Here is how Christianity Today begins to describe this ostentatious event:
In a history-making gesture, conservative evangelical Anglicans, deeply alienated by the decline of the U.S. denomination, sounded a shofar to herald the creation of the Anglican Church of North America.
On a snowy Wednesday evening, about 1,000 worshipers, mostly from the U.S. and Canada, gathered in Wheaton, Illinois, for a worship service to celebrate the creation of the new entity, which comprises 656 congregations, 800 clergy, 30 bishops, and 100,000 people in regular worship. They represent the evangelical, charismatic, and Anglo-Catholic traditions within Anglicanism. (Source)
Well, first of all, I didn’t know that this new denomination and its members were alienated by the “decline of the U.S. denomination,” unless theological and pietistic plurality is considered “decline.” And, they do have members that represent these different Anglican traditions, but certainly not all faithful â€œevangelicalâ€¦ Anglo-Catholicâ€ Episcopalians/Anglicans have joined up (alright, they may represent all Charismatics). Anyway…
So, there is now a new denomination (almost) coming out of the Common Cause Partnership and now within the Continuing Anglican Movement (here is a llist of all the different “Anglican” groups that are saving Anglicanism). It is called the “Anglican Church of North American.” They (actually in a statement by the new archbishop-to-be Bob Duncan, but I’m sure shared by most of the estimated 100,000 or so members) that this new group will eventually displace The Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. According to Bob Duncan, “The Lord is displacing the Episcopal Church.” Perhaps, but I suspect the people of The Reformed Episcopal Church, of the Anglican Province of Christ the King, of the Traditional Anglican Communion, etc., had similar thoughts when they broke away and created a newer, purer “Anglican” expression in the U.S.
This new denomination will have much more support in their efforts from around the world than the previous breakaway groups (even considering CANA or AMiA). The time-tested Anglican structures and means of conflict resolution are under great stress and are in some cases breaking down and being replaced with a means of solving problems that will only result in continued division and diversion. Ultimately, whether this new denomination has a better go at supplanting The Episcopal Church as the Anglican Communion structure in the U.S. (or the Anglican Church of Canada) than did the other past attempts is yet to be seen.
I was talking with a guy who develops apps for the iPhone a while back about the effects the Internet has had on “community.” I commented that a negative aspect is being realized right now in the Anglican Communion due to the speed and ease of communication and interaction made available by the Internet. In times past when controversial decisions were made locally, there was time to consider, wrestle, and perhaps reform monumental changes in structure or theology within an individual Province before it became a breaking issue around the world. Now, there is no time for patience consideration and allowance for slow and reasoned process to work. Today, we have immediate international involvement in local issues and we want resolution NOW without regard to the fact that this stuff just takes a long time to resolve. So, we break apart because special-interest groups that are small and fringe can wield far more power and influence with a Website and e-mail.
A loud and continual drumbeat of â€œthe sky is fallingâ€ gets far wider consideration and involvement than before. With our new found propensity to go to news sources that generally confirm our preconceived notions (less troublesome challenges to what we want to believe), we find it is harder to get fair hearings and reasoned debate. Conclusions are already drawn and propagated world-wide.
The leadership of this newish denomination justifies itself by attempts to establish grand linkages back to the Protestant Reformation. Today’s Anglican Communion Churches in the U.S. and Canada (and other provinces) are compared to the then Roman Catholic Church in its corruption and apostasy, and today’s reformers likened themselves to figures of the earlier Reformation (how about Ikar=Luther; Schofield=Cranmer; Ackerman=Calvin; Nims=Zwingli; Duncan=Menno Simons or Wesley – who knows?). I really think they overplay their hand by likening themselves and their activities to such reformers that “saved Christianity.” Interestingly, even some Protestant academics and theologians are rethinking whether the Reformation, as it played out, was really a good thing or not for the Christian faith in the West.
My final rambling comment has to do with the continued mantra of justification for schism (or separation) by this group being due to the apostasy of The Episcopal Church as proven by the decline in members â€“ in their purity they will supplant by numeric growth the apostate, declining Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. Now, while I certainly agree that The Episcopal Church has declined in numbers over the last few decades for various reasons, including disarray in its common theology and praxis, the claim that the decline is proof of its apostasy is disingenuous. Why?, because Christianity is in decline in the U.S. (and the West), period. Even the Southern Baptists are worried about their own decline; even the Assemblies of God are wondering what to do about their growth stagnation. This is not the case in Africa countries were most Christian groups are honestly growing. However, growth in Africa does not translate to the correctness of theology or practice in Africa being transplanted world-wide. If it did, the demand might be that we all become Prosperity-teaching Charismatics.
There are a number of church bodies in the U.S. that are certainly growing, but generally this growth reflects individuals moving from one church to another, not numeric growth by the unchurched or non-Christians joining the ranks (getting them heathens saved). Growth within American Evangelicalism (Anglican or otherwise) is generally the moving of furniture from one room to another and not the bringing in of new pieces from outside. From my experience within American Evangelicalism and within The Episcopal Church, I witness far more non-Christians investigating the faith or disillusioned Christians trying to reconnect with God coming to The Episcopal Church than I ever did within American Evangelicalism. That is my experience, and I am sure lots of people will have other opinions.
Great problems and inconsistencies within The Episcopal Church must be dealt with honestly and forthrightly (which often doesn’t happen), but the schismatic groups need to simply quit using the decline in numbers as proof of their negative assertions about The Episcopal Church and their need to form a “restored” or “purer” or “reformed” Anglican presence within North America. It plays well with their adherents for the end game, but doesn’t boost their argument and probably won’t help them realize their goal.
Well, finally the new denomination is established. No more pretense. We will see what happens from here on out.