The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is a brand new (albeit unofficial) province of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Many of our parishes were formerly part of the Episcopal Church (TEC). In many cases, their “denominational realignment” cost them dearly. Many were required to surrender buildings and other properties while others were forced into expensive legal battles in an effort to forestall such losses.
Sometimes these new ACNA parishes lost a portion of their membership in the move from TEC to ACNA but retained all or most of their clergy, thus requiring that clergy support be borne by a smaller giving base. Where the “realigned” parishes have experienced immediate new growth, the financial burden and ministry limitations have no doubt been minimized. I fear, however, that such immediate new growth has been the exception rather than the rule, and that the net effect of all this, at least in these early years of ACNA’s history, is that the church is carrying a financial burden in the form of clergy support and new property purchase or construction which, coupled with the loss of equity in surrendered properties, may prove a hindrance to outreach and other meaningful Kingdom ministry.
Church leaders have reported encouraging growth in the number of parishes identifying with ACNA. This is a good sign. Many of these new congregations, however, are church plants which may not survive their infancy, especially if they are not substantially underwritten by existing churches who view church planting as a key part of their outreach ministry and essential to the “missional” character which ACNA wants to develop.
In his sermon at the time of his investiture as Archbishop of the newly-formed ACNA in June 2009, ++Robert Duncan challenged the new denomination to plant 1000 new congregations within five years. Considering that ACNA parishes numbered only about 700 at the time, the Archbishop’s challenge was either visionary or delusional, depending on your perspective. I choose to believe it was visionary, and if it was, then we need to face the facts. New churches need facilities, clergy, equipment, etc.—all of which require funding.
Make no mistake. Anglicanism in the US is being renewed. God is blessing the courageous action that brought about the ACNA. He has raised it up. He will sustain and guide this new church. The greatest days for the ACNA as an instrument for the advancement of the Kingdom of God are most certainly ahead. I stand as a testimony to the magnetism of this tradition with its ancient roots, its timeless liturgy, and its contemporary vision. I want to see this new church thrive. We are, at least potentially, at the threshold of an “Anglican hour” in American Christianity. But that potential will not be realized, I believe, without an acknowledgement of some possible obstacles and a willingness to participate in some shared sacrifice in order to confront and overcome the obstacles.