It was announced in February 2017 that the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have determined that the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is a church whose orders are ‘recognized and accepted by the Church of England’. This means that clergy ordained by bishops of the ACNA can now be licensed to minister in the Church of England. Phil Ashey introduces the ACNA to readers of New Directions.
The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) was formed in 2009. Its 29 dioceses include four former dioceses of The Episcopal Church (Pittsburgh and the three Anglo-Catholic Dioceses of Fort Worth, Quincy and San Joaquin), four dioceses of the Reformed Episcopal Church (which was founded in 1873), and the Missionary Diocese of All Saints (which grew out of Forward in Faith North America). In March 2017 a fifth former diocese of The Episcopal Church, the Diocese of South Carolina, decided to join the ACNA by unanimous vote of its diocesan convention.
The Anglican Church in North America unites 112,000 Anglicans in approximately 1,000 congregations across the United States, Canada, and Mexico into a single church. On 16 April 2009 it was recognized as a province of the global Anglican Communion by the Primates of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. In October 2016 it was recognized as a member province by the Global South. The Most Revd Dr Foley Beach is the ACNA’s second Archbishop. At his Investiture on 9 October 2014, he was received ‘as a fellow Primate of the Anglican Communion’ by the Primates of the Anglican Churches of Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Jerusalem and the Middle East, South America and Myanmar.
Members of the Anglican Church in North America are in the mainstream, both globally and historically, of Christianity – the biblically-faithful way of following Jesus and being part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. For us as Anglicans, this orthodoxy is defined by and centered on the classic formularies of most Anglican churches – the Book of Common Prayer (1662), including the Ordinal, and the Thirty-Nine Articles – which all point back to the authority of the Holy Bible and articulate foundational principles of the Anglican tradition throughout the world. In its Fundamental Declarations, the Anglican Church in North America also embraces The Jerusalem Declaration (2008), the founding declaration of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.
Here are some ‘fast facts’ about the Anglican Church in North America, from its 2015 Congregational Reporting (with 90% of the congregations reporting):
- Number of congregations increased from 700 in 2009 to 966 in 2015; the Diocese of South Carolina voted in March 2017 to join the ACNA, bringing an additional 54 congregations;
- Membership increased from 100,000 in 2009 to 111,853 in 2015; the Diocese of South Carolina will add an additional 22,000 members;
- Average Principal Service attendance has grown from 69,197 in 2009 to 78,679 in 2015; the Diocese of South Carolina will add an additional 9,085;
- 3,324: the total number of baptisms reported in 2015 (2,333 children aged 15 years and younger, 372 young adults aged 16-30, and 529 adults aged 30+);
- 2,368: the total number of confirmations reported in 2015 (686 children, 584 young adults and 1138 adults);
- 2,705: the total number of known first-time commitments to Jesus Christ through the ministry of the congregation and its members (not necessarily resulting in the person joining the congregation);
- 8,405: the total number of people brought into ACNA congregations through local outreach and evangelism;
- 1,706 people who went on 408 provincial (North American) mission trips;
- 1,317 people who went on 390 global mission trips;
- 362 congregations with overseas mission partnerships;
- 148 congregations made up of non-Caucasians;
- 72 congregations who are primarily first-generation immigrants;
- 64 congregations with services in a language other than English.
You can find the complete 2015 ACNA Congregational Report, which also shows the increase in these numbers since 2011, online. 1
The mission of the Anglican Church in North America is to reach North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ. This mission is also found in its Constitution and Canons (another feature it shares with most churches in the Anglican Communion) at Article III, which states that ‘The mission of the Province is to extend the Kingdom of God by so presenting Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit that people everywhere will come to put their trust in God through Him, know Him as Savior and serve Him as Lord in the fellowship of the Church.’ The chief agents of this mission are the people of God (not simply the clergy!), and the local congregation is ‘the fundamental agency’ of mission (Canon I.6.1).
The Anglican Church in North America pursues its mission in a variety of ways. When the ACNA was founded in April 2009, its first Archbishop, Robert Duncan, called on the church to plant 1,000 new congregations in the next five years. This gave rise to the ‘Anglican 1000’ movement which raised up both church planters and supporting structures to reach that goal. By 2014, the ACNA had planted a net of 200 new congregations – less than the 1,000 goal, but a tremendous accomplishment recognized by North American church planting experts both inside and outside the church. The focus on church planting continues, with 44 new churches planted in 2015, while 26 churches closed – a net gain of another 18.
The ACNA also pursues its mission through congregational revitalization and a renewed focus on fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission within the local community in which congregations find themselves. With the help of mission societies like the American Anglican Council, the church is helping to develop and coach faithful, missional leaders at every level of the church, lay and ordained, and to help move from maintenance to mission small and mid-sized congregations in recline or decline.
Through its Matthew 25 Initiative, the ACNA is also expanding and developing ministries in North America that are engaged in working, living and serving on the margins of society. These ministries reach some of the most vulnerable and under-resourced populations in North America, fulfilling Jesus’ call to love ‘the least of these’ (Matt. 25.40). To date, the challenge grant of an anonymous donor and the matching gifts of congregations have enabled forty ministries to receive financial grants to launch and develop ministries of mercy and social justice across the continent. You can see the variety and reach of these ministries here. 2
Currently the Anglican Church in North America is developing a Provincial Book of Common Prayer, expected to be released in 2019. The ACNA College of Bishops have already approved texts for Holy Communion, Baptism and Confirmation, the Daily Office, Rites for Holy Matrimony, and Lectionaries. In the meantime, congregations are allowed, with the permission of their bishop, to use those Books of Prayer that have been approved for use within the Diocese. These include the Alternative Service Book of the Church of England, Common Worship, the 1662 BCP, the Kenyan liturgy for Holy Communion, and the 1928 and 1979 BCP of The Episcopal Church. The expression of worship within the ACNA ranges from Anglo-Catholic to Evangelical to Charismatic and contemporary.
The Anglican Church in North America has also developed strong and vibrant ecumenical relationships with the Orthodox Church in America, the Russian Orthodox Church, the Polish National Catholic Church, the Roman Catholic Church, Missouri Synod Lutherans, and the Common Ground Christian Network (an evangelical coalition of mainline Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists and Reformed/Congregational Churches).
While the Anglican Church in North America does not consecrate women to the Episcopate, it makes no canon or rule abridging the authority of member dioceses with respect to their practice regarding the ordination of women to the diaconate or presbyterate (ACNA Art. VIII). Of the 29 dioceses which currently form part of the ACNA, only 8 ordain women to the presbyterate. The ACNA’s Task Force on Holy Orders has submitted its report to the College of Bishops, with a focus on developing first an understanding of the range of acceptably Anglican views within the province on ecclesiology, the nature of sacraments and Holy Orders, and the need to consult with both the theological commissions of GAFCON and the Global South, and ecumenical partners. The ACNA bishops will meet in September in conclave (without phone and internet interruptions) for a week to consult prayerfully with each other and reach a decision on women’s ordination that will keep the whole church together.
The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey is the ACNA Provincial Canon for Strategic Mission and President of the American Anglican Council.