Friday, January 22, 2010

The AC-NA needs reform more than recognition

By Robin G. Jordan

What was the point of establishing rules in the form of a constitution and a set of canons by which the Anglican Church in North America was supposed to be governed if its leaders had no intention of abiding by these rules as the appointment of Bishop Don Harvey as the Dean of the Province has shown? Was it to provide window dressing for the GAFCON primates so that they would recognize the AC-NA? Was it to give the self-proclaimed new Anglican province an air of legitimacy?

The provisional constitution and canons of the Anglican Church in North America were adopted without a period of public scrutiny and comment: they were not made public until after their adoption! The period the proposed constitution and canons were open to public scrutiny and comment was grossly inadequate—a fortnight, two weeks! The two documents that were presented to the inaugural AC-NA Provincial Assembly for ratification contained a plethora of flaws and objectionable features. They were rushed through the Provincial Assembly with very little debate and with Archbishop Duncan’s insistence that no amendments to their provisions should be made from the floor. The Provincial Assembly was to either ratify each section of the constitution and canons or return it to the Provincial Council for further work without any recommendations for needed changes. The Provincial Assembly was not given an opportunity to modify the two documents.

The Anglican Church in North America has had defective instruments of governance from the outset. The canons, for example, fail to provide sufficient details as to how bishops are to be chosen; they arrogate to several decision-making bodies in the AC-NA rights, authorities, and powers that the constitution does not give them. Both documents need extensive revision. Rather than undertake this difficult task, Archbishop Duncan, the Provincial Council, and its Executive Committee have chosen to ignore their provisions.

An overview of the major problem areas of the AC-NA constitution and canons can be found on the Internet at: A more detailed analysis of the defects and objectionable features of the AC-NA constitution with recommended changes can be found on the Internet at: A similar analysis of the flaws and drawbacks of the AC-NA canons with recommended changes can be found on the Internet at: Additional articles on the AC-NA constitution and canons may be found on the Internet at:

Archbishop Duncan’s appointment of Bishop Harvey as Dean of the Province cannot be dismissed as a difference of interpretation of the ACNA instruments of governance. Article IX.3 of the constitution clearly limits the Primate of the AC-NA to performing the duties and responsibilities delineated in the constitution or provided by canon.

The argument that the AC-NA is a “spiritual church” and is therefore not bound by the “rule of law” is also unconvincing. It bears a striking resemblance to The Episcopal Church’s claim to be in the vanguard of a prophetic movement. So is the argument that AC-NA church leaders need some “flexibility,” and AC-NA members need to make allowances for the appointment, to “cut them some slack.” This argument has been used to rationalize or explain away all kinds of questionable actions on their part. Those making this argument would not make any allowances for Anglican Church of Canada or Episcopal Church leaders taking similar actions. There is clearly a double standard operating here. However, what is wrong for Anglican Church of Canada and Episcopal Church leaders is also wrong for AC-NA leaders. The fact that they are AC-NA leaders does not make their actions any less reprehensible. Indeed we should expect them to operate by a higher standard than that of Anglican Church of Canada and Episcopal Church leaders.

Church of England evangelicals concerned with the preservation of the role of the General Synod in the governance of the Church of England may wish to know that the Anglican Church in North America has no equivalent of the General Synod. While larger and more representative than the AC-NA Provincial Council, the AC-NA Provincial Assembly is merely a consultative assembly. It has no power beyond ratifying constitutional and canonical changes that the Provincial Council submits to it for its approval. An evangelical backbencher of the General Synod has put forward a private member’s motion calling for the recognition of the AC-NA. Under the provisions of the AC-NA constitution and canons, no member of the Provincial Assembly can make a motion of this kind, much less to expect it to be given consideration. They may also wish to know that the constitution and canons of the AC-NA concentrate power in the hands of a few. The AC-NA has taken a direction in ecclesiastical governance that they do not want to see the Church of England take.

Its constitution and canons, its form of ecclesiastical governance, and the attitude of its leaders toward the “rule of law” are not the only shortcomings of the Anglican Church in North America. Rather than establishing a genuine comprehensiveness which makes room for those who seek to uphold and maintain the Protestant, Reformed and evangelical character of the Anglican Church, the Common Cause Theological Statement incorporated into the AC-NA constitution as the AC-NA “fundamental declarations” aligns the church with the doctrinal positions of the heirs of the Oxford Movement and the adherents of the relatively modern “via media” view of Anglicanism. This view of Anglicanism regards it as a synthesis of Catholic and Protestant doctrine and practice. It was popularized in the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church in the twentieth century and has liberal adherents in both churches.

Anglicans outside of North America, in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, sympathetic to the plight of conservative Anglicans in North America need to carefully word any statement supporting conservative North American Anglicans. The reality is that only one segment of this group has migrated to the AC-NA. Another segment of this group has chosen for what it believes are good reasons to not leave the Anglican Church of Canada or The Episcopal Church. A third segment that left the ACA or TEC has joined other churches beside the AC-NA, including non-Anglican churches. A fourth segment that left is churchless. In the case of these last two segments in some instances this is due to the fact that the AC-NA has no congregations in the area or that the congregations which the AC-NA does have in the area are of a different church tradition. The form of church government in the local congregation or the judicatory to which it belongs may be objectionable. In other instances it is due to the problems affecting the entire church. Statements backing the AC-NA do not show support for these other segments nor recognize their continued plight.

In the Anglican Church in North America statements that do not qualify their support of the AC-NA, whether or not it was the intent of those issuing these statements, are also interpreted as endorsement of the status quo in the AC-NA. Anglicans outside of North America that support the formation of a new “orthodox” province in North America but are concerned about developments in the AC-NA, if they issue statements supportive of the AC-NA, need to qualify their support, drawing attention to what they see as problem areas in the AC-NA and calling upon the AC-NA leadership to implement needed reforms.

1 comment:

kmfrye said...

It seems we Anglicans never learn from our mistakes - as my (Anglican) pastor says: "We are stupid"...