The Anglican Church in North America was constituted on Monday, marking a new beginning for thousands of conservative Anglicans eager to get past the politics of church and on with promoting the Gospel.
"Many of us have sacrificed a great deal to follow Jesus to this place. Many of us have lost properties and sacred treasures and incomes and pensions and standing and friends," said the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, who will be installed as the first archbishop of the ACNA.
Yet, "there is no one here who would go back," he said in his opening address to hundreds of Anglicans who have convened in Bedford, Texas, for the inaugural assembly.
Since severing ties with The Episcopal Church – the U.S. arm of Anglicanism –and the Anglican Church of Canada, a number of Anglican parishes have found themselves embattled in lawsuits over church properties. Conservatives have left the national churches over what they claim to be a departure from Christian orthodoxy.
They, along with a host of orthodox Anglicans overseas, have been calling on The Episcopal Church to repent and get back in line with traditional Anglicanism and Scripture, particularly since it consecrated an openly gay bishop in 2003. But the conservatives saw little hope that the U.S. church body would change direction.
As a result, theological conservatives announced last year their intention to form a new province that most see as a rival body to The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. The ACNA unites around breakaway 700 parishes – representing 100,000 conservative Anglicans – in North America into a single church that is meant to serve as an orthodox, Anglican, mission-minded, and biblically-centered province.
On Monday, Duncan told fellow conservatives that there is a great Reformation of the Christian Church underway.
"We North American Anglicans are very much in the midst of it," Duncan said. "While much of mainline Protestantism is finding itself adrift from its moorings (submission to the Word of God), just like Western Anglicanism, there is an ever-growing stream of North American Protestantism that has re-embraced Scripture's authority (just as we have)."
On the first day of their inaugural assembly, delegates approved the ratification of the Constitution of the ACNA, effectively establishing the new province which has been years in the making.
Duncan has made it clear that they have not yet reached a place where they have fully "made it" but what they have created and inaugurated this week is a sturdy skeleton upon which they can build the church.
Now under one unified banner, the conservative Anglicans are hoping to recommit to engaging the culture with the Gospel and not waste any more time.
"We are here, above all, to proclaim to the world what our God has done among us, among us sinners," Duncan stressed to assembly attendees. "The work is before us. The main thing is keeping the main thing the main thing. And the main thing is the mission of Jesus Christ."
Anglican leaders from the Global South have already stated their intention to formally recognize the ACNA and affirm full communion with it. Recognition from the rest of the global Anglican Communion, including its top official, the Archbishop of Canterbury, however, may take years.