20th Provincial Synod (2013)

Newport Beach, California. October 23, 2013

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

This is now my fourth Charge to a Provincial Synod as Metropolitan of the Original Province, and my fifth if we add 2005 when I was the senior Bishop Ordinary at the outset of the Grand Rapids Synod which for better or worse elected me Metropolitan.  These Charges are an occasion for a general review of the state of the Anglican Catholic Church as well as an opportunity to introduce some thoughts about the Synod that will follow and the business to be conducted.

In the past I have used the figure of an inverted pyramid to describe the Anglican Catholic Church.  We began with a number of parishes and Churchmen in relatively wealthy parts of the world – in the United States and Canada, first, then also in Australia, New Zealand, and England.  Our members in these places were and are relatively few in number, but they have been numerous enough, affluent enough, and generous enough to allow us to begin and to support missions in less wealthy parts of the world.  Those missions, in what current fashion calls the Global South, have grown rapidly. 

Prior to the beginning of my tenure as a bishop we had missions in India, Colombia, and Haiti.  As a bishop I was able to help restore our work in South Africa and to begin work in Venezuela.  Then during my tenure as Metropolitan we have begun work in South Sudan, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroun, Kenya, and Pakistan.  More recently we see the beginnings of work in the Philippines, Cuba, and Chile, with contacts also in Ecuador and Brazil.  The largest diocese in our Church, in terms of membership, is in South Sudan.  Many others of the places I have just named have ACC memberships in the thousands.  As I have noted in the past, our membership in these places could expand even more rapidly if available resources were greater.  It is not particularly difficult to add members in many parts of the world if funds are unlimited.  But of course funds are limited.  So our policy at present is to support what we have on a kind of first-come, first-served basis.  We have had to tell some later in the queue that they will need to wait until we are able to serve them as we cannot at this time.

One challenge before us, therefore, is to grow the ACC in the wealthy parts of the world.  I regret to say that the two years since we met in Lantana have not been particularly successful in this respect.  Individual dioceses – such as the United Kingdom – and individual parishes – such as our host parish here in Newport Beach –have enjoyed good growth in this period.  But the First World dioceses as a whole have on average been merely stable.  We have been able to do some wonderful things – things far beyond what our small numbers would suggest – due to three factors.  First, our people have contributed steadily and generously to regular appeals for our mission society and for mission needs.  Secondly, our people have responded with astonishing generosity to some extraordinary problems such as the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, an orphanage fire in South Africa, and the 2010 Haitian earthquake.  Thirdly, we have benefitted from occasional bequests and gifts that have enabled us to operate and expand.  A recent example of such enabling windfalls was a gift of $251,000 in July for use in missions outside of North America.  Nonetheless, continuing growth in the poorer parts of the world depends on success in our older, smaller, wealthier, and more Anglophone dioceses. 
I will address our ecumenical situation in detail in a report for the Department of Ecumenical Relations.  However, I should say here that the ecumenical situation of the past two years has brought in general encouraging news, but challenges and difficulties as well.  The good news is that within North America relations among various people who understand themselves to be orthodox or traditional Anglicans are better than in many years.   The challenge is that ten years ago the neo-Anglicans more or less did not exist outside the Canterbury Communion.  The Continuing Church was the only option for Episcopalians or Anglicans looking for an alternative to the Canterbury Communion.  Now we are not the only option.  At least while the new franchise is still enjoying its early days and has not cracked along its internal fault-lines, the appearance of the neo-Anglicans has affected us.  Insofar as our growth still comes in part from disaffected members of the Canterbury Communion, our lack of growth in North America flows in part from the rise of the neo-Anglicans.  But then too, the challenge from neo-Anglicans, and the clarification wrought by Coetibus Anglicanorum, have soothed rivalries and lessened divisions among Continuing Anglican groups at least in North America.  Also, the shaking of folks out of the Canterbury Communion by whatever means may potentially benefit us.  In any case, as I have said, we are left with challenges and opportunities both, but in the last two years we have merely held our own in the U.S. and Canada. 

In part we are meeting here in Newport Beach because I believe Saint Matthew’s is an example of a successful parish which shows us that these rather parochial, intra-Anglican factors can be put aside if we are willing to embrace new approaches to parish life and mission.  Without compromising a bit on matters of doctrine, morals, order, or liturgy, we can work more intelligently and successfully at the business of growing the Church and its parishes.  If we are not growing, we cannot simply blame increased competition or an increasingly inhospitable secular context.  We also must blame ourselves for not learning how to do better.  Mission and evangelism will, therefore, be important themes of this Synod.  There is no silver bullet, no magic formula that will triple the size of your parish.  But there is much wisdom about what works and what does not work, and how those ‘whats’ have changed in the last ten and 20 and 30 years.  On a related note, on Saturday we will join in the consecration of Canon Stephen Scarlett as Bishop Ordinary of the Diocese of the Holy Trinity.  I believe this consecration will not only fill a longstanding vacancy within the episcopate of our Province, but also will open the door to growth in this diocese.

As for this Synod, our growth outside North America means we now have to face the prospect of three full Provinces within our Church.  This in turn would trigger the completion of our constitutional and canonical structure.  This matter is tedious because it requires canonical legislation to begin to separate the structures of the Original Province from those of the Church as a whole.  I do not think all of the canonical work needs to be done this week.  I suspect we will not face the completion of the process until 2017, and so will have at least one more Provincial Synod to handle some of the legislative burden.  But we need to begin to act now.  While we are in the midst of the tedium of the legislative process, do remember that behind the business lies the living reality of new missions, new dioceses, more bishops, more priests, new Christians, and growing ministry.  The need for legislation is like the need for more parking and higher electricity bills.  It may be tiresome, but it is an outward and visible sign of life and growth.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.