New Anglican diocese: St. Andrew's rector named vicar general for churches in Carolinas
Since it severed ties with the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of South Carolina, St. Andrew's Church-Mount Pleasant has grown. And now it has secured a central role in a new diocese in formation, part of the Anglican Church in North America.
The Rev. Steve Wood, rector of St. Andrew's, was appointed vicar general of the not-yet-official Diocese of the Carolinas, which includes eight churches in North and South Carolina and one more that's still being established.
ACNA was started in 2008 at the invitation of the Global Anglican Future Conference and formally recognized by its Anglican leaders in April 2009. ACNA is a province in formation that brings together Anglicans in the U.S. and Canada, many of whom have left the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada in recent years because of theological differences over homosexuality, the requirements for salvation, the authority of Scripture and other issues.
The Most Rev. Robert Duncan is the archbishop of ACNA and bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. ACNA includes nearly 700 congregations and close to 300 ministry partner congregations in 21 dioceses. Two more regional governing bodies, the dioceses of the Carolinas and the Southwest, soon will join them.
As vicar general, Wood is charged by Duncan with setting up the diocese.
Just as a mission church has a vicar, so too does a mission diocese, Wood said. A bishop will be elected once it's fully formed.
"My fundamental responsibility is to develop the organizational and administrative components of the diocese," Wood said.
The goal is to draft the canons of the diocese, search for a bishop and finish establishing the administrative structure by June 2012, when ACNA's provincial council next meets, he said.
For the past year, Wood and other officials have been busy laying the groundwork: writing the constitution, developing the ecclesiology, engaging church leaders and meeting monthly. It's been an opportunity "to shake the DNA, the values, the emphases," to set priorities and engage faithful Anglicans, Wood said. "I really believe that one day I'm going to stand before Jesus Christ and he's going to say, 'What did you do with what I gave you?' "
In recent months, St. Andrew's has expanded its reach in the Lowcountry, planting a church in Goose Creek and starting City Church, which meets at the Music Farm, a downtown Charleston music club.
Three of the new diocese's eight parishes are St. Andrew's churches. In South Carolina, 54 parishes now are affiliated with ACNA, according to the group's website, though not all will necessarily be part of the diocese in formation.
At a Provincial Council meeting in June, during which ACNA welcomed two new dioceses and voted to admit two groups of congregations that eventually would become dioceses, Duncan extolled the importance of local efforts.
"If we are to reach North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ, the principal way we will do this is through the local congregation," he said in a statement. "We understand that congregations are where disciples are formed and that it is through congregations that surrounding environments are changed. Bishops, archbishops, dioceses, structures, programs all exist in order to make the local congregation strong."
The Reformed Episcopal Church, started in 1873 in reaction to ecumenicalism within the Protestant Episcopal Church, is a founding member of ACNA.
Though it remains an independent denomination, it joined other theologically conservative churches in 2009 to become affiliated with what's called the Anglican Global South, provinces located mostly in Africa and South America.
The Rev. Canon J. Ronald Moock of the Reform Episcopal Church's Diocese of the Southeast, based in Summerville, said the partnership with ACNA is a way to consolidate disparate orthodox churches under one organization.
"We, as a church, can continue to function" as usual, he said. "The only thing now is, any bishops we elect in the Reformed Episcopal Church not only have to move through our process ... but the man chosen must also have the approval of the Anglican Church of North America," he said.
The global Anglican Communion is an affiliation of autonomous churches that agree on certain basic Christian tenets. It includes the Church of England, whose bishop also serves as the Archbishop of Canterbury, the symbolic head of the communion.
Certain member churches have liberalized their ordination requirements, permitting gays and lesbians to become elected leaders, a move that has prompted a backlash among some who prefer a more theologically conservative approach.
ACNA was established as an alternative church body for disaffected congregations in North America who want to abide by the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the 39 Articles of Religion of 1571, which express "fundamental principles of authentic Anglican belief," according to the newly forming diocese's constitution.
It is not yet a full member of the Anglican Commun-ion.
The emphasis of St. Andrew's, and ACNA generally, is "(equipping) clergy and congregations to fulfill the Great Commandments and the Great Commission by leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ through evangelism, personal discipleship and the nurturing and planting of congregations," according to the Diocese of the Carolinas' website.
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