First ACNA archbishop strikes evangelical tone
Robert Duncan, installed on Wednesday night as the first archbishop of the new Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), struck a decidedly evangelical tone in the sermon he delivered at his installation service. (You can see our coverage of the ACNA’s initial assembly here and here.)
The ACNA is mostly composed of conservative dissidents who have left the Episcopal Church — the main U.S. branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion — over thorny issues like gay clergy. It says it has 100,000 followers in 700 churches in Canada and the United States.
Like other mainline Protestant denominations, the Episcopal Church — which is estimated to have more than 2 million members — has been shrinking while evangelical Protestant churches often have seen explosive growth (though some like the Southern Baptist Convention are also facing decline. We blogged on that issue earlier today). The ACNA seems to be in some ways emulating the evangelical movement by sticking to conservative principles (it would argue this means scriptural authority) and by stressing a renewed drive of evangelism.
Duncan at times certainly came across as something of a Southern evangelical (which some reserved Episcopal or Anglican audiences might find a bit jarring) but one wrapped in colorful Anglican robes. He called on his flock to “plant a thousand new churches in five years,” which will mark the end of his term in office. He talked about reaching the unchurched, relating the story of a recovering alcoholic whom he met on a plane and tried to introduce to Jesus. He also talked about the need to memorize scripture to live it.
His take on Islam echoed the more strident tone of conservative U.S. evangelicals and not those who have called for “inter-faith dialogue” with Muslims.
“We’ve got to be about the business of engaging Islam … secularism, and materialism, but especially Islam. Because there is only one way to the Father, it’s the only way. It’s a matter of life and death,” he said to warm applause.
On another note, he evoked the Church of England’s founding father Henry VIII — crowned King of England 500 years ago — and held him up as an example of “a ruler in the end gone astray, confiscating the property of a church in an almost contemporary way.”
This comparison of the legal battles between dissident dioceses and the Episcopal Church over property to Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries was probably meant in a light-hearted way. But it could also be taken as a jab from a new alliance that wants to come out swinging.
(Photo: Archbishop Robert Duncan, courtesy of the ACNA)