By Robin G. Jordan
Over the past eight months number of people have hazarded what the third declaration (FD3) in Article I of the AC-NA means or does not mean. The latest has been Bishop Glenn Davies, a regional bishop of the Diocese of Sydney (see “Explaining the Episcopate” on the Internet at: http://www.sydneyanglicans.net/news/communion/explaining_the_episcopate/ ) However, the AC-NA has not produced an official explanation of what that declaration means. The AC-NA leadership seems to be reluctant to go on record as to how they themselves interpret the declaration and to issue a clear position statement to that effect.
The third declaration (FD3) in Article I of the AC-NA constitution has been a cause of contention since the adoption of the provisional constitution on December 5, 2008. Whether the Common Cause/Anglican Church Network Round Table that drafted the original third declaration (FD3) as a part of the Common Cause Theological Statement intended that the declaration should interpreted more broadly, as some have claimed, than a narrow Catholic sense which a plain reading of the declaration suggests, has not been established. Neither has it been established that the AC-NA leadership intends the declaration to be read that way.
In the course of the Internet debate over the doctrinal provisions of the AC-NA constitution, which preceded the inaugural Provincial Assembly on June 22-24, 2009, Philip Ashey, secretary and chaplain of the Common Cause Governance Task Force, stated that the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral that the Protestant Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops adopted in 1886 was not inconsistent with the third declaration. Judicatories, or dioceses, wishing to use the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral could substitute it for the third declaration in their constitutions and canons. At its 1886 meeting in Chicago the House of Bishops was dominated by Anglo-Catholic bishops. Anglo-Catholicism was at that time in the ascendancy in the Protestant Episcopal Church. The bishops adopted a much more Anglo-Catholic statement than William Huntington Reed’s original proposal. Reed himself was an Anglo-Catholic who was highly critical of the Thirty-Nine Articles.
Clarification of the meaning of the third declaration was subsequently requested from the Governance Task Force. The Rev. Ashey’s response was, “We do recognize that there are questions and have done, and are doing, our best to try and address them in a reasonable way. This thread may not be the best way, but please be assured that we are working on it.”
When the Governance Task Force produced its document, “An Overview of the Work of the Governance Task Force on the Constitution and Canons of the Anglican Church in North America,” it contained only one reference to the third declaration (FD3) and offered no clarification of its meaning. Indeed it appeared to dodge the issue.
At the Provincial Council meeting on June 21, 2009 CANA Bishop Martyn Mimms drew to the attention of the Council the concerns of CANA members regarding the wording of the third declaration. The response of Anglo-Catholic council members to these concerns was not to dispute the claim that the language of the declaration was “too Catholic.” Rather they countered with the complaint that the language of the other declarations was “too evangelical.” The Provincial Council might have issued a clarification of the third declaration (FD 3) but they did not.
AC-NA Canon III.5.1 and 3 and Canon III.8.2 support the reading of the third declaration (FD3) in a narrow Catholic sense. Sections 1 and 3 of Canon III.5 both contain references to “the Historic Succession.” As this term is used in these sections, it means an unbroken personal succession of bishops, traceable to the community of apostles and through which the Holy Spirit is transmitted by the laying on of hands of the consecrating bishops who stand in that succession and who have received the Holy Spirit in that manner. With the imposition of hands is given the authority and the special grace understood in a Catholic sense to confer the sacraments of Ordination and Confirmation. The same term is commonly used in the constitutions and/or canons of Anglican entities with an Anglo-Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession, sacraments, and ordination. In the constitutions and/or canons that take a more comprehensive view of episcopal ordination, different language is used. For example, Article VI.2(b) of the constitution of the Anglican Church of Kenya states, “…no person shall be accounted or taken to be a lawful Bishop, Priest or Deacon in this Church…except that such person…has already had Episcopal consecration or ordination, the validity of which has been approved by the Provincial Synod….” Canon C1.1 of the Church of England states, “and no man shall be accounted priest, or deacon in the Church of England…except he … has had formerly episcopal consecration or ordination in some Church whose orders are recognized and accepted by the Church of England.”
Canon III.8.2 contains the following sentence. “By the tradition of Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, Bishops are...successors of the Apostles through the grace of the Holy Spirit given to them.” In Freed to Serve Michael Green identifies five views of apostolic succession. The first view is there are and can be no successors to the apostles. The second view is that the apostles’ successors are those who adhere to their doctrine. The English Reformers held this view of apostolic succession. It is also the view of the Elizabethan Settlement and of classical evangelical Anglicanism. The third view is that since the apostles’ time there has been a succession of men who have served as guardians of the apostolic deposit. The fourth view is that there is a succession to the apostles in their role as peripatetic supervisors of the Church. The fifth view Green notes is the most controversial. He goes on to write,
“This view claims that the apostles ordained bishops to succeed them, and that the historic episcopate stretching back in unbroken succession to the apostles, is nothing short of essential to the church. Without such ordination it is impossible to exercise a ‘valid ministry” or celebrate a ‘valid’ sacrament.’
The same view postulates a grace of orders that is transmitted manually by the imposition of hands. It is the view reflected in Canon III.8.5. It did not come to the fore in Anglican circles until John Henry Newman’s first Tract for the Times, 'Thoughts on the Ministerial Commission, respectfully addressed to the Clergy,' during the early days of the Oxford Movement.
Green contends that this view of apostolic succession is not Biblical, theologically sound, historically demonstrable, or Anglican doctrine and offers evidence in support of his contentions. Whether Green is right is not at issue here. What matters, for our purposes, is that Canon III.8.2 embodies this doctrine, and in doing so, like Canon III.5. 1 and 3 supports the reading of the third declaration (FD3) in Article I of the AC-NA constitution in a narrow Catholic sense. Canon III.5. 1 and 3 and Canon III.5.1 and 3, like the third declaration (FD3) represent unnecessarily partisan doctrinal views over which Anglicans historically have been and continue to be divided.
The AC-NA does not really need a statement of any kind about the ‘historic episcopate’ in its constitution beyond a straightforward affirmation of Resolution 11 of the Lambeth Conference of 1888. In the latter the third Lambeth Conference opined:
“…the following Articles supply a basis on which approach may be by God's blessing made towards Home Reunion:
(a) The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as "containing all things necessary to salvation," and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.
(b) The Apostles' Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.
(c) The two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself — Baptism and the Supper of the Lord — ministered with unfailing use of Christ's Words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him.
(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.”
Of the constitutions of the Anglican provinces that I have studied to date, only one document—the constitution of the Anglican Church of Kenya contains even that. The other constitutions say nothing about the ‘historic episcopate’ altogether. They are content to affirm the ministries of deacon, priest, and bishop or the ‘apostolic orders.’ (See my article, “Fundamental Declarations Compared,” at http://anglicansablaze.blogspot.com/search?q=Fundamental+Declarations+Compared) The AC-NA constitution is unusual in its articulation of a position on the ‘historic episcopate.’
If the AC-NA Provincial Council is committed to building a genuinely comprehensive Anglican province in North America, which truly enfolds all three orthodox theological streams in Anglicanism, it should at a minimum drop the third declaration in Article I from the AC-NA constitution and replace the partisan doctrinal language of Canon III.5.1 and 3 and Canon III.8.2 with neutral language.