What Does Archbishop Beach’s Election Mean for ACNA?

Newly elected Archbishop Beach. ACNA photograph.

Newly elected Archbishop Beach. ACNA photograph.

What does the election of Bishop Foley Beach mean for ACNA? I have a few guesses and thoughts, all of which may look foolish when his term expires in 2024, but which I am recording nonetheless.

1. The first-generation era of the Realignment is over. Leaders such as Bishop Minns, Chuck Murphy, John Guernsey and Archbishop Duncan will no longer lead ACNA or the sub-jurisdictions. This is a good thing. While they achieved a great deal, it is time for a new wave of leaders with ACNA. I date the beginning of the realignment from the First Promise / AMiA consecrations and the end (or the end of the beginning) to the collapse of AMiA, the election of Bishop Dobbs in CANA and now Bishop Beach for ACNA.

2. Picking Bishop Beach should unite the tribes, at least to a degree. Bishop Beach appears to be a middle of the road, generic evangelical, and that’s just fine. He is against the ordination of women to the ministry, which satisfies both Reformed Anglicans and Anglo Catholics. He preaches a very Biblical salvation message, which should satisfy all of us, but particularly those who may have supported a Guernsey candidacy. His election should put at ease those who may have wondered what direction ACNA was heading had Bishop Guernsey won.

3. There will be a continued growth narrative for ACNA because the Diocese of South Carolina will join up once the dust settles. If this happens, ACNA’s numbers will jump quite a bit, although they are starting from a small base. We have to realize that in the world of Southern Baptists, the Assembly of God, and many other denominations, ACNA is a small fish in a big pond. Even the PCA had 335,000 members as of 14 years ago. So Anglican 1000 is good and necessary, but the ACNA growth story is a bit illusory right now.

4. His election makes the end of affinity dioceses more likely. Unless there are obvious theological reasons, there is really no reason for CANA and PEAR USA to continue to exist. The feeling I had listening to Bishop Dobbs preach at PEAR USA’s “Moving Forward Together” Assembly in 2012 was that things were still so muddled and ACNA’s theology so unclear, that we should maintain these African-run organizations. I don’t think that is the case anymore, and that is due to Archbishop-elect Beach. The centrist, big-tent version of ACNA is being cemented into place with the possible ten-year term of Archbishop Beach. We don’t need PEAR USA and CANA as lifeboats. I think we will see PEAR USA wrap up operation in his first five years and I hope CANA does the same.

5. Along the same lines, with the completion of a Prayer Book on the horizon, and the Catechism in place, what ACNA stands for in broad terms is now apparent. I will write more about this at another time, but my point is that the identity of ACNA is now stabilizing, and is not totally up for grabs in the way it might have been had we seen a strong Anglo-Catholic elected, or another pro-WO bishop. There should be progress on WO under Archbishop Beach, but I don’t think it will be totally rolled back.

6. Archbishop Beach gets social media, at least to an extent not seen to date by other leading bishops. He has a blog, he has a Twitter account, he is not allergic to the year 2014. Hopefully this means that the disturbing tendency of some in ACNA to want to rein in speech on the internet or try to control the message will fade out.

7. GAFCON will continue, but what does it really mean? I don’t see much evidence that GAFCON enforces the Jerusalem Declaration or the Nairobi Communique. There seems to be no GAFCON disciplinary apparatus at all, which means that it is just another voluntary grouping, which will work as long as the member churches want it to, and no longer. Without launching an exhaustive survey, I believe that the Jerusalem Declaration (JD) was a good deal more Reformed in outlook than what ACNA looks to be. ACNA wrote the JD into its founding documents, but is there any enforcement mechanism of these standards at all?

I expect Archbishop Beach to continue with GAFCON and praise it, but I don’t know what that means practically for ACNA. I hope he educates himself on the problems inherent with member nations like Uganda and Rwanda, where churches are tightly aligned with dictators (see Ephraim Radner’s recent First Things article). I hope he lives up to what the Nairobi Communique said about violence against people, not just in the case of Western abortion, but also with nations like Rwanda, where our State Department is more prophetic than PEAR USA has ever been about disappearing citizens and support for rebellions in neighboring nations. This Church-State alliance threatens to make GAFCON a body that cares about some ethical standards while completely ignoring other, possibly weightier matters. Realistically, I don’t think Bishop Beach will say much about this, but I hope so.

Finally, while there are challenges ahead of him, I don’t think they are as great as those faced by Archbishop Duncan. I think things are settling down and the version of ACNA that exists in 2019 or 2024 will be far more stable than it is even today.

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12 Thoughts.

  1. don’t you belong to a PEAR USA Parish?
    PEAR is a great place to be at this time in history as long as they stay aligned with the Anglican Church in Rwanda.
    joe

  2. My own background is as a cradle Episcopalian who left after 58 years. I was thinking that someone from another background such as REC might serve to unite the rather disparate ACNA factions, and ease the concerns of the Continuing Churches who are suspicious of ACNA over women’s ordination. At least initially, ++Beach seems close to fulfilling that role in all but name. He is certainly a Godly person; fingers crossed he has the political skills to transition from what was largely an emergency rescue operation to a solid, sustained growth.

  3. Joel,
    Have you examined the ACNA catechism yet? It, like the preceding theological statements produced by the ACNA, goes to great lengths to make ample room for Anglicans who are Anglo-Catholic, even Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, in their beliefs but does not similarly accommodate Anglicans who are Reformed or otherwise Protestant in their theological orientation. Indeed, it excludes them from the ACNA. Foley Beach voted to approve the catechism.

    Have you also examined the proposed rites for the admission of catechumens, baptism, and confirmation? Anglo-Catholic again.

    Centrist? Not unless you consider Anglo-Catholic as centrist. Big tent for whom? Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox?

    The proposed changes to the constitution and canons pave the way for the consolidation of ACNA churches into geographically contiguous dioceses and the abolition of affinity networks. As I written elsewhere, there is a movement in the ACNA to impose a rigid uniformity throughout the denomination–theological, liturgical, and ecclesiological. The dissolution of CANA and PEAR-USA would hasten the establishment of this uniformity, forcing churches into dioceses where they have little in common with the other churches in the diocese and in which one group or faction will dominate the diocese. This is a formula for marginalization. It is what happened in the Episcopal Church.

    The College of Bishops chose Foley Beach for the post of Archbishop because the bishops saw him as someone who would maintain the status quo, would not seek to make what would be, from their point of view, radical changes; and would not interfere with their pet projects. They saw him as someone who would help them take the ACNA further in the direction that they are taking the denomination. He would not prove a hindrance or obstacle.

    • Robin,
      I plan to address ideas such as the ones in your comment in a post later, on what being a Reformed Anglican inside ACNA means.
      I have not read the catechism in its entirety yet, no. I do think that your definition of Reformed may be too narrow, not accounting for men such as Cornelius Burges (“The Baptismal Regeneration of Elect Infants”).The Reformed position is a broad one, with voluminous writings. I agree with Peter Leithart, here for instance:
      http://www.leithart.com/2012/06/04/whos-got-the-gateway-drug/
      And if we are to (1) evangelize a secular culture, and (2) take our Lord’s prayer for unity seriously, I believe we must work together where possible. This means that people who are Nicene Christians and proclaim the Lord’s birth, death, resurrection and ascension should be able to live under the same roof – that’s what the prophets did in Judah and Israel, which had great sin issues. The Lord still called them his people, and there were varying degrees of purity. I think idolatry is an issue for Anglicans: bowing to things mainly. But, my parish does not do this, I do not do this, and there is no pressure on me to do this. I think the best thing to do is encourage the many Reformed folks within ACNA to keep moving on, growing and teaching, working with our brothers and sisters to evangelize.
      Also, your take on “rigid uniformity” just does not ring true on the ground. I don’t know what parishes you have been to, but in my experience, the opposite is true; people are doing whatever they want, and there is liturgical chaos. My parish is led by a Reformed pastor, as are many others that I know of. History shows us that hiving off into successively smaller, “pure” denominations leads nowhere. Reformed believers also have options such as the PCA, OPC, and CREC, if their local ACNA parish is idolatrous. For right now, Reformed theology is *a* camp within Anglicanism, not *the* camp. We will not re-pristinate the past any more than the AC’s will. We have to adapt to the situation today, and ACNA allows us to do that.
      Also, of the men who were contenders for the job, Foley Beach is by far the best option from a Reformed perspective. He seems to be Reformed, is not idolatrous, and is an improvement on Archbishop Duncan. We should be rejoicing that he was chosen rather than some other contenders. Ultimately, chasing a quixotic dream of what the church should be will only frustrate us. We will end up like Arthur Pink, alone, worshipping with on one.

  4. I do have the draft catechism … the finial is actually very watered down, some would be REALLY upset if the original went through.

    +Beach, I think, is the right man for the job. +Sutton or +Guernsey would be extremes and probably divide ACNA with their views, where +Beach is against WO, but not as vocal as +Sutton and more low church, thus appealing to the more Evangelical wings.

    The REC is NOT Calvinistic as many immediately assume by the “Reformed” (forgetting that Lutherans can be considered Reformed and Martin Luther and John Calvin had a long running spat) probably best to think 1873 as trying to go back to pre-1833, though in some ways back to the middle ground view just before the English Civil War, but firmly on the Anglican side of the Bishop’s War. A lot of boring history that most American Anglicans do not know, but important to understand what the REC is not, mainly for those Presbyterian thinking, who think Anglicans are just alike and quote the Westminster Confession (forgetting it’s place in history, kind of like an American quoting Declaration of Independence or Constitution as authoritative to a Brit, only to discover those are “traitor’s documents” — WWI, WWII & the Cold War reforged the relationship, but there is also history). Also, many Evangelical Highchurchman and Anglo-Catholics have filtered into the REC (+Sutton & ++Riches being an example of both). One trait is the REC does tend to focus on Anglican scholarism, thus aimed at getting folks into the BCP and Catechism committees, not so active in blogosphere, more traditional polity.

    +Guernsey represents a Charismatic stream, that’s heavy on prayer but tends to be light on doctrine, also pretty forceful in his WO views. Personally, I found him a great guy to get along with. However his view are divisive, pushing away more traditional, Anglo-Catholic and the Calvinistic Evangelicals. The pop-Evangelicals would not have as much of an issue with him, but ACNA could end up more like Rick Warren’s style than anything Anglican in nature (while I can’t say “there’s nothing wrong with Rick Warren’s style,” as there is a reason I’m Anglican and he pastor of a non-dom mega-church, my statement not meant as a slight, I’d rather debate what each believes in proper form with respect, my statement is to say that there are important Anglican distinctives that Charismatic and pop-Evangelical Anglicans tend to down play or ignore, thus they often tend to be closer to others in American Christianity than other Anglicans … or that odd moment when an Anglo-Catholic and Calvinist-Anglican suddenly realize they have more in common with each-other than some of their Anglican brethren, even in their debates and arguments, for the reason to both that what they are discussing considered important but dismissed by other].

    +Beach, with what I’ve heard in the past few days, seems the prefect Anglican. Meaning his views should annoy everyone, but not to the extent of a schism. His doctrine will be welcomed to those who place an emphasis on logical side to our faith, but his low churchmanship should appeal to those who suspect ritual and desire a more dynamic expression of our faith.

    —-

    RE: CANA, PEARUSA & REC

    I do not think you’ll see much change. CANA & PEARUSA may recede a bit, mainly because their reason for existing is moot with ACNA, but there are many ex-pat Nigerians who’ll want to maintain the CON connection and PEARUSA does seem to have the old AMiA habit of a willingness to open a parish in a phone booth. Both CANA and PEARUSA may face money issues in the future, because of what I foresee as reasons for maintaining their existence tends not to be fund generating and unsure if they will maintain their current funding structures. The REC is odd in that it attracts folks who think ACNA ordains too easily, thus ordains are willing to go through minimum 18 month/18 month (4 year maximum) and 40+ questions written and oral exams process for a position that you’ll need a second vocation (as with many Continuing Churches, most have a 9-5 job), so attracts a unique individual. So my unscientific opinion is the REC will probably will remain steady or maybe slow grow.

    However, I’m guessing all three will be less important as a whole in ACNA. The Anglo-Catholics who not fled will probably duke it out in ACNA, as will the doctrinally minded Evangelicals. I actually think the Charismatic Evangelicals and pop-Evangelicalism will have less impact this next decade than they had in the past decade (though probably dominate in transient areas, such as DC metro, where most are not looking for Anglican, rather, “a good church,” and coming in from non-dom or other backgrounds). I actually expect ACNA to settle into more usual fights in a kind of PECUSA 2.0 with the three streams trying to jockey for their position. WO is the hot button issue, but kind of the presenting issue to root causes. I do not know if those will be able to be address in the next decade.

    No real proof, more just my babbling and conjecture, but gives my reasons why I think +Beach is a wise choice. I suspect as with ++Duncan, we’ll all like him but also we’ll all have some issues with him as well.

  5. I do not think that affinity dioceses will go away (and hope they do not, as they provide a safety valve for parishes in the balance of power with bishops.) I particularly do not see the election of +Beach as a move in this direction, since the Diocese of the South is itself a sort of affinity diocese–it overlaps greatly with the Gulf-Atlantic Diocese and is the non-REC non-WO diocese for the Southeast.

    Congrats on the mention in Christianity Today, btw!

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