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Archdeacon Norman Russell's speech at General Synod

Archdeacon Norman Russell's speech at General Synod
He spoke in support of the Anglican Church in North America

February 16, 2010

As members of Synod know, on my own initiative, having spent some time in the United States of America, particularly in Virginia, I decided to go to the inaugural assembly of the Anglican Church in North America in Bedford, Texas.

I did not attend in any official capacity. It was purely an individual initiative. I paid my own fare and was there as an observer. I wanted to see what was going on because I had high regard for a good number of the churches that I had visited when I was in the United States for an extended period about twenty years ago. I want today to describe my experience of the ACNA inaugural assembly.

For me, and I had not expected this, my few days there was a time of spiritual renewal. When I came home I said to my wife that I believe there is a movement of spiritual renewal manifesting itself within ACNA. She replied "I have not heard you speak like that for several years".

So what I want to share with you today is my belief that there is indeed a movement of biblical and spiritual renewal going on in the North American church. Part of that remains TEC, part in the Anglican Church of Canada and some significantly within the Anglican Church of North America. I think it depends on where people are and on what the prevailing situation is as to whether they are still in one of the traditional churches or have joined ACNA.

I am very grateful that Lorna, in her paper and again in her speech, has made it quite clear that in voting for her motion we are not voting against TEC, and not voting against the Anglican Church of Canada. What we are saying is that we recognise there are faithful Christians in three different churches at the moment. We wish to affirm that they are there and to support them.

When I say there is a movement of the Holy Spirit, what was the evidence? There were certainly at that assembly people who were hurt, but they were not bitter. Some had lost their church property. Some were going off to worship in gymnasiums etc for the first time in their lives. The clergy I met were serious in intent. They have not left TEC or the Anglican Church in Canada lightly. Many of them have taken a big hit on their pensions and also (and this is a major issue in North America) on their health plans.

The theme that ran through the week was one which members of Synod will have heard before, namely that God found it much easier to get Israel out of Egypt than Egypt out of the Israelites.

Those I met at the ACNA inaugural gathering were not wishing to leave the past behind where there was good. They wanted to take that with them. But they wanted to go forward, not in a spirit of bitterness, but to focus on Christ and reaching out to those who do not know Him. There was unity of spirit. Some were evangelical. Some were Anglo-Catholics. Some were simply ordinary church people.

The Anglo-Catholics whom I met were evangelists and church planters. The evangelicals whom I met were liturgically evangelicals. Many of them have a much better understanding of 17th century Anglicanism than would be true of most evangelicals in the Church of England today.

In general, this inaugural gathering seemed to me to be alive in the Spirit - classical Anglicans, four-square on the Declaration of Assent and four-square on the Lambeth Quadrilateral. Together with that there was a certain Prayer Book interiority, though of course they use modern services. As I met with the delegates I could not help thinking that this is the kind of Anglican I want to be.

In my day job, I obviously make a lot of appointments. I don't mind if clergy are High Church, Low Church or Middle Church, though I try to fit the right people with the right places. What I do look for are clergy who are people of prayer and clergy who have a passion to help others find a living faith in Jesus Christ. That was what I was encountering and I thought it was what most of us want the Church of England to be.

My final comment is this - an Eighteenth Century comment. Go back to the Wesleys, relatively High Church Anglicans by the standards of their day. What did we get out of it? Another free church. The institutional church is not always good at dealing with movements of spiritual renewal. Canon Law, litigation and legalistic ecclesiastical processes are not the most imaginative way to respond imaginatively to movements of spiritual renewal.


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