- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 25, 2009

BEDFORD, Texas — In an ornate ceremony in a Texas megachurch, the Episcopal bishop of Pittsburgh was made archbishop of the 100,000-member Anglican Church of North America on Wednesday night.

The Rt. Rev. Robert W. Duncan was installed as archbishop at Christ Church in the Dallas suburb of Plano, Texas, surrounded by 60 bishops, 323 clergy and 1,500 congregants. Kenya Anglican Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi anointed the archbishop’s hands, lips, and forehead with oil saying, “May your life be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Earlier in the day, the high priest of one of America’s three major Orthodox Christian bodies cheered Wednesday a dissident group of Episcopalians who formed their own Anglican province this week, telling a crowd of about 600 that “our arms are wide open to you.”

Metropolitan Jonah, the recently elected head of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), told members of the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) that he is eager to reopen an ecumenical dialogue that was frozen by the Episcopal ordination of women in the 1970s and by the consecration of an openly gay Episcopal bishop in 2003.

“What will it take for a true ecumenical reconciliation?” he asked. “That’s what I am seeking by being here with you today,” he added as ACNA delegates jumped to their feet and cheered.

The ACNA, which approved a constitution and canon laws this week, consists of about 100,000 members in 700 churches in 28 dioceses of varying Anglican and former Episcopal groups. It is in direct competition with the U.S. Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada as the official representative of world Anglicanism on the continent.

It also is looking for recognition from as many other Christian groups as possible. Several were represented Wednesday at the conference and at Archbishop Duncan’s installation, including representatives from the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents 45,000 churches, and the 2.5-million-member Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

The Roman Catholic bishops of Fort Worth and Pittsburgh also paid visits. Wednesday’s endorsement by Metropolitan Jonah marked the second straight day in which a major U.S. religious figure threw his weight behind the new ACNA in a speech to delegates — the Rev. Rick Warren of California’s Saddleback Church gave an endorsement to the new group Tuesday.

Although estimated to number 1 million adherents, Metropolitan Jonah’s OCA has about 100,000 active members. It was part of the Russian Orthodox Church until it became its own self-governing body in 1970.

Wearing a long, black robe and a white monastic headdress that flowed part way down his back, the Orthodox prelate said that Anglicans and Orthodox bodies had had a robust dialogue until about the 1920s.

Eighty years later, “we need to pick up where they left off,” he said.

The metropolitan’s 55-minute speech did contain several conditions that are deal breakers for the ACNA, such as female priests, a practice that the Episcopal Church officially approved in 1976 and that some of the ACNA’s groups wish to retain.

“I’m afraid my talk will have something to offend about everybody,” he acknowledged. “But we have to speak the truth in love.”

For example, “Calvinism is a condemned heresy,” he said, which was a direct slap to the Reformed Episcopal Church, an ACNA member group formed in 1873 on principles — such as predestination — espoused by French-Swiss Protestant reformer John Calvin.

“There are other heresies that come from the Reformation that must be rejected,” the prelate added, “such as the anti-sacramentalism in some forms of evangelicalism. … When you go into some Protestant churches, you see it’s an auditorium and maybe an empty cross.”

Then, “the issue of ordination of women has to be resolved,” he said to scattered applause.

“I believe in women’s ministries. Women have a critical role in the life of the church. I don’t believe it’s in the presbyterate or the episcopate,” alluding to the offices of priest and bishop. The Orthodox do allow women to be deacons.

“Please don’t think there is only misogyny there,” the prelate added. “Not a bit.”

About 36 female priests were at the gathering. Some shrugged off his remarks.

“We know we’re called by God, and we’re not mistaken about that,” said the Rev. Kathryn Jeffrey from North Oaks, Minn.

• Julia Duin can be reached at jduin@washingtontimes.com.

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