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The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) Historical Background

By the Rt. Rev. Alex Dickson

In the early 20th century, a new method of Bible Study was developed in Germany and then began to be used by some scholars in the Anglican Communion. It was a progressive approach that resulted in the questioning of the authority of the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament. This resulted in some theologians questioning the Historic Doctrines of the Church which are expressed in the Nicene Creed and the Apostles Creed — questioning the fact that Jesus is both God and man — that He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” — “the only way to the Father.”

This struggle between the Revealed Truth of the Bible and the conclusions of some contemporary progressive leaders in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion has resulted in the divisions we now face.

At the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 1988, 12 orthodox bishops began to try to address these divisions that were developing. I was one of the 12.  Bishop Fitz Allison was also one of the 12, and he suggested that we call our fellowship, the Irenaeus Fellowship. Irenaeus had battled some of these same issues in the third century with some leaders who were questioning the authority of the Holy Scriptures.

In June of 1991, the Irenaeus Fellowship of Bishops met to plan a strategy to defend “the faith once delivered to the saints.” We proposed a resolution to add to the canons a section stating simply, “It is inappropriate for an ordained person to have sexual intercourse (heterosexual or homosexual) outside the bonds of marriage.” The bishops discussed this at the General Convention and voted to reject our resolution by a vote of 75/ 68 with eight abstentions. It was abundantly clear to me that we had lost the battle for orthodoxy. But the division is not just over human sexuality. That struggle is only the symptom of the real issue before the world and the Church. The real struggle is about these four questions:  Who is Jesus?; What has He done for us?; What does He want from us?; and How do we know it is true?

 In January of 1998, Bishop Allison and I, along with Bishop Wantland (Oklahoma), decided to seek the counsel and support of orthodox provinces in the Anglican Communion. We flew to Singapore to meet with Archbishop Moses Tay. We asked him to accept us as bishops in his province and then send us back to the United States as missionary bishops from Southeast Asia. He said that he would discuss this with bishops of his province and give us an answer. He asked us what age we were.  When he learned that we were in our seventies, he told us that we could not hold jurisdiction after the age of 65 in his province.

So, in January of the year 2000, Bishop Allison and I came back to Singapore with the Rev. Chuck Murphy of Pawleys Island, S.C. and the Rev. John Rodgers, dean of Trinity Seminary. On January 29, 2000, Chuck and John were consecrated bishops by Archbishop Moses Tay of Singapore, Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda, and bishops Rucyahana, Pytches, Allison and Dickson.  And the battle for orthodoxy expanded. These two new bishops, Murphy and Rodgers, provided the leadership of what came to be called the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA). Under their leadership, many faithful Episcopalians were encouraged to stand for their faith, even if they had to leave their diocese or parish.

The Holy Spirit led many faithful people to seek oversight from other Anglican provinces — Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, Southern Cone (South America), etc. It soon became evident that there was a need to provide these congregations, now under several Provinces, a way to work together. This need resulted in the formation of what was called Common Cause. It was led by Bishop Bob Duncan, the bishop of Pittsburgh.  Eventually, Common Cause was formed into a new province called the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) led by Archbishop Duncan. It is now led by Archbishop Foley Beach. ACNA is in communion with most of the Anglican Provinces in the Southern Hemisphere, all of which are orthodox.     

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