I recognize that a number of ACNA churches are making a concerted effort to reach and engage a broad segment of the unchurched population of North America as I recognize that a number of ACNA churches are faithful to the Holy Scriptures and the historic Anglican formularies and stand in the heritage of the English Reformation and the Elizabethan Settlement. However, I do not believe that this segment of the Anglican Church in North America is representative of the denomination as a whole. Rather it is representative of one wing of the ACNA.
What I do see in a number of denominational institutions is the presence of a strong Catholic Revivalist influence and a commensurate lack of appreciation for the realities of the North American mission field and the needs of congregations and missional communities on that mission field. The Catholic Revivalist wing of the Anglican Church in North America is more concerned with the promotion of its particular ideology than it is with the spread of the gospel and the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Its past evangelism and church planting efforts have been driven by a desire to propagate its ideology and to proselytize new converts to that ideology. It preaches “a different gospel” from the gospel of the New Testament.
For the time being this ACNA wing is content to convert the denomination to its ideology by occupying the place of power in the Anglican Church in North America and determining the content of the denomination’s key formularies—its canons, its catechism, and its Prayer Book. It seeks to influence by these means the thinking of the clergy and congregations in the denomination and gradually convert them to its opinions by the expedient of denying them any alternative way of thinking.
In a sense the Catholic Revivalist wing of the Anglican Church in North America is parasitic. It grows by converting the clergy and congregations of new and existing churches to its opinions.
Its own church planting efforts are confined largely to that segment of the population that is open to unreformed Catholic teaching and practices, typically married couples in which one spouse is a Roman Catholic, individuals with a Roman Catholic or Anglo-Catholic background, and individuals who are attracted to the particular ambience of its church buildings and its church services and its claims of continuity with the past. These married couples and individuals are more accurately described as dechurched or lightly churched than they are as unchurched. They have a history of exposure to some form of the Christian faith and of past church attendance.
The churches this wing plants generally do not have a strong culture of evangelism and church planting. One is likely to find their churches in the more populated areas of Canada and the United States within driving distance of neighborhoods in which the residents are educated, affluent, and upper middle class. The housing is new and upscale.
These demographics characterize this wing’s largest constituency. This wing is more concerned with attracting an affluent enough congregation to support the sacramental ministry of one or more priests, to purchase land, to construct a neo-Gothic two-room church building, and to recreate the ambiance that characterizes its churches than it is with making disciples of all people groups in obedience to Christ’s command.
Historically churches of this ideological stripe have been concentrated in cities, larger towns, commercial centers, transportation hubs, and county seats of a region. Here in western Kentucky they are usually found in communities that also have one or more Roman Catholic churches either in the community or in an adjacent community.
When one considers these characteristics along with the decline of the North American Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Churches, Continuing Anglican Churches, and other unreformed Catholic denominations with a similar if not identical ideology to the Catholic Revivalist wing, one cannot help but experience concern over its occupation of the place of power in the Anglican Church in North America if one has a serious commitment to the spread of the gospel and the fulfillment of the Great Commission. This wing of the ACNA is clearly the wrong wing of the denomination to provide leadership to the denomination in its efforts to carry out these aims.
While this wing may have a place in a denomination committed to a policy of comprehension, it should not be the place of power. A strong evangelical - Anglican Loyalist wing is needed to counterbalance and even negate its influence.
By "Anglican Loyalist" I mean Anglicans who adhere to the teaching of the Bible and the doctrine of the historic Anglican formularies and regard historic Anglicanism as sufficiently catholic.
Naturally the Catholic Revivalist wing will oppose the development of such a wing since the interests of that wing are contrary to its own. It also will see the wing as a rival for hegemony in the ACNA.
The challenge is how to develop a strong evangelical - Anglican Loyalist wing when the Catholic Revivalist wing has ensconced itself in the denomination’s place of power, is entrenching its views, and marginalizing those who do not agree with them.
A strong evangelical - Anglican Loyalist wing is needed to energize the Anglican Church in North America for the work of evangelizing the unchurched and planting new churches. Due to its particular focuses it is the best wing to develop a catechism for new believers consistent with the teaching of the Bible and the doctrine of the historic Anglican formularies. It is also the best segment of the denomination to develop a Prayer Book flexible enough for use on the North American mission field, a Prayer Book whose rites in their doctrine and practices are consistent with biblical teaching and Anglican formulary doctrine. Under its leadership the denomination would have a much better chance of developing a far stronger culture of evangelism and church planting than it presently has.
The present occupants of the place of power in the ACNA are not the right folks to lead the denomination in the twenty-first century and to enable it to realize its full potential as an orthodox alternative Anglican province to the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church. In addition to the reasons already given, they are not orthodox from a historic Anglican perspective. They are insufficiently biblical, protestant, reformed, and evangelical.
In today’s post-Christian era North America needs vibrant evangelical - Anglican Loyalist congregations and missional communities to reach and engage its unchurched population and to collaborate with other orthodox Anglican provinces in reaching unreached people groups everywhere. For such congregations and missional communities to flourish, the denomination needs vibrant evangelical - Anglican Loyalist leadership.