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DALLAS, TX: Reformed Episcopal Church Affirms Relationship with ACNA

DALLAS, TX: Reformed Episcopal Church Affirms Relationship with ACNA
53rd General Council embraces tradition and comprehensiveness

By The Ven. James T. Payne
Special to Virtueonline.org
June 17, 2011

In a meeting that both affirmed and celebrated the past while moving towards the future, over three hundred bishops, lay and clerical deputies, observers and invited guests gathered in suburban Dallas at Church of the Holy Communion (REC) for the fifty-third General Council of the Reformed Episcopal Church.

Founded in 1873, the oldest traditional Anglican body in the United States and Canada embraced both its tradition and comprehensiveness in three days that were marked by consensus and a spirit of cooperation.

This began with the unanimous re-election of Presiding Bishop Leonard Riches to a sixth term in office as president of the General Council. The council also re-elected the Rt. Reverend Royal U. Grote, Jr. as Vice President. It is largely under their leadership that the Reformed Episcopal Church has fully recovered it Anglican roots and become more focused on evangelism, mission and cooperation with other orthodox Anglicans.

In three days of worship and fellowship, services were taken from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, the REC's 2003 prayer book, and the Book of Occasional Offices approved at the Fifty-second General Council. Worship included two services at the Church of the Holy Communion: a traditional choral Eucharist and a choral evensong presented by the combined choirs of Church of the Holy Communion and Good Shepherd School in Tyler, Texas. Other special music was provided by a gospel choir from the parishes of the Diocese of the Southeast, in Charleston, SC.

In its business sessions, among the unanimous actions taken by the council were:

* The approval of amendments to the Constitution and Canons of the Church which legally affirmed and defined the relationship of the Reformed Episcopal Church as a sub-jurisdiction of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) and re-affirmed the Reformed Episcopal Church's understanding of holy orders.

* Approval of a contemporary-language version of the REC's Book of Common Prayer (2003) at the request of the Standing Liturgical Commission. This book was over five years in development. It is rendered in modern language, and not only upholds the doctrinal positions of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, but also uniquely maintains the structure and meter of the whole family of previous Cranmerian prayer books so as to make it possible to use most existing, traditional liturgical music.

* Re-affirmation of the historic and organic ties between the REC and it's sister church, "The Free Church of England (FCE), otherwise known as the Reformed Episcopal Church." A general plan was approved to use the FCE as a means to bring about greater cooperation and unity with existing and future REC missionary in Europe activity aimed at advancing the re-evangelization of the continent

* The REC also called upon the ACNA to recognize the validity of the FCE's orders to facilitate this mission.

* Approval of an interim report from the church's Music Commission to allow circulation for review of a newly completed supplement to the Hymnal 1940, which will include a wide range of music, including hymns and liturgical music that reflect contemporary, gospel and traditional forms of music. Eventual publication could follow this review.

* Improvements in the denominational pension and insurance plans.

* Approval of provisions for a Missionary Bishop for chaplains commissioned in the armed forces of the United States and Canada as well as certain other chaplaincies.

* Maintenance of full intercommunion with the Anglican Province in America, but by mutual agreement, not to proceed with plans for organic union.

During the three days of the council, presentations were made on the increasing pace of mission work in Germany, Croatia, Brazil, Cuba and Nepal. The work in Nepal is particularly noteworthy as it was in cooperation with the Province of Singapore and other Anglican missionaries.

The Rev.Dr. Jonathan Riches, who chairs a church history committee, made a moving video presentation detailing the considerable contributions of the Reformed Episcopal Church to the civil rights movement in the 1960's. This was part of a preview of a larger work being prepared for publication.

The Rt. Rev. Ray R. Sutton, who is the ecumenical officer, presented an educational discussion that sought to put some of the REC's early history in perspective as part of the church's process of institutional growth.

Special guests recognized by the council included the General Secretary of the FCE the Rev. Paul Hunt, and the Rt. Rev. John Fenwick. Both brought greetings from that church and also preached at two of the services.

Other special guests present included the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, representing the ACNA. Bishop Minns is also a bishop of the Anglican Province of Nigeria, with whom the REC continues in a relationship of full intercommunion established by concordat (covenant) in 2005.

The final action taken by the council was to accept an invitation from the Reformed Episcopal Seminary to host the Fifty-Fourth General Council in June, 2014.

The Venerable James T. Payne was a deputy to General Council and serves as the chairman of the Committee on Constitution and Canons. He is Archdeacon of the Diocese of Mid-America and Rector of St. Thomas of Canterbury Church in Houston, Texas. Any views expressed are his personal observations and not those of the Reformed Episcopal Church.

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