First ACNA archbishop strikes evangelical tone

June 25, 2009

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)


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“He [ABp Duncan] 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.”

I grew up in the Episcopal church and loved it. The lawsuits and the liberal leadership forcing homosexuality on the parishes have caused massive decline in the past five years. We were considered the youngsters of our parish. My former church didn’t have enough kids for Sunday school, so we had to move on. About 50% of parishes now have 10 or less kids in it, so our experience is not unique.

ABp Duncan points to two damning characteristics of Episcopalians. Many are so ashamed of the gospel, they are afraid to share it. They make up excuses like not wanting to be seen as “overbearing”, etc. They light a candle and put a bushel on it.

Secondly, they are proudly ignorant of Scripture. I have heard time and again those Christians who hold Scriptures dear dismissed as “Bible thumpers.” This ignorance has allowed Episcopalians to be swayed by the most superficial and specious arguments.

The TEC is undergoing dizzying decline. Life (the ACNA) and death (the TEC) is set before you. Choose life.

Posted by robroy | Report as abusive

Archbishop Duncan “struck an evangelical cord” because fulfilling the Great Commission, and the Great Commandment, is the mandate of our Lord for His Church.

The ACNA is a living example of the move of God to bring together the sacramental, evengelical and charismatic “streams” of the church, long separated by human sin, into one great River of God” again. The ancient church simply saw this flowing together as being truly catholic.

These are exciting times to be a catholic Christian, and the ACNA is an excellent new/ancient church in which to serve as such.

Posted by Michael Henry | Report as abusive

robroy: i’ve seen enough of this sort of thing in the presbyterian world to pose the following question: is acna’s beef with “too much” liberalism, or with liberalism? if the latter, then may god bless it; if the former, then it’s just another case of ecclesial planned obsolescence.

Posted by jd | Report as abusive

I look forward to an ACNA forming in my city. It’s either the endless praise hymns and drums of the evangelicals or the liberal mush of the other churches.

Posted by Chris Chian | Report as abusive