Some of us remember way back in 2003 when The Episcopal Church (TEC) made the decision to disregard Scripture and consecrate the first openly homosexual bishop of any Christian denomination. Not only did this decision go against Scripture and against the teachings of the worldwide Anglican Communion, it also split the Episcopal church in this country. It also birthed what we now know today as the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). ACNA has had previous incarnations and names and actually began as a network of orthodox churches and dioceses.
I remember shortly after the break in 2003, several conferences were held in Plano, Texas and many of us attended. It felt like we were all lifeboats coming off the big ship of TEC. Fast forward 14 years and what we find is that these lifeboats have turned into an orthodox movement of more than 1,000 churches under the umbrella of the Anglican Church of North America.
On June 28, 1,400 ACNA leaders, lay delegates and guests gathered at Wheaton College near Chicago for a three-day assembly under the theme of “Mission on our Doorstep.” I attended the assembly with my wife, as well as Trish McGuinn and Lori and Jason Moore. One of the first acts of business was a unanimous vote by the Provincial Council to receive the Diocese of South Carolina into the Anglican Church of North America. Our faithful bishop, The Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence summed it up beautifully when he said:
“The soldiers in World War II fought for victory, sweat for victory, some bled for victory and some died for victory but they all dreamed of home — that moment when they would return to their home. It feels like a homecoming for the Diocese of South Carolina and for me as her bishop.”
Beyond the vote, and from the very first day, it was clear to me that as a body of Christ, we had moved from the lifeboat mindset to a missional movement. We had moved from lifeboats operating out of what we were against to a movement of what we are for! From the most amazing worship to the dozens and dozens of workshops on nearly every aspect of mission it was clear we are in a new day. We celebrated that, since 2016, there have been nearly 60 new Anglican churches planted in this country; that’s more than one new Anglican church a week in our nation!
Our St. Michael’s contingent was joined by nearly 40 other members of the Diocese of South Carolina. We all had our takeaways; here are a couple of mine:
- We have to focus on apprenticing the next generation, with a commitment to plant more churches. While we celebrate our partnership with the Church of the Resurrection, we have to look at making sure this is done with excellence, coaching and a commitment to look beyond to plant another church.
- We need to do better in forming the hearts of our children and families with a commitment to a robust Sunday School. Not Sunday School where parents drop off their children and do something else, but: A multi-generational Sunday School where parents are being taught to disciple their children in their own homes and where biblical literacy is taught and a memorization of the pillars of Scripture is expected.
- With several colleges on our doorstep, it’s realizing that with students we have the opportunity to change lives in folks who could change the course of our nation.
- Reciprocal Mission … The Diocese of Fort Worth shared their experience in growing what they called a reciprocal mission with the Anglican Church in Malawi. After years of sending teams and pouring out resources, they stopped to ask the question: Why not complete the circle and have those with a heart of mission from Malawi, come to America to help evangelize the people of Fort Worth!
In short, I have never attended such a powerful Anglican Conference on American soil. From beginning to end, my heart was lifted and filled repeatedly with the power of the Holy Spirit. Worshiping with my wife and fellow St. Michaelites in that place is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. It all came to a crescendo the final evening of the assembly during the sermon given by the Nigerian Archbishop Benjamin Kwashi. I was riveted to my core in his exhortation for all us to repent of those times we lost courage, those times when fear eclipsed faith. He then called on the power of the Holy Spirit to rain down. Needless to say, I left there soaking wet. I have never been more excited to be an Anglican. My hope is that the next ACNA assembly will have a bus full of St. Michaelites!