Pastor Rick Warren, among several other Christian leaders, has agreed to address thousands of breakaway Anglicans in June when they meet for their first official assembly as the Anglican Church in North America.
In an announcement Tuesday, the ACNA – seen as a rival body to The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in Canada – revealed a list of speakers who have so far confirmed their participation in the emerging province's assembly in Bedford, Texas.
Warren is being joined by Metropolitan Jonah, head of the Orthodox Church in America and a convert from The Episcopal Church, and the Rev. Dr. Todd Hunter of Anglican Mission in the Americas – a breakaway group.
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 – the U.S. arm of the global Anglican Communion.
The 500-member St. James Anglican Church had left the U.S. body in 2004 citing differences on scriptural interpretations and the controversial consecration of an openly gay bishop in 2003.
"(Our) brothers and sisters here at St. James in Newport Beach lost their California State Supreme Court case to keep their property," Warren wrote in a letter to Christianity Today in January. "We stand in solidarity with them, and with all orthodox, evangelical Anglicans. I offer the campus of Saddleback Church to any Anglican congregation who need a place to meet, or if you want to plant a new congregation in south Orange County."
According to the ACNA, Warren is "a longtime friend of orthodox Anglicans" and is scheduled to speak on June 23 at St. Vincent's Cathedral.
"We invited him to speak because we are part of the broader Christian church and wanted to hear directly from some of its most influential leaders as we began the ACNA," said the Rev. Peter Frank, spokesperson for Bishop Robert Duncan who is expected to head the ACNA.
The ACNA is an emerging province uniting around breakaway 700 parishes – representing 100,000 conservative Anglicans – in North America into a single church. Anglican bishops disaffected by The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada began in 2007 to form the "separate ecclesiastical structure" in an attempt to remain faithful to the global Anglican Communion. They believe the two existing North American bodies have departed from traditional Anglicanism and orthodox teaching.
The province was formally recognized by the GAFCON (Global Anglican Future Conference) Primates' Council, which mainly consists of conservative bishops from the Global South, last week. Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, considered the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, has not indicated whether he will recognize the ACNA as part of the wider Communion but his office said it will take years for the new province to gain official recognition from the rest of the communion.
The Anglican Church in North America's inaugural Provincial Assembly is being held June 22-25. Participating Anglicans will vote on their founding documents and "officially" come together, as Frank stated.
Correction: Thursday, April 23, 2009:
An article on Wednesday, April 22, 2009, on the speakers scheduled to address Anglicans at the Provincial Assembly incorrectly stated that Metropolitan Jonah is merely an archbishop in the Orthodox Church in America. Metropolitan Jonah is Metropolitan of All America and Canada, in other words the head of the Orthodox Church in America.