Anglican Perspectives

Religion, Politics and the American Anglican Council

I remember a time when I was younger sitting down for dinner at a friend’s house when her father greeted me by saying “we don’t discuss politics or religion at the dinner table.” Awkward silence. Being somewhat confrontational by nature it was very difficult at that point to avoid the subjects. I managed however and dinner was boring but pleasant. You’ve probably met similar people. Maybe they’re peacekeepers or non-confrontational by nature. Maybe they’ve been caught up in a heated discussion in the past and lost their temper, saying something they regretted. For many good reasons, people avoid these topics – unfortunately, for me, these are two of my favorite. Maybe that’s why I work for the American Anglican Council (AAC).

 

While on the road for the AAC, I would often hear, “oh we’re not in to Church politics. We focus on ‘mission.’” A variant was, “we’re past all the ‘fighting.’” The fighting and politics they meant were usually in that period from 2000 to 2009 in The Episcopal Church (TEC). It was then that TEC really started moving on its agenda, consecrating non-celibate homosexual bishops, blessing same-sex unions and suing the steeples off churches that tried to leave. During this time, the AAC was a strong defender of orthodox Anglicanism within TEC and rallied thousands of Christians to engage its governing bodies. However, with the successful beginning of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in 2008, its recognition of the Anglican Church in North America in 2009 and most of the lawsuits adjudicated a few years later, Anglicans in North America want the controversy and fighting behind them.

 

Here at the American Anglican Council we have seen how the landscape has shifted and have responded accordingly. More of what we do now focuses on leadership development at all levels of the church, equipping for ministry and helping church structures become more missional. Many orthodox Anglicans and their churches are in need of revitalization and view the battles with TEC as part of the past. Some times we come across situations where the majority in a congregation left The Episcopal Church, endured a protracted legal battle, lost their building and basically re-planted as a congregation in the Anglican Church in North America. Other times we come across congregations with the same dynamics and challenges but where the majority of the congregation was never in TEC. In response to this need, in 2009 we began offering congregations and their priests Church ReVitalization seminars, Clergy Leadership Training and coaching, and training for lay leaders. We recently began a program for training new Bishops.

 

This August the AAC will turn 20 years old. For 20 years this small non-profit has been tirelessly fighting to keep the Anglican Church faithful to Christ. Going back to what I was saying earlier about people having good reasons to avoid discussions of religion and politics, especially church politics, I want to point something out. If not for what the AAC did from 1996 to 2009, there would be no GAFCON or Anglican Church in North America. Our efforts to organize, network and lead biblically faithful Episcopalians in North America and serving those who found refuge in Anglican churches in Africa and South America had tremendous effect on this movement. I’m not saying that the AAC is solely responsible for what appears to be a reformation in Anglicanism. Individuals, dioceses and other para-church ministries have each played significant parts. What I am saying is that IF the uncomfortable, confrontational, political and organizational work the AAC did over the last 20 years had been left undone, there would be little hope for a Christ-centered Anglican Communion.

 

Internecine wars in the church take tremendous tolls on the people in the pews and their leaders. They can also harm our witness to the outside world and can turn away potential converts to Christ. However, like the discussion of religion or politics at the dinner table, such wars are sometimes unavoidable. Thank God that good things can come out these wars and that there are people who will fight them. One of Canon Phil Ashey’s favorite illustrations for what we do here at the AAC comes from Nehemiah. With the walls of Jerusalem destroyed and the city helpless against attack, Nehemiah led the people to rebuild the wall while at the same time vigilant and ready to defend. With a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other, the American Anglican Council will continue to serve Christ-centered Anglicanism.

 

Robert-Lundy-Communications-Director

Robert Lundy is Communications Director of the American Anglican Council. Though a life-long Baptist, he has worked for the AAC since 2007 and has a keen appreciation and love for the Anglican Communion. 

Share this post