Monday, July 20, 2015

Thoughts about ICCA 2015

More than 300 attendees are now home after last week’s International Catholic Congress for Anglicans (ICCA†) sponsored by Forward in Faith North America. Let me see if I can sum up the overall conference. (For those who did not attend, see my other stories, those from the Wannabe Anglican blog and a limited number of tweets).

† Google says there are at least three other ICCA 2015 conferences.


The conference was intended to be an extension of the six Anglo-Catholic Congresses held in London and Oxford in 1920, 1925, 1927, 1933 and 1948. Unlike the 19th century Oxford Movement, I’d never heard of these before and wish I’d read a little about them before coming so I’d understand better the detailed references that some of the speakers made (particularly to the first Congress).

Still, the organizers did a great job of setting a coherent theme, picking speakers and topics to fit that them, and integrating the message together in a logical order. Having been to dozens of conferences in the past 30 years, I know such coherence is rare if not unheard of. The theme of conciliarity with other Christians (especially Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox) was well argued and persuasive.

The caliber of the speakers was impressive. The organizers knew what they were doing in who they let speak. The prominence of Bp. Michael Nazir-Ali was particularly well deserved — given both his intellect and moral clarity — and (alas) shows the loss to the Anglican Communion with Tony Blair’s 2002 decision to reject him in favor of the progressive Rowan Williams, who proved unequal to the task of managing the conflicts between the communion’s affluent liberals and the traditional views of the more numerous Global South.

The formal statement was negotiated, edited, presented (twice) to the attendees and then issued Friday (see FiFNA and Virtue Online editions). It referred to the importance of the Church having a unified (i.e. Catholic) body bound by “both the authority of the Word of God written and the authority of the Church.” It calls attention to the importance of continuity in the faith (as implemented by apostolic succession) and the unfortunate drift within the Anglican Communion away from such faith and authority.

The Congress also marked the passing of the torch from outgoing FiFNA president Bp. Keith Ackerman to its new president, Fr. Larry Bausch, the long-serving rector of San Diego’s most Anglo-Catholic ACNA parish.


With the Internet, virtual reality and the death of distance, there is considerable question as to the future of face-to-face meetings, but there are two benefits we would not have realized if reduced to a mere webinar. Much of the benefit was getting like-minded people under the same roof, particularly those from the 1970s-era continuing churches and the more recent ACNA defectors from ECUSA. I met several dozen new people, and hope some of these contacts will be important to my future understanding and contribution to the church.

Also, not having been to seminary, I underestimated the powerful effect that regular corporate worship has in bringing people together and creating unity: my friends and family didn’t believe me when I said the three daily services were the highlight of my day. Not having participated in regular cathedral-style worship since my childhood, I also learned a lot about the conduct of worship.
Bp. Nazir-Ali processing as celebrant for Tuesday’s communion service
Particularly powerful were the opening evensong and closing communion services, with the procession of bishops and clergy. On Monday I counted 16 bishops processing (three not) which is more bishops than I’ve ever seen (more even than a consecration service). The choir of more than 40 men, women and children filled the hall of St. Andrew’s, the neo-Gothic parish in downtown Ft. Worth that (it turns out) was the childhood parish of several of the priests present.


The Congress was a difficult, time-consuming and expensive event to organize. As in the 1920s, it’s not something that could be done every year. For that matter, as a Anglo-Catholic layman, I’m not sure I can ask the finance committee (i.e. my wife) to approve every year a one-week absence, six nights of hotel, plane ticket, local transportation and registration. Still, it provided an invaluable learning opportunity for Anglicans who are traditional in their faith and worship, and I’m grateful to Fr. Bausch for inviting me to attend.

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