Friday, July 24, 2009

Toward Genuine Comprehensiveness

By Robin G. Jordan

1. The Anglican Church in North America is a voluntary association of autonomous and self-governing dioceses within the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, worshiping the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, united under one Divine Head, and dedicated to the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ and the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

2. We hold the Christian faith as professed by the Church of Christ from primitive times and in particular as set forth in the Catholic Creeds and the Anglican Formularies, that is, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons issued by the Church of England in 1662.

3. We receives all the Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as being the Word of God written and the supreme and final authority in all matters of faith and life of the Church, given by the inspiration of God and containing all things necessary for salvation.

4. We maintain inviolate these orders of ministers in Christ’s Church--Bishops, Priests, or Presbyters, and Deacons—which offices have been known from the apostles’ time and have always been regarded as worthy of great honor.

5. We are determined by the help of God to uphold and preserve the Doctrine, Sacraments, and Discipline of Christ as the Lord has commanded in his Holy Word, and as the Church of England has received and set forth in its Formularies; and to transmit the same unimpaired to our posterity.

6. We seek to be and desire to continue in full communion with all Anglican Churches, Dioceses, and Provinces holding the historic Christian faith and maintaining the aforesaid Doctrine, Sacraments, and Discipline of Christ.

(Proposed New Fundamental Declarations)

The existing Fundamental Declarations of the Anglican Church in North America suffer from a number of problems. They make use novel formulations that more than hint at aversion to evangelical and Reformed Anglicanism and partiality for Anglo-Catholic views. The third declaration goes well beyond Resolution 11 of the third Lambeth Conference. The latter states, “That, in the opinion of this Conference, the following Articles supply a basis on which approach may be by God's blessing made towards Home Reunion… d) The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the Unity of His Church.” The third declaration takes the position that the Anglo-Catholic-dominated Episcopal House of Bishops adopted in 1886. It maintains that that the historic episcopate “is an integral part of the apostolic faith and practice” and for that reason is essential to the fullness and unity of the Church. It is not the position that the 1888 Lambeth Conference adopted.

Evangelical Anglicans who have historically held as did Bishop John Jewel, Archbishop John Whitgift, and the Elizabethan Church that episcopacy is “ancient and allowable” but not prescribed in Scripture can support the position of Resolution 11 as agreeable with Scripture but not the position of the 1886 resolution of the Episcopal House of Bishops. They do not read that doctrinal view in Scripture nor are they convinced that those who subscribe to the same doctrinal view have proved it by Scripture. They consequently do not regard it as Scriptural.

The sixth declaration of the existing Fundamental Declarations identifies The Book of Common Prayer of 1662 as one of several “Books” that collectively form “the standard for the Anglican tradition of worship.” The wording of the sixth declaration greatly dilutes the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as an authoritative worship standard for Anglicans. In using the term, “Books,” instead of “Prayer Books” the service books to which the sixth declaration refers can be interpreted to include the medieval service books as well as the earlier Prayer Books. In the proposed Common Cause Theological Statement the books were identified. “We accept the 1549 through the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and its ordinal as the foundation for Anglican worship and the standard for doctrine and discipline.” The latter was not open to this interpretation.

The standard that the existing Fundamental Declarations adopt for worship for Anglicans is quite unusual. The constitutions of most Anglican provinces recognize that the principles of worship embodied in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer are an authority for Anglicans. For example, the constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia declares the 1662 Book of Common is to be regarded as “the authorized standard of worship…” in the ACA. “No alteration in or permitted variations from the services…” contained in the 1662 Prayer Book that contravenes “any principle of worship…laid down in such standard” is permissible. The Anglican Church of Kenya “accepts the Principles of Worship set forth in said Book” (i.e. the Book of Common Prayer of 1662) “as consonant with the Gospel of Christ and a source from which Anglican Christians in East Africa have long been tradition.” The constitution of the Province of the Anglican Church of Rwanda requires that “prayers and the liturgy of this church…must conform to the patterns of the Book of Common Prayer 1662, the Ordinal, and any other orthodox norms and customaries in matters of faith and order.” The constitution of the Anglican Church of the Province of Uganda disclaims any right to depart from the principles of worship of the 1662 Prayer Book. In the same vein the Jerusalem Declaration states, “…we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture.”

The worship principles of the 1662 Prayer Book include that the liturgy must be Biblical and edify, express a reformed theology, and use a language understood by ordinary people. The services of the church should be public services in which the entire church can participate. They should not contain any “dark” or “dumb” ceremonies, ceremonies that teach the wrong thing, do not teach anything or are incomprehensible. They should, however, contain extensive Scripture readings and may be adapted to a particular local culture.

The seventh declaration of the existing Fundamental Declarations is also problematic because it adopts a view of the Thirty-Nine Articles that is historically associated with Anglo-Catholicism and Liberalism. In an entry titled “More on the Proposed ‘Common Cause Roundtable’/ACN Theological Statement,” and posted on his blog, TexAnglican, on July 22, 2006, Randall Foster draws attention to how the seventh declaration favors an Anglo-Catholic interpretation of the Articles:

“This revision should take care of most of my concerns about the ACN's possible endorsement of the 39 Articles as a disciplinary tool, because reading the 39 Articles in the ‘literal and grammatical sense’ is the Tract 90 way of handling the anti-Catholic articles. And the final words of the revised proposal places the 39 Articles in their sixteenth century historical context and highlights the fact that they are intended to be read today more for their principles than for the specific issues they addressed ‘way back when.’”

This view of the Articles, which essentially relegates them to the past, is also congenial to Liberals. As with Scripture they may appeal to the Articles where the Articles can be construed as supporting a particular argument that they are making. But otherwise they ignore the Articles. Most Liberals would not have any difficulty in subscribing to this declaration.

The seventh declaration sets forth a view of the Articles with which many evangelical Anglicans who see them as comprising Anglicanism’s confession of faith and “…as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today…” as they were in the sixteenth century cannot agree. However, the Article I of the Constitution includes acceptance of this view as a part of its definition of Anglican orthodox and a requirement for membership in the ACNA. The canons require that all applicants for recognition as an ACNA judicatory, all candidates for holy orders in the ACNA, and all applicants for ministerial licensure in the ACNA subscribe to the Fundamental Declarations. Entities desiring to become ministry partners with the ACNA must subscribe “without reservation” to the Fundamental Declarations. The guidelines for recognition as an ACNA judicatory require that candidates for the episcopate in the ACNA must “fully embrace” the Fundamental Declarations.

The proposed new Fundamental Declarations, unlike the existing ones, do not adopt a particular view of the first seven Ecumenical Councils, the historic episcopate, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Thirty-Nine Articles. While some North American Anglicans might like to see in the Fundamental Declarations a more precise statement of the ACNA position on these issues, the proposed new Fundamental Declarations avoid sharply defining or stating a position since this kind of statement would align the ACNA with a particular orthodox theological grouping on the issues in question.

The second declaration of the proposed new Fundamental Declarations notes that the Christian faith that the Church has professed since primitive times is particularly set forth in the Catholic Creeds and the Anglican Formularies. It does not state that this faith is exclusively confined to the Catholic Creeds and the Anglican Formularies. It identifies the Book of Common Prayer of 1662 and the Ordinal of 1661 as two of the Anglican Formularies.

The second declaration of the proposed new Fundamental Declarations also identifies the Thirty-Nine Articles as one of the Anglican Formularies. It does not prescribe a particular view of the Thirty-Nine Articles. It permits evangelical Anglicans to take a confessional approach to the Articles. Anglo-Catholics are at liberty to interpret the Articles as in the seventh declaration of the existing Fundamental Declarations. It may not satisfy those who would prefer a robust affirmation of the Articles or those who would dispense with any reference to the Articles altogether. However, it does remove a significant obstacle to evangelical participation in the ACNA and evangelical ministry partnership with the ACNA. At the same time it does preserve the breadth of the orthodox Anglican tradition across the divide between Anglo-Catholics and evangelicals.

Fourth declaration of the proposed new Fundamental Declarations avoids stating whether or not the historic episcopate is an inherent part of what the nineteenth century Episcopal bishops had described as “the substantial deposit of Christian Faith and Order committed by Christ and his Apostles unto the end of the world.” Rather it echoes the words of the Preface of the Ordinal of Edward VI, “We maintain inviolate these orders of ministers in Christ’s Church--Bishops, Priests, or Presbyters, and Deacons—which offices have been known from the apostles’ time and have always been regarded as worthy of great honor.” It is a statement of a commonly held belief on which Anglo-Catholics, charismatics and evangelicals can agree.

The proposed new Fundamental Declarations are deliberately silent in respect to the teaching of the first seven Ecumenical Councils, following the example of the fundamental declarations in the constitutions of the Anglican Church of Australia and the Anglican Church of the Province of the Southern Cone of America and the canons of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). They also say nothing about what the ACNA holds as its standard of worship, leaving this statement to the canons, as does the Church of Nigeria.

The proposed new Fundamental Declarations do not accord a higher value or superior position to a particular theological stream in orthodox Anglicanism and mandates conformity to that stream. They would make more room in the ACNA for evangelicals without making less room for Anglo-Catholics and charismatics. Conservative evangelicals could in good conscience become members of the ACNA, form evangelical dioceses and jurisdictions in the ACNA, and serve as bishops and other ministers of the ACNA. They would be no longer required to relinquish or compromise what they believe. The proposed new Fundamental Declarations would take the ACNA a step closer to GENUINE comprehensiveness, to the enfolding of all orthodox North American Anglican theological groupings in the ACNA, not just Anglo-Catholics and other Anglicans who accept the Anglo-Catholic doctrinal position on a number of key issues.


Reformation said...

Mr. Hewitt and other Anglo-Romanists want union with Rome.

Robin, how can you claim that this is "orthodox Anglicanism" unless Anglo-Romanists are included in the term "orthodox."

I understand your criticisms of the declarations.

Consistency would require both to go separate ways..that a mandatory divorce as the Reformers ably demonstrated. The Articles, Prayers Books and historic documents are ineluctable.

Reformation said...

The Roman Gospel is sin. It is false. Michael and Darryl appear to see the disjunction between Anglo-Romanists and the Protestant and Reformed Church of England.

I cannot, will not, now or ever, yield to the false Church of Rome.

texanglican said...

Thanks for the hat tip in your post, Mr. Jordan.

Clearly the Fundamental Declarations of the ACNA are a grave problem for you. And I have read remarks by some commenters here who have similar problems to yours. I am sorry that you do not feel you can endorse them as they presently stand. But I must ask, do you know of an actual jurisdiction of "conservative evangelical Anglicans" out there in North America who would like to join ACNA now but cannot because of the Fundamental Declarations, or does this problem effect only individuals as far you know. As a practical matter it would help your cause a good deal is a sizable Anglican body would go on the record as desiring to join ACNA but are prevented from doing so because of the problems you raise. As it is, the ACNA meeting last month in Bedford seems to indicate a sizable number of Anglican evangelicals don't seem troubled by them at all. There was certainly no shortage of them roaming the halls of St. Vincent's!

BTW, Reformation, your second post does a marvelous job of capturing the feel of Bishop Ryle's anti-Catholic polemical writings of the 19th century. I didn't know anyone still carried on that tradition so faithfully. I was enlightened.

God bless,
R.W. Foster+

Reformation said...

Tex Anglican:

At Books-a-Million and have found your blog as informative and, perhaps, better than VOL. Thank you.

However, I tried to get a feed to my blogspot, but was unable...they have some filter here in the store.

An answer to your question re: a "conservative Evangelical Anglican" body going on the record with an inability to sign on to the ACNA might have come from the REC in earlier years. That won't happen now. Bishop Riches, Grote, Sutton and others have so longed for respectability and acceptance that they have abandoned their 130-year history. They appear to be embarrassed about themselves although they need not have felt that way. My sources tell me that "Anglican Unity" is the rallying point.

As to Robin finding a significant body of the same, I know of none.

I am not sure what Robin sees, but any substantial numbers of Protestant, Reformed, Confessional, Reformational, and Evangelical Anglicans--who are self-consciously consistent appear where?

That leaves me here at Camp Lejeune attending an Anglo-Roman (ACC) group twice per month (for Prayer Book, music, sacrament and not bad sermons) and a Confessional Lutheran group.

Reformation said...


Able to follow your posts. Got it.


Robin_G_Jordan said...


I am aware of at least one group of Anglicans who are evangelical and Reformed in their doctrinal views and who were interested in organizing as a judicatory, or diocese, of the ACNA but for whom the Fundamental Declaration and the provisions requiring acceptance of the Fundamental Declarations for membership in the ACNA, ordination and licensure for ministry in the ACNA, recognition as a judicatory, or diocese, in the ACNA, and election as a bishop of the ACNA present a significant problem. They were forced to reconsider their plans.

I am also aware of number of groups and individuals within the ACNA who also find the theological bias of the Fundamental Declarations problematic. If you followed the debate on the Fundamental Declarations on Stand Firm before the Bedford gathering, you would have heard some of their concerns.

Most of the articles related to the ACNA constitution and canons that I have posted on this website and the Heritage Anglican Network represent not just my own concerns but those of groups and individuals with which I have been in consultation. A number of the proposals on this website and the Heritage Anglican Network for revision of the constitution and canons are theirs as are the explanations for the need for these revisions.

At the Provincial Council meeting before the Bedford gathering Bishop Martyn Mimms raised the issue of the theological bias of the Fundamental Declarations in particular the declaration on the historic episcopate. He was expressing his own concerns as well as those of CANA members. As you may know, CANA was not a part of the ACN Round Table that developed the Common Cause Theological Statement or the ACN Council that adopted it.

In my previous article I identified six major problem areas in the ACNA, its form of governance, and its constitution and canons. The theological bias of the Fundamental Declarations and the canons is just one of them.

I have also sought the advice and opinions of leaders and other representatives of a number of evangelical Anglican organizations in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia. These organizations support GAFCON and FCA and the establishment of a new orthodox Anglican province in North America. The leaders and representatives whose advice and opinions I sought also expressed concern regarding the partisan doctrinal stance the ACNA has taken on a number of key issues and other developments in the ACNA.

From what I gather a number of the evangelicals at the Bedford gathering had reservations about the ACNA constitution and constitution even though they voted for their ratification. Some sought to send various provisions back to the Provincial Council but were not able to muster enough votes in support of their motions. Others voted "no" to various provisions. In at least one evangelical circle the inaugural Provincial Assembly is referred to as "the Bedford disaster."

Archbishop Bob Duncan and other ACNA leaders maintain that, unlike TEC, the ACNA is “a Church that is truly evangelical, truly catholic, and truly pentecostal.” However, the ACNA constitution and canons contradict their statements. Adopting the new Fundamental Declarations that I have proposed would move the ACNA along the path toward genuine comprehensiveness.