Posted by: Titus Presler | November 9, 2009

Mission, Bob Duncan and the Anglican Church in North America

Lack of mission vision or fervor is striking in Bob Duncan’s interview with Deborah Solomon in the New York Times Magazine of Sunday, Nov. 8.  Earlier days in contemporary Anglican breakaway movements in North America were strong on their sense of mission in sharing the Christian gospel with those who were not Christian, but it appears that as archbishop of the newly formed Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Duncan is preoccupied with the humdrum business of organizing the new entity.

Any hints of mission in Duncan’s remarks are indirect, and they’re only hints.  He notes that the number of congregations in ACNA has increased from 702 in June, when ACNA was constituted, to 755 today.  Asked about the lawsuit filed by the continuing diocese of Pittsburgh to secure its property from the breakaway diocese, Duncan responds, “They may get the stuff, but we’ll get the souls. They may get the past, but we’ve got the future.”  The dominant note, sadly, is inter-Anglican conflict and competition.

In contrast, the website of the Anglican Mission in the Americas, one of the “founding partners” of ACNA, states on its website, “In 2000, the Anglican Mission in the Americas was born as a bold missionary strategy in response to a crisis of faith and leadership in North America. We are driven by a compelling vision of reaching the 150 million individuals in the U.S. and Canada who have yet to respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ by building communities of faith and transforming lives.”  As an outreach of the Anglican Church of Rwanda – its bishops are members of the Rwandan House of Bishops, and it is “overseen” by Rwanda – AMiA’s mission work confronts the existing Anglican jurisdictions in North America (the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada) and thus recapitulates the denominational competitiveness that most people find disturbing in western churches’ historic missions in the Two-Thirds World.  Nevertheless, AMiA highlights mission with the unchurched, at least rhetorically.

Deborah Solomon’s interviews are highly condensed and edited, usually in favor of snappy repartee, so it’s possible that Duncan said more about mission than the published interview reflects.  Amid the rubble of inter-Anglican conflict, however, she probably would have included a genuinely visionary note if it had been there.  



  1. And then’s there this:

    A report about a split church in Texas. There’s all kinds of missional references in here, some good, some not, some robustly-considered, some not. They think they’re talking about different things but really they’re talking about different aspects of the same mission.


    • Thanks for passing this along, Jesse. Yes, I’m struck by how the reporter in Hurst highlighted the mission work being carried out by people on both sides. Resisted were, for instance, the possibility of characterizing the traditionalists’ evangelism and church-planting as mission, and the concerns of the other side as social justice; or, alternatively, terming the progressives’ work as mission and the traditionalists’ work as evangelical Bible-thumping. Yes, the work of both is integral to the mission of God in the world, both the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. The arresting and unsettling side of the story is that people on each side feel relief that they can get on with the mission instead of being distracted and dragged down by controversy and political maneuvering. I value the unity of the church so much that I cannot but grieve when the Body of Christ splits. I can sympathize with their relative contentment, but it makes me uneasy. In the Episcopal Partnership for Global Mission, there is less tension than there was before traditionalist agencies left to form their own network, but I continue to grieve their departure – largely because I feel the wholeness of the whole mission is impaired. I prefer struggle in unity to the peace of separation.

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