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Who We Are
The American Anglican Council is a network of individuals, parishes, dioceses and ministries who affirm biblical authority and Christian orthodoxy within the Anglican Communion. By the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, the mission of the American Anglican Council is to build up and defend Great Commission Anglican churches in North America and worldwide through advocacy and counsel, leadership development and equipping the local church.
Where We Came From
The AAC grew out of two meetings that have come to be known as the Briarwood Consultations. They began with people who already had some acquaintance with each other, who then called together people with broader representation across the church. The object was not to bring our clever ideas and formulate effective strategies, but rather to hear from God some edification, exhortation or comfort –- perhaps a new way forward.
Twenty-five people gathered at the Briarwood Conference Center north of Dallas, Texas in December of 1995. Among us were five bishops, five lay persons, five scholars (including a former and a future seminary dean), five heads of national ministries and five rectors of large churches.
All of us had been involved in one way or another in renewal or reform in the Episcopal Church, and while we could all point to various accomplishments along the way, we were all concerned that the Church's elected leadership continued to move further and further away from the historic biblical Christian faith, as if locked in a downward spiraling dance of death with the postmodern Western culture. It seemed an unavoidable conclusion that God was not blessing us in our efforts to call the Episcopal Church back to affirming the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of Holy Scripture as traditionally understood.
We covenanted together to fast and pray and then to meet for three days, asking God to show us if we were all somehow missing his plan and purpose for us and for our Church -- to correct us and show us a way forward. As we committed ourselves to listening rather than strategizing, we soon found ourselves in an attitude of profound repentance. In retrospect, it is clear that God did give us both stern rebuke and life-giving hope.
We saw that we had allowed our concern for "our beloved Church" to
We heard the Holy Spirit reminding us that it is the Father's task to prune the vine, and it is ours to bear fruit. We also realized that our collective despondency over the state of the Church was somewhat unjustified. We were reminded that the 2.4 million member Episcopal Church does not exist in a vacuum but is the American Province of the Anglican Communion -- some 80 million members worldwide. If we looked myopically at the Church in this country, it might appear that "the whole head is sick and the whole heart faint" (Is. 1:5). However, if we looked at the health and vitality in much of the Anglican Communion, we had much reason to hope for healing and restoration in the Episcopal Church, if we were obedient to the vision God would give us.
At the same time, we heard of God's call to gather all those bishops, parishes, ministries, and individuals who agree on the basics of the faith into a community of faith that is both visible and tangible -- not just for the purpose of fighting theological battles within the Episcopal Church, but for the purpose of fulfilling our Church's mission: sharing God's revealed truth with the unbelieving culture of 21st Century America and making disciples for Jesus Christ, and doing it as unashamed Episcopalians.
As a basis for rallying those who agree on the basics of the faith, we adopted a statement of faith drafted some years ago by The Very Rev. Dr. John Rogers Jr., former dean of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry. It is entitled "A Place to Stand: A Call to Mission." We selected it not because it is the definitive statement of Anglican Christianity, but because it cogently sets forth essentials of the faith on which Anglican Christians in America could agree, and it comments on some contemporary issues that are challenges to that faith.
Finally, we realized from the outset that the 20 of us were in no way representative of all the facets of orthodoxy within the Episcopal Church. We agreed to meet again within six months, with each of us inviting three other people, with the expressed intention that every definable orthodox constituency be represented. We then sent a letter to every rector and senior warden in the country, explaining where we had been and what we had heard, and asking for feedback and participation in gathering the Church's faithful to pursue its mission together in concert with Anglicans around the world. The response was an astonishing outpouring of letters of support and unsolicited donations.
In June of 1996, we reconvened in Techny, Illinois, with a total of 75 participants. These included nine bishops and either directors or board members of more than 20 ministries within the Episcopal Church.
Our first task was to share the vision as received by the original 20 and to submit it for critique and modification by the additional 55 in the hope that consensus would be reached. Our second task would be to define the way of moving forward with various aspects of the vision. Each participant was assigned to one of six working groups: Statement of Faith, Organization, Parish Life and Mission, Fulfilling the Great Commission, Ministry and Leadership Development, and Witness Within the Episcopal Church.
We found that, far from being a monolithic or even homogenous faction of the Church, we were actually a group with a great deal of diversity to hold in tension, as Anglicans sometimes pride ourselves in doing. For example, the group working on the statement of faith quickly concluded that it is neither possible nor desirable to construct a litmus test for "orthodox" Anglican belief. Rather, they agreed upon a statement that could serve as a standard around which to gather Episcopalians who are committed to an understanding of the faith that is historical, biblical and catholic.
While we held divergent views on many subjects, we found ourselves quickly converging on the creedal doctrines that are essential to salvation. Perhaps the defining moment in which we recognized that the Holy Spirit had come among us to bring healing and reconciliation was on the last morning, when the four women priests who were present came together to the microphone and pledged solidarity with the three bishops of the Episcopal Synod of America (those who reject the notion that women can be priests) who were also present.
In the closing moments of the consultation, one long time contributor to many ministry and mission organizations proclaimed that this is a moment for radical cooperation among all those organizations and their supporters and their boards. We believe that God is bringing us into a unity that we could not have forged for ourselves, and we can do no less than commit to working together, sharing mailing lists and pooling resources to pursue the Great Commission as Episcopalians in America.
The attendees at Briarwood II elected a Board of Trustees for the American Anglican Council. We incorporated on August 19, 1996 as a 501c(3) non-profit organization in the District of Columbia.
Fighting for the Faith and Guarding the Faithful
Since 1996, the American Anglican Council has worked for reformation of Anglicanism in North America and world-wide and has seen much success, though the work is not done. In its beginnings, the AAC consisted mostly of members of The Episcopal Church (TEC) and thus focused most of its efforts on reforming this American branch of Anglicanism.
Over the years, those orthodox members in TEC were strengthened in their voice and witness. However it became increasingly clear that the power structures within TEC were firmly held by heterodox leaders. In 2003, TEC consecrated a non-celibate homosexual as bishop of New Hampshire. For many, this action was the final straw and began what would become a massive exodus of orthodox Christians from TEC, including individuals, parishes, and entire dioceses. The AAC stood beside and helped orthodox Christians as they made difficult decisions during tumultuous times. This included helping parishes find alternative Episcopal oversight, launching the Anglican Communion Network, representing the orthodox at five successive General Conventions (1997, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2009) and, for many, this meant helping them find a way out of TEC and into a faithful Anglican province.
As the AAC's work expanded from supporting the orthodox in TEC to supporting those who could no longer be a part of TEC, a third area of ministry arose. The Anglican Communion itself consists of 38 provinces, a majority of which are located in the "Global South." Though economically poor, they are rich in evangelistic passion and zeal for the Lord and have millions of members. Like those orthodox in North America, Anglicans in the Global South were concerned about what was happening in TEC and similar problems in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and other more "Western" nations. The leaders of these Western provinces increasingly espoused unbiblical beliefs, challenging teachings such as the authority of scripture and the uniqueness of Jesus as saviour.
In order to defend against these false teachings, protect the orthodox in North America and strengthen those provinces that were faithful to 2,000 years of biblical teaching, the AAC began more communion-wide initiatives. These included advocating on behalf of and resourcing the orthodox at official Anglican Communion meetings such as the Primates meetings in Dromantine, Ireland (2005), Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (2007) and Alexandria Egypt (2008), the Lambeth Conference for all Anglican Bishops (1998 and 2008), meetings of the Anglican Consultative Council (2005 and 2008), private meetings with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and other meetings across the globe. The AAC reported to global Anglican leaders on key events in the U.S., and helped orthodox around the world connect and support one another.
Where We Find Ourselves Today: A Nehemiah Moment
We live in a time when the leadership and structures of The Episcopal Church have abandoned the faith once delivered and substituted a "false gospel" which they are now threatening to spread - as a matter of manifest destiny - to the rest of the Anglican Communion. At the same time, the realignment of Anglicanism in North America has produced an extraordinary (if not miraculous) coalition of Anglicans from across the spectrum of orthodox Christianity to form the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). Anglicans in North America are poised to build a biblically faithful, Holy Spirit empowered, missional movement that will transform North America with the message of Jesus Christ as Lord and savior of all, whose love will empower our lives.
These times call for a "Nehemiah moment" where we move from the sword of advocacy alone to "sword and trowel in hand" (see Neh. 4:17-18) as we rebuild the walls of orthodox Anglicanism in North America. The American Anglican Council will continue to do what we have always done best - to contend for the faith and to guard the faithful. Those who build need to be on guard against the threats and distractions of those who oppose this great work. But like Nehemiah we will also stand "with trowel in hand" to help rebuild a unified, orthodox, missional Anglicanism in North America.