By David W. Virtue in Bedford, Texas
Announcing to all the world that he is now the Archbishop of the newly formed Anglican Church in North America, The Most Rev. Robert Duncan told a press conference that the church he now leads will “reunite a significant portion of our Anglican Church family here in North America.”
“We are uniting 700 congregations, (and 28 dioceses) and more importantly committed Anglican believers, in the north (Arctic) and in the south, on the west coast and the east coast. We are oriented toward a hopeful future again. We are not turning back to the hurts of our past. We are moving forward together in Christian mission. The main thing is Jesus Christ.”
Duncan drew a wide net saying that God isn’t just bringing Anglican Christians together, “across the church people are re-embracing Scripture’s authority. Christians are rediscovering the grace of our 2,000 year-old tradition.”
Alluding to the Metropolitan Jonah’s Orthodox outstretched hand to the newly formed church, Duncan said “that we are not as far apart as we thought.”
Earlier the Patriarch of All America and Canada and leader of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), told the conferees and delegates that he is calling for a “full…intercommunion” with the Anglican Church in North America. “What will it take,” he asked, “for a true ecumenical reconciliation? That is what I am seeking by being with you today.”
What would it take for this reconciliation to occur? “Full affirmation of the orthodox Faith of the Apostles and Church Fathers, the seven Ecumenical Councils, the Nicene Creed in its original form (without the filioque clause inserted at the Council of Toledo, 589 A.D.), all seven Sacraments and a rejection of ‘the heresies of the Reformation.”
His Beatitude listed these in a series of ‘isms’; Calvinism, anti-sacramentalism, iconoclasm and Gnosticism. The ordination of women to the Presbyterate and their consecration as Bishops has to end, if intercommunion is to occur.
The Russian Orthodox Church broke off ecumenical talks with The Episcopal Church over the consecration of Gene Robinson, an openly non-celibate homosexual to the episcopacy.
Duncan said the desire of the Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church to re-establish the dialogue with Anglicanism was “extraordinary ecumenical news.”
Asked by VOL if the new archbishop had received a congratulatory word from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Duncan said he was in regular contact with the Anglican leader, but gave no indication that he had received any particular word from him on this “historic day”.
Asked if ACNA could technically be the 39th Province in the Anglican Communion without the approval of the ABC and the Anglican Consultative Council, Duncan said, “We are a province in process of being recognized. We have been recognized by the provinces of Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, Southeast Asia, Jerusalem and the Middle East and the Indian Ocean. We have been recognized by unanimous declaration.”
Duncan said The Archbishop of Kenya, The Most Rev. Benjamin Nzimbi would be the chief consecrator at the investiture and will do the anointing as a sacramental sign. “This is not just another ordination. It is the giving of another gift.”
Questioned on lawsuits and property issues in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Duncan said that the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Pittsburgh was one of his staunchest allies and that he had called him to assure him that in the eventuality of there being a loss of property his people will never be without a place to worship. “We have a great missionary partnership. There is more that unites us than separates us.” Some 61 parishes and a Diocesan headquarters in downtown Pittsburgh are at stake.
Ft. Worth Bishop Jack Leo Iker said the emphasis of ACNA is on evangelism and mission. “This is the beginning and of the recovery of confidence in Anglicanism as a Biblical missionary church. Our desire is to bring the whole gospel to the whole world.”
Iker said people wince over the scandals that have taken place over the years in The Episcopal Church. The ANCA gives the mainstream of our clergy a chance to recover the gospel. “We are evangelical and catholic, high church and low church, and this was reflected in our thrusts this week. We are a Biblical missionary movement.”
The Anglo-Catholic bishop disputed that ACNA was a new church. “This is not about change it is the old historic church. We have not begun something new we are not innovators. We have the same faith and practice that I have practiced throughout my 35 years.” Iker said the litigation was based on the need to differentiate ourselves.
Martyn Minns, missionary bishop of CANA, a missionary initiative of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, said that what united this church was “our faith in Christ and our faith in the Anglican way.”
Cheryl Chang, an attorney and chancellor of the Canadian Anglican Church in North America and responsible for the drafting of the Canons and Constitutions of the ACNA, said the new structure would support mission, not the other way round. “We will move across geographic boundaries. This is an incredible movement.”
Layman Michael Howell, Executive Director of Forward in Faith in North America, said his group will ordain a bishop (William Ilgenfritz) to be a missionary bishop with FIFNA, echoing other speakers saying that “only God could have brought this about.”
“Despite our differences and there are some significant ones, we will address them as Christians regardless of our differences. We love Jesus Christ and our desire is to spread His gospel. This is not the end but the beginning of a wonderful ministry.”
Questioned on the Covenant being circulated around the Anglican Communion, a worldwide effort to hold the communion together, Duncan said ACNA was ready to adopt the Covenant “when it is right to do so. We are communion players and partners with mainstream players.”
Duncan said he will serve as archbishop for five years and is “at peace” in his new role.