Saturday, August 28, 2010

More unanswered questions in Derek Jones’ reception as an ACNA bishop

By Robin G. Jordan

What I found interesting is how the Anglican Church in North America has responded to my request for information concerning the College of Bishops’ reception of Bishop Derek Jones as an ACNA bishop of August 14, 2010. I directed this request to Archbishop Robert Duncan as I thought that he should be the most knowledgeable person in the matter. I did not receive an email response to my request rather the acting ACNA communications director to whom my request had been given left his response upon a comment thread of one of my recent articles.

The acting ACNA communications director refused my information request because I had written a number of articles on the topic before I submitted my request to Archbishop Duncan. He did not consider me to be a friend of the ACNA and therefore he saw no reason to engage the College of Bishops and its Credentials Task force on the matter on my behalf. He appeared to believe that the fact I had written several articles before contacting Archbishop Duncan was sufficient reason to deny my request. He did not attempt to explore with me why I had chosen to write the articles rather than contact ACNA first. He did not ask me about my past experiences with dealing with the ACNA. He jumped to a conclusion and did not trouble to check out the validity of the conclusion. I was dismissed as hostile to the ACNA and therefore not someone whose questions that the ACNA would wish to answer.

A few days later George Conger, an Internet commentator known for his friendliness to the ACNA, writes an article in response to a number of questions that I had raised in an earlier article, treating these questions as an attack upon the ACNA. To this point no other Internet commentator had written anything on Bishop Jones in response to my articles as one of my readers drew to my attention. The Rev. Conger’s article, however, addresses none of the questions that I asked in my letter to Archbishop Duncan. His article gives the appearance of having been written at the behest of the ACNA and has all the earmarks of ACNA-instituted damage control. The Rev. Conger appears to have been given ready access to Bishop Bill Atwood and Bishop Derek Jones. The article smells suspiciously like a red herring, a subject raised to distract attention from these questions.

As I noted in my last article, Bishop Jones’ qualifications were not an issue, and his orders were not a major issue. What were primary issues is how the ACNA leadership operates, how they make decisions, and why they are not more open and transparent, in what direction are they taking the ACNA, and similar questions.

The Rev. Conger’s article is revealing in part for what it does not say and in part from what may be read between the lines. Bishop Bill Atwood is quoted in the article as dismissing what the Rev. Conger describes as my “objections” to the College of Bishops’ reception of Bishop Jones as an ACNA bishop as “superficial.” Presumably by “superficial” he means that they are minor, of no great weight or consequence. This is very revealing of Bishop Atwood’s view of the bishops of the Anglican Communion, the Lambeth Conference and its Resolutions and the foundational document of the ACNA. The 1958 Lambeth Conference was a pivotal conference in the history of the Anglican Communion and the consequences of its positions in a number of areas are still being worked out to this day. The ACNA constitution articulates the principles upon which the ACNA was founded. This leads me to wonder if Bishop Atwood is speaking for himself or for all the ACNA bishops.

Bishop Atwood is further quoted as stating that the ACNA requires a “significant standard concerning Christian testimony, character and manner of life, Biblical qualification, evidence of call, and demonstration of apostolic fruit for any candidate that is considered by the College of Bishops.” What is not mentioned is that Bishop Jones was not just a candidate for bishop presented for the approval of the College of Bishops. He had already been consecrated a bishop in another denomination. There is no mention in the standard that Bishop Atwood cites that a bishop consecrated in another denomination must be consecrated in “the Historic Sucession.” As I have pointed out elsewhere, the ACNA canons regarding the reception of ministers from other denominations require the re-ordination of deacons and priests who were not ordained by a bishop in “the Historic Succession” but they do not require that a bishop must be consecrated by three other bishops in “the Historic Succession.” They provide a loophole for bishops. Was this an oversight in the canons or was it intentional?

Bishop Jones is quoted in the same article stating that CANA conducted a review of his orders and informed him that there would be no ecclesiastical difficulties in his jurisdictional transfer to CANA. How extensive was this review? Was it completed before the adoption of the ACNA constitution and canons? Or afterwards? Was consideration given to Lambeth Resolution 54 in the review process? Was the Church of Nigeria consulted as a part of the review process?

Bishop Jones’ own comment that the Nigerian House of Bishops was distracted by Archbishop Akinola’s retirement suggests that the Nigerians were not consulted. It was decided to seek approval from the ACNA College of Bishops first. Who championed this course of action? Was any consideration given in the making of this decision to the position in which might place the Nigerians if the College of Bishops recognized Bishop Jones’ orders but the Nigerians were not satisfied with them? Was it decided that the Nigerians would have to approve Bishop Jones if the College of Bishops approved him first?

Bishop Jones is further quoted as saying that he did not perform any episcopal duties in the period between the time that he left the CEEC and the time the ACNA College of Bishops received him as an ACNA bishop in order “‘to specifically avoid the type criticism’ raised by Mr. Jordan.” Note that Bishop Jones’ statement does suggest that there was concern that there might be objections to his orders. Also note that Bishop Jones does not actually name me. The Rev. Conger names this writer.

The Rev. Conger then goes on to discuss Bishop Jones' orders. He mentions the case of Bishop Salomão Barbosa Ferraz. For those unfamiliar with Bishop Ferraz he was born in Jau, Brazil, in 1880. He was a Brazilian priest and bishop whose career took him through membership of several Christian denominations from the Presbyterian Church through to the Roman Catholic Church.

Originally a Presbyterian minister, Ferraz was ordained an Anglican priest in 1917. He founded an ecumenical society, the "Order of Saint Andrew", in 1928, and was instrumental in organising a 'Free Catholic Congress' in 1936. At the close of this event he established a "Free Catholic Church" and was elected as the church's first bishop. However, the Second World War halted his plans to seek consecration as a bishop at the hands of the Utrecht Old Catholics. Ferraz joined with excommunicated Roman Catholic Bishop Carlos Duarte Costa to found the Igreja Católica Apostólica Brasileira (or the Independent Apostolic Church of Brazil).in 1945. Just over a month after the church's foundation, on August 15, 1945, Duarte Costa presided as the principal celebrant at the Ferraz’ consecration.

Ferraz in turn consecrated Manoel Ceia Laranjeira on May 29, 1951 (not in 1965, after he was reconciled with the Roman Catholic Church as the Rev. Conger claims in his article and before the Vatican recognized his orders). Bishop Laranjeira would become the head of the Igreja Católica Apostólica Brasileira when Ferraz reconciled with the Roman Catholic Church in 1958. Although Ferraz was married at the time, he was fully recognized as a bishop by Pope John XXIII. Feraz was not re-consecrated by the Roman Catholic Church even conditionally (sub conditione). However he was not appointed to a diocese immediately. He did pastoral work in the Archdiocese of São Paulo until May 12, 1963, when he was appointed titular bishop of Eleutherna by Pope John XXIII. He was subsequently appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Rio de Janeiro by Pope John XXIII.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term titular bishop, he is a bishop that assigned to a titular see. A titular see is a diocese that is no longer in existence. In Asia Minor and North Africa, many dioceses became defunct over them when they became schismatic, or when they were swept by other religions, or when they disappeared simply because the importance of the cities declined. The Apostolic See can also suppress a diocese when the number of Catholics in the diocese has declined sharply. Titular bishops have no jurisdiction over their titular dioceses. Under the present Roman Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law, The Apostolic See or the Episcopal Conference may give him a special function or office in a territory. If he resides in a territory, he may be invited to participate in particular councils. In grade and rank he comes after a coadjutor bishop and an assistant bishop. He is a bishop in name but without the power of the bishop. Demotion to titular bishop has in the past been used by the Vatican as a way of punishing bishops whose behavior the Vatican does not approve of.

Ferraz attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council, and Pope Paul VI appointed him to serve on one of Vatican II's working commissions. Upon his death in 1969, Ferraz was buried with full honors accorded a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church. He was survived by his wife and seven children.

Ferraz was a rare instance of legally accepted married bishop in modern Roman Catholic history.

Bishop Carlos Duarte Costa was an outspoken critic of the regime of Brazilian president Getúlio Vargas (1930–1945) and of the Vatican's perceived cozy relationship with fascist regimes. He also publicly criticized the doctrine of papal infallibility and Roman Catholic views on divorce and clerical celibacy. In response to Costa's continued insubordination, the Vatican finally stripped him of his responsibilities as a diocesan bishop and transferred him to a titular see. The Vatican accepted his resignation from the Roman Catholic Church in 1937. Duarte Costa formed the Igreja Católica Apostólica Brasileira in 1945.

Holy Orders conferred by Duarte Costa after he left the Roman Catholic Church are usually inferred from a Roman Catholic perspective to be valid but illicit. Ferraz’s consecration involved a single bishop recognized to be in the Historic Succession, not the three usually required by Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church.

On the basis of the Ferraz case the Igreja Católica Apostólica Brasileira claims that its apostolic succession is valid, even by Roman Catholic standards. The Igreja Católica Apostólica Brasileira maintains that .the Roman Catholic Church, by accepting Bishop Ferraz in the manner that it did, without any re-consecration, affirmed de jure and de facto the sacramental validity of the Duarte Costa Apostolic Succession of what is commonly known as the "Rebiba Apostolic Succession."

In accordance with the definition of The Oxford Dictionary of Christian Church of episcope vagantes, which the Rev. Conger cited in his article, Ferraz, despite his recognition by the Church of Rome, was an episcopus vagans. His consecration was irregular and he was consecrated by a bishop who had been excommunicated by the Church that consecrated him and was in communion with no recognized see. Duarte-Costa was excommunicated by the Vatican on July 7, 1945.

The Western Church has generally been ready to admit such irregular consecrations are valid as I stated elsewhere. The Eastern Church does not recognize them. The 1958 Lambeth Conference adopted the following resolution:

Resolution 54
Church Unity and the Church Universal - Episcopi Vagantes

The Conference draws attention to the fact that there are "episcopi vagantes" who call themselves either "Old Catholic" or "Orthodox," in combination with other names. It warns its members of the danger of accepting such persons at their own valuation without making further inquiries. The Conference reiterates the principle contained in Resolution 27 of the 1920 Lambeth Conference, that it cannot recognise the Churches of such "episcopi vagantes" as properly constituted Churches, or recognise the orders of their ministers, and recommends that any such ministers desiring to join an Anglican Church, who are in other respects duly qualified, should be ordained "sub conditione" in accordance with the provisions suggested in the Report of the relevant Committee of the 1920 Lambeth Conference.

The ACNA College of Bishops’ recognition of the orders of Bishop Jones suggests a shift away from the position of the Anglican Communion, as articulated in Resolution 54, to that of the Roman Catholic Church and it is in itself significant.

The question is, “How are we to interpret this shift?” Does it mean as I have suggested that the ACNA is willing to extend recognition to charismatic Convergence and independent Catholic churches that the Anglican Communion does not recognize? Was the College of Bishops hoping that Bishop Jones’ reception would go unnoticed and that no one would question it? Or did the College of Bishops fail to do their homework and rely too heavily upon the CANA review of Bishop Jones’ orders? Why did the College of Bishops chose not to conditionally consecrate Bishop Jones and in this way resolve any doubts in regards to his orders? Why did the bishops chose to receive him instead of conditionally consecrating him? The notion that what occurred was purely happenstance is not sufficiently likely to be believable. If that is indeed the case, it then raises serious questions as to the competence of the ACNA leadership.

What also does Bishop Jones’ reception tell us about the College of Bishop’s understanding of apostolic succession? In recognizing Bishop Jones’ orders did it affirm the Roman Catholic doctrine of tactual succession? This doctrine is implicit in the ACNA canons in TitleI II.8.2, which describes the ministry of a bishop. "By the tradition of Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, Bishops are consecrated for the whole Church and are successors of the Apostles through the grace of the Holy Spirit given to them." This section is taken from the Rwandan canons with slight alteration in the language. The corresponding provision of the Rwandan canons is taken from the Roman Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law.

Bishop Jones’ reception resembles the kind of testing of limits seen in adolescents. They will push the limits as far as they can. It is the same kind of thing that the Episcopal Church has done with the African Primates over the last twelve years since the 1998 Lambeth Conference. Someone in the ACNA leadership want to see how the Africans, in this case the Nigerians, will react to one of their convocations presenting to them for their approval a bishop whose orders would not be recognized by the Anglican Communion. Will they accept the bishop’s orders because the ACNA College of Bishops received him? Or will they insist upon conditional consecration of Bishop Jones or reject him altogether?

The question arises is what does the ACNA leadership gain if the Nigerians accept Bishop Jones’ orders? Are they considering a merger between the ACNA and one or more charismatic Convergence or independent Catholic churches? The ACNA leadership, in particular Archbishop Duncan, is preoccupied with numbers. They may be looking for an easy way to replace the Anglican Mission congregations and clergy that the ACNA lost. Archbishop Duncan has used both Convergence terminology and concepts in his addresses and sermons. In his address to the Anglican 1000 Church Planting Conference he said:

“We have an identity. The charisms of catholic, evangelical and Pentecostal have been brought together in one church to reach North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ.”

The theory of the Anglicanvia media enjoying currency in the ACNA is that the three theological streams—Catholic, evangelical, and charismatic/Pentecostal/Orthodox—are converging in a new synthesis in the ACNA. This convergence is the next evolution in the Anglican via media. A merger with charismatic Convergence and independent Catholic churches would fit with this view. Such a merger, however, would remove the ACNA even further from historic Anglicanism.

One of the concerns that the Africa bishops voiced at the recent CAPA meeting was that the Western churches have abandoned the gospel. One of the purposes of the Thirty-Nine Articles is to safeguard the truth of the gospel. Such a merger would unite the ACNA with non-Anglican churches for whom the Articles, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the 1661 Ordinal have never been the doctrinal standard, and which do not share the Anglican understanding of the gospel as articulated in the Articles. The Anglican identity of the ACNA is already shaky as is its proclamation of the true gospel. The ACNA acceptance of the authority of the Articles is for a large part token.

There are congregations and clergy in the ACNA, which wholeheartedly embrace the biblical and Reformation teaching of the Articles but they are in a minority. There are clergy who preach the gospel of justification by grace alone by faith in Christ alone. There are also clergy who preach “a different gospel.” Before the ACNA can join with the African churches as a mission partner in the re-evangelization of North America, the ACNA needs to put its house in order.

The ACNA needs to return to the Articles. As the GAFCON Theological Resource Group draws to our attention, the acceptance of the authority of the Articles is constitutive of Anglican identity. [Being Faithful, The Shape of Historic Anglicanism Today, p. 35] The Articles are a faithful testimony to the teaching of the Scripture. They exclude erroneous beliefs and practices. They give a distinct shape to Anglican Christianity. They offer first principles and a framework for approaching the Bible that give us the means to grapple with new questions and new challenges. [Being Faithful, p. 36]

The ACNA needs to drop the Common Cause Theological Statement from its constitution and adopt a new declaration of principles that brings the province-in-formation more in line with the Jerusalem Declaration. The ACNA also needs to overhaul its canons, require a greater degree of openness, transparency and accountability from its leaders, and make other desperately needed changes.

Until the ACNA takes these critical steps and its leaders show greater maturity and responsibility in their leadership, the ACNA will not be ready to take its place as a member province of the existing Anglican Communion or a new global South Anglican Communion. North America does not need another Episcopal Church. It needs a new Anglican province that in the words of the Preamble to the Jerusalem Declaration “promotes and protects the biblical gospel and mission to the world.” The ACNA has yet to show that it is capable of doing that.


Jim said...


I think you are proving the problems I have written about concerning excessive holiness and institutionalism. AC-NA is going to fail if it does not because of what prayerbook it uses not because of its theological positions but because of its leadership's belief in its inherent holiness.


RMBruton said...

You've made a good point. One of the most poignant things that has been said in this whole drama was said by Robin, himself, that " the last thing North America needs is another Episcopal Church". This is exactly what they are attempting to create because it fits their idea of some manifest destiny.