Forward In Faith 2012 Assembly
By Auburn Faber Traycik
For the bishops, priests, and laypersons at the 24th annual assembly of Forward in Faith, North America (FiFNA) here July 11-13, it was – more decidedly than ever before – not about where they’ve been, but about where they’re going.
Meeting again at Our Lady of the Snows, this year’s FiFNA assembly/family reunion focused much more on mission and the positive teaching of the catholic faith than on legislation and resolutions. But it was more than that. The “despondency” that one participant said had dogged the Anglo-Catholic organization not so many years ago seemed in Belleville to have been eclipsed by a “new confidence” about FiFNA’s vocation – including about the need to begin (re)presenting the case for historic holy order among the minority of its allies who remain unpersuaded on the matter.
In short, FiFNA is on the move, in good spirits and in good Spirit, so to speak.
THE FIRST HINT of significant change was how little mention there was in Belleville of The Episcopal Church (TEC), wherein FiFNA long labored to defend and uphold orthodox faith and order. This, despite the fact that TEC’s General Convention was winding up in Indianapolis at the same time, having pushed TEC further into the pansexual/revisionist abyss.
There is small wonder in this, though, for the old image some had of FiFNA as a persecuted minority hanging on in TEC is no longer apt. The Rt. Rev. Keith Ackerman, re-elected FiFNA’s president in Belleville, estimates that about 90 percent of the organization’s members are now out of TEC, most of them having become part of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), either via one of the three FIF-aligned dioceses that departed TEC for ACNA (Fort Worth, Quincy, and San Joaquin), or by joining the Missionary Diocese of All Saints (MDAS), a non-geographical jurisdiction for orthodox Anglicans within ACNA. The ACNA itself, the emergent “new province” formed by a coalition of Evangelical and Catholic Anglicans, is recognized and supported by leaders representing most of the Anglican Communion via the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA), albeit not formally (so far) by Canterbury. According to its website, the ACNA links some 100,000 Anglicans in nearly 1,000 North American congregations and 21 dioceses.
“To a large extent, Anglo-Catholics lost the battle in TEC and now can spend more time winning the world for Christ,” said Ackerman, the Texas-based former Episcopal Bishop of Quincy.
And those at Belleville appeared ready to think and act ambitiously in that regard, as well as in their own (Anglican) context, having been inspired, it seemed, by a renewed sense of what they haveto bring to the Church – “the historic faith without alteration or abridgement,” as Ackerman put it. They were encouraged, too, by signs of growth and healthy change (e.g., 20 to 25 percent of assembly participants this year were attending for the first time), and by the particular opportunities and resources that God appears to be placing before FiF and especially MDAS (on which more later).
ONE EXAMPLE of thinking outside the old FiFNA box came from Canon Kevin Donlon during a session in which he contrasted the officially-described structure of the Anglican Communion with its current internal reality, i.e., the shadow web of often-conflicting and mutable “spheres of activity” now extant within it. Donlon suggested that FiFNA might have a role to play in alleviating, through the application of catholic principles, the incredible disarray caused by the impact of liberal forces on a communion with an inadequate system of authority and accountability (the Windsor and Anglican covenant efforts having utterly failed to do the job). Such an endeavor would be apropos, as well, to Ackerman’s declaration of this coming year as the Year of the Church (ecclesiology) in FiFNA.