One of the hallmarks of the Anglican Church in North America is our breadth of orthodox theology as well as methodological diversity. Forward in Faith represents a “stream” of worldwide Anglicanism that has contributed greatly to our family and history.
This past week, FIFNA (Forward in Faith North America) hosted their annual conference in Belleville, IL at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, a missionary Oblate retreat center of the Roman Catholic Church. This conference represents an annual return and gathering from Anglo-Catholic leaders, laity, and Clergy from literally around the world. As an attendee, I joined numerous other “first-timers” and all of us received such a warm welcome and joyous opportunity for fellowship and worship. Although I personally come from the low church evangelical expression of Anglicanism, I felt completely at home and among kindred spirits. I believe this “stream” has much to offer us as part of this great family.
PHOTO: Alan Hawkins+ (right) pictured with Dr. Michael Howell, Executive Director of Forward in Faith North America
For starters, these friends have “changed the subject” and are committed to gospel mission and church planting. Bp. Bill Ilgenfritz of the Missionary Diocese of All Saints reported how they have grown from a few parishes to more than 31 in three years with two new church plants expected this fall. Bp. Morales of the Diocese of Quincy reported on a church in Chicago that now expects more than 600 (mostly Spanish speaking) parishioners on a Sunday morning as well.
Secondly, I was struck with the deep and sincere devotion to Eucharistic Theology they shared all weekend. Particularly impressive was Bishop Ray Sutton of the REC Diocese of Mid-America and his very inspiring teaching of the Real Presence of Christ.
Thirdly, I was very grateful for Dean Munday, former Dean of Nashotah House, who has planted one ACNA congregation in Wisconsin and is now leading a second plant. This is such a statement to our church planters that risk is a hallmark of kingdom expansion. Thank you, Dr. Munday, for leading us this way.
Lastly, the Anglo-Catholic tradition has often been accused of being stuffy and archaic (from us low church evangelicals). I met young and old leaders who are risking a great deal to start congregations. Bp. Keith Ackerman’s humor and graciousness pervaded the conference. He has done a phenomenal job of articulating the best of the stream and encouraging those involved to be deeply committed to evangelism and discipleship especially now through church planting. Far from stuffy, it was positive, encouraging, and missionary. We all “Amen’ed” when Bp. Ilgenfritz explained how the Missionary Diocese of All Saints will retain ‘missionary’ in their title for indefinite future. What a statement!
I love the Principle of Synergy: The “Sum of the Whole” is greater than the “Sum of the Parts”. Anglicanism, at its best, can present the different “streams” of our heritage in such beauty and co-operation just like the different facets make a diamond glorious. We have much to learn and much to share and working together for the sake of the Gospel we can do so much more. It is so easy to focus on those distinctions with which we disagree. I hope to see us working together cooperating, collaborating, and communicating in spite of those differing distinctions.
I look forward to seeing how God continues to expand his kingdom through the faithful and deeply devoted witness of our Anglo-Catholic brothers and sisters.
Vicar, Anglican 1000