On Ascension Day, May 17, 2007, The Anglican Catholic Church (ACC) and the United Episcopal Church (UECNA) entered into a communion agreement. Archbishop Stephen Reber of the UECNA and Archbishop Mark Haverland of the ACC signed the agreement at Saint Stephen’s Pro-cathedral, Athens, Georgia to restore or reaffirm the state of communio in sacris between the churches. This agreement came into immediate effect, though it still needs to be ratified by the ACC Provincial Synod and the UECNA Convention.
“This comes at a time when Anglicanism in the USA is at a crossroads, when people are looking for firm ground to stand on and a place to belong,” said Bishop Leo Michael of the UECNA, who was present at the meeting along with Bishop Presley Hutchens of the ACC. The four Bishops celebrated Ascension Day with a noon Eucharist after signing the agreement.
“We recognize in each other the presence of the essentials of the Christian Faith, Catholic Order, Apostolic Succession, Anglican worship, and Christian morals,” said Archbishop Mark Haverland.
The 1977 Congress of St. Louis, thanks to the efforts of the Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen (FCC), was an answer from faithful Episcopalians and Anglicans, both laity and clergy, to the exigencies of changes wrought by the then Episcopal Church USA. Their ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate and the doctrinally controversial 1979 Book of Common Prayer necessitated the birth of the Continuing Church. The churches were determined to “continue in the Catholic Faith, Apostolic Order, Orthodox Worship and Evangelical Witness of the traditional Anglican Church, doing all things necessary for the continuance of the same.”
Thirty faithful years later, impelled by the commonness of origin and the common participation in the one holy catholic and apostolic church, the ACC and the UECNA have come forth with a pastoral provision.
The effect of the agreement will be to make explicit the somewhat doubtful continuation of the communion that many believe has always persisted between the two churches, both of which stem from the Denver consecrations of bishops in January 1978. Members of both churches will be welcomed at the altars of both bodies, and the clergy of both will be available for baptisms, funerals, and marriages as needed. Each church has agreed to consult carefully with the other in all matters affecting the other, including episcopal acts and ecumenical relations with other bodies and churches.
“This agreement constitutes an important movement towards restoring the unity of the Continuing Church, which stems from the Congress of Saint Louis and the Denver consecrations, said Archbishop Mark Haverland. “It is the contention of both that this Continuing Church subsists in the ACC, the UEC, and the Anglican Province of Christ the King. The organic unity of these three Churches remains our first and most urgent ecumenical task.”
Both the churches pledge to work towards full organic union in a patient, unhurried manner, meanwhile respecting inessential differences and the other church’s internal integrity.
“His church is trustworthy, not because it depends upon men, but because it depends upon Him who endowed it with power and who is ever present in its council called in His name” said Archbishop Stephen Reber of the UECNA.
Ascension Day’s message is clear that just as the apostles saw Christ ascend into heaven, so will he return to judge the quick and the dead. Until His coming we need to keep the faith alive. When the son of man comes will he find enough faith on earth? Its time that those of us who began the journey thirty years ago, be in communion and give people a guaranteed faith and morality in the traditional anglican way.