Following years of preparation, evangelical, charismatic and catholic Anglicans from across North America, many of them recently departed from the Episcopal Church, convened in Texas today to formally launch the new Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). ACNA unites 28 Anglican dioceses under a single Archbishop and positions itself as an alternative to the U.S. Episcopal Church within the global Anglican Communion.
"It's a new day," Bishop Robert Duncan of the Diocese of Pittsburgh told a standing-room only crowd packed into St. Vincent's Cathedral, gathering for the organizing assembly of the 100,000-member church. The new denomination is working to be recognized as part of the 80-million member global Anglican Communion. Many of the overseas Anglican churches have sent observers to the assembly, including, but not limited to, African churches that have supported the denominational enterprise. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has sent an observer, known as a pastoral visitor, Retired Seychelles Bishop Santosh Marray of the Province of the Indian Ocean.
Ecumenical speakers including Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in California and Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America will offer keynote addresses later this week.
The Anglican Communion is divided over hot button issues like homosexuality and scriptural authority, with U.S. Episcopal church leaders being more theologically and politically liberal than their overseas counterparts.
IRD Director of Anglican Action Jeff Walton commented,
"This new Anglican movement in North America is easily the largest North American denomination to come into existence since the 1970s.
"The ACNA is remarkable not because it is splitting off from an existing church, but because it is uniting multiple churches. After over 30 years of splintering, traditionalist Anglicans are setting aside many of their differences in order to pursue common mission.
"This is clearly not a schismatic quest for purity by a small group of discontents. Rather, it is a theologically diverse group that sees how much is held in common."