By Most Rev. Chandler H. (Chad) Jones, Presiding Bishop, Anglican Province of America
Address to Continuing Forward workshop, Anglican Joint Synods, October 10, 2023
Video available here.
We might call my remarks this evening a reality check. Demographically, the Churches of the Anglican Continuum nationwide are in comparison to other traditions extremely tiny and in places getting even smaller. Continuing parishes and missions are closing.
We simply have to be honest about that reality.
The entire Continuing Church in North America is the size of one single moderately-sized Roman Catholic congregation. In the United States and Canada, we are approximately 10-15,000 people with roughly 250 parishes and missions. The North American Continuing Church is the size of the one American Carpatho-Russian Greek Catholic Diocese of the USA, a small jurisdiction in communion with Constantinople.
The picture internationally is a little bigger – in total we are in 37 countries and have a total approximate worldwide membership of 200,000 people. The entire worldwide Continuum is about the size of the single Roman Catholic Diocese of Venice, Florida or half the size of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. We are tiny – but mighty and feisty! Remember the mustard seed parable.
So we can see that there is no room in our Church for political intrigue or the search for power, prestige, position, or control. We are a small, humble, and frankly vulnerable family. We have to put things in perspective. The trajectory for the Continuum is that the future in general will see fewer parishes and missions, but the ones that survive and persevere will flourish, thrive, and stand out as epicentres of faith, life, and activity. This sobering prediction should concentrate our minds, and serve as a reminder and warning to us. ‘Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.’
We have the immediate need and unique opportunity to act, and we do not know how long our window of opportunity will be open. Healthy churches pursue a specific way of worshiping and fostering faithful community. The “elephant in the room” is that only Churches that are healthy will survive and thrive – a conversation topic some Continuing Anglicans apparently prefer to avoid, but one we must now address head-on.
To have healthy Churches, we must make our primary emphasis what the Church has always been called to do: to be faithful to the Holy Scriptures and Holy Tradition and to make disciples. Thus, the entire Church, not just the clergy, should focus on baptising new members, reaching the unchurched and those who have fallen away, and building up the faith of those already in the Church.
Apostolic Succession and the historic liturgy are increasingly countercultural, and the means by which we accomplish these goals, but they are not an end in themselves. The end is the salvation of souls and the upbuilding of the Body of Christ. Authentic worship, lucid teaching, and active ministry integrated first and foremost into intentional relationship-based community formed in prayer are our future. Where tried, they actually do work in growing the Body.
Our evangelistic call is to activate and apply what we have been given. We have at our disposal all that is needful. All we have to do is put it to work. It is most providential to be where we are, to be here, right here, right now – this is our time.
In a nutshell, we are equipped to grow as we implement our own patrimony and use the resources we already possess. But the way we go about things has to change – we need a refocus.