoicing in what God has been doing and will continue to do.

Bishop Gadsen summarized well the sentiment for this year’s Assembly: “So the ACNA has come a long way over the last 15 years. When I look back and think about the perception that some had when the ACNA was formed, – that we would not last more than five years, and now we are getting ready to celebrate a 15th year anniversary – it teaches me or has taught me to really trust God, allow him to steer the ship. You know, we just hold the wheel. He steers the ship. And it goes wherever he wills.”

Finally, Gadsden concluded, “My hope for ACNA, is that we will continue to press towards the mark of the high calling in Christ Jesus, because that is our objective: to declare the gospel to a dying world. I see ACNA as doing that and I just hope that the ‘Forward, Always Forward’ philosophy will forever be a part of the ACNA. That we will be able to call men from eternal damnation unto eternal life, and as I said earlier, we can do that if we continue to look towards Almighty God – allowing him to lead. For God to direct.”

A timeline graphic of the 15 Years of the ACNA can be seen and downloaded here.



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