ACNA: Who Will be the Next Archbishop?

ACNA is about to choose its next Archbishop (Put more precisely, the ACNA College of Bishops is about to choose him). Since ACNA is tiny compared to the Roman Catholic Church, we do not have a plethora of websites like Whispers in the Loggia or papers like this one speculatng on whom the next Archbishop will be. Other than Stand Firm, I haven’t seen much good coverage of the event at all. This being the case, into that void steps yours truly, the favorite blog of most ACNA bishops.

I want to take a look at several of the top candidates for the post and where they are coming from theologically. It should be obvious that I have no inside knowledge of who the contenders really are, but I am using a mix of the conven􏰀onal wisdom and what I am hearing through the grapevine.

Before I look at the candidates, my thought is that whoever the new Archbishop is, he will inherit something of a least common denominator consensus. For all the talk of divisions in ACNA–and they are real–there is now a Catechism, the beginnings of a Prayer Book and several years of shared history. There is a common emphasis on church planting and preaching the Gospel. I don’t think the next Archbishop will shake things up very much, whoever he is. I don’t expect any resolution on women’s ordination, just more of the status quo.

The contenders I am focused on are Bishops Beach, Guernsey, Lebhar and Sutton.

Bishop Foley Beach, Anglican Diocese of the South

Bishop Beach is said to be opposed to women’s ordina􏰀on. Picking him would be something of a “next genera􏰀on” move that would pass over the crop of older bishops who are TEC veterans and have long histories with each other. Bishop Beach may be the only contender who has a blog:

According to his online biography:

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Foley Beach served as the Rector and Pastor of Holy Cross Anglican Church in Loganville, Georgia from its founding in February 2004 until December, 2013. On October 9, 2010, he was consecrated as the first Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of the South in the Anglican Church of North America.

Dr. Beach is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, the School of Theology at the University of the South, and Georgia State University. He has served in ministry with Young Life, the Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Church. His passion is to share the Word of God in such a way as to help others discover the incredible living Jesus. Married for more than 30 years, he and his wife, Allison, have two grown children and make their home in the Metro-Atlanta area.

I looked around for some hints of Bishop Beach’s theological leanings but was not able to come up with much other than a Mere Christianity focus, which is admirable. I can’t imagine that he would change ACNA’s course much if he becomes Archbishop, but that is largely guesswork. One thing about the bishops having a blanket “no campaigning” policy prior to the election is that we in the laity have absolutely no idea what the next Archbishop will or will not do.

Bishop John Guernsey, Diocese of the Mid Atlantic

Bishop Guernsey is a familiar face to most folks in ACNA. His educational background is very much in line with what you would expect from an old school Episcopalian: Yale University (New Haven, CT) B.A. (Magna Cum Laude), History, with Honors, Episcopal Divinity School (Cambridge, MA) M.Div., Biblical Studies.

Bishop Guernsey is for women’s ordination and his wife is in fact ordained clergy. He along with Bishops Minns and Dobbs could be called the “first generation” of the realignment. Guernsey also represents the wave of 1970’s Episcopalians who identified with the charismatic movement and rode this wave in the Episcopal Church. His ministry has centered in Virginia and he was connected with Uganda in the early days of the realignment. His biography here is very enlightening:

In December, 1981, I was called to serve as Vicar of All Saints’, then a mission of 36 families worshiping in Triangle, near the Quan􏰀co Marine base. The guidance I’d received in seminary to put the Holy Spirit aside did not, to say the least, satisfy the longing that I had for more of the Lord. I began to hear testimonies from clergy and mature lay leaders about the working of the Spirit in their lives. I had much to learn and many theological questions to ask. But finally, the Lord in His goodness led me to the place of a deeper surrender to Him than ever before. I asked one of the godly lay leaders to lay hands on me and pray for the fullness and power of God’s Holy Spirit to fill me.

While the prayer time itself was quite unemotional, the Lord who is ever faithful began from that moment to work in me and through me in ways I’d only yearned for. I developed a passion for the Scriptures. I found a new fervency in prayer and a new intimacy in worship. In my ministry, I saw new power as I shared Jesus. As much as I wanted people to come to know Christ, I had not led anyone to faith in Him in four years of ordained ministry. After I received that empowering of the Holy Spirit, people began to respond to sermons and teaching by coming into my office, falling on their knees and asking to give their lives to Christ. Nothing in seminary had prepared me for that!

The Lord began to give me a greater love for prayer, for evangelism and for the healing ministry, three priorities which have been central to my ministry for the past 28 years. In these areas I again had much to learn and He blessed me with colleagues on staff at All Saints’ who could teach me many things. What a joy to be a part of God’s transforming work in people’s lives. How exciting to be in a parish where that transformation is the norm rather than the exception. And I’ve been privileged to be sent out on many short-term missions with SOMA, training leaders in the power of the Spirit in a number of countries around the world. God has also done His gracious healing work in my own life, freeing me from the hurts of the past to be more the pastor and husband and father He made me to be.

In this interview he briefly touches on women’s ordination:

Q: The church in Uganda ordains women, which not all provinces do. Is that a factor?

A: Yes. Our associate rector here is a woman, and for that reason Uganda was also a very appropriate place for us.

Along with the other possible candidates, he usually talks about the mission of the Church in ways that are generic to almost every Christian:

Q: What message is that sending to the U.S. Episcopal Church and also to others watching the Anglican Communion?

A: I think there’s vibrancy in biblical Anglicanism that we see in so much of the Global South that is tremendously attractive. Our experience here in America is that this kind of passionate faith and unapologetic proclamation of Jesus Christ is magnetic for people. There are many who are drawn to it, and I think it’s sending a very positive message far and above any political message within the church. It sends a missionary message that we want to be about the positive proclamation of Jesus Christ.

Bishop Neil Lebhar, Gulf Atlantic Diocese of the Anglican Church in North America

Bishop Lebhar shares many traits with Bishop Guernsey. Lebhar was on staff at Truro in Virginia for many years, both he and Martyn Minns both served in the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut in the 1970s. He also supports women’s ordination. He was also connected to Uganda through Bishop Joel Obetia in the early days of the realignment. He says that retired Bishop John Howe brought him to Christ at age 17.

Bishop Lebhar credits his wife with some responsibility for the first GAFCON meeting occurring in Jerusalem:

For almost three decades we both have been committed to bringing clergy and laity to Israel for the sake of their growth in Christ and their understanding of the Scriptures. To some degree, the strategic choice of Jerusalem as the site for the 2008 Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) can be tied to the Marcia’s previous job as Shoresh Director. She brought many key global leaders to Israel during the years prior to that historic conference. Shoresh is a ministry reminding the Church of its Jewish roots and its responsibility to share the gospel with the Jewish people. It con􏰀nues under the name CMJ/USA. Between us we have lead well over two dozen study trips to Israel. Our next trip is planned for June 2010.

This connection to GAFCON leads me to believe that Lebhar would be a favorable choice in the eyes of many bishops. His biography follows:

The Right Reverend Neil G. Lebhar has been the first bishop of the Gulf Atlantic Diocese of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) since his consecration in 2010.

He was called as rector of Church of the Redeemer in 1988. He now serves part-time there as Bishop- in-Residence.

He and his wife Marcia were married in 1971. They have two daughters and a son. Sarah and her husband Jon Hall have two children, Benjamin and Miriam. Jon graduated from Trinity School for Ministry. Sarah is a professor for Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in Jacksonville. They are planting a congregation in Tallahassee. Katie and Paul Black were married in 2007 and have one son, Asa. Katie teaches high school theater in Jacksonville. Peter and Naomi Lebhar were married in 2013. Peter graduated from Florida State University and is now a staff member of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship there. Neil and Marcia also have a married foster daughter, Dawn Thompson, who has two sons and a daughter.

His first parish ministry was at a church in New London, Connecticut . He then served as Assistant Rector at Truro Church in Fairfax, Virginia from 1979 until his call to Redeemer.

Prior to ordained ministry, he served as Field Director of the Fellowship of Christians in Universities and Schools (FOCUS), a ministry to private school students. He came to faith in Christ through the ministry of FOCUS.

He currently serves on the board of CMJ/USA and on the local advisory board of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. CMJ is a Jewish roots and outreach ministry which his wife Marcia previously directed. Neil and Marcia have led countless groups to study in the land of Israel. CMJ-Israel hosted the first GAFCON meeting.

Bishop Lebhar served as vice-chairman of the Jacksonville Billy Graham Crusade in 2000. More recently he became a part of the ACNA Catechism Task Force, joining Drs. Jack Gabig, James I. Packer, Joel Scran- dre􏰁 and others who worked long and hard to create a new catechism for the 21st century. Bishop Lebhar also serves on the Anglican Unity Task Force.

He received his B.A. from Princeton University in 1972 and holds masters degrees from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (1976) and Virginia Theological Seminary (1978).

Bishop Lebhar loves the Lord, his family, and his calling to lead in Biblical renewal, worship, outreach and fellowship.

His Q and A for his current role as Bishop also sheds a lot light on him:

I have a daily quiet time of Scripture reading and prayer. Marcia and I pray daily. I am part of a weekly men’s Bible study where I share prayer concerns in a small group. I am also in a weekly Bible Study with my two sons-in-law which has been a great encouragement.

I have been greatly influenced by Mark Buchanan’s book The Rest of God, reminding me of the importance of observing elements of a Sabbath rest in the midst of life’s busyness. I also read devotional literature, and regularly re-read the books that have been foundational to my faith, such as J. I. Packer’s Knowing God.

Relationally I meet weekly with another priest to share what is going on in my life. I meet weekly with a non-stipendiary inner-city pastor who is becoming a great friend. We also have a wonderful family time weekly with my children, their spouses and my grandchildren.

I try hard to exercise regularly, at least three times a week, and I watch my weight and diet. I am in a truce in what has been called the battle of the bulge, and cannot yet declare victory. I get regular checkups. […]

While church planting is critically important, I also believe that every existing parish already has similar growing edges that can be identified and supported. Each parish has a calling to have an impact for the Kingdom of God and can grow.

We also need to have an entrepreneurial approach to planting new parishes. While church planting is difficult, expensive and risky, it is still one of the most effective ways to reach the unchurched. Even when such churches fail (and many do), they have still succeeded in bringing new members into the Kingdom of God. Church planting is essential […]

Having answered all of the above, let me close by saying that I love serving as a priest at Redeemer. While I feel the Lord is asking me to be open to a call to the episcopate, I will be very happy, probably even happier, to remain as I am. Parish ministry is crucial to the Kingdom. In the local churches we demon- strate the kind of loving community that Jesus uses to call the world to Himself (John 13:35). Throughout history the Kingdom has expanded by reaching people through churches, both churches with or without official bishops. The role of the bishop is ul􏰀mately to help parishes and parish leaders focus on this high calling. As I see it, the episcopate is therefore in a sense a step down rather than a step up, for the heart of all ministry remains in the parishes. Our unity is in Christ, not in a bishop or in a diocese. A bishop is called to guard the unity of the faith which we already have, by God’s grace.

In recent messages to his diocese, he has talked about ACNA’s common life and the continued disintegration of the Communion:

We are at an encouraging moment in our life together in the Anglican Church in North America. By God’s grace, we have been able to create two new resources, a new catechism and a new set of liturgies. They will be critical for our discipleship and worship but will also serve as marks of our identity as Anglicans here.

I want to encourage all of you to take a careful look at To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism. It is my hope that you will use it in preparation for baptism and confirmation as well as for incorporation of new members.
Honestly, I was not a big fan of using the previous Episcopal Church catechism. It was often vague, sometimes simplistic, and had no scriptural references.

Our new catechism is very different. It is designed to be studied carefully and reflected upon. My hope is that all Anglicans here will take the time to read it and think it through. I encourage looking up the scriptural references in the process. I believe that the section about becoming a Christian will also have a powerful effect.

Bishop Lebhar rightfully questions the wisdom of continuing to use the 1979 BCP:

We also have new liturgies to be incorporated into our worship life together. My hope is that many of us will use them so that we could return to the practice of having truly common prayer. It was the general consensus at the recent College of Bishops that most churches will probably use the short form of Eucharist, but either form is fine. Congregations are still free to use services from previous Anglican prayer books if they so desire. But frankly I think that it would be somewhat strange for us to continue still using Episcopal forms now that we have our own. I will leave the choice of liturgies up to each rector and parish, as long as the forms were in use in when ACNA was formed.

He also says that ACNA is not overly concerned with being recognized by the See of Canterbury:

On another note, I have been asked to say a word about struggles in the Church of England. Along with the archbishops of Kenya and Uganda and many others, I am very concerned. There is a likelihood that some English bishops will permit the blessing of relationships that should not be blessed according to the Scriptures. Therefore our desire in ACNA to be recognized by the Church of England is diminishing. I do ask that you keep the Church of England and particularly the Archbishop of Canterbury in your prayers during this troubling time.

He outlines a vision that could easily transfer to the national level:

1. Cultivate an Apostolic Vision

We need proclamation of the word, but Paul makes it clear that we also need demonstrations of the Holy Spirit’s power (I Thessalonians 1:5). In the Book of Acts, it was often a demonstration of power that paved the way for people to hear the gospel.

2. Continue to raise up and train new clergy

Many of our parishes and ministries would be ideal places of training clergy after ordination, but can- not afford to add full-time assistants. Perhaps we need to find a way where new clergy would receive a third of their support from the parish, a third from the diocese, and a third from what they have raised or can earn themselves.

3. Grow in intercessory prayer

I am so grateful for those intercessors who are so faithful in prayer. But we all need to become an army that learns to travel on our knees.

4. Incorporate new congregations and parishes effectively

I bless the Lord that St. Andrew’s Church in Douglas, Georgia, St. Michael’s in Palm Harbor, FL and Church of Our Savior here were welcomed at Synod. Other congregations are in conversations with us as well. The Lord is directing many toward the Anglican way. We must be ready and able to help them join us in mission.

Bishop Ray Sutton, Bishop Coadjutor in the Diocese of Mid-America of the Reformed Episcopal Church

Bishop Sutton’s biography says:

He was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and moved to Dallas at age thirteen. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts [B.F.A.] from Southern Methodist University in 1972, a Master of Theology [Th.M.] from the Dallas Theological Seminary in 1976, and a Doctor of Philosophy [Ph.D.] from Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University, in association with Coventry University in 1998.

Bishop Sutton served in parish ministry from 1976 until 1991; Dean and Associate Professor of New Testa- ment at the Reformed Episcopal Seminary in Philadelphia from 1991 until 1995; and Dean and Professor of Theology at Cranmer Theological House in Shreveport, Louisiana from 1995 until 2001. He was ordained a Bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church in 1999, and was called to the Church of the Holy Communion in 2000.

Sutton has moved radically from being a leading light amongst Christian Reconstructionists in the 1980’s to being an Anglo Catholic today. See for example page 240 of this publication.

He would be staunchly against women’s ordination, but he has also embraced used the “three streams” terminology so in vogue in ACNA. ((Source: ”I realize that not all Evangelicals and Charismatics will find the aforementioned explanation acceptable. At the same time many, and I might add, more and more Evangelicals and Charismatics do, judging by the growing number participating in the assemblies, events, and local chapters of Forward in Faith. No matter the complete agreement, all those in the various streams of the Anglican Way are always welcome to come, seek, and learn in charity with us from the Lord Jesus, who gave His Blessed Life on the Cross of Calvary for the sins of the world.”)) [UPDATE: REC clergy point out to me that most if not all ACNA clergy use the ”streams” terminology in a descriptive and not prescriptive manner. I have no reason to doubt that is the case with Bishop Sutton.] I have publicly disagreed with Bishop Sutton before, and he publicly disagreed back! There is no harm in this, as we should certainly be able to discuss theology openly.

I am personally troubled by what I see as a rush to ecumenism with Rome and the Orthodox, when ACNA hardly has its own house in order. Bishop Sutton has been active on this front, notably around the Filioque controversy, see here. He has expressed his views on ecumenism here:

As for what it means in the future, I think that of course Anglicans view the Roman Church as part of the faith, and our brothers and sisters in Christ. Anglicanism has always been committed to trying to bring Christians together. We especially have a historically close relationship with the Roman Church in our own past. We want to seek ecumenical dialogue with them to the greatest extent possible. And so as these things begin, they start at an informal level, a non-official level, though the meeting with the Pope was at a public gathering that he has on Wednesdays during the week. We were allowed to go up and bring him personal greetings, thank him, and as I say ask him for prayer. That part is official. What we hope will develop in the future would be more official ecumenical kinds of discussions and efforts together. I do think there is interest in what’s happening in the Global South of Anglicanism. Our brothers and sisters in the Catholic Church have always demonstrated a willingness to stand together with other Christians for a common witness to the world. The recent, sad decisions of the Supreme Court regarding same-sex unions being viewed as marriage underscores what a struggle we are in as Christians of all persuasions to uphold Biblical, traditional marriage, understood as one man, one woman in a lifelong commitment.

In recent communications to his Church, he has expressed Anglo Catholic positions that I think are alarming, but which would be acceptable to many in the current ACNA. For example, this on ringing a bell during the Eucharist:

The second bell I’ve been asked to ring, and is even pledged to be given in memorial by one of our long-time-members, has to do with another old tradition at Church of the Holy Communion, but one we have not observed for many years: the ringing of a single bell at the consecration of the bread and the wine in Holy Communion. Since I’ve been at Church of the Holy Communion, many of our longstanding members have reminded me that CHC once used a single bell in the service of Holy Communion. Somewhere along the way the bell that was used disappeared. It may have belonged to the diocese to which the parish initially belonged. It has been suggested that the old bell was taken when the historic 1928 prayer books were removed from the old church. Perhaps the old bell was tucked somewhere in the old Depot that served as our sacristy. When the Depot was moved, the bell may have gone with it. No one knows for sure, but they do remember the use of a bell in the service many years ago. Others, from time to time without knowledge of this prior history, have asked if they could donate a bell for the same historic purposes. In the final analysis it really doesn’t matter when or even if the bell was rung. The issue is whether it’s a good and Biblical practice that can be done without changing the prayer book, which cannot be changed.

The history of the single bell, not the jingle of many bells, goes back to the ancient church around the 4th century. It is based on the same Biblical principle of announcing with the silver trumpet or bell the coming of the Lord to His people assembled. To this end a single bell historically would be rung in the bell tower when the priest raised the host and the chalice to remind the whole community, the one in the church worshipping and the world around the church that Christ had come into their midst. The bread and wine had mysteriously become the Body and Blood of Christ. For your information, I originally had wanted to do the same when we built our new church and bell tower. I had hoped I could ring the carillon bell at the consecration in the same manner as our parish had apparently done on the prairie around the old church for many years consistent with the historic simplicity and meaning of this rite. As many of you know, we became embroiled in a conflict with our neighbors over the ringing of bells. We struck a compromise that does not allow for the ringing of the bell in the tower except at the beginning and end of services. Nevertheless I think this is a good practice that is part of the previous history of Church of the Holy Communion. In parishes such as ours, where an eastward facing service is practiced, the people can’t see when the host and the chalice are consecrated.

The bell serves to remind all that Christ has now come into our midst in His mysterious way through the consecration of Bread and the Wine. The great solemnity of the moment is emphasized, which is good. It rienforces the need for absolute quiet and silence at the consecration. I still remember my mother telling me I could not even cough or twitch at this time, so sacred is it. Consistent with a previous tradition at CHC, one of our members, out of deep appreciation for the meaning for this historic practice, would like to give a modest, single bell (not the jingle bell kind) to be used at the consecration in Holy Communion at CHC (the bell is not used in Morning Prayer). Although there are many variations of how many times the bell can be rung, I would prefer a conservative application of the bell, the way it was done in ancient times, two times: once at the elevation of the host and once at the same time when the chalice is elevated. I don’t think we will ring this bell in an offensive manner. It is a sacred practice that I hope all will understand it is something that is part of our parish worship of long ago that has very deep meaning for so many of our members. Judging by the Vestry support for this idea, many have wanted to return to this practice for a long time.

Nevertheless, to allow for adjustment and variation of practice, I’d like start by using the bell at Eucharistic services except at the 11:15 service; we’ll not use it there and will simply continue to do the service as we have in the past given I think the presence of the Morning Prayer tradition in conjunction with this service. If enough folks in the 11:15 want the use of the bell on first Sundays when they have communion, I would consider using it there as well. Let’s see how it goes at our other services. Whatever the case, the use of the bell at the 9am service and other Eucharists (feast days etc.) in no way changes the rubrics or the content of the prayer book. In fact the rubrics of the 1928 BCP allow for all kinds of variety in vestments and ceremony. Even so at CHC the complete use of the 1928 BCP remains as always un-changed.

And here he endorses the position of the Seventh Ecumenical Council on “reverencing” images of the saints, some- thing that was anathema to the early Anglican Reformers:

From the earliest days of Christianity believers have visualized their faith with various forms of visual portrayal. Very simply it’s called Christian art. Within two centuries of the beginning of Christianity, art appeared on the walls and ceilings of places of worship. So profound would be the development of Christian symbol and art over the first seven centuries that a controversy arose over whether or not the symbolization of Christianity was not, in fact, idolatry. To address the crisis, a worldwide church council, called the Seventh Ecumenical Council convened and concluded that there is a distinction between reverence or honor and actual worship. Christians could create and reverence images of saints, even God Himself, without worshipping the wood, metal and stone on which the symbols appeared.

This look at the bishops is in no way exhaustive, and for all I know, the candidates could be different men entirely from the four I have identified. Personally, I think Bishop Lebhar fits the profile best, not in terms of what I want, but in terms of what I imagine ACNA wants. He is low key, connected to foreign bishops, emphasizes evangelism, embraces the new liturgy, believes in women’s ordination but is probably not militant about it, and he played a role in trying to defuse the AMiA crisis. I think the votes of those against women’s ordination will be divided and someone like Lebhar could emerge next week. Or maybe we will have our own Pope Francis moment, with a total surprise.

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