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Episcopal Church & Anglican Church in North America Vie for Ecumenical Partners

The Episcopal Church and Anglican Church in North America Vie for Ecumenical Partners

By David W. Virtue in Ridgecrest, NC
June 11, 2012

The Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) are vying for ecumenical partners as each jockeys for recognition by the wider Christian community.

TEC recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Episcopal-Lutheran Concordat wherein the Episcopal Church USA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) entered into full Communion. While this was initially met with much enthusiasm and idealism in the hope that the two denominations would usher in a new era of inter-denominational cooperation, the occasion went mostly unnoticed.

In February of this year, the Northern and Southern Provinces of the Moravian Church in North America celebrated full communion between their two churches. Talks between the Roman Catholic Church and TEC have gone essentially nowhere. The distance between the two churches has only widened in time over the consecration of gay non-celibate New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson, the recent advent of the Ordinariate, and the ongoing issue of the ordination of women to the priesthood.

The Russian Orthodox Church, on the other hand, suspended ties with the U.S. Episcopal Church over the consecration of Robinson declaring that homosexuality is a sin and that it "cannot condone the perversion of human nature."

In Ridgecrest, NC this week, the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North American (ACNA), Robert Duncan drew in some eight ecumenical visitors from various denominations who brought greetings to this orthodox Anglican body.

They all stated, in one form or another, that they stood with Duncan and the ACNA at a time of growing secularism and theological division in many of the major Protestant denominations including The Episcopal Church.

His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, of the Orthodox Church in America, brought greetings to the Assembly of the ANCA noting that over the past three years, the two churches have conducted a theological dialogue, discussing the issues that separate them, "issues that are not so much OCA vs. ACNA, but issues that separate Anglicanism from Orthodoxy." He was particularly exercised by the presence of the Filioque Clause in the creed and its long term implications for ecumenical relations with Rome. He urged the schism forced on by the churches by the West to be healed.

"There is a coming realignment within Christianity, one which we can already see the strains of. Whenever schisms happen within the Church, they are generally because certain individuals lead a group out of the Church, being disobedient to the Faith and Doctrine, and refusing to submit to the authority of the hierarchy, which is trying to discipline them and call them to repentance.

"We must live according to the moral and ethical commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ enshrined in the Gospel, and reject sin and recognize its corruption. This is the orthodox faith of the Fathers, the Ecumenical Councils and the undivided Church. We will have to accept the scorn and derision of those who are of this world, even those who call themselves brethren, being cast out of their synagogues and ridiculed, sued in civil courts, and count all things as worthless that we have lost for the sake of Christ. This, my friends, is our cross. We have to support one another in bearing it. The closer we come, the greater our mutual support will be, and we will not lose heart, or forget that Christ has already won the victory: He has overcome the world. By accepting to go by way of His Cross, we too will share in His Victory."

From the newly organized North American Lutheran Church (NALC) came two representatives, Bishop John F. Bradosky and David Wendel. Bishop Bradosky eulogized his relationship with Archbishop Duncan and described the relationship as "fraternal twins."

"We have had our hand on your heel. We may not been in the same house but we live in the same duplex. Our recognition in Christ is His gift to us. Within such recognition we will find meaningful forms of communication in the future. We have stayed with the scriptures and gospel, and our traditions bear faithful witness of the church across time in the Confessions and ecumenical creeds. We reject the cultural and political values and agendas foisted on the church. We see ourselves as part of the Confessing Church movement even to a culture resistant to the gospel we share."

He said his church embraced Canada with 175,000 baptized persons, 330 clergy, and 320 missions. They are reaching out to the Ethiopian Church, which has 30 million people...for Christ.

The Rev. Larry Bogle spoke on behalf of the Lutheran church- Missouri Synod (LC-MS) and described the LC-MS as a coordinator for the Lutheran side and an "ecumenical wallflower". He said he was happy to be "ecumenically engaged" with the ACNA.

He said Western Christianity is threatened with increasing apostasy. "There is a threat to Christian evangelism and outreach. There is a 'gospel' of tolerance that is intolerant of truth. We are battling loneliness but we are not hiding in a ghetto but positive to the saving gospel of Jesus Christ."

He observed that Lutherans from the Global South represent orthodoxy, but the sexuality issues of the ELCA provoke deep concern and protest. "We want to be a voice of encouragement to you."

The Rev. J. Thomas Shelley, Pastor at Zion (Shaffer's) United Lutheran Church in York, Pennsylvania, a congregation associated with Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ under the care of the Anglican Church in North America, represented Lutherans becoming Anglicans. He said the face of Lutheranism is changing and fragmenting and urged an orthodox realignment to bring Christians together.

Dr. L. Roy Taylor, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) who also represented the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), said that he is a Presbyterian addressing Anglicans in a Baptist place. "Why bother? Well we share the same faith of the ancient prophets of the Old Testament and apostles of the New Testament and we are one with the ecumenical creeds. We work for a common mission. The Great Commission was given to the church. We are empowered by same God, the same Lord and the same faith."

Speaking on behalf of the Messianic Jewish community in the U.S.,Tuvya Zaretsky is one of the founders of the Jews for Jesus ministry. He was the first field missionary beginning his service in February 1974. Tuvya continues to serve the Lord, now as the Director of Staff Development internationally, based out of the Los Angeles office. He also chairs the Board for the Jews for Jesus branch in Tel Aviv, Israel. "The DNA of the ACNA is an outreach to the Jewish people which won my heart. Blessed are you when they revile you and persecute you." Zaretsky said that TEC talks about ecumenical relations with Jews but never invites Messianic Jews to the table. "We were never made welcome."

A spokesman for the Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC) told listeners that his church was formed in 1897 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Today, there are more than 25,000 members in America. Their organizer was Prime Bishop Franciszek. In 1907, they coalesced into 60 parishes from three separated Polish groups. Their leaders broke with Rome over papal infallibility. These churches are not in communion with the Holy See of Rome, but their Union of Utrecht of Old Catholic Churches is in full communion with the Anglican Communion.

All the speakers agreed on four basic values: Christ centered in their identity. "He is the content of the faith. All leaders must be subordinate to the Word of God in Scripture. We are witnesses and disciples of Christ and adhere to Holy Scripture. All must adhere to the Great Commission to disciple all nations with the focus being on discipleship. All must be traditionally grounded in the creeds, word and sacraments. We cannot reinvent the church. The church must be congregationally focused and to facilitate ministry among local congregations."

Present at the 2nd Annual Assembly of the ACNA were six primates of the Anglican Communion, 40 bishops and 25 dioceses plus at least two new dioceses that are in formation.


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