New Anglican expression offers secure home and springboard for mission

Feb 23, 2021 by

By Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream:

A new Anglican jurisdiction officially came into being on 22nd February, as the Anglican Convocation in Europe (ACE) was commissioned by Archbishop Foley Beach in his capacity as Chairman of the Gafcon Primates’ Council. Nearly 200 clergy and lay people attended the online service of worship and prayer, preaching and fellowship which celebrated and inaugurated a new chapter in creative Anglican mission.

The journey towards the formation of ACE began in 2017, when the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) changed its canons on marriage. Some SEC congregations felt they could not accept this decision and the underlying departure from Christian norms of Scripture and tradition, so they appealed to Gafcon for help. Gafcon asked ACNA and in particular its northernmost Diocese, the Anglican Network in Canada to provide emergency oversight, by consecrating a Missionary Bishop for Europe under their jurisdiction.

This Bishop was Andy Lines, former missionary in South America and the  Chief Executive of Crosslinks, a UK-based global mission agency. Bishop Andy’s brief was to provide episcopal care under Gafcon not just for Scottish Anglicans made homeless by SEC’s decision, but also to congregations in the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE), and others emerging in Britain and continental Europe as part of the Anglican realignment.

It was not going to be possible or desirable to force together these different groups into one body. So Gafcon wisely authorised Bishop Andy to lead a process resulting in the formation of two Convocations, AMiE and ACE, with slightly different traditions and geographical remits, each distinct and self-governing but partnering together in mission under the Anglican Network in Europe (ANiE). AMiE was formally constituted as a Gafcon Convocation with Andy Lines as Bishop in December 2020; this week it was the turn of ACE.

The service was introduced by Bishop Andy, and began with video greetings from around the world, including Bishops from Tanzania, Chile, Namibia, Australia and England. After an opening song, one of three in the service played and sung by an excellent Glasgow-based duo, the formal liturgy, inaugurating and praying for the Convocation and installing Andy Lines as Bishop, was led by Archbishop Foley. Clergy who lead congregations in Scotland, England and Portugal each read formal declarations and were licensed as ministers in the new Convocation by Bishop Andy.

A sermon by Charlie Masters followed, on “key statements about the gospel” from 2 Timothy 1:8-2:2. Bishop Charlie has led the Anglican Network in Canada since its inception in 2009, and has formed a strong bond of friendship and support with Bishop Andy and the founding congregations of ACE in Scotland and England. he emphasised the centrality of the authentic gospel of Christ: a promise of life despite its offensiveness to some; a means of rescue; a message based on historical truth, sufficient for the church’s ministry to needy people, which must be accurately and faithfully handed on.

Some will want to dismiss this new initiative with its small size and the controversy of it being outside the Canterbury-aligned national Anglican churches. But as Bishop Charlie reminded the online congregation, the formation of ACE as part of ANiE is not primarily about administration and jurisdiction but the gospel of Christ. Similarly, Archbishop Foley Beach did not refer to issues of theological differences within Anglicanism, but to the fact that “Europe needs to be evangelised”. many of the greetings from around the world combined the same urgent plea for sharing the gospel of salvation with encouragement to stand firm for the faith once delivered.

Following the sermon, participants in the service were divided into small groups for a time of intercession for ACE, its congregations and planned new church plants, for mission to Europe, and for the global Gafcon movement. After the service had formally concluded with a rousing rendition of ‘O Church Arise’ and a blessing by Archbishop Foley, small groups were opened up again, this time for more informal fellowship, enabling ACE congregation members and supportive onlookers to meet , tell stories and encourage each other.

It was clear from this well-planned and led service that the Anglican Convocation in Europe has several key elements in its DNA: a clear, shared understanding of the gospel of salvation based on the authority of Scripture, a sense of being part of and dependent on the worldwide church, an appreciation of the liturgical riches of Anglicanism; a commitment to the priority of evangelistic mission. These will be attractive to those considering new Anglican expressions of faithful Christian community to shine the light of Christ in the increasingly secular context of Europe.

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