By Mark Michael
The Rev. Tory Baucum has resigned as rector of Truro Anglican Church, in Fairfax, Va., one of the largest congregations in the Anglican Church in North America. Baucum and retired Virginia Episcopal bishop Shannon Johnston developed an unlikely friendship that led to a property sharing arrangement for Baucum’s congregation and an institute devoted to reconciliation.
A December 6 letter from the congregation’s wardens and vestry announced Baucum’s resignation as rector and the resignation of his orders in the Anglican Church of North America, He and his wife, Elizabeth, plan to enter the Roman Catholic Church next year. The letter also states that members of Truro’s staff have concurrently alleged grievances against Baucum, and that he is participating in a formal inquiry into the charges. The Rev. Tim Mayfield is serving as Truro’s acting rector.
Baucum began his ministry at Truro in 2007, after serving as professor of preaching and church renewal at Asbury Theological Seminary. Truro was one of eleven congregations that voted to leave the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia in 2006. Its previous rector, Martyn Minns had become the founding bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), a network that became part of the Anglican Church in North America at its founding in 2009.
After a series of court cases, all of the departing churches were ordered to return their property to the Diocese of Virginia. Under Baucum’s leadership, Truro began leasing its former buildings from the Diocese of Virginia in 2014, and the historic chapel on the campus continues to be used for weekly worship by Holy Cross, a Korean-speaking Episcopal congregation.
Baucum reached out to Johnston in 2011, with an appeal to talk. Initial conversations about music and literature developed into a friendship with regular meetings to pray for one another. The friendship came to the attention of Archbishop Justin Welby, who appointed Baucum in 2014 as one of the Six Preachers of Canterbury Cathedral, a historic honor that Welby said he hoped would promote “reconciliation and unity” in the Anglican Communion.
In 2017, Truro Anglican and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia announced plans to jointly sponsor an institute for peace and reconciliation at Truro, with an initial focus on joint training of Episcopal and ACNA seminarians. Johnston also reported to the Diocese of Virginia that the initial three year lease had been renewed, and that a 50-year lease was envisioned for 2020, if both parties continued to agree.
The lease arrangement and initial plans for the institute were strongly criticized by Truro’s bishop, John Guernsey of the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic, as well as by Foley Beach, ACNA’s archbishop. Beach said Truro’s decision “is not in harmony with the Bible’s instruction in dealing with false teachers, and it denigrates the costly sacrifice of the many congregations who had their buildings and assets taken by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.”
In response to the criticism, initial plans for the institute were reworked to focus more directly on interfaith understanding and racial reconciliation. However, a group of Anglicans from Truro and Episcopalians from Virginia participated in a joint pilgrimage to Ireland last summer, learning about reconciliation from the work that has been done there to build relationships between Protestants and Roman Catholics.
The Truro Institute was officially launched in September, with Bishop Johnston serving as co-chair of the its board. A recent article by Baucum indicated that plans were underway to find a new location for the institute’s offices and a meeting place for the young adult fellows who participate in its nine-month formation program. Information about the Truro Institute remains on the church’s website, but no future public events are listed.
Truro Anglican Church is a partner of the Living Church Foundation.