The College of Bishops and the Provincial Council of the Anglican Church in North America met last week (the Bishops on June 19-21 and the Council on June 21-23, 2023) at the Provincial Pro-Cathedral, Christ Church Plano outside of Dallas, Texas. One hundred and nine delegates from twenty-nine dioceses and jurisdictions gathered for worship and Bible teaching and to carry out the governance of the Church. Among the more important moments during the meeting were the passing of canonical amendments, the readmission of the Diocese of All Nations (formerly the Anglican Diocese of the West), the election of Executive Committee members, and an update on the growth of our congregations.
A constitutional dispute faced the College of Bishops and Provincial Council as the week began. The bishops, who are charged with “propagating and defending the Faith and Order of the Church,” and with “being in service as a visible sign and expression of the Unity of the Church,” * devoted the entire day on Tuesday to addressing a serious conflict that had been developing for months regarding the roles of the Archbishop and the Provincial Tribunal in disciplinary matters. A key question was whether the bishops signing a Presentment against an accused diocesan bishop had properly sworn to the Presentment. During the very challenging deliberations in which bishops spoke forthrightly with one another to put every perspective in the light, two principal paths forward emerged.
First, a decision to remove any question about the intent and form of the bishops’ signatures was agreed by withdrawing the addendum that the Presenting bishops had submitted. They also confirmed that in signing the Presentment they had sworn to the charges in accordance with the Canons. These actions removed the question of whether there was a defect.
Second, the bishops identified an issue that needed to be addressed to eliminate similar future conflicts and did so by proposing a canonical amendment. The Archbishop Emeritus, the Most Rev. Robert Duncan, was asked to draft canonical language that would do three things: (1) preserve the authority of the Archbishop and of diocesan bishops in disciplinary processes; (2) maintain the constitutional mandate of the Provincial Tribunal as the court of final authority in constitutional and canonical disputes; and (3) sustain the responsibility of individual dioceses and the Province to undertake disciplinary proceedings without the threat of appeal or other judicial action before those proceedings had run their course. The College unanimously agreed to a canonical remedy that would do these three things and recommended it to the Provincial Council for adoption.
Archbishop Foley Beach, with the hearty endorsement of the bishops, asked that the Archbishop Emeritus present this matter to the Provincial Council. On Thursday afternoon the Provincial Council heard the bishops’ recommendation, gave thorough consideration in appropriate questioning, and overwhelmingly agreed to the canonical amendment to Title IV, Canon 5, Section 4, as presented.** There was consensus that the form of the amendment would be thoroughly studied (and refined as necessary) in the coming year. The final proposed form of this amendment would then go to the 2024 Provincial Council for final consideration before coming to the 2024 Provincial Assembly for ratification. (In the Anglican Church in North America, canonical amendments are not final until ratified by the Provincial Assembly.)
You can learn about the other canonical amendments that were passed here.
Welcoming the Diocese of All Nations
The Provincial Council also officially welcomed into the Anglican Church in North America the Diocese of All Nations, formerly the Anglican Diocese of the West. In October 2022, under the strong leadership of Bishop Felix Orji, the diocese left the Church of Nigeria and has now been readmitted into the Anglican Church in North America. Bishop Orji was greeted with a standing ovation from the delegates as he rose to greet the Council.
Archbishop Beach shared encouraging news that the College of Bishops had approved the formation of a Hymnal Commission to be led by Archbishop Emeritus Duncan. The organizing committee will begin by developing guidelines by which decisions will be made, including (but not limited to): 1) the preservation of the fullness of the Anglican patrimony of hymnody in support of the liturgies and calendar of the Church, 2) the inclusion of great, popular, and fully orthodox hymns of the wider Christian family, 3) the selection of the best of contemporary hymns and praises from the last fifty years, and 4) the choice of service music suited to the texts of the Book of Common Prayer (2019) that can serve the whole Church as fully as possible.
The goal is to produce an official hymnal for ratification by the College not later than the quinquennial Provincial Assembly of 2029. Comments to the Hymnal Commission can be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Over the course of Thursday and Friday, the Provincial Council held elections for the Provincial Executive Committee and to fill vacancies in the alternate positions on the Court for the Trial of a Bishop.
The Rev. Herb Bailey and the Rev. Dr. Stephen Noll, were elected to the clergy terms on the Executive Committee. Mrs. Deborah Tepley and Mr. Albert Thompson were elected to the lay terms. They will all serve for the next 3 years. In addition, Ms. Maria Garcia was elected to fill a lay vacancy and will serve a one-year term. Bailey, Tepley, and Thompson enter their second consecutive terms on the Executive Committee while Noll and Garcia are new members.
The vacancies for alternates on the Court for the Trial of a Bishop were filled by the elections of the Rt. Rev. Neil Lebhar and the Rev. Michael Brooks. They both fill one-year terms.
You can learn more about the newly elected members to the Executive Committee and Court for the Trial of a Bishop here: https://anglicanchurch.net/acna-provincial-council-elections/
The year 2022 showed that overall attendance rebounded significantly, though it had not returned to pre-Covid levels. Overall attendance in 2022 was 75,583, which was 30% higher than 2021 and 2% higher than the best two months of 2021. Membership increased 2% from 122,450 in 2021 to 124,999 in 2022. The overall number of churches increased to by three from 974 to 977. Baptisms increased by 27% and Confirmations increased by 25%.
You can find the links to the reports to Provincial Council and watch the recording of the meeting here: https://anglicanchurch.net/provincial-council-2023-christ-church-plano/
* Article X, Constitution and Canons of the Anglican Church in North America
** Proposed Canonical Amendment from the College of Bishops
June 21, 2023
Resolved that Title IV, Canon 5, Section 4 is hereby amended to read as follows:
Section 4 – Concerning the Provincial Tribunal
- There shall be a Provincial Tribunal as provided in the Constitution of the Church. The Provincial Tribunal shall serve: (1) as a court of review in the case of a conviction after trial of a Bishop, Presbyter, or Deacon; and (2) as a court of original jurisdiction: (a) to hear and decide matters in dispute arising from the Constitution and Canons of the Province, except in Title IV prior to the role assigned to it in clause (1) above, (b) to hear and decide disputes between Dioceses, (c) to hear and decide appeals by a bishop pursuant to Canons I.3.3(d) and III.8.7(d) and (d) to issue nonbinding advisory opinions on issues submitted by the College of Bishops, the Provincial Council, or the Provincial Assembly.
- The Provincial Tribunal shall consist of seven members who shall be appointed by the Provincial Council. At least two members shall be Bishops; the senior Bishop in date of consecration shall serve as the President of the Court. At least two members shall be lawyers, knowledgeable in canon and ecclesiastical law. The term of each member of the Court shall be three years or until a successor is elected and qualified.