Global View - The ACNA Conclave, Council, and Assembly

The ACNA Conclave, Council, and Assembly


Come Holy Ghost, our souls inspire

And lighten with celestial fire

These ancient words of the Veni Creator were said and sung many times over the three days that the Bishops of the Anglican Church in North America met in conclave. As the church waited, the bishops met for three full days to discern who the next Archbishop would be.


The Anglican Church in North America, like other Provinces, is made up of people who have many different points of emphasis and different understandings of priorities. Rather than engaging in a political process in which groups rally not only to win but also to defeat others, our bishops reported that they were committed to discerning the person whom God was calling and anointing to lead as the next Archbishop. They also said that they were committed to doing so in a way that unites the church. In order to do that, bishops shared their hearts and priorities. To engage differences in a way that preserves relationships took open communication and time—in fact, almost three full days.

There were several things that were notable and encouraging during the “conclave” where the next Archbishop was selected. First of all, each of the bishops was given three minutes to share what was on his heart with regard to the church and his view of the direction and priorities for the next phase of our life together. A lot of time was devoted to worship and prayer, with Scripture being both read and acclaimed as authoritative. Bishops also had time to share their sense of “words from the Lord,” as distinguished from personal points of view, for which there was also ample time to share. Each time someone spoke, time was allotted for weighing the words that had been given, seeking not only to honor our thoughts and decisions but also to listen to what God was saying. Naturally, this is something which must be weighed very carefully and measured against Scripture, but the fact that God’s voice and guidance are taken seriously is a great encouragement. 

Much of the time was spent articulating different senses of direction for the future of the church, and that resulted in an agreement of what was needed for the present. The process led to prayers of repentance and acts of reconciliation, prayers, brotherly hugs, and even tears. As relationships were strengthened, agreement was reached on what next steps to take and how to engage challenges emerged. In many ways, this was a time of “being the church” and “doing the work of the church.” As trust increased, consensus grew more readily, ultimately resulting in enthusiastic and unanimous selection of the new Archbishop.  On Sunday afternoon, the bishops’ shout of acclamation rose from the crypt under the Basilica as they reached their decision and was heard by those nearby. 

++DuncanPreachingThe bishops are earnestly united and expectant for our common life and ministry as we celebrate the selection of our new Archbishop, look forward to the next season of ministry with joy more united than ever, and move ahead to reach North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ. 

Following the election of the Most Rev. Foley Beach as the new Archbishop, the Executive Committee and Cabinet met, preparing items for the Council. The Council, which is a body of Bishops, Clergy, and Lay people, debated and refined the business items and budget of the Province, which were then presented to the full Assembly. The Assembly is the broadest decision-making body of the Province. It has the power to enact what is presented or send it back to the Executive Committee and Council to be re-worked, both of which have happened in the past. It provides an opportunity for the most broadly based shared decision-making in the Province and allows for ownership of decisions through the Province. 

Most of the Assembly time focused on pursuing the mission of the Church, with inspiring plenary sessions given by people like Eric Metaxis (Author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy), Os Guinness, and evangelical icon Dr. J.I. “Jim” Packer (a dear friend). The intent was to encourage and further equip the church to reach North America (and the world!) with the transforming love of Jesus Christ. It was hugely successful. 

Of course, there was discussion of the Anglican 1000 movement, to “plant the first 1,000 new congregations.” The call from Archbishop Duncan five years ago for our brand new church to plant 1000 new ones was inspirational. It was also viewed as impossible. In fact, about 500 new churches have already been planted, with many, many more in process. It is a remarkable achievement and has resulted in many lives being transformed. It is part of our common life that will not be abandoned. 

During the last twenty years I have visited countless diocesan and Provincial Synods all around the world. I have been privileged to be a plenary speaker at about a dozen Provincial Synods around the Anglican Communion. As encouraging and wonderful as those meetings have been, the content and character of our Assembly here in North America (admittedly exhausting!) was as wonderful as one can find anywhere in the Anglican world. In fact, it was head and shoulders above the wrangling and political posturing that often takes place in some other Provinces. Those who are part of the Anglican Church in North America can be very proud of what is happening. Those in other Provinces would do well to take note. We must grow in many areas, but there are also many things that can be learned from this young Province. The Lord is helping us reach North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ.