By David W. Virtue 

A pioneering decision to jump start orthodox Anglicanism on Philadelphia’s historic mainline took place this past weekend when the inaugural synod of the Missionary Diocese of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) ordained two presbyters and a deacon for future ministry.

In front of some 150 people that included three bishops, numerous clergy and laity, the Rt. Rev. Julian Dobbs told the first CANA East synod, held at the centrally located Wayne United Methodist Church, that the diocese and the new congregation of Christ Church Anglican on the Mainline would engage in Gospel mission, Christian ministry, and build a fresh and dynamic future together.

“As brothers and sisters in Christ in this new missionary endeavor, we are committed to sharing the transforming message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, serving those in need in our communities and the world, standing against injustice where ever it is found, and reestablishing biblical, missionary Anglicanism in North America by empowering our existing congregations and planting new churches.

“Anglicanism is the oldest expression of English-speaking Christianity in North America, and Philadelphia has played a central and significant role in the development of Anglicanism in our nation. Philadelphia was not only the Metropolis of the American Founding, but it was also the place of God’s work of grace in realigning and renewing Anglicanism in the late 18th century. It was here in Philadelphia that the colonial Church of England was re-organized as the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States, the initial germination and vision of what would later become a new Province in the emerging Anglican Communion. Philadelphia gave birth to our heritage as Anglicans in North America. 

“At a meeting not unlike this one in the original Christ Church at 2nd and Market Streets, a convocation of Anglicans in North America chartered a new and auspicious beginning for the Church. On July 28, 1789, twenty-two clergymen and sixteen laymen considered and adopted a new constitution and a set of canons. They authorized a new American Prayer Book, and they achieved a unity of the American Church heretofore unrealized. Most importantly, however, that humble Philadelphia assembly of old, believed that the proclamation of the Gospel in the Anglican tradition would reach a new nation, continent, and eventually the world with the transforming power of Jesus Christ.”

Dobbs added that CANA East will build on the shoulders of these faithful Anglican men and women on Philadelphia’s Main Line.

“When the Convocation of Anglicans in North America was established in 2005, it was formed as a single jurisdiction under the Missionary Bishop who, in turn, designated each parish with a CANA ‘contact bishop’. This ‘contact bishop’ was the primary episcopal contact for the local congregation. Some geographical areas developed such as the North East, Virginia, and the Great Lakes. These congregations were officially grouped together as districts, regions, or deaneries in accordance with the CANA Bylaws.

“In September 2011, the Church of Nigeria [Anglican Communion] gave approval to the creation of missionary dioceses within CANA. The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) made clear its intention that any new CANA diocese would also make the necessary application to be recognized as dioceses within the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). The first diocese to be inaugurated was the Missionary Diocese of the Trinity, led by the Rt. Rev. Amos Fagbamiye.”

Dobbs explained that Nigerian Archbishop, the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, Primate of all Nigeria, proclaimed the creation of CANA dioceses to more effectively serve the proclamation of the Gospel, the health of the Church, and the training of new generations for ministry in the Kingdom of Christ our Lord. The Church of Nigeria [Anglican Communion] continues to offer a Spirit-filled, Gospel-centered, Apostolically commanded, incredible gift to rebuild and replant biblical Anglicanism in North America. 

“Our connection to the Church of Nigeria is relational, it’s missional, it’s legal, and it connects us to the world-wide Anglican Communion.”

Dobbs noted that across North America his congregations are facing considerable challenges amidst the changes in our society and culture. “These challenges need not undermine our ministry, but rather they should be seen as opportunities for Gospel mission. Our Lord Jesus Christ has called the Church to be salt to the earth and light to the world amidst a nation where the Church is alive, but in many circumstances it is a Church with a weakening and fading heartbeat. The voice of mainstream Christianity is no longer considered as relevant in many places in the United States.”

Archbishop Okoh has been critical of The Episcopal Church declaring that Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has compromised the truth of the gospel. The Nigerian primate has pressed forward despite appeals by the former Archbishop of Canterbury not to cross diocesan boundaries and established dioceses in North America.

Relationships are now so strained that he and his fellow African archbishops will not attend any primatial gathering called by the Archbishop of Canterbury if she is invited.

Moving forward as a new diocese, Dobbs affirmed the central relationship between the Missionary Diocese of CANA East and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). “As a founding member, CANA has been and remains an integral part of the ACNA. The founding Missionary Bishop of CANA, the Rt. Rev’d Martyn Minns, recently remarked that the ACNA dioceses of the Great Lakes, the South, and the Mid-Atlantic can all trace their roots directly to CANA, and we continue to contribute significantly to the mission and growth of the Anglican Church in North America. CANA bishops are all members of the ACNA College of Bishops.”

Dobbs continued saying that the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) has played a pivotal role in helping ACNA gain acceptance within the Anglican Communion, and–along with CANA– actively supports the ACNA being officially recognized as the 39th province of the Anglican Communion. “I firmly believe that establishing new dioceses in CANA will serve to strengthen the mission and ministry of the Anglican Church in North America and I look forward to deepening this significant relationship.”

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