Thursday, May 20, 2010

Like Silver Refined in a Furnace

By Robin G. Jordan

The recent announcement that the Anglican Mission has chosen to become a Ministry Partner with the Anglican Church in North America caught many ACNA folks off guard. They were expecting the Anglican Mission to move toward further integration in the ACNA. Yet the Anglican Mission has been signaling that further integration was not the direction that it was going to take for the foreseeable future. First, the Anglican Mission changed its name. Then it made public its then existing protocol with the ACNA and announced that it was negotiating a new protocol with the ACNA Executive Committee and the Provincial Council. Then one of its canon missioners stated in response to a comment that I posted on Stand Firm that the Anglican Mission leadership wanted to ensure that the organization had thoroughly assimilated what he described as “African methods” before it embarked on integration with the ACNA. My own study of the canonical charter of the Anglican Mission and the canons of the Anglican Church of Rwanda suggested that full integration into the ACNA would be a difficult choice for the Anglican Mission leadership due to the particular structure and form of governance of the organization. I examined the latter as well as the pertinent Rwandan canons in “The Anglican Mission and the Diocese of the Gulf Atlantic: A Contrast in Ecclesiology.” While the length of the article may discourage some people from reading it, those who do will come away with a much better understanding of the ecclesiastical (and secular) organization of the Anglican Mission and what for the Anglican Mission full integration into the ACNA would have entailed.

In brief, the ecclesiastical organization of the Anglican Mission is modeled upon that of a Roman Catholic archdiocese or diocese in which the archbishop or diocesan bishop derive their authority and power from the Pope and the different officials of the archdiocese or diocese in turn derive their authority and power from the archbishop or diocesan bishop. In the case of the Anglican Mission the Primatial Vicar derives his authority and power from the Primate of Rwanda for whom he is the deputy and representative in Canada and the United States and to whom he is responsible. The Rwandan canon governing the relationship of the Primate of Rwanda to the Primatial Vicar is adapted from the Roman Catholic canon governing the relationship of the Pope to his subordinates in the Roman Catholic hierarchy. The Missionary Bishops are elected by the Rwandan House of Bishops and confirmed by the Primate of Rwanda. They derive their authority and power from the Primatial Vicar and are responsible ultimately to the Primate of Rwanda. The Council of Missionary Bishops recommends candidates for the office of Missionary Bishop to the Rwandan House of Bishops for consideration; the Primatial Vicar may veto the recommended candidates. The Primatial Vicar is the supreme legislative and executive authority of the Anglican Mission and governs the ecclesiastical organization of that body working through the Council of Missionary Bishops that is under him. The Primatial Vicar appoints the Network Leaders with the approval of the Council of Missionary Bishops and each Network leader derives his authority and power from the Missionary Bishop overseeing him. The clergy and laity have no role in the governance of the ecclesiastical organization of the Anglican Mission except at the congregational level. The Anglican Mission clergy form a College of Presbyters that is similar to the Council of Priests in a Roman Catholic archdiocese or diocese and like that body is purely consultative. Both the Anglican Mission canonical charter and the Rwandan canons are heavily indebted to the doctrine, language, norms, and principles of the Roman Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law. The secular organization of the Anglican Mission is that of a non-profit corporation with a board of directors and corporate officers. The Primatial Vicar is the chairman of the board and the chief executive officer of the corporation. The president of the corporation is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Anglican Mission and exercises such executive authority as is delegated to him by the Primatial Vicar. He reports to the Primatial Vicar and through the Primatial Vicar to the board of directors. The board of directors has control of the funds of the Anglican Mission and must approve all requests for funding. As in the governance of the ecclesiastical organization of the Anglican Mission, the Primatial Vicar is the center of authority and power in the administration and management of the Anglican Mission’s secular organization. The articles of incorporation and the by-laws are not posted on the Anglican Mission website and the composition of the board of directors and its mode of election or appointment is unknown to this writer.

From what I gather a substantial number of people who are involved in the ACNA or supportive of that body perceive this development as nothing short of a disaster for the ACNA. But is this development really a disaster for the ACNA? Is it such a great misfortune as these folks apprehend it? I believe that it is not quite the setback that they believe it. Rather it is a wonderful opportunity.

First, it forces the ACNA leadership to make a realistic appraisal of the actual size of the ACNA, its strengths, and its weaknesses. The addition of Anglican Mission congregations and clergy has inflated the statistics relating to how large the ACNA is numerically.

Second, it forces the various groupings forming the ACNA to re-evaluate their actual commitment to evangelism and church planting and their mobilization of resources for these purposes. It also forces the ACNA leadership to re-examine what they are doing to create an environment supportive of evangelism and church planting in the ACNA and its judicatories. The ACNA leadership has relied too much on the Anglican Mission to be the evangelism and church-planting arm of the ACNA and to spearhead ACNA efforts in these areas.

What has been happening is that the Anglican Mission has been planting new churches and folding them into its own organization. While the Anglican Mission has not prevented any church from transferring to another constituent body of the ACNA such as a regional-based judicatory in the church’s area of operation, Anglican Mission churches are so closed tied into their Networks from the beginning that few have any incentive to transfer out of their Networks to another judicatory. Most share the vision and goals of the Anglican Mission and are content to remain a part of that organization.

Third, it forces ACNA leaders to take a hard look at the message that the ACNA is proclaiming. Is it really the message of the gospel of divine grace as found in the New Testament and the Thirty-Nine Articles? Only if the church proclaims the same message can it expect to see gospel growth—growth in conversions, growth in new congregations, and growth in spiritual maturity. At the present time ACNA churches are proclaiming a number of messages. Only the gospel message offers life and therefore produces growth.

Fourth, it provides further incentive to reform the organizational structure and form of government of the ACNA, to revise its constitution and canons, and to make other needed changes in the ACNA. The ACNA constitution and canons were written to accommodate the Anglican Mission. This includes a Provincial Assembly stripped of all executive and legislative powers and modeled on the Anglican Mission Annual Winter Conference, the provision permitting judicatories to operate under the constitutions and canons of their parent provinces, the College of Bishop’s election of bishops as the preferred mode of electing bishops, the minimum age requirement of 35 for bishops, the College of Bishop’s election of the Archbishop, the assignment of a number of the functions and powers to the Archbishop in the canons for which the constitution makes no provision, and the establishment of a Court of Extraordinary Jurisdiction. The present ACNA leadership have shown too greater disregard for constitutionalism and the rule of law and have sanctioned the present Archbishop’s appointment of a Dean of the province and his establishment of an Archbishop’ Cabinet for which there is no provision in the ACNA constitution and canons. The constitution and canons are lacking both in much needed clarity and detail. The provisions of the canons relating to discipline of clergy are particularly defective and provide few safeguards for the rights of the accused or the victim.

Fifth, it also provides further incentive to modify the language of the Fundamental Declarations and the canons to make that language from a doctrinal standpoint neutral in tone and not aligned with a particular theological school of thought in Anglicanism. In an earlier article I proposed as a starting point the following new set of Fundamental Declarations for the Anglican Church in North America. They stress the autonomy of the judicatories forming the ACNA and the voluntary nature of their association. They give to the Holy Scriptures, the Catholic Creeds, the Church of England Formularies, and the threefold ministry of Bishop, Priest, and Deacon the place that the Anglican tradition has historically given to them. In contrast to the existing Fundamental Declarations, they express greater unity with the fundamental declarations or the equivalent of the Anglican entities that have supported the establishment of a new orthodox province in North America and extend their recognition to the ACNA as that province in formation. They permit a broader range of opinions on key issues that have historically divided Anglicans, and keep alive the vision of the ACNA as a truly comprehensive church for Anglo-Catholics, Conservative Evangelicals, and “mere Christians.”

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 Church of England Formularies, that is, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1571, the Book of Common Prayer of 1662, and the Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons of 1661.

3. We receives all the Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as being the Word of God written and being the ultimate rule and standard of faith given by the inspiration of God and containing all things necessary for salvation.

4. We retain inviolate these orders of ministers in Christ’s Church--Bishops, Presbyters (or Priests), and Deacons, which offices have been known since the apostles’ time and have been held in such high esteem that no man might presume to perform any of these offices, except he were first called, tried, and examined, and known to have such qualities as are need for such offices; and also, by public prayer, with imposition of hands, were approved and admitted into them by lawful authority.

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.

The Anglican Mission is a para-church that has as its primary mission reaching the unchurched and spiritually disconnected in North America, planting and growing new churches and strengthening existing ones. It has taken the Anglican Mission ten years to reach its present size of 150 congregations of an average Sunday attendance of more than 50. In that time it has experimented with several different organizational structures and forms of governance. Becoming a Ministry Partner is a reasonable and logical step for the Anglican Mission. Full integration into the ACNA would require the Anglican Mission to dismantle its present organizational structure and form of governance, which its leaders believe is its most effective and efficient to date.

Rather than responding to this development with hand-wringing and finger pointing, we need to see it as an opportunity for growth, not only numerical but also spiritual.

In Job 23:10 in his suffering Job speaks of how God tries the heart and tests us (Psalms 17:32, 26: 2, and 139:33). He is confident that God will through his trials make him a better man:

“But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.”

In Psalm 66:10 the Psalmist reminds God how he has tested his chosen people and tried them as silver is tried.

In Proverbs 17:3 King Solomon reminds us, “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts.”

In Isaiah 48:10 we read how God used the calamities and troubles his chosen people brought upon themselves to free them from impurities:

“Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you (or chosen you) in the furnace of affliction.”

God spoke these words through the prophet Jeremiah:

"I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds." (Jeremiah 17:10 ESV)

Zechariah 13:8-9 we read these words of prophesy:

“…In the whole land, declares the LORD, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive. And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, 'They are my people'; and they will say, 'The LORD is my God.' "

In last book of the Old Testament, in Malachi 3:2-3, we also read these words of prophesy:

“But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap.

He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD.”

Fullers’ soap is used to clean and thicken cloth before it is dyed. It is also used to whiten cloth that is not going to be dyed.

If God did not spare his chosen people from such refining, should we expect any better treatment? God wishes to separate the dross from the pure silver. In the crucible the dross rises to the top and the refiner skims it off. Or the heat of the refiner’s fire may burn away the dross.

In 1 Peter 1:6-7 we read how believers of Peter’s day experienced all kinds of trials:

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

He goes on to write that all believers must expect to face such trials:

“Beloved do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange was happening.” (1 Peter 4:12 ESV)

James, Jesus’ older brother and, like Peter, a martyr, wrote these words of comfort:

“Count it all joy, when you meet trials of various kinds for you know the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:2-3 ESV)

We should not be surprised at the trials we face. God tests and strengthens our faith in the fire of adversity. We are purified like silver refined in a furnace.

Archbishop Duncan may have done a great disservice in his use of the exodus from Egypt analogy in his addresses and sermons. He created the impression that those who had fled Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church had, upon joining the ACNA, arrived in the Promised Land. He did not prepare them for the further trials that they might face. In allowing the circumstances that led to the Anglican Mission’s decision to enter into a Ministry Partnership with the ACNA instead becoming fully integrated into that body, God may not only be testing the hearts of the people and leaders of the ACNA but also those of the people and leaders of the Anglican Mission. In this time of testing God is giving those of us outside of the ACNA and the Anglican Mission, as well as the folks in these two bodies, an opportunity to draw closer to Him and to rely more upon Him. A mistake that his chosen people made was to put their trust in human allies, in chariots and horses, instead of God. We all need to learn from their mistake. Let us take to heart the words of the prophet Jeremiah:

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit." (Jeremiah 17:7-8 ESV)

1 comment:

Father Robert Lyons said...

Robin Jordan wrote: "Archbishop Duncan may have done a great disservice in his use of the exodus from Egypt analogy in his addresses and sermons. He created the impression that those who had fled Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church had, upon joining the ACNA, arrived in the Promised Land. He did not prepare them for the further trials that they might face."

At best, +Duncan has lead the people into the Wilderness. The Promised Land is still a long way away, made worse by the fact that even after glimpsing into the Promised Land (i.e., the historic BCP and the historic practices of the Church), they continue to permit the denial of the literal truth of Scripture and allow for the practice of the ordination of women as presbyters.

Just as the Israelites grumbled when they saw the giants in the Promised Land, so too ACNA stands on the brink of running from the 'giants' they see - requiring a fundamental change in their mindset and practice. If they won't make that change soon, they - like the Israelites - will continue their aimless wandering for years to come.

How's that for an Exodus metaphor!