By Robin G. Jordan
The Anglican Church in North America has a choice to make. Right now the ACNA is being shunted onto a dead-end siding to rust with the other Catholic Revivalist Continuing Anglican jurisdictions in North America. On its present track the ACNA is going to become a small denomination that is unreformed Catholic in doctrine and practice, which is confined to conventional expressions of church, and which consists of a scattering of parishes and missions mostly in the more populated areas of the United States and Canada. It will be a more conservative and more Catholic version of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, a tiny denomination serving a miniscule segment of the North American population.
Or the Anglican Church in North America can choose a brighter future. The ACNA can become a growing evangelical denomination that is not afraid to be unconventional in its expressions of church, whose congregations and missional communities are found in almost every community in the United States and Canada, and which is reaching and engaging a wide segment of the unchurched population of North America.
The recent merger of the Reformed Episcopal Church’s Diocese of the West with Forward in Faith North America’s Missionary Diocese of All Saints is a warning of what the future holds for the Anglican Church of North America on its present track. While a number of factors account for the REC’s Diocese of the West’s failure to thrive, the unreformed Catholic character of its ten congregations was not an asset for this former judicatory of the Anglican Province of America, a Continuing Anglican entity in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. Even the Roman Catholic Church which boasts the most unreformed Catholic parishes in North America is not flourishing except in areas with a substantial Roman Catholic population that is still willing to attend its churches. Charismatic and evangelical denominations like the Assemblies of God and the Southern Baptist Convention are faring a lot better than the Roman Catholic Church despite their stagnant growth rates.
Whether the new Convocation of the West sees better times following this merger remains to be seen as anyone familiar with the outcome of past denominational, judicatorial, and church mergers well knows. The merger of two unhealthy organizations will not produce a healthy organization.
In this writer’s estimation the direction in which the Anglican Church in North America’s College of Bishops is leading the denomination is not a healthy one. It is ideologically-driven and does not serve the cause of the gospel. One only has to look at the state of North America’s Continuing Anglican jurisdictions to see where they are taking the denomination.
The Anglican Church in North America desperately needs to experience an evangelical awakening. It needs to discover the Bible and the gospel of grace and commit itself wholeheartedly to the fulfillment of the Great Commission. It is not going to move forward by looking backward to an imaginary golden age of the supposedly undivided Church. We are living in the twenty-first century, not the eleventh. We are living in what is being called the post-Christian era, not the early High Middle Ages.
The Anglican Church at its best is a church of the Bible. It is a church that fully accepts the plenary authority of the Scriptures in matters of faith and practice. It is a church that recognizes the power of God’s Word to transform lives. It is a church whose confession of faith—the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion—is grounded in the Holy Scriptures and is recognized as authoritative for Anglicans.
The Anglican Church at its best is a church of the gospel. It is a church that cannot hold back from telling people in every walk of life what God has done for them through his Son Jesus Christ. It is a church that proclaims the good news not only in word and deed but also in sacramental signs, in the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
The Anglican Church is at its best a church of the Reformation. It is a church that is rooted in the great spiritual movement of the sixteenth century, which swept through the Western Church and restored the Bible and the gospel to their rightful places at the heart of the Church. It is a church that is not only reformed but also is always reforming.
The Anglican Church at its best is a church of the Great Commission. It is a church with a mission, on a mission. It is a church that takes with uttermost seriousness its Lord's command to go and make disciples of all people groups.
The Anglican Church is a church of the Holy Spirit. It is a church which recognizes that only through the Holy Spirit working in his innermost being is the Christian able to believe and to will and do what is pleasing to God. It is a church which also recognizes that every manifestation of the Holy Spirit God gives to the Body of Christ is intended to empower the Church’s witness to its risen and ascended Lord.