Friday, September 17, 2010

Barriers to Participation in the ACNA—Part 1

By Robin G. Jordan

The claim that there are no barriers to the participation of classical Anglican evangelicals in the ACNA is like the Episcopal Church’s claim that it had made adequate provision for congregations and their clergy in serious theological dispute with their bishops in its delegated pastoral oversight proposal. The congregations and clergy that were supposed to avail themselves of DPO recognized immediately how inadequate the proposal was. Classical Anglican evangelicals also recognize how untenable is the claim that there are no barriers to their participation in the ACNA. It does not hold up to close scrutiny.

First, the ACNA adopted fundamental declarations that effectively nullify the authority of the historic Anglican formuaries—the Book of Common Prayer of 1662, the Ordinal of 1661, and the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1571, long-recognized as the doctrinal standard of Anglicanism.

Second, the ACNA incorporated into its fundamental declarations an affirmation of the Tractarian-Anglo-Catholic view that bishops are of the essence of the church, and by implication the Tractarian-Anglo-Catholic view of apostolic succession. This is confirmed by the ACNA canons in that they take the Roman Catholic view of apostolic succession, borrowing language from the Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law through the canons of the Anglican Church of Rwanda. The College of Bishops affirmed this view of apostolic succession in its reception of two bishops from charismatic ecclesial bodies with independent Catholic orders. The English Reformers rejected the Roman Catholic view of apostolic succession at the time of the Reformation and the Tractarian-Anglo-Catholic championing of the view has caused division among Anglicans since the nineteenth century.

Third, the ACNA canons imply that confirmation is a sacrament in that they state that all baptized adults and children are to be confirmed, inferring that confirmation supplies a want in baptism and by confirmation baptism is finished and perfected, a Roman Catholic view of baptism and confirmation that the English Reformers rejected. The canons do not require the candidates for confirmation to be sufficiently trained in the principles of the Christian religion before they are presented to the bishop for confirmation. They also do they require the candidates to render an account of their faith. This was drawn to the attention of the inaugural Provincial Assembly but the delegates did nothing about it, having been given the choice of approving or rejecting each section of the canons but not of amending them. They had also been told that if the proposed constitution and canons were not ratified, there would be no church.

Fourth, the canons state that marriage is a sacrament in contradiction to the Thirty-Nine Articles and in affirmation of the Roman Catholic sacramental system.

Fifth, the canons take the position that non-episcopal ordination is invalid in that they require the re-ordination of ministers who have not been ordained by a bishop “in the Historic Succession.” The English Reformers held that while episcopal ordination was normative for the Church of England, non-episcopal orders were not invalid. For two hundred years the Church of England accepted the validity of non-episcopal orders. In the nineteenth century the Tractarian and Anglo-Catholic ideologues claimed that “that apart from the episcopal succession there can be no valid ministry; that all ministers not episcopally ordained are not really ordained; that without this ordination no minister can administer valid sacraments; that without valid sacraments no grace can be conveyed to the soul.” They dechurched all churches without bishops. In the Protestant Episcopal Church they adopted a canon penalizing Episcopal clergy who fraternized with non-episcopal ordained ministers, attended their services, preached from their pulpits, and received Holy Communion at their communion tables. Evangelicals, on the other hand, continued to recognize the validity of non-episcopal ordination. See “Appendix: Apostolic Succession” in Dyson Hague’s The Protestantism of the Prayer Book.

Sixth, the canons permit young baptized children to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion but do not require that they evidence “repentance, love, and faith—the three conditions for the effectual receiving of God’s grace”—before they are admitted to the Lord’s Table. [Massey Hamilton Shepherd, Jr., The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary, p. 75] This implies an ex opere operato view of the operation of the sacraments and the Tractarian-Anglo-Catholic doctrine of baptismal regeneration. Authentic historic Anglicanism rejects such a view of the operation of the sacraments. It also rejects the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. “All receive not the grace of God,” wrote Richard Hooker, “ which receive the sacrament of his grace.”

The Tractarian-Anglo-Catholic doctrine of baptismal regeneration was a major cause of controversy in the nineteenth century. In 1850 the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council ruled in the Gorham judgment that regeneration did not invariably accompany baptism. This is the official doctrinal position of the Church of England, and the position of classical Anglican evangelicalism. In its admission of young baptized children to the Lord’s Table without evidence of repentance, love, and faith in the children the ACNA is taking the Tractarian-Anglo-Catholic position on the operation of the sacraments and baptismal regeneration. In doing so, the ACNA is also affirming the Roman Catholic sacramental system and its doctrine of salvation by sacraments and good works, a repudiation of the New Testament doctrine of salvation by grace by faith alone in Christ alone.

Seventh, the ACNA canons in permitting the use of the 1549 Prayer Book, 1928 Prayer Book, and various Missals is countenancing the Tractarian-Anglo-Catholic position on prayers for the dead and purgatory, invocation of the saints, the substantive presence of Christ in the eucharistic elements, the eucharist as a sacrifice, and the presbyterate as a sacrificing priesthood. The Thirty Nine Articles, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and authentic historical Anglicanism reject these doctrines on the basis that they are repugnant to the Word of God. In countenancing them, the ACNA is repudiating the long-recognized doctrinal standard of Anglicanism.

None of the preceding doctrines have any place in the canons of a supposedly comprehensive church for orthodox North American Anglicans. The ACNA is sanctioning, even mandating, doctrinal positions that are anathema to authentic historic Anglicanism and classical Anglican evangelicalism. The Common Cause Governance Task Force and the Common Cause Leadership Council could have drafted a constitution and set of canons that did not take any side on these doctrinal issues. Instead they put together two documents that are Anglo-Catholic in their doctrinal bias. There is no justification for this kind of partisanship.

The ACNA only grudgingly welcomes classical Anglican evangelicals and then on its own terms. They are expected to give up their theological convictions and tolerate or accept the Anglo-Catholic beliefs. This is not true comprehensiveness by any stretch of the imagination.

Those who claim that the classical Anglican evangelicals could join the ACNA if they wanted to do so are not telling the whole story. They themselves would not likely become or remain a part of an ecclesial body if it meant compromising their theological convictions. Why then do they expect classical Anglican evangelicals to do what they would not themselves do? What does it reveal about how they see conservative Anglican evangelicals’ theological convictions?

The ACNA has a long way to go before it really becomes an alternative province for all orthodox North American Anglicans. The doctrinal bias of its constitution and canons is not the only barrier to conservative Anglican evangelical participation in the ACNA. I will look at the other barriers in a second article in this series.


Soul Deep said...

Mr. Jordan,

Informative article. Thanks!

I am an AMiA communicant. (I know, and a supposedly Anglo-catholic one, at that. What a rare bird!) I fully supported the AMiA leadership team's decision to reduce its status in ACNA to "Ministry Partner". Essentially, the same barriers to participation of which you write are the ones that bother the AMiA. ACNA's got an (probably) impossible row to plow in front of it.

Reformation said...

I attend, less so now, an AMiA work. It is near Baptacostal in doctrine, worship and public piety, hence, I attend with less interest. Why travel 60 miles north when I can get a similar Baptahostage approach here in town? (There are some references to the 79 BCP, but where is any principled stand about that? Or the wicked catechism? It's Pelagian.)

What's left? An ACC mission work with the Anglican Missal for this area...or the rest of Baptacostal land in this area.

Jerusalem is in the rubble. We're in a Captivity for the sins of the fathers and doubt.

Daniel was written for such times. For those in the Captivity as we now are.

Reformation said...

Time for the principled use of The Litany for Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Let us confess our own manifold sins and wickednesses, but also lament the sins of our fathers and forefathers (and current leaders)who have greatly erred and strayed like stupid, foul, proud, odious, and wicked sheep--trusting too much in the devices, wickednesses, and malignant desires of their own hearts.

Remember not these offenses, we beseech Thee, O LORD.

Daniel 9.
Nehemiah 1.5ff.