Tuesday, September 07, 2010

How really Anglican is the ACNA?


By Robin G. Jordan

Evangelicals outside of North America recognize that the Anglican Church in North America falls short in a number of areas. However, they are reluctant to say anything out of fear that it may strengthen the position of the liberal wing of the Anglican Communion. They also do not want to alienate the Africans who support the ACNA and whose support they also need. The extent to which the Africans recognize these problem areas and their seriousness is unknown. No one—evangelical or African—shows any willingness to say any thing that is critical of the ACNA. In the ACNA their silence is construed as unqualified support of developments in the ACNA. Through their silence both evangelicals and Africans are unwittingly aiding and abetting a number of development that they may come to regret in the future.

ACNA leaders are taking advantage of the evangelical and African avoidance of any criticism of the ACNA and the seeming unqualified evangelical and African support of whatever direction in which they lead the ACNA to pursue their own agenda. While the Africans see themselves as the future of world Anglicanism, the ACNA leaders harbor a different vision.

In the view of ACNA leaders Anglicanism is evolutionary and evolving, a view that they share with liberals in The Episcopal Church. Where they disagree is the direction in which Anglicanism is evolving. ACNA leaders see the ACNA as a new phase in the evolution of Anglicanism, the locus of a convergence of three streams—Catholic, evangelical, and Pentecostal—into a single river. They see this bringing together of Catholicism, evangelicalism, and Pentecostalism as the work of the Holy Spirit and they see themselves as the Holy Spirit’s agents. The ACNA is the future of world Anglicanism. It is the “Ancient-Future Church.”

The reality is, however, that three disparate and divergent theologies cannot be combined in a synthesis without downplay, glozing over, and discarding elements from these theologies. Catholicism, evangelicalism, and Pentecostalism do not agree on a number of primary issues as well as secondary ones. The two theologies that have suffered the most at the hands of the synthesizers are evangelicalism and Pentecostalism. Both have been stripped of their Protestant elements. Evangelicalism has been also denuded of its Reformed elements. The theology that has suffered the least is Catholicism.

Evangelicalism has been reduced to an emphasis on the Bible and evangelism. Pentecostalism is interpreted in terms of the importance that it attaches to the charisma, or manifestations, of the Holy Spirit. It is often compared with Eastern Orthodoxy on the basis that the latter lays great emphasis on the role of the Holy Spirit in the sacraments, in particular the consecration of the bread and wine of the Eucharist. Its Protestant origins are minimized or ignored.

What has been labeled “Convergentism” is as a result very Catholic in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Catholic, and Roman Catholic sense in its essential theology. Since it sees its task as uniting the different branches of “orthodox Christianity,” it is friendly toward Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Catholicism, and Roman Catholicism. Due to its friendliness toward various forms of Catholicism, Anglo-Catholics are much more tolerant of Convergentism than they are traditional evangelical Anglicanism, popular American evangelicalism, or conservative Pentecostalism.

Convergentism shares with affirming or liberal Catholicism, liberal Protestantism, and some Pentecostal denominations the willingness to ordain women. This proclivity sets it apart from Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Catholicism, Roman Catholicism, and traditional evangelical Anglicanism. The latter finds no support in the Bible for the practice of ordaining women as presbyters and consecrating them as bishops and only very weak support for the practice of making women deacons. Convergentism also shares with affirming or liberal Catholicism, liberal Protestantism, and popular American evangelicalism the willingness to countenance divorce and remarriage even in clergy.

Convergentism, like Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Catholicism, and Roman Catholicism, accepts the authority of the rule of antiquity, but not completely as can be seen from its support of women’s ordination and divorce and remarriage. The rule of antiquity assumes that the more ancient a doctrine or practice and the closes its origin is to the apostolic age, the more likely the doctrine or practice is apostolic or consistent with the teaching and practice of the apostles. If the ancient church held a doctrine or practiced a custom, it concludes that we are bound to hold the belief or practice the custom. The problem with these assumptions is that antiquity of a doctrine or practice or even the Church’s subsequent recognition of the doctrine or practice is no assurance that a doctrine or practice is apostolic or consistent with apostolic teaching and practice. Even in the time of the apostles false teaching was rife as was erroneous and deceptive practice. Anglicanism historically has measured and tested doctrines and practices against the Bible, and has accepted only those consonant with Scripture. This includes doctrines and practices mentioned in the writings of the early Church fathers.

The Protestant Reformation on the European continent and its counterpart in the British Isles does not play a significant role in Convergentist thought. Convergentism gives little, if any, weight to the Articles of Religion of the reformed Church of England and the other Reformation confessions. Convergentists prefer to overlook the contribution of the early phase of the English Reformation in the reign of Edward VI and the later phase of the English Reformation from the reign of Elizabeth I to the Glorious Revolution in shaping the Protestant and Reformed character of Anglicanism. The exception may be the Catholic Reaction, Archbishop William Laud, and the Caroline High Churchmen and the Non-Jurists.

As Gillis Harp has called to our attention his Mandate article, “Navigating the Three Streams,” Convergentist interpretation of Scripture is highly problematic. This can be attributed in part to the influence of Pentecostalism. Pentecostals themselves have criticized their own tradition for its questionable exegetical principles and its poor Scriptural exegesis. It is also accountable in part to the desire on the part of Convergentists to find in the Bible passages of Scripture that bear out what they believe and practice. Consequently, they are apt to read passages out of context and imposed upon or read into passages meanings that cannot be read out of them.

An issue that divided the charismatic renewal movement in the 1980s was the rhema-logos debate. Some charismatics insisted that more recent revelations of the Holy Spirit supplant and supplement the Bible. The late David Watson, himself a charismatic leader in the Church of England, argued strongly for the Anglican view of the Bible as the supreme and final authority in all matters of doctrine and practice and the submission of such revelations to the Scriptures. The Anabaptists in the sixteenth century had made similar claims, and the Forty-Two Articles, the predecessor of the Thirty-Nine Articles, rejected these claims for the Bible as the ultimate authority in matters of doctrine and practice. This issue has not gone away.

Some readers may regard my description of the ACNA as “apostate” in my article, “The Apostasy of the Anglican Church in North America” as representing an extreme view. However, the term “apostasy” means to abandon previously held beliefs and practices or stand in continuity with those who have deserted such beliefs and practices. When an ecclesial body like The Episcopal Church over a period of two hundred odd years abandons the Protestant faith of the reformed Church of England and her historic formularies and adopts a different set of beliefs and practices, it is apostasy. Apostasy may involve more than the abandonment of basic Christian beliefs such as belief in the Trinity and belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ. A new ecclesial body that separates from an apostate church body but clings to the beliefs and practices that the apostate church body adopted in the process of deserting its formerly held beliefs and practices is itself apostate.

The ACNA has hung onto the beliefs and practices of the Episcopal Church that it began to follow as it turned its back on the Protestant faith of the reformed Church of England and her venerable formularies in the nineteenth century. There was a concerted effort in the early twentieth century to not only remove the Articles from the American Prayer Book but also to completely change the character of the American Prayer Book, making it much more Roman Catholic in doctrine and practice. The ACNA authorizes the use of the resulting book, the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, and its affirming or liberal Catholic successor, the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, in its congregations.

The ACNA has not repudiated the Romanization of The Episcopal Church in the nineteenth century. For those unfamiliar with the term Romanization, it means to make Roman Catholic, to adopt or cause to adopt Roman Catholic beliefs or practices. [The Pocket Oxford Dictionary of Current English, 1932] Nor has the ACNA fully disowned and rejected liberalism, modernism, and pluralism. At least two different gospels are preached in the ACNA.

The ACNA permits the use of the more Protestant and Reformed 1662 Prayer Book but has not made a concerted effort to promote its use or the use of contemporary language services that are actually based upon the 1662 Prayer Book.

The ACNA reception of the 1662 Prayer Book as an authoritative Anglican standard of faith and worship is a sham. It does not stand up to close examination. Look at the wording of the sixth declaration of the Common Cause Theological Statement, which was incorporated in altered form into the ACNA constitution as its Fundamental Declarations.

We receive The Book of Common Prayer as set forth by the Church of England in 1662, together with the Ordinal attached to the same, as a standard for Anglican doctrine and discipline, and, ,em>with the Books which preceded it,/em>, as the standard for the Anglican tradition of worship.

Note the 1662 Prayer Book and 1661 Ordinal are received as “a” standard for Anglican doctrine and discipline. Implied in the statement is the existence of other standards for doctrine and discipline for Anglicans and in particular the ACNA. Note that the 1662 Prayer Book and the 1661 Ordinal are not identified as an authoritative standard. This leaves open the possibility of the existence of more authoritative standard than the Prayer Book and Ordinal among these unidentified standards. It is left to the interpreters of this declaration to determine what is the authoritative standard for them—the partially reformed 1549 Prayer Book, the moderately liberal Catholic 1928 Prayer Book with additions from the American or Anglican Missal, or the more liberal Catholic 1979 Prayer Book.

Note that the 1662 Prayer Book is received as the Anglican standard for worship and prayer “with the Books which precede it.” A number of books preceded the 1662 Prayer Book. They include the unreformed pre-Reformation Sarum medieval service books, the partially reformed 1549 Prayer Book, the 1552 Reformed Prayer Book, 1559 Elizabethan Prayer Book, the 1604 Jacobean Prayer Book, and the 1634 Laudian Scottish Prayer Book. In the use of the term “Books” the sixth declaration does not limit the liturgies that preceded the 1662 Prayer Book to post-Reformation Prayer Books. For its standard of worship and prayer the ACNA accepts a small library of service books, not the historic Church of England formulary and classical Anglican Prayer Book—The Book of Common Prayer of 1662.

Put into plain English, the 1662 Prayer Book is no authoritative standard of faith and worship for the ACNA at all.

The ACNA reception of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, Anglicanism’s confession of faith, as an authoritative standard of faith and worship is not any better.

We receive the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1571, taken in their literal and grammatical sense, as expressing the Anglican response to certain doctrinal issues controverted at that time, and as expressing fundamental principles of authentic Anglican belief.

The wording of the seventh declaration in the ACNA constitution differs slightly from the wording of the original in the Common Cause Theological Statement.

We receive the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1562, taken in their literal and grammatical sense, as expressing the Anglican response to certain doctrinal issues controverted at that time, and as expressing the fundamental principles of authentic Anglican belief.

These alterations, while slight, are significant. In the Thirty-Eight Articles of 1563 Article XXIX Of the Wicked, which eat not the Body of Christ in the use of the Lord's Supper was omitted. There were other differences between these Articles and the revised Articles adopted by Convocation, approved by Parliament and assented to by Elizabeth I in 1571. The latter Articles are what are the present-day Thirty-Nine Articles, which are a historic formulary of the reformed Church of England. Dropping the article “the” before the phrase “fundamental principles of authentic Anglican belief” completely changes its meaning.

In the nineteenth century Tractarian leader John Henry Newman interpreted the phrase “taken in their literal and grammatical sense” to mean that interpreters of the Articles could disregard to historical context or authorial intent in their interpretation of the Articles and could interpret them in a Rome-wards direction. Anglo-Catholics have interpreted the inclusion of this phrase in the seventh declaration as implying that they may do likewise. The phrase “as expressing the Anglican response to certain doctrinal issues controverted at that time” infers that the Articles are relics of the past and the disputes over the issues that they address have been resolved. The reality is that the Articles are as authoritative today as in the sixteenth century, as the 2008 Global Anglican Future Conference affirmed in the Jerusalem Declaration, and Anglicans and Roman Catholics and Anglicans among themselves are still divided over a number of these issues. Implicit in the phrase “as expressing fundamental principles of authentic Anglican belief” is that the Articles only express some tenets of authentic historic Anglicanism. It represents a disclaimer of the view of the Articles as the confession of faith of the reformed Church of England and Anglicanism confession of faith, a view that the Church of England has held from the reign of Elizabeth I and has never formally disowned or rejected, and constitutes the view of a large number of evangelical Anglicans around the world.

Like its reception of the 1662 Prayer Book and 1661 Ordinal, the ACNA reception of the Thirty-Nine Articles of 1571 is pretended, counterfeit. The ACNA has made no concerted effort to promote the Articles as central and pivotal to its teaching and life.

Very early in their history Anglicans in the United States took a wrong turn in the road. Since that time they have taken more wrong turns and each wrong turn has brought them further and further away from the Protestant faith of the reformed Church of England and her formularies. They desperately need to retrace their steps back to where they made the first wrong turn and return to authentic historic Anglicanism, to the Prayer Book, to the Ordinal, and to the Articles. Their present path will led them even further away from their Anglican heritage and even further into the wilderness. As the ACNA absorbs more congregations and clergy who do not share that heritage, retracing their steps will become much more difficult if not impossible.

Some people may argue that it does not matter how Anglican the ACNA is, as long as it is Catholic or Christian or Spirit-filled. It does, however, matter if the ACNA is going to represent itself as “the” Anglican Church in North America. As long as the ACNA seeks to speak for “orthodox North American Anglicans” in the councils of the Anglican Communion and the global South Anglican provinces, then it needs to be a genuine specimen of authentic historic Anglicanism, to uphold the authority of its historic formularies, and embody its beliefs and practices. If, however, the ACNA sees its mission as a charismatic Catholic umbrella church for independent Catholic and charismatic Convergence groups, then it needs to drop the pretense of being Anglican and leave the formation of a new orthodox Anglican province in North America to those who are committed to the maintenance of a genuine Anglican witness on the North American subcontinent, a witness grounded in the Bible and the Reformation. North America does not need another Episcopal Church, a church that long ago abandoned authentic historic Anglicanism but continues to masquerade as Anglican.

10 comments:

Reformation said...

Whew! At least I'm not utterly and totally alone in this exile and wilderness.

Psalm 12 comes to mind. St. Paul's Cathedral, London, offers a wonderful chant which follows the Psalter of 1662, Coverdale's.

Commendable article, Robin, commendable, although it must annoy the syncretists.

Reformation said...

Upon a re-read, wow!

The leaders saw this with their careful nuances. Readers in the Anglican way will not miss them, however.

Thanks.

Reformation said...

Where, in the literature of advocacy, is there a full-throated and full-orbed comparison of the dominant 1979 BCP (ACNA) and the 1662 BCP?

I expect nothing but muteness from the ACNA-satellite commercial centre, www.virtueonline.org. Where is there a full expatiation here?

From a 1662 BCP user, by day and night, lections included, with the Psalm-singing lections aided by the chants from St. Paul's Cathedral, London.

From an Anglican exile.

Joe Mahler said...

"How really Anglican is the ACNA?"
Not really Anglican at all.

traditionalanglican said...

I have no question about the validity of the orders which came into the Charismatic Episcopal Church, by the Brazilian connection. My understanding is that they did not seek Anglican orders because of the Papal Bull declaring them invalid. There is however, Anglican orders behind many of the bishops now or formally within the Charismatic Episcopal Church.

I have taken communion often from Bishops and Priests in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. I have no question about the validity of orders of the celebrant.

I see those formally within Charismatic Episcopal Church now in ACNA as bringing the Charismatic renewal into the Anglo-Catholic movement. This something to be welcomed. I know many clergy who are now or formally part of the Charismatic Episcopal Church none of them would I characterize as liberal.

Robin G. Jordan said...

Traditional Anglican,

Charismatic renewal has been around for a good while. The winds of the renewal blew through the Episcopal Church in the 1960s through 1980s. The Charismatic Episcopal Church was an outgrowth of that renewal with charismatic pastors from a number of denominations playing a role in its birth. A number of charismatic Episcopalians migrated to the CEC after its formation. A substantial number of these charismatic Episcopalians were Anglo-Catholics, not evangelicals.Former CEC Bishop Philip Zampino, his wife Jean, and the Life in Jesus come to mind. I received their newsletter for a number of years. Zampino's son, David, would become a Roman Catholic.

The CEC in its heyday was influenced by the writings of late Robert Webber, a self-described "evangelical on the Canterbury trail, who became an Episcopalian, the top guru of the Worship Renewal movement, and a leading figure in the Ancient-Future/Convergence movement.

The CEC, while it is charismatic, can also be characterized as an independent Catholic ecclesiastical entity on the basis of its doctrine and orders. The latter are not recognized by the Roman Catholic Church any more than Anglican orders. CEC clergy who wish to enter the Roman Catholic Church must do so as layman as must Anglican clergy.

The CEC has in recent years been disintegrating, which accounts for the migration of a number of its former members into the ACNA.

The preferred service book of the CEC is the liberal Catholic 1979 Book of Common Prayer, which like its predecessor the 1928 BCP represents a radical departure not only from the 1662 BCP but also the previous American Prayer Books. The 1928 BCP reveals the influence of liberalism as well as Anglo-Catholicism.

Liberalism takes many forms. The liberalism that you see in TEC is a radical form of liberalism. I suspect that both present and former CEC members have been influenced by liberalism more than you realize. Its influence has been pervasive as has the influence of modernism and very few people have escaped their influence.

If the Holy Spirit wishes to bring renewal to Anglo-Catholics in the ACNA, he does not need to use human agents. Anyone who is really familiar with the Bible, the Azusa Street revival, the Pentecostal movement, the charismatic renewal movement and the third wave movement knows that the Holy Spirit is not bound to human agents. The Holy Spirit, like the wind, blows where He wills.

traditionalanglican said...

A quick note, therefore longer than it should be.

I disagree that the 1928 BCP is liberal. This is assuming the meaning of liberal to be the same as progressive. It was liberal within the classic meaning of liberal. Yes, there was an accommodation toward the Anglo-Catholics but I do not see the progressive influence of which you speak.

I have observed that the three streams movement has two different definitions of the streams. One is catholic, evangelical and charismatic. The other is liturgical, evangelical and charismatic. There is a major difference in the two theological views. There is a significant difference between liturgical and catholic. Liturgical is part of being catholic, catholic is much more than being liturgical. I observed that the second group did not see the need to test any charismatic expression against the church fathers, something I see as a major weakness.

Charismatic as a noun, in the sense that Anglican is a noun, is to me a very scarey place to be. It runs the risk that the voice you hear is not of God. Charismatic as an adjective, such charismatic-Lutheran or charismatic-Roman-Catholic is a good thing. I do not have any of the charismatic gifts, but as an Anglo-Catholic I welcome the addition of people from the CEC to the ACNA.

The people who are joining ACNA are close to being a charismatic express of being Anglo-Catholic, even if before joining ACNA they did not previously express it as such I rejoice when it appears that many former CEC people are coming into ACNA. It rounds out the ACNA in a way that the Continuing Church movement never achieved. Evangelical and catholic are not exclusive of each other.

Even for those who do not have any of the charismatic gifts, a charismatic service is not something to be feared. That is assuming the charismatic gifts are real. I know many now or formally with the CEC who exhibit true charismatic gifts and to worship with them is a joy

David said...

Hope you don't mind a few comments from within the CEC.

The CEC is not disintegrating. A few years ago, a handful of bishops disagreed with the direction of the CEC and left for other places - Catholic, Orthodoc and Anglican. The CEC then elected Archbishop Craig Bates as Patriarch. Archbishop Bates instituted a number of positive changes that have truly stabilized the American church for the past 3 years. Meanwhile, the vast majority of CEC (in South America, the Philippines, and in Africa) has continued unaffected and is experiencing healthy, strong growth.

And a comment on the statement that the Holy Spirit does not need to use human agents, I'm afraid I disagree. Never has a revival or fresh wind of the Spirit blown without the Spirit using human agents to pray, fast and seek the Lord. Man is not passive. The Kingdom of God advances forcefully, and the forceful laid hold it.

God bless!

David

Reformation said...

A re-read.

Wow, blessings.

One of the most popular posts at my blog.

Kitty-Kat said...

I am new to the ACNA and had a wonderful experience at the church we moved from a couple of years ago. My husband and I were saved in the Southern Baptist church denomination as children and raised accordingly. Now as middle aged folks he wants us to be Anglican and attend a more "Catholic" type of ACNA church he has discovered in order to avoid the charismatic element. I am a closet charismatic and am leary of the Catholic element! Ultimately we must work this out ourselves as a couple. I am just trying to learn and make sense of it all and follow Christ and my husband. Any thoughts or insights?