- (Photo: ACNA)
Pastor Rick Warren expressed solidarity with hundreds of conservative Anglicans who broke from their national churches to form their own orthodox body.
The Purpose Driven pastor pumped up the group, who have established themselves as the Anglican Church in North America, as he encouraged them on their move and challenged them on their journey ahead.
"My heart is so full for you today," Warren told more than 800 Anglicans on Tuesday. "If we want God's blessing on ACNA, then we must make our agenda God's agenda."
The ACNA was officially constituted on Monday during this week's inaugural assembly in Bedford, Texas. It unites some 100,000 Anglicans in 700 parishes that have severed ties with The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada into a single church.
Establishing an Anglican national province where such a national church already exists is unprecedented.
While forming another province may seem divisive, conservative Anglicans argue that there has been division in the global Anglican Communion since 2003 when The Episcopal Church – the U.S. arm of Anglicanism – consecrated its first openly gay bishop.
Warren told the breakaway Anglicans that God did not call the ACNA to be a "reactionary group."
"In the first place, you didn't leave them (The Episcopal Church)," he said to "amen's" from the conservative crowd, who believe The Episcopal Church has departed from Anglican tradition and Christian orthodoxy.
Warren, who leads the 20,000-member Saddleback Church in southern California, had offered support to conservative Anglicans earlier this year when the California Supreme Court ruled that a Newport Beach parish may lose their property after splitting from The Episcopal Church.
On Tuesday, he reminded Anglicans, "You may lose the steeple but you won't lose the people."
"The Church has never been a building. Christ did not die for property," he said to rousing applause.
As the ACNA begins its journey, Warren urged them to follow the Jesus model of ministry by not only winning people to Christ but also growing and maturing disciples.
"We have an unchanging message in a constantly changing world," he said.
"If you want God's blessing on your ... communion, don't pray 'God bless what we're doing.' Instead pray 'God help us to do what you're blessing,'" the Southern California pastor exhorted.
Summing everything up in a simple sentence, he emphasized, "A great commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission will grow a great communion."
The ACNA assembly concludes Thursday.