Thursday, June 23, 2016


One has to give Foley Beach a little credit here. He is trying valiantly to spin the best out of a disastrous year for his organization called the Anglican Church in North America. This is, of course, an impossible task, but we can still admire his creative efforts.

The Anglican Church in North America was set up in 2009 as an alliance of homophobic Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic bishops, who had left the Episcopal Church over equal rights for women and homosexuals, and equatorial African bishops absolutely opposed to rights for homosexual persons. Their goal was to have the reactionary ACNA replace the progressive Episcopal Church as the province of the Anglican Communion in the United States.

The ACNA was backed by GAFCON (Global Anglican Futures Conference) and Global South, self-made alliances of conservative/fundamentalist Anglicans in Third World countries. Their goal was to split the Anglican Communion and remove the majority of communicants, which GAFCON/GS represented into a rigidly socially and culturally conservative new Communion. Without a hint of irony, the rebels called themselves the "orthodox" and the establishment the "revisionists." This would be laughable if it were not so serious. GAFCON and GS have never had any official recognition by the Anglican Communion.

The Anglican Communion is a loose confederation of 38 independent churches called provinces. They are tied together by the "Four Instruments of Communion": the Archbishop of Canterbury, the meetings of the 38 primates, the decennial Lambeth conference, and the Anglican Consultative Council (the only chartered assembly of the AC). GAFCON and GS have no place in this arrangement. They have no right to set the rules of the AC as they have no authority to declare anyone "in" or "out" of the AC.

Both Mark Lawrence and Foley Beach have at least implied that the ACNA is a province in the Anglican Communion. When Lawrence addressed the assembled parish of Old St. Andrew's on Feb. 10, 2013, he told them: "There is already the Anglican Church in North America, which is a province that is recognized by 22 provinces of the Anglican Communion." He used the words "province" and "Provincial" 13 times and "Anglican" and "Anglicanism" 15 times in his talk. It was no wonder that after the schism of 2012, many followers of Lawrence continued to believe they were in the Anglican Communion and would soon join a province of the AC. Neither of these was true. No doubt, the consensus of opinion in the independent Diocese of South Carolina now is that by joining ACNA they will be joining a province of the Anglican Communion. Absolutely untrue.

Beach's fantasy goes on. Yesterday he told the assembled ACNA leaders at St. Andrew's in Mt. Pleasant; "The Anglican Church in North America is in Full Communion [with] the vast majority of Anglicans around the world." Read his address here . While his statement is technically true, its implication that it is a province in the AC is not true. In his speech yesterday, Beach repeated the words "province" and "provincial" 18 times. (BTW, in another part, Beach backed off his earlier claims about participating fully in the primates' gathering last January in Canterbury: "I was invited, and with the rest of GAFCON and Global South Primates, attended the Canterbury gathering in good faith." Absent was the claim that he did more than just attend.)

In fact, this has been a disastrous year for the Anglican Church in North America. At the primates' gathering in January, the GAFCON/Global South primates (22 of the 38 provinces) could not form a common front to promote ACNA. The primates failed to muster a majority to expel the Episcopal Church, not even a majority to kick TEC out of AC for just 3 years. All they could come up with was a slap on the wrist for TEC called "consequences" which amounted to almost nothing and could not be enforced anyway since the Four Instruments are co-equal branches. Even so, GAFCON/GS abandoned ACNA on the spot as Beach watched on, no doubt in dismay. The primates agreed that if ACNA wanted to join AC, it would have to apply to the Anglican Consultative Council. What is more, the primates added a statement discouraging ACC of ever considering such an application. That was where GAFCON/GS abandoned the ACNA. That was the moment when the 2009 stratagem of getting ACNA to replace TEC in the Anglican Communion died. Why the 2009 alliance collapsed so suddenly and unexpectedly in January of 2016 remains something of a mystery, but apparently the majority of GAFCON/GS primates no longer saw enough to be gained by backing ACNA against TEC.

When the Anglican Consultative Council met in Lusaka in April of this year, only 3 of the provinces boycotted the meeting in protest of TEC's inclusion. The GAFCON/GS provinces attended in mass. They did not raise the issue of admitting ACNA to the AC. It was dead. Their abandonment of ACNA in the Anglican Communion was complete. In fact, the ACC would not even validate the primates' limp "consequences" imposed on TEC. The primates are planning to move ahead with the old Anglican Communion as it prepares for the next Lambeth Conference.

ACNA is not now, never has been, and never will be a province of the Anglican Communion. Lawrence and Beach can use the words Anglican and Province all they wish. It does not matter. ACNA certainly has a right to exist and live its life as it desires, but it does not have the right to claim to be a province of the Anglican Communion. When the majority of the old Diocese of South Carolina voted to leave the Episcopal Church, they also left the Anglican Communion. They are now wandering lost in the wilderness. It remains to be seen whether this excursion in the desert will last forty years before the exhausted travelers return home to the Church and Communion where they belong.