Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Association of Western Anglican Congregations

Association of Western Anglican Congregations sealA new website to check out for those interested in what's happening on the west coast - The Association of Western Anglican Congregations. They currently have 14 member congregations in California and Arizona.

Excerpts from their FAQ page [boldface mine]:

What's the difference between orthodox Anglican churches and the Episcopal Church?

An influential majority in the Episcopal Church has wandered far afield from the orthodox Christian faith. While clinging to the form of the Book of Common Prayer, and the historic documents of the Church, they redefine them to conform to perceived cultural changes. This tendency is insidious because it results in a religion that denies the authority of Holy Scripture and uniqueness and centrality of Jesus Christ as the Way to the Father. It is more than a little reminiscent of the humorist Garrison Keillor's tale of a fellow named Bob who invented a faith called Bobism, "the religion that changes to meet your needs."

What does your organization believe about the role of a bishop?

In the Episcopal Church model of leadership, a bishop sits like a monarch, issues instructions flowing down from the top and receives money flowing back up from the congregations. That's top-heavy management. Congregations don't need to be controlled like that; they need the encouragement and blessing of a godly bishop. The Western Anglicans' DNA recognizes that the most effective ministry takes place person-to-person at the parish level and can't be imposed from on high. In our vision a bishop might also be the rector of one of the parishes. First and foremost, a godly bishop defends the faith, making sure no weeds grow in that garden. A godly bishop manages, ministers to and, when necessary, disciplines the clergy. And a godly bishop does the work of an evangelist and plants churches. A bishop thus focused would have a small budget, mainly for travel expenses, and little or no staff. In other words, the money goes for church planting or stays at the parish level where the ministry needs are found and where God is moving.

What will keep Western Anglicans from falling into the same mistakes that have beset the Episcopal Church?

During the past four decades, perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the Episcopal Church has been its failure to defend the basic Creedal tenets of the Christian faith, such as the divinity of Christ and the nature of the Trinity. Under a godly bishop, who views defense of the faith as a sacred obligation, this type of erosion would not happen.

It's important to note that the Episcopal Church has fallen into apostasy despite the authenticity of its historic documents. So documents per se, however sacred, aren't the answer here. Beginning with its failure to discipline the heretical Bishop James Pike in the 1960s, if not before, the Episcopal Church House of Bishops has tolerated an ever increasing apostasy. The only answer to this kind of erosion of the faith is to do what the Church has done throughout the millenia, and that's to maintain a robust defense of the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 3) And this gets us right back to the sine qua non of godly bishops who view defense of the faith as a sacred obligation. So what will keep Western Anglicans (and its successor diocese) from falling into the mistakes of the Episcopal Church is diligence in the process of selecting its bishops. Also helpful will be a simple diocesan structure that supports the role of a bishop in providing godly leadership.

How is Western Anglicans being financed?

We're not a high-maintenance organization. We suggest that each of our member congregations contribute $100 multiplied by the number of its delegates to our House of Delegates meeting, held quarterly. That means the largest of our member congregations would contribute $700 annually, and that's a suggestion, not a tax. We've been blessed by private individuals donating a few thousand dollars to date. The only expenses we've had so far are for creating this website and holding meetings of our House of Delegates. As of December 1, 2007, we've raised less than $10,000 and spent less than half of that amount. The "Why" is that we believe effective ministry springs from our member congregations, that it can be encouraged and coordinated but can't be imposed from the top down. Any real money coming our way will be used to strengthen support of our smaller, newer congregations, as they seek to grow through mission, evangelism and service to our Lord. . .

What you are doing seems wonderful. But isn't there a danger that your organization will become just another splinter group and will not lead to unity?

Not really, because we're doing at the grass-roots level, here in the West, exactly what is being done by the Common Cause Partners' Bishops at their level of a College of Bishops. In both cases, orthodox Anglicans are laying aside whatever differences they might have and are coming together in what they pray and expect will be a new orthodox Province of the Anglican Communion in this land. We intend Western Anglicans to become the organizational structure of a diocese of the new Province.

Being subject to the oversight of a number of foreign bishops, will you be able to maintain your unity?

Yes, definitely. To understand why, permit a little history. The Episcopal Church has been hemorrhaging parishes in fits and starts for decades. The first large group departed in 1873 to form The Reformed Episcopal Church (which is now one of the Common Cause Partners, whose "Theological Statement" Western Anglicans has adopted). Some 14 other large groups (and many smaller groups) have left to form splinter denominations since that time. None, however, preserved its connection with the worldwide Anglican Communion until some recently departing congregations found a way to remain in communion with the worldwide church. For example, Western Anglican congregations, beginning in 2004, appealed to the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone of South America (Argentina, Bolivia) or the Anglican Province of Uganda for "provisional" (i.e., for the time being) oversight. Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda put it this way: "They came to us like children who were running away from home, and we offered them a safe place to be. We will not relinquish them into a spiritually dangerous situation."

We regard our several overseas bishops as wonderful, if somewhat temporary, blessings. (Recently, Uganda has consecrated an American, John Guernsey of Virginia, a bishop to provide additional oversight to Uganda's American congregations, including those that are members of Western Anglicans). . .

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