Bishop Millsaps’ Letter to Bishop Duncan of the ACNA

Posted by ajenkins on October 11, 2009 under Anglican Events | Comments are off for this article

You’ll want to READ this letter.
It is a useful and informative perspective of the Anglican situation in the United States that comes from outside the current debate.
The Rt. Rev’d Millsaps is the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Missionary Church. Learn more about their effort here.

Bishop Millsaps’ Letter to Bishop Duncan of the ACNA

The Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan
1001 Merchant Street
Ambridge, Pa. 15003

Dear Bishop Duncan,

When I am aware of a meeting of Christians who are gathering for the purpose of prayer and setting forth the mission of Evangelism, I pray that their work will honor God. It was an honor and a privilege to attend GAFCON, and to sign on to be a “confessing Anglican.” I pray daily that “all who profess and call themselves Christians” will take seriously their call. I seek no quarrel with anyone who is seeking to live out his or her faith. I value my friendship with those of other Faith-Traditions and spent some time both before and after GAFCON with rabbis and others in Israel at the Yad Vashem, and at the Museum of the Air Force near Beer Sheva. I was also at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. in January, just after the Meeting of Endorsers for Military Chaplains with the Armed Forces Chaplains Board at the Pentagon. I believe the Lord provided an opportunity for me to share some time with some of the Security Guards there at the Holocaust Museum and to thank them for their service. It was also, in my
opinion, a kind of miracle that, many years ago, I got to spend a short time with Pope John Paul II and to pray with him. When the first meeting of what became Common Cause was held in Atlanta, years ago, I attended. The Episcopal Missionary Church later became a member of the Federation of Anglican Churches. At this time we are still members of that organization. “Common Cause” from the beginning, before it even had a name, seated women priests as such at the table, and while I always seek to be courteous I could not envision the Episcopal Missionary Church as being in any sense a full member of a body so compromised on an issue that set modernity against the historic Church.

Because of this and many other issues I will not attend the Bedford, Texas meeting, even as an ecumenical observer or guest. I feel I must write you that the whole presentation that there is somehow a new “Anglican Church in North America” complete with an “Archbishop- Designate,” as you have signed your letters for months, is so troubling to me I am not sure what to pray concerning it. How can those who think, as I do, that only men can be presbyters (the very word means old men) process with priests who are female? You yourself have left no doubt as to where you stand, as you have ordained more and more women , even in recent months. Then there is the problem of multi-married male clergy. The ranks of the new body are filled with them. The late Dr. Peter Toon wrote time and time again about this issue. There are tragic situations where abandonment of married men and contested divorces have taken place, but could there be as many as seems the case with clergy members of the bodies coming together as the “ACNA”? Has the ACNA in formation taken a stand on abortion? I know individuals have done so, but is there a public stand? Perhaps you have read the Affirmation of St. Louis. The Episcopal Missionary Church did not come into being until 1992 , but has affirmed the Affirmation and asked our friends in the Reformed Episcopal Church to do so only to be told there were things in it which they could not affirm. We have viewed the document as the best available basis for working toward unity, and we find the only thing grievously lacking to be a stated concern about the persecution of people of faith which has accelerated in too much of our world and continues to accelerate today.

I have written about avoiding property disputes since the 1980s. I wrote that as long as the local bishop or Standing Committee of The Episcopal Church or 815 Second Avenue had even one local person to unlock the doors, faithful people would have to see the suffering and exile they felt as an opportunity to show that the Faith was no more about buildings than it was in the days of the Arian heresy. The Christian Challenge magazine published an article called “The Bishops and their buildings” which made clear my position that we should not even press claims or change locks, but should welcome a time of pilgrimage, unfettered by fixing roofs and paying insurance. If God willed it we would be able to build new buildings, and as what we believed was an apostate church collapsed, the bishops might beg us to buy some of the buildings. What a hypocrite I might seem to sit quietly with those who have, in the view of many courts, simply attempted to steal the buildings. The appeal to a law based in the time of the War Between the States, or the American Civil War, to settle church disputes seems to me very ironic if not shameful.

I have not even mentioned that the use of the words The Anglican Church in North America is yet another attempt to steal a “previous- use” title of a church body that may be still in existence. It is not about numbers, it is about integrity. Nor have I mentioned “the elephant in the room” which seems to have provided momentum for your movement . Nor have I mentioned that the lip service given to the 1662 Book Of Common Prayer and the Prayer Book Tradition is just that–lip service. If the truth is told, many of the “new Anglicans” have no interest in traditional liturgy, and sincerely believe that those of us who do must lack a vibrant faith.

These are hard times for many of us. It appears that “celebrity christianity” or the attempt to create news by hype is very much alive, if not well. Hundreds of people will spend thousands of dollars to attend the Bedford Meeting. The American Tradition of having only a “presiding bishop” rather than an “Archbishop” which was already challenged by many small groups since the 1970’s will be further weakened. Press releases will be issued which will give the impression that there are now two bodies competing for legitimate claim to be the inheritors of the Anglican Tradition in North America. When I departed the Episcopal Church I tried not to burn the bridges, and I spoke of the many small bodies which already were keeping the flame burning.

Do I think that a tiny body such as The Episcopal Missionary Church should take offense at what you are doing? Please do not read that into this letter. Many sincere people are coming to that meeting, and I have hundreds of friends in Dallas and Ft. Worth who are part of it. Please forgive any offense I may have given in this letter, but know that as long as I too “profess and call my myself a Christian” I must follow my conscience and refrain from appearing to support things which I do not support. I can pray for guidance and wisdom for each person there. There is a parallel and correlated political situation taking place in our country at the present time where anyone who disagrees or dissents with the new political administration is accused of hoping for its failure. Semantics as usual are adding fuel to another type of debate where many cannot and will not wish for policies to succeed that are counter to the core values of its citizens. In broad terms no one wishes ill of policy makers even while one cannot support the policies themselves.

I thank all who have reached out to me over the years as I have worked to serve the Kingdom of God, and I continue to reach out to encourage others. Many people feel insecure if they are not part of a larger group and we are indeed in an era of mega-churches and big government. There is, for many, even though there may be a sacrifice of integrity, a sense of safety in numbers. Christianity, from its earliest days, has found its strongest moments in the smallest of groups and in the actions of individuals. I think we have lost sight of that and in order to reclaim the faith as handed to us by the early church, we should return to our roots and remind ourselves from whence we came.


The Rt. Rev. William Millsaps
Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Missionary Church
Monteagle, Tennessee

Comments are closed.