Anglican Church in North America elects Steve Wood as archbishop

(RNS) — On Saturday, June 22, The Rt. Rev. Steve Wood of St. Andrews Church in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, was elected the next archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America. 

The election results came after ACNA’s College of Bishops met in a conclave from June 20-22 in the St. Vincent Basilica’s crypt at St. Vincent’s College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. As ACNA’s third elected archbishop, Wood will replace exiting archbishop The Most Rev. Foley Beach, who has held the position since his election by the college in 2014. 

ACNA is a theologically conservative denomination formed in 2009 after a split from the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada over the latter two’s acceptance of LGBTQ+ clergy and marriage for same-sex couples. Since its founding in 2009, ACNA has grown to more than 128,000 members in over 1,000 congregations. 

Wood’s leadership at St. Andrews, and as the first bishop in the Diocese of the Carolinas, grew the church to a membership of more than 3,000 and saw the establishment of new churches in Goose Creek, downtown Charleston, and the Park Circle area of North Charleston. Adam Parker, of Post & Courier, described it as “one of the Lowcountry’s biggest church success stories.” 

As Beach’s second term as archbishop comes to a close, Wood will assume authority on June 28, at the closing Eucharist of the assembly. Beach commented positively after the election, saying, “Bishop Wood is an incredible leader and the ACNA is going to be blessed in this next season of our life together.” 

According to the Rev. Canon Andrew Gross, spokesperson for ACNA, the transfer will officially occur during the “Transfer of Spiritual Authority,” a moment when the previous archbishop hands the Provincial Cross to the new archbishop. After the transfer of authority, Beach plans to take a sabbatical before continuing his work in the denomination as bishop of the Anglican Diocese of the South. 

Wood expressed surprise at the election result. “Who expects to be elected the archbishop of the Province? It is overwhelming, humbling, and I am in need of God’s grace and mercy,” Wood said in a press release from ACNA.

Wood was chosen from a pool of around 28 bishops. To be eligible for election, one must be a “bishop with jurisdiction,” meaning the lead bishop of a diocese — a group of regional Anglican parishes. Wood will go on to serve a five-year term, with the potential of reelection and a second term. 

With ongoing controversies around women’s ordination and clergy misconduct, some observers are wondering how Wood will steer the church. Commenters online, some of whom claim to be members of Wood’s home diocese, say they don’t expect his election to signal significant changes, calling him “centrist” and “moderate.” 

Marissa Burt, an ACNA layperson and clergy spouse in the Seattle area, told RNS that she doesn’t believe the new archbishop’s personal stances will change the diocese’s stance. “In the ACNA constitution, due integrity means that it is up to each diocese to decide whether they will ordain women … not the archbishop.” 

Burt added that some in the more traditionalist corners of ACNA were “hoping for a shift” with the new archbishop and may be disappointed. On the whole, however, she was optimistic. “Yes, there will be people with thoughts in every direction,” she said. “But the sense is that the Province (the denomination) as a whole is going to be happy with the election, that they will be pleased. I think that this choice probably represents the majority energy and direction of the Province.”

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