Saturday, October 31, 2009

Reflections on the Synod

This past week in Richmond Va., I attended the eighteenth Provincial Synod of the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC), which was the first for me. This was not the Provincial Synod for the entire ACC, but only for the Original Province. The second Province of the ACC is headquartered in India, but the Archbishop of the Second Province, The Most Rev. John Augustine, was present as an observer. He did address us, and I learned from his address something that was new to me, and which I will share with you by quoting part of their website (and I recommend reading the history page there in full), namely that the ACC in India is not a Continuing Church:

"The Church of India - CIPBC (formerly the Church of England in India) is the original Anglican Church in India. The Anglican presence in India dates back four hundred years ago to 1600, when Queen Elizabeth I was still on the throne of England. From that time until within living memory British chaplains and missionaries arrived in ever-increasing numbers, and were the first to minister to the expatriate British community, and later to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Indian people themselves...

" In the year 1978 following the Congress of St. Louis, (Affirmation of Saint Louis) the news of the Anglican Catholic Church reached India. The Indian Anglicans appealed for a spiritual affiliation in the Anglican Catholic Church Original Province...

"From 1991 until 1995 the late Archbishop William Lewis held office as Acting Metropolitan of India succeeded by Bishop James Bromley. Bishop Bromley appointed Fr. John Augustine as the Archdeacon and the Metropolitan's Commissary to the Province of India. Bishop Rommie Starks succeeded Bishop Bromley as acting Metropolitan. In 2003 the Right Reverend John Augustine was elected and consecrated Bishop of Lucknow. In 2005 the Calcutta Diocesan Council and the House of Bishops elected the Right Reverend John Augustine as the Bishop of Calcutta and Metropolitan of India. The Most Reverend John Augustine was enthroned as Metropolitan of the Church of India -CIPBC on 24th February, 2005 at Christ Church, Lucknow."

I quote this to make the point that our Continuing Church is not necessarily as insignificant as we may allow ourselves to believe. Furthermore, joining us were other ACC members from around the world, including Bishop Damkien Meade from the U.K., The Right Reverend Brian Iverach from Australia, bishops, clergy and laity from Kenya, from the Sudan, from South Africa, Haiti, Colombia. Archbishop Reber and Bishop Robinson of the United Episcopal Church of North America (UECNA) were present as guests.

The truly global presence of orthodox Anglicans in the ACC was something I knew about, but had not had the occasion to experience before this week. The difficulties encountered by our people in foreign lands, due to poverty and persecution, take on new meaning when we meet them. Rt. Rev. Wilson Garang (present at the Synod) and his Diocese of Aweil in Sudan, for example, face a kind of danger in their daily lives that most of us imagine only vaguely. I felt very unworthy, at the Synod Mass, to be preaching a sermon in the company of such true disciples of our Lord; my desire was to encourage with words that might provide edification, exhortation and comfort by the Holy Spirit, something helpful that they could carry with them. But, I felt like John the baptist, unworthy to stoop down and unloose the sandals of Christ himself, as represented by them.

Two priests from South Africa, Fr. Alan Kenyon-Hoare, and Fr. Mahawa, were present to witness the Synod vote on establishing a second diocese in their country, necessary simply because of the vastness of the geography, and the difference of language and culture. The most moving part of the week, for me, was hearing Fr. Mahuawa of the Umzi Wase "Thiyopian" people of the Eastern Cape of South Africa expressing his joy that his people, after over a century of Anglicanism among them, will have their own bishop in their own diocese (and I hope to have more about this for you to read later in the week). The Church of England never gave them what they truly needed for the Church there to thrive, and in recent years other Continuing Anglicans have failed to understand their need as well. He expressed his gratitude to the Original Province of the ACC, and specifically to our Metropolitan, the Most Rev. Mark Haverland. It is expected that bishops for both dioceses will be elected this year, and consecrated by Archbishop Haverland and other ACC bishops in the Spring of 2010.

On a side note, as I saw Fr. Kenyon-Hoare, a white man with a white beard, and Fr. Mahuwa, a black man clearly younger, it was obvious that they share a bond of love that made the difference of color and culture vanish away.

In Christ there is no East or West,
In Him no South or North;
But one great fellowship of love
Throughout the whole wide earth.

It was also quite a joy to see old friends, including Bishop William McLean who received me into the ACC just over a year ago, as well as regular commenting readers, such as Fr. Laurence Wells, Rev. Canon John Hollister, Fr. John Roddy, Fr. James Danford (military chaplain), Fr. Thomas McHenry, and others of you who were there.

Yes, there was the sometimes just plain boring business, that is always proposed, discussed and voted on in synods. Sometimes it is not easy to sit on those chairs at those tables for even a minute longer. But, even then, the manner of Archbishop Haverland was an instructive model of humility and patience, as well as a good amount of humor, much of which was the self-deprecating humor that those who know him have come to expect. The boring synod business may have seemed to be no large matter to those who have long been in the ACC. But, for others it is breath of fresh air. While eating dinner in a restaurant on Wednesday night, Fr. Charles Nalls summed it up neatly to a couple of us: "It was orderly, peaceful, sane and genuinely substantive. It was about things that truly mattered."

Those who are still writing our epitaph, and carving our tombstone as Continuing Anglicans, will themselves be long dead while the work of Christ through our churches grows and spreads. The Canterbury Communion is just about dead, but Anglicanism has its best days ahead.


Fr. D. said...

Though this provincial synod was probably my tenth I share Fr. Hart's observations. In a sense it was as if this too was my first synod.

Mostly boring? Absolutely! But the presence of those from several regions of Africa, New Granada, India, Haiti and the U. K. all were stark reminders of the very real struggles encountered by many of those from these lands. Death by starvation, disease, murder, being robbed, displaced etc., etc. And those from the U. K. being mostly dismissed by their countrymen, ignored, ridiculed by an evermore secular society, serving with no stipends, etc. all heaped upon them for following our Lord in His holy Church.

The highlight for me was the offering of prayers during the synod by those from distant lands in their own native tongues and dialects. I seldom understood a word, but the effect was something that I shall never forget causing this stodgy Dutchman to reach often for his hankerchief to dab his eyes.

And then I thought how easy we still have it in the USA and how really insignificent our perceived problems are when compared to those experienced everyday by our brothers and sisters in distant lands.

Fr. D.

Anonymous said...

You are correct when you say that our lives in North America are easier
than in most parts of the world but I would say that the problems our brethren face are our problems and the problems we have are theirs.

Anonymous said...

Having been a part of the ACC for just three years this October, it was my first Provincial Synod. I was detained from the last by a family medical emergency, so I enjoyed my this one especially.

The Synod could be summed up in two words: both boring and inspiring. Having attended a few "interesting" synods in my time, I prefer being bored. Thank God for a dull life in an inspiring Church.

Archbishop Haverland's chairmanship and management made me all the more grateful to have him as Diocesan and Metropolitan. Having prayers offered by international delegates in numerous languages was a brilliant touch.

It was a blessing to see a number of old friends (Fr Catlin, Fr Strawhand, the Bovas from Ohio, my own DOS family) and to make some new ones (Fr Warren Shaw, Fr John Hollister and Fr Strother Smyth inter alia).

There were many high moments. The Synod Mass was magnificently executed. The music was outstanding, thanks to the St Alban's Church choir with a real pipe organ. The Hillan Willan setting of Picardy had me on the edge of my seat. It was all great.

I was dog-tired when I crawled out of the cab at 2746 St Johns Avenue. Got a 10 hour night's rest. But the Synod was worth it. Hope to attend the next one, if the Lord tarry.

Deacon Down Under said...

Australian Anglican Catholics are incredibly blessed to be part of a truly worldwide Church that offers the fullness of Anglican tradition with order, Apostolic integrity and deeply inspired leadership from our Metropolitan and our bishops.

Fr. H. is correct in a previous posting when he said that the time ahead will be a time of true flowering of Anglicanism, even though we have all been written off.

Here in the island state of Tasmania, two hours by plane from Bishop Brian Iverach, and maybe 24 hoours by plane from the heartlands of the ACC in the US, as we prepare to pray Mattins for the Feast of All Saints, we do so knowing that we are part of this wonderful grace filled gift of God, the Anglican Catholic Church.
Lay-Reader David Gould
Annunciation of Our Lady ACC Mission
Hobart, Tasmania.

BCPAnglican said...

As someone active in the ACC years ago, I just wanted to say that it sounds good to have had inspiring worship and music along with boring business. Although I am now in another continuing jurisdiction, I continue to pray for the bishops, other clergy and people of the ACC and for the eventual unified witness of the Anglican continuum. Gratia et pax.

Anonymous said...


Given the fact that this event could have (and still might) damaged our relations with the ACC and APCK, I wanted you to update you all on our stated relationship with Wes Nolden of Trinity Anglican Church in Evansville, IN, who is now serving as a "Bishop" in the REC. I release the text of a letter I sent to him in regards to this matter. It was brought to light that Wes was conspiring to leave UECNA before his consecration. I release to you now the full letter:

Wes Nolden,

It has come to light that, previous to your so-called consecration as UECNA Bishop in January of 2009, you indicated your intention to leave the ministry of the UECNA for joinder of another Church, using the office of Bishop of UECNA as part of your intention. It is hereby declared, therefore, that your so-called consecration as Bishop of UECNA is invalid, that you did not ever become a Bishop of the UECNA, and any reference to your becoming a Bishop is untrue. You are respectfully requested to make known this fact and to pronounce such fact to any inquirer.

As Presiding Bishop of UECNA, in recognition of Canon 63 of the laws of the UECNA and any other applicable law, having learned of your joinder of the Reformed Episcopal Church and consequent abandonment of communion of the UECNA, I hereby declare that you are deposed from the ministry of the UECNA and the announcement of same has been made.

As Presiding Bishop of UECNA and on behalf of Clergy and members of UECNA we do thank you for your service as UECNA Clergy and member, and wish you happiness and success in your further service of our God, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. We pray that God will provide His grace and guidance to you in your new endeavors.

In Christ's Love,

The Most Reverend Stephen Reber
Presiding Bishop of UECNA

Brothers, I hope this may go a small way in healing this breach that occurred. I know that Bishop Robinson attended your Synod in Richmond. The text of this letter has been provided to ACC Bishops.

John A. Hollister said...

Anonymous wrote, "I know that Bishop Robinson attended your [ACC Provincial] Synod in Richmond."

Actually, both Archbishop Reber and his suffragan, Bishop Robinson, attended that Synod, met with the ACC's bishops, and participated in discussions with them.

Getting to meet them both, face-to-face and at last, was for me one of the high points of the Synod.

John A. Hollister+

John A. Hollister said...

I am very pleased that Fr. Hart found so satisfactory his first experience of an ACC Synod and that he was moved to express publicly his very positive feelings about it. In the past, we have often been accused by outsiders of being narrow-minded, unwelcoming, and excessively legalistic, so I hope this heartfelt testimony from one who has spent so many years in other jurisdictions, and who is only recently come among us, may go some way to dispel those negative (and in my personal view, unfounded) perceptions.

I have never attended a synod of any other Continuing Anglican body, so I hope some others who have will be able to weigh in here with similarly positive impressions. It would be reassuring to be told by those in a position to know that, with the passage of three decades, enough maturity has accumulated to make a similar degree of equanimity the norm in other corners of the "Continuum" as well.

John A. Hollister+

Bishop Mead said...

Dear Father Hart,
It was very good to meet you at the ACC's Provincial Synod after reading your posts here on the Continuum for so long. Thank you and the other contributors for your witness here and thank you too for your extremely good sermon at the Synod Mass in Richmond.

Anonymous said...

Just an FYI --

Bishop Peter Robinson's positive account of the synod is post over at his own webstie:

Will said...


I found this report to be quite heartening as it shows a spirit of unity in the ACC. Might I ask if you could clarify something for me? Virtue Online says:

"Both Archbishop Stephen Reber and Bishop Dr. Peter Robinson from the UECNA visited the Synod. The Secretary's Report indicated that the ACC can credibly claim more than 18,000 members in the Original Province, 15,000 of whom are in Sudan. In Africa, they have substantial work going forward at each end of the continent -- Sudan and South Africa, along with four mission congregations in the middle part (one in Kenya, three in Rwanda)."

Am I missing something as to the number of members in the ACC? If I subtract 15,000 in Sudan from 18,000 in the OP, I only come up with 3,000 in the rest of the OP. Am I not correct that there are more than 3,000 in the ACC in North America? Perhaps I don't understand what is meant by "OP" here.

poetreader said...

I'm going to leave this to the ACC fathers to explain, though I think I could answer it myself, but I can't resist commenting that it wouldn't be the first time that Virtue hopelessly messed up his "facts".


Fr. Robert Hart said...

My guess is that VOL has placed the comma one spot too far to the right. Maybe 1,500 in the Sudan?

OP, Original Province, i.e. the first ACC Province to have been formed. The Second Province is HQ'ed in India.

Will said...

Thank you! That would make a great deal of sense, and make it 1.500 in the Sudan and 16,500 elsewhere. Those numbers would be in accord with anything else I have ever read.

(Word verification: hailties. Sounds like a word that should exist.)

John A. Hollister said...

At the ACC Provincial Synod last week -- which was, indeed, the Synod of the Original Province; the Second Province (the Church of India) calls them something else, but for the moment that term has slipped my mind -- the Provincial Secretary's Report as handed out said there were a reported 18,809 members in this one Province, of whom an estimated 15,000 were in the Diocese of Aweil, Sudan.

However, she also described her difficulties in getting the various Dioceses to send her timely and complete reports (something that seems to afflict all church groups, from the parish level on up) and stated she had received some information only as the Synod was convening. Therefore, she announced some corrections from the podium but warned us that the figures might well not add up if we went down each column and across each row.

Thus, so far as we can determine, about 2,900 for the non-Sudanese portions of the Province, 15,000 for the Sudan, and 17,900-18,800 total appears to be a conservative figure (i.e., errs, if at all, on the side of understatement).

For example, the Eastern Cape Province of the Republic of South Africa, which we expect to see become the separate Missionary Diocese of the Eastern Cape, has just received 10 clergymen and 8 congregations. While we are told that these congregations are quite large and active, no figures for their lay membership appeared in the Secretary's report.

From my own personal observations in South Africa nearly 20 years ago, I would be very surprised if these 8 congregations did not together represent a minimum of some 1,600-3,200 people by themselves, but that is just a guess.

Finally, the role of the ACC's Original Province is often misunderstood. The ACC was established to form an international communion of traditional Anglicans. It began with one Province, the product of St. Louis, and when it achieves three Provinces (as looks likely to happen in Africa in the not too distant future) a new level of international governance will come into being, with a Holy Synod of delegates from each Province and a Primate elected by the three Provincial Metropolitans.

In the meantime, the Synod of the Original Province not only acts sometimes as the Synod merely of its own Province but sometimes also as the ex-officio acting Holy Synod. Thus, too, Abp. Haverland acts not only as the Metropolitan of his Province but also ex-officio as the Acting Primate of the international Church.

This, by the way, is the reason the ACC had no interest in holding on to the TAC name or concept when former Abp. Falk left us and wanted to take them with him: we already had, and still have, the blueprint for an international church body. Ours, unlike the Lambeth one, provides for juridical accountability by each Province and its officers.

John A. Hollister+

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Thank you Fr. Hollister.

Obviously, then, the numbers for the rest of the OP (outside Sudan) need to be counted, and obviously are higher than 2,900. I did not realize we had so large a church in the Sudan, but should have guessed that the Church would grow larger when under persecution.

John A. Hollister said...

Fr. Hart wrote, "I did not realize we had so large a church in the Sudan, but should have guessed that the Church would grow larger when under persecution."

I'm sure the physical and logistic conditions in Southern Sudan make the collection of accurate figures extremely difficult. Just getting usable water and planting and cultivating subsistence-level crops sometimes seem like insurmountable tasks.

However, we have one Bishop and 85 Priests walking (primarily) and bicycling (sometimes) across 5 counties there, so the suggestion of 15,000 congregants does not seem to me inherently improbable.

John A. Hollister+

Anonymous said...

Bishop Damien Mead of the Diocese of the United Kingdom has prepared a beautiful world map showing ACC dioceses around the world. I discovered it while viewing his Facebook site. He tells me it needs to be updated, to show the new dioceses in South Africa. That is progress, when you have to keep updating your map to reflect growth. He promises to make it available when updated. It would be splendid on a narthex bulletin board. Depend on me to pester him about this. Perhaps he is reading.

John A. Hollister said...

On the question of numbers of members, the rule of thumb I often use to answer questioners is "In the Western Hemisphere, we probably have enough to make up two medium-sized suburban Roman Catholic parishes."

That seems to put the bean counting aspect into some sort of perspective. Of course, raw counts do not measure spiritual effectiveness.

John A. Hollister+


Anonymous said...

Canon Hollister: With respect, Father, the official figures distributed in Richmond show for thr Diocese of Aweil (i.e., Sudan) 85 parishes and 150 clergy.
15,000 adherents implies about 176 souls per parish. This could be a low estimate.

Bishop Mead said...

Anonymous said...
"Bishop Damien Mead of the Diocese of the United Kingdom has prepared a beautiful world map showing ACC dioceses around the world. I discovered it while viewing his Facebook site. He tells me it needs to be updated, to show the new dioceses in South Africa. That is progress, when you have to keep updating your map to reflect growth..."

Dear Father,
Thank you for your kind comments about the map of the ACC. It is available on the ACC Diocese of the United Kingdom website and can be copied and pasted as a jpg should anyone so wish.
When I update it (probably when the Missionary Diocese of the Eastern Cape in South Africa is created) it will appear first on our website.