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Archbishop’s State of the Church Address: Provincial Council 2011


[Given by the Most Reverend Robert Duncan, Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church in North America, on 21 June A.D. 2011, at Long Beach, California.]

Click here to watch Archbishop Robert Duncan’s State of the Church address.

Your love, O Lord, forever will I sing;
From age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness.
[Psalm 89:1]

These words from the first verse of Psalm 89 are our words as this Provincial Council opens.  Our God has been so abundantly good to us – despite all the challenges we have faced – that we are profoundly aware of His love for us and His faithfulness to us.  My task in this annual State of the Church Address is to rehearse some of what has happened, especially in this last year, and to remind us of how God’s hand of blessing has been so obviously upon this movement to rebuild a biblical, missionary and united Anglicanism in North America.

The Anglican Church in North America came together at Bedford, Texas, when its Constitution and Canons were adopted two years ago this week.  Since then, the Provincial Council has met at Toronto, Canada; at Amesbury, Massachusetts, and now at Long Beach, California.  We have covered a great deal of territory, both literally and figuratively.

We are now 22 dioceses stretching from Arctic Canada to the Rio Grande, and from Newfoundland to California.  Three new dioceses were organized in preparation for this meeting of Provincial Council: the Mid-Atlantic, the Carolinas and the Southwest.  A fourth, Cascadia – originally built from congregations that had been under Recife and from congregations of the Reformed Episcopal Church – sought change of status from diocese-in-formation to diocese.  One Diocese has asked this Council for discharge, for recognition that its call as a diocese has been completed.  The Diocese of the Holy Spirit grew out of the Missionary Convocation of Uganda.  All of its congregations and clergy have now been dispersed to other dioceses and a remarkable chapter in our early history is closing.  Holy Spirit’s bishop, John Guernsey, has been elected Bishop of the Mid-Atlantic, a diocese principally formed by parishes that had been under Nigeria (chiefly in CANA’s Anglican District of Virginia).  But Mid-Atlantic also draws in some congregations that had been part of Southern Cone and others part of Uganda.  In microcosm we see the transition from our early history of global protection and sponsorship toward domestic geographical coherence. 

There are many evidences of God’s favor toward us, not because we deserve it, but because we continue to work so hard to align ourselves with His will.  As this Provincial Council meets, I am announcing a re-organization of my team of advisors (my “cabinet”) to reflect where we are headed, rather than where we have been.  This change is like the change represented in the diocesan stories just told.  The Lead Bishops of the Common Cause Partnership – representing all the jurisdictions and organizations out of which the Anglican Church in North America was gathered – were the original Executive Committee of the Anglican Church in North America.  Last June the transition was made to an Executive Committee of six clergy and six laity, chaired by the Archbishop.  Yet because we are – in the best Anglican fashion – to be “episcopally led and synodically governed” [Lambeth Conference, 1930] the need for wisdom from Lead Bishops representing our jurisdictional and organizational roots caused me to retain a body that had literally led us together into unity.  They ceased to be the Province’s Executive Committee, but became the Archbishop’s Cabinet. 

Now comes the next step.  We are becoming one church.  I think everyone here now recognizes that our most important identity is as members of the Anglican Church in North America.  We treasure our originating bonds, whether as part of the Reformed Episcopal Church of as part of the Province of Kenya or Uganda or Forward in Faith or whatever, but we are now chiefly all Anglican Church. 

So with this Third Annual Provincial Council I am re-shaping my chief advisors group to reflect the program and mission of the Church, to reflect where we are going, where we are being called.  The Cabinet will have two arms, one provincial and one global.  The provincial arm will include the leaders of five key domestic initiatives (Catechesis, Anglican 1000, Engagement with Islam, Ecumenical Relations, and Liturgy and Common Worship), as well as some others.  The global arm will include many seasoned bishops long-known to you, but also the Executive Director of the Anglican Relief and Development Fund.  This re-organization also means that not all the members of my Cabinet will be bishops.  In two years the Lord has brought us very far and blessed us very much.  In order to keep the synod in its rightful place (governing) alongside the bishops (leading) I will also ask that every meeting of the Executive Committee have from one to three reports from members of the Cabinet on the initiatives Cabinet members are themselves leading or undertaking on behalf of us all. 

A year ago at Provincial Council on the East Coast (Amesbury) we agreed to the request of the Anglican Mission in the Americas to move from diocesan status to ministry partner status.  This change enabled the Anglican Mission to be first a “missionary outreach of the Province of Rwanda” and then a ministry partner with us.  Two of their bishops, Doc Loomis and Terrell Glenn, have been named the regular representatives in Provincial Council and College of Bishops, and one of the Mission’s key priestly leaders, Ellis Brust, is also part of their Ministry Partner deputation at this meeting. 

We rejoice at our partnership in the gospel.  We rejoice that the Anglican Mission was the first to champion church planting as the way forward for Anglicans in the North American context.  We rejoice that the AM is here with all our other Ministry Partners.  A sign of the partnership shared with both the Anglican Mission and the Federation of Anglican Churches in the Americas (a second Ministry Partner with congregations) is cooperation among our congregations, clergy and bishops at the local level, and the identification of all Anglican congregations, whether ACNA, AM or FACA in the Anglican Church’s church finder web tool, the most visited single feature of the Anglican Church website.     

Our global commitments remain strong and we continue to be seen as “gospel partners” and bearers of “authentic Anglicanism” (South-South Encounter IV) by most of the world’s Anglicans.  The GAFCON Provinces accord our Province status as the North American Province and I am seated as a Primate in the Primates Council.  I was privileged to be present at Archbishop Ian Earnest’s invitation at the All Africa Bishops Conference (of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa) last August in Entebbe and was accorded a seat there for public and state events as one of the archbishops of the provinces.  It is the greatest of joys to welcome Archbishop Ian Earnest – Archbishop of the Province of the Indian Ocean and Chairman of CAPA – to this Provincial Council as speaker, observer and friend, and to our College of Bishops as Bible teacher and consultor.  It is also a privilege to welcome Fr. Thomas Seville, CR, of the Faith and Order Commission of the Church of England here as participant and observer, in partial response to the action of the General Synod of the Church of England in February 2010 regarding consideration of an appropriate form of recognition or relationship with the Anglican Church in North America. 

The Anglican Relief and Development Fund, the official relief and development arm of the Anglican Church in North America, is a significant aspect of our global commitment, and of the growing respect for us as true partners with Anglicans throughout the world.  The Primates of Southern Cone, West Africa, Jerusalem and the Middle East, Sudan, Congo, and South East Asia (as well as of ACNA) all serve on ARDF’s Global Trustees.  What is more is that national expressions of ARDF are beginning to emerge in developed countries beyond the U.S. and Canada.  ARDF-Australia is the first to be fully formed, embracing the concept of objective philanthropy with measurable results piloted by ARDF-US, so that ever-more first-world Anglicans can invest in the sustainable transformation of the Global South in the Name of Jesus Christ. 

Two years ago we were 706 congregations.  The annual parochial and diocesan reports for 2010 – the first year for which we have a system of statistical reporting in place (another provincial milestone) – identify 952 congregations as part of the dioceses of the Anglican Church in North America and its ministry partners.  Statistically this represents a 34 percent growth in congregations at the end of the first 18 months of Church life.

We focus on the centrality of local congregations as the “chief agency” of our mission in the Anglican Church in North America.  [Article IV of the Constitution]  If we are to “reach North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ” the principal way we will do this is through the local congregation. We say that every Anglican Church congregation is “accountable to the Holy Scriptures, accountable to the Tradition, and accountable for the transformation of society.” 

We understand that congregations are where disciples are formed and that it is through congregations that surrounding environments are changed.  We have a clarity about all of this – about the absolute centrality of congregations – that allows us to focus as a Province.  Bishops, archbishops, dioceses, structures, programs all exist in order to make the local congregation strong. 

At my investiture as Archbishop, the second anniversary of which is this Friday (St. John the Baptist Day), I called for the people, the congregations and the dioceses of our Province to plant 1000 new churches in our first five years.  This call has captured the imagination, the prayers and the energies of the Province.  Dave Roseberry and Daniel Adkinson will be here tomorrow to report on progress.  We can point to nearly 150 new plants since June 24th, 2009.  Their stories are told on the Anglican 1000 website (www.anglican1000.org).  Given that there are three ways we go about planting – jurisdictions planting, congregations planting, and indigenous groups planting – and given that church multiplication is geometrical in its effects – the goal remains entirely possible.  It will be God who gives the growth. 

We sometimes say that our “provincial method” is “converted individuals, in multiplying congregations, fueled by the Holy Spirit.”  So how shall we make converted individuals?  A catechesis task force has been working for two years.  Its co-chairs are Prof. Phil Herrold of Trinity School for Ministry and Dr. Jack Gabig of Nashotah House.  Their report and recommendations are published for this meeting.  What they are modeling, proposing and undertaking will change the face of our Church.  The title of a just completed national conference “Ancient Wisdom: Anglican Futures,” presented in conjunction with the Robert Webber Center (Wheaton College), gives us a glimpse of where they (and we) are going as we seek to do the necessary work of forming disciples able to make disciples, converted individuals who can make our congregations true agencies of societal transformation through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

There is so much more that I could comment on.  The Ordinal comes forward to the College of Bishops at this meeting to be authorized for use in this Province.  The product is graceful, classical, and scholarly, as well as adaptable to both the traditional and contemporary idioms.  It fulfills my original and continuing mandate to the Liturgy and Common Worship Task Force: “Produce a Prayer Book that is so attractive that the faithful will want to use it.”  With a task force as diverse and gifted as J.I Packer, Keith Ackerman, and Andy Pearcy we excitedly await the next liturgical texts.

At this meeting we will preview a new Provincial website.  Present with us for this meeting is Megan Franko of CRC Public Relations, one of a team of three professionals who serve the Province as we seek to communicate both internally and with the world, by every means open to us.  A sign of our commitment as a Province to getting the word out effectively, both provincially and at the diocesan level, is a simultaneous meeting of diocesan communicators from across the country.  What an exciting time for us!

There will be many “thank yous” to be said in this meeting.  A sign of our maturing into more ordinary provincial life is that some among us who have served us valiantly are completing their service: Canon Daryl Fenton; Bishops John David Schofield, Richard Boyce and David Bena; Lynne and Bob Ashmead, Sally Cline and Cheryl Chang – to name the ones known to me.

I could speak about Engagement with Islam, or about the adoption of Seminary Standards for Anglican Seminaries and for Anglican Tracks within Ecumenical Seminaries.  I could speak about the extraordinary developments that continue in ecumenical relations and about our involvement in Lausanne III at Cape Town in October.  I could speak about the work of the Committees of Executive Committee and the Budget to be presented.  I could speak of our amazing success at raising the funds we have needed, about those who have invested in us and about the growing commitment to the tithe from individuals, congregations, and dioceses.  I could go on and on, but I will let these things unfold in the reports that will be offered today, and tomorrow, and in the College of Bishops.  I could speak about the amazing staff that serves us in our Provincial Office, led by Mr. Brad Root – without each and everyone of whom we would not be where we are.  I could also speak of the sacrifices of those who serve us locally, and at diocesan level, and across the Province, clergy and countless laity.  God has been so very good to us.

I will just share one final detail.  It is a small one, and hidden in the statistical reports.  (There is so much to be found in the materials prepared for this meeting.  I commend it all to you.)  According to the data submitted in the Annual Parochial Reports there were, in the year 2010, 987 baptisms of adults over thirty, 424 baptisms of young people aged sixteen to thirty, and 1647 baptisms of children in the ACNA dioceses, not including the congregations of our Ministry Partners.  What is so stunning about this data is that the number of baptisms of those 16 and older is almost equal to the number of children baptized.  What this says is that we are reaching adolescents and adults who have never known Christ, never been part of a church.  This is to reach North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ, one sign among many that something quite extraordinary is unfolding.  To God be the Glory!

Your love, O Lord, forever will I sing;
From age to age my mouth will declare you faithfulness.
[Psalm 89:1]