Arkansas Anglicans are individuals and parishes that, while having some historical connection with the Episcopal Church, have sought to disassociate themselves from it. This disassociation stems from a variety of theological and moral reasons, including such matters as the authority of the scriptures, the ordination of women, the introduction of a prayer book widely perceived as revisionist, and the ordination of a non-celibate homosexual man as bishop.
Broadly speaking, Anglicans are Christians who identify themselves with the history and mission of the Church of England. The Episcopal Church was for many years the only Anglican presence in America. However, in 1873, several hundred evangelical Episcopalians, protesting departures from traditional worship practices, left to form the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC), the first of several Anglican bodies outside of the Episcopal Church. Currently, there are four REC parishes in Arkansas: Christ Anglican Church in Hot Springs (Garland County), Church of the Good Shepherd in Mena (Polk County), St. Timothy’s in Jonesboro (Craighead County), and St. Thomas in Mountain Home (Baxter County). In 2009, the REC became a member jurisdiction of the Anglican Church of North America. A prominent REC leader resident in Arkansas is Sam Seamans of Mountain Home, who is an assistant bishop in the REC’s Diocese of Mid-America.
A little over a century later, thousands more clergy and laity left the Episcopal Church over the ordination of women to the priesthood and the introduction of a new prayer book that was claimed to be at variance with traditional beliefs and practices. This defection resulted in the formation of what is commonly called the Continuing Anglican Movement. The theology of this group, summarized in the Affirmation of St. Louis, is Anglo-Catholic, stressing the importance of the continuity with Catholic theology, tradition, and liturgy while keeping a clear distinction from the Roman Catholic Church. Two jurisdictions in the Continuing Anglican Movement are represented in Arkansas. The United Episcopal Church of North America has two parishes: St. Barnabas’ in Heber Springs (Cleburne County) and St. Benedict’s in Conway (Faulkner County). The Holy Catholic Church, Anglican Rite, has one parish in Arkansas, Iglesia del Cuerpo de Cristo (Corpus Christi Anglican Church) in Rogers (Benton County). The Anglican Church in America had one parish, St. George’s, which was originally founded in Bentonville (Benton County) but later moved to Rogers. However, this parish decided to join the Roman Catholic Church through the Anglican Ordinariate created by Pope Benedict XVI in 2011. The ordinariate allows for Anglican parishes to come under the oversight of the Roman Catholic Church while retaining many of their Anglican traditions, including the use of a modified Book of Common Prayer and married priests.
Since 2000, a new phenomenon began among Anglicans with parishes and individual clergy and laity departing the Episcopal Church to align with the more theologically conservative missionary bodies affiliated with various Global South Anglican Provinces, including Rwanda (the Anglican Mission in the Americas). While popularly associated with reactions against the 2004 consecration of V. Gene Robinson, a non-celibate homosexual man, as bishop of New Hampshire, in fact this movement began prior to that with the 2000 establishment of the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA, later renamed the Anglican Mission in the Americas). There are three AMiA parishes in Arkansas: St. Andrew’s in Little Rock (Pulaski County), All Saints in Hot Springs Village (Garland County), and Trinity in the Fields in Marion (Crittenden County). With more than 1,000 members, St. Andrew’s is the largest Anglican parish in Arkansas. Operating out of St. Andrew’s is the Anglican School of Ministry, a non-traditional, parish-based program for training ordained and lay ministers in the Anglican Mission in the Americas.
Arkansas played an important role in the formation of the AMiA. What would become St. Andrew’s Church was founded in Little Rock in 1996 as the first AMiA parish. Its first rector, Thomas (T. J.) Johnston, was later consecrated a missionary bishop in 2001. Bishop Johnston’s successor at St. Andrew’s, Philip Jones, was also consecrated a bishop in 2008. Both bishops currently reside outside of Arkansas. The importance of Little Rock to the history of the AMiA, a missionary jurisdiction of the Province of the Anglican Church of Rwanda, is represented by a number of business and charitable connections between Little Rock and Rwanda, including Bridge2Rwanda and Alltel Corporation (since January 2009 part of Verizon Wireless).
In 2009, in a meeting at St. Vincent’s Cathedral in Bedford, Texas (suburb of Fort Worth), a number of Anglican jurisdictions and former Episcopal Church dioceses joined together to form the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) under the leadership of Archbishop Robert Duncan of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. Two Anglican groups represented in Arkansas which joined the ACNA are the REC and the AMiA. In 2011, the AMiA withdrew from membership but retains the status of Mission Partner with the ACNA. One former UECNA congregation, St. Gabriel’s in Springdale (Washington County), transferred into the ACNA-affiliated Anglican Diocese of Fort Worth as a mission parish. This church, founded in 1988, was the first non-Episcopalian Anglican parish in the state.
It is important to note that although many Arkansas Anglicans did leave the Episcopal Church, none of the parishes in Arkansas separated from the Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas. While most of these Anglican parishes continue to draw their new members primarily from disaffected Episcopalians, growing numbers of new Anglicans, attracted by the liturgical worship, are coming from Baptist, Pentecostal, and Bible Church backgrounds. Additionally, because of its active addiction recovery ministry, St. Andrew’s is seeing strong growth in new conversions.
Anglicans in Arkansas are a relatively recent presence, and their impact on the state is difficult to gauge. But with the growing cooperation between the various groups—for example, the union of the AMiA and the REC in the new Anglican Church in North America—and the rapid growth of some of the parishes, it seems likely that Anglicans will significantly shape the religious environment of Arkansas in the coming years.
For additional information:
Barnum, Thaddeus. Never Silent. Colorado Springs, CO: Eleison Publishing, 2008.
Bess, Douglas. Divided We Stand: A History of the Continuing Anglican Movement. Berkley, CA: Apocryphile Press, 2006.
Brown, Laura Lynn. “Arkansas: What’s Next? Bishop Maze Faces Internal Diocesan Revolt.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 2, 2004, 4B, 5B.
Hahn, Heather. “LR Anglican Minister Tapped as a Bishop.” Arkansas Democrat Gazette, January 19, 2008, 4B, 5B.
———. “Rwandan Archbishop to Visit Little Rock.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 25, 2008, 4B, 5B.
Hochstedt Butler, Diana. Standing against the Whirlwind: Evangelical Episcopalians in Nineteenth-Century America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.
Guelzo, Allen. For the Unity of Evangelical Christendom: The Irony of the Reformed Episcopalians. University Park, PA: Penn State Press, 1994.
Pierce, Laurie. “Dissident Episcopalians Wrap Up Little Rock Meeting.” Beliefnet. http://www.beliefnet.com/News/2002/02/Dissident-Episcopalians-Wrap-Up-Little-Rock-Meeting.aspx (accessed March 17, 2009).
“St. Andrew’s Church: Grand Opening.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 22, 2007, supplement.
“St. Andrew’s Church: One Year Later.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. August 20, 2008, supplement.
Anglican School of Ministry–Little Rock
Last Updated: 03/03/2017