Common Roots: Ancient Evangelical Future Conference

Peace breaking out all over at the ACNA Assembly

A news analysis of the election of Foley Beach as Archbishop of the ACNA

The imminent demise of the Anglican Church in North America predicted since 2009 by commentators from the left in the Episcopal Church and the right in the Anglican Continuum is just not going to happen, Archbishop Robert Duncan said today.

“Critics said I was the only one who could hold it together. Not true!” the archbishop told reporters on 25 June 2014 at the ACNA’s 2014 Assembly held at St Vincent College in LaTrobe, Penna.

The election of a new archbishop to oversee the denomination, which has grown to 983 congregations and 112,000 members since its inauguration in Fort Worth in 2009, appears to substantiate Archbishop Duncan’s optimism. A difficult, and at times contentious, meeting of the House of Bishops to elect his successor  held before the start of the 25-28 June 2014 gathering of delegates from the ACNA’s 29 dioceses and special jurisdiction, has served to unite the church’s leaders, those attending the conclave tell Anglican Ink.

Bishops attending the conclave have been asked not to share details of their deliberations, but public statements by Archbishop Duncan as well as background discussions with some participants paint a picture of a church that seeks to be faithful to its calling to re-evangelize North America.

In the weeks before the election, Anglican-oriented blogs and websites tipped several bishops as likely candidates: Foley Beach of the Diocese of the South, John Guernsey of the Diocese of the Mid Atlantic, Eric Menees of San Joaquin and Ray Sutton of the Diocese of Mid-America. All of the church’s serving diocesan bishops were eligible for consideration.

The private sessions began with prayer, followed by discussion and voting. Two sessions were held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On the last day, the bishops elected Bishop Beach by a two-thirds margin and a second vote was held with each bishop present endorsing the choice.

Archbishop Duncan stated that each member of the College of Bishops spoke during the conclave. At times there was “intense fellowship,” even “vigorous fellowship” surrounding the discussions. But “at the end, we were clear that Foley Beach was the one to lead us.”

Sources tell Anglican Ink the issue that generated the most vigorous fellowship was the question of women’s orders, with the bishops unable to rally round a common view. The theological issues surrounding women clergy were coupled with fears that behaviors exhibited in the Episcopal Church in its debates were being repeated within the ACNA. A hypothetical example of such a tactic, it was explained, was the aggrieved minority veto. The desire to accommodate pastorally a minority viewpoint without holding it accountable to theological scrutiny was the slippery slope that led the Episcopal Church to its present state, it was suggested.

Yet the frankness of the debate appears to have strengthened the bishops’ desire for unity, and may have led to the election of Bishop Beach – a moderate conservative on the issue of women’s orders, but also a bishop noted for his pastoral gifts. A “good bishop to his priests” and a “good priest to his people” one participant in the conclave explained.

In his first press conference as archbishop, Bishop Beach said he had “never been around such spiritual, godly men” as he had in the conclave.

Archbishop Duncan’s “shoes are pretty big. My feet are not that big,” he observed, adding the outgoing archbishop was a “modern day hero of the faith” who had focused the ACNA on “reaching people for Christ.”

“What needs to be done. What has to be done, is to keep focused on this,” Archbishop-elect Beach said.

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