Friday, January 29, 2010

Untold Stories

By Robin G. Jordan

Over the past ten years and earlier in the late 1970s one story after another of Episcopalians that chose to leave the Episcopal Church and in recent years Anglicans the Anglican Church of Canada have appeared in the media—in newspapers and magazines, on radio and TV, and on the Internet. Some stories are told over and again. For one reason or another a particular priest and his congregation attract media attention. The priest himself may call a press conference or invite the local TV station to interview him. He may be Internet savvy and have his own web log. He may be practiced in the art of keeping himself and his congregation in the public eye, knowing he and his congregation may benefit from the continued public sympathy and support that such exposure may engender. The priest may enjoy something akin to celebrity status within the local community and outside it.

Other stories do not receive this kind of media coverage and are not as widely known. Many stories go untold, especially those of lay persons who left the Anglican Church of Canada or the Episcopal Church and joined a non-Anglican church or stopped going to church altogether. The latter may have dropped out because they were not able to find another church home or because they have become completely disenchanted with Christianity and organized religion.

The stories that draw the most attention are the success stories—the priest who takes his congregation out of the Episcopal Church, loses the church property, but lands on his feet. Generous benefactors provide him and his congregation with a new building and other help. Americans love a success story and the media knows it. The congregation that leaves the Episcopal Church, buys a building that it cannot afford, and loses the building is likely to attract less attention.

Conservative Anglican bloggers who support the Anglican Church in North America are also more likely to post the success stories. To tell the stories of the congregations that left these churches and that are struggling or the new church plants that failed would discourage the timid and slow the exodus from the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church. But a substantial number of congregations that leave these churches do struggle and many new church plants do fail.

What role does God’s grace play in the success stories? Are we to assume that the clergy and congregations in these stories the beneficiaries of God’s grace while the clergy and congregations in the struggling congregations or the failed church plants are not? How should clergy and congregations to whom God has been generous respond to his generosity? Has God been generous to them so that they can be generous to other clergy and congregations? Has he been generous to them to set an example for them to emulate? Have they been blessed so they can bless others?

The implications are that clergy and congregations that have benefited from the publicity that they have received need to do all within their power to publicize the plight of other clergy and congregations that they may in turn receive a generous outpouring of public sympathy and support. They need to be telling the stories of these clergy and congregations. They need to show their generosity to the same clergy and congregations in other ways. God has been generous to them but with a purpose. It is not that they merit or deserve God’s love and goodwill any more than these clergy and congregations. Then grace would not be grace.

God is not parsimonious in his grace. The measure of kindness and mercy He extends to us is rich and full. We should not be stingy in our generosity to others. Jesus not only taught his disciples to be generous in their benevolence, gentleness, friendliness and consideration but also in their forgiveness. The Parable of the Good Samaritan is a parable of generosity as well as of love. The one who was truly generous in that parable was the Samaritan traveler and the one to whom he was generous was a Jew, a people who hated and despised Samaritans. God’s love is a generous love and so should be our own. “Love your enemies,” our Lord taught his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount, “bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5: 44-45 NKJV)

I have found this generous love lacking on the Internet among those who profess themselves to be followers of Christ. The use of ridicule is not uncommon, as is the use of scorn. Some purported Christians pepper their comments with unkind words and cannot conclude them without a parting dig or two. They do not conceal their contempt for those who displease them. If they treat their fellow Christians in this manner, how do they treat non-Christians? What is worse is that those around them do not take them to task for their unchristian attitudes and behavior but show no concern or applaud them. The anonymity of the Internet may in part account for why they do not keep a closer watch on their tongue but the seeming indifference or approbation of those around them is harder to explain. It suggests that they have come to accept such attitudes and behavior as the norm even for a Christian. This does not reflect well on the Christian community.

Yet strangely enough their attitudes and behavior highlight God’s grace. For God shows his love and goodwill to the congregations of which they are clergy or members. He does not withhold his mercy and kindness due to them. This does not mean that God himself condones their attitudes and behavior but “makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” One is reminded of what God said to the prophet Jonah. “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left--and much livestock?" (Jonah 4:10-11 NKJV)

The people of Nineveh sadly, while they repented upon hearing Jonah’s call to repentance, and God spared them as Jonah feared that he would, did not keep up their repentance and returned to their wicked ways. God eventually destroyed Nineveh. We can abuse God’s generosity and it eventually will have negative consequences for us. If God is generous to us and we fail in turn to be generous to others, we will reap what we have sown.

God has been generous to me in numerous ways. With this in mind and recognizing that there are so many untold stories, I am inviting anyone who has such a story or knows such a story to submit that story to me and I will publish it on Anglicans Ablaze. The story should be limited to 2000 words or less and should be submitted to exploringananglicanprayerbookatgmaildotcom, accompanied by any photos. I do reserve the right to edit the content of all submissions and to not publish stories that I deem inappropriate for publication on the Internet. Whether these stories become a regular feature on Anglicans Ablaze will depend upon the response to this invitation.

Among the stories that also go unheard are those of Episcopalians and Anglicans who, while they do not countenance the rampart liberalism and immorality in these churches, have chosen to remain in one of them and bear witness to the orthodox faith and practice. There are also the stories of those who are concerned about what is happening in these churches but for one reason or another cannot leave. I am willing to publish their stories too. I am also willing to publish the stories of those who have never been a part of the Anglican Church of Canada or the Episcopal Church but who are—or were—a part of the Reformed Episcopal Church or one of the Anglican bodies in the Continuum.

'In Jos We Are Coming Face to Face in Confrontation with Satan'

{Christianity Today] 29 Jan 2009--Everyone is asking: Why? Why are Muslims and Christians unable to live together in peace on the Jos Plateau? Why is there a continuing recurrence of violence? These are questions people in Nigeria and journalists from all over the world have asked me. I wish I had the answers.

The one thing I do know is that this time, as at other times, Christians once again have become the scapegoat of some evil intention to cause disharmony, separation, pain, destruction of lives and property, and disruption of normal civil life. This to me is evidence of what Jesus meant when he said, "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).

To read the entire article, click here.

To read a related article, "Nigerian Archbishop calls on Muslims to hand back the dead" on TimesOnline, click here.

Christianity Lite

[First Things] 29 Jan 2009--"Once in a while comes an historical event so momentous, so packed with unexpected force, that it acts like a large wave under still water, propelling us momentarily up from the surface of our times onto a crest, where the wider movements of history may be glimpsed better than before.

Such an event was Benedict XVI’s landmark announcement in October 2009 offering members of the Anglican Communion a fast track into the Catholic Church. Although commentators quickly dubbed this unexpected overture a “gambit,” what it truly exhibits are the characteristics of a move known in chess as a “brilliancy,” an unforeseen bold stroke that stunningly transforms the game. In the short run, knowledgeable people agree, this brilliancy of Benedict’s may not seem to amount to much. Some 1000 Church of England priests may convert and some 300 parishes turn over to Rome—figures that, while significant when measured against the dwindling numbers of practicing Anglicans there, are nonetheless mere drops in the Vatican’s bucket.

But in the longer run—say, over the coming decades—Rome’s move looks consequential in another way. It is the latest and most dramatic example of how orthodoxy, rather than dissent, seems once again to have taken the driver’s seat of Christianity. Every traditionalist who joins the long and already illustrious history of reconversion to the Catholic Church just tips the religious balance more toward Rome. This further weakens a religious communion battered from within by decades of intra-Anglican culture wars. Meanwhile, the progressives left behind may well find the exodus of their adversaries a Pyrrhic victory. How will they possibly make peace with the real majority of Anglicans today—the churches in Africa, whose leaders have repeatedly denounced the Communion’s abandonment of traditional teachings? Questions like these are why a few commentators now speak seriously about something that only recently seemed unthinkable: whether the end of the Anglican Communion itself might now be in sight."

"Mary Eberstadt seems to believe that Anglicanism, 'as the world has known it in the past century,' is vanishing. She is blinded though by the British, Canadian and American versions that have been fading for the past 50 years. At the same time, Anglicanism is one of the major denominations growing like wildfire in Africa -- so much so that it is predicted it could be the second largest Christian denomination in the world, after Roman Catholicism, by the middle of the century. That brand of Anglicanism is highly evangelical and is not seeking a pope. I don't think Ms. Eberstadt does her thesis credit by making a sweeping generalization that does not hold up to scrutiny...."

To read the entire article and the accompanying comments, click here.

A Holy God; a surrendered life; a fearful thing

[Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox]29 Jan 2009--"Richard Baxter once said, 'A surrendered life in the hands of a holy God is a fearful thing.'

That’s where we need to be as we lead our congregations toward total surrender to God.

What does it mean to be surrendered to God? The Bible’s word for surrender is also the word for brokenness. We know from the Bible that God uses broken vessels. It’s a divine principle."

To read the entire article, click here.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Emerging Ecclesiastical Culture of the AC-NA

By Robin G. Jordan

The appointment of Bishop Harvey as the Dean of the Anglican Church in North America is very telling about the emerging ecclesiastical culture of the AC-NA. Those who occupy positions of leadership at the provincial level do not appear to regard themselves as bound by the rules embodied in the church’s instruments of governance. This raises questions about the kind of ethic and in turn the kind of theology that dominates the AC-NA’s emerging ecclesiastical culture. As the former Archbishop of Canterbury Donald Coggins observed, “a sound ethic can precede only from a sound theology.” [Donald Coggins, Preaching: The Sacrament of the Word, New York: The Crossroads Publishing Company 1988, 144]

The conflict between conservatives and liberals in the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church has been over moral values and doctrinal beliefs. In these two churches the abandonment of traditional morality has gone hand in hand with the abandonment of orthodox doctrine. One of the effects of these developments has been the erosion of principle in guiding conduct and a loss of respect for the “rule of law.” The result is what church leaders believe will bring about a desired end increasingly determines how they act. A large number of those occupying positions of leadership in the Anglican Church of North America are former clergy and members of the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church. They appear to have brought this attitude into the AC-NA with them.

Archbishop Duncan was very insistent as Moderator of the Common Cause Partnership and then as Archbishop elect of the Anglican Church in North America that the instruments of governance of the newly-formed church should not be too detailed, majoring in what he described as “minors.” This Archbishop Duncan claimed was a major weakness of The Episcopal Church system of ecclesiastical governance. He suggested a correlation between a church’s preoccupation with the details of its constitution and canons and its spiritual condition. A church that was genuinely spiritual would not be overly concerned with the details of these instruments of governance. Archbishop Duncan argued for what he described as a “minimalist” constitution and set of canons. Written instruments, the provisions of which were clear, detailed, and precise—important safeguards against arbitrariness in governance and abuse of power, he maintained would prove a hindrance and obstacle to mission. Rather the AC-NA should “major in the majors” as he put it. To the bystander, it sounded as if Archbishop Duncan and the others making these arguments did not want anything that might get in the way of them doing what they wanted to do. These arguments were very telling about the attitude of those making them toward constitutional government and the “rule of law” in the church. Expediency required them to accept a constitution and a set of canons but they clearly favored a form of church government which did not limit the discretionary powers of the top leaders but left a great deal to their judgment.

The comments of AC-NA members on another web log in response to the concerns expressed in this article series offer valuable insights into the AC-NA’s church culture. One comment was to the effect that a church that is “spiritual” and has “spiritual” leaders does not need rules. There was the inference that rule-making and rule-keeping are legalistic and unspiritual. Another comment took the position that it did not matter if church leaders did not follow manmade rules as long as they obeyed biblical teachings. Christ’s warning against nullifying the word of God for the sake of human tradition was cited as the Scriptural basis for this point of view.

Neither viewpoint is biblical. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians addresses problems of the Corinthian church related to the beliefs of members of that church that in having received the Holy Spirit, they were free not to follow any moral principles or code. The freedom of the Gospel, as Paul draws to the attention of the Corinthians, is not license for immorality or unprincipled conduct. In his writings Paul stresses the role of church leaders as models for other Christians. If they are immoral or unprincipled in their conduct, they set a bad example for their fellow Christians. They also risk becoming stumbling blocks not only for other believers but also for those outside the Christian community. Their conduct reflects poorly on the whole Christian community as well as themselves and their particular part of that community. It becomes the cause of reproach from outsiders and of entanglement in the snares of the devil.

These comments suggest that AC-NA leaders are fostering ethical confusion in AC-NA members and creating fertile ground in which unbiblical beliefs and values may flourish. They point to a strong element of antinomianism and a decidedly un-Anglican disregard for the “rule of law” in the ecclesiastical culture of the AC-NA.

The establishment of a Provincial Assembly shorn of any significant role in the governance of the AC-NA except that of ratifying the decisions of the Provincial Council points to another aspect of the AC-NA’s church culture. A significant number of the clergy who shaped the AC-NA’s present system of ecclesiastical governance and now hold its top leadership positions share a common dislike of a synodical form of church government and a common distrust of the laity. Even though it is self-evident that the bishops and other clergy of the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church bear the lion’s share of the responsibility for the present state of these two churches, this particular group of clergy tended to blame the synodical forms of church government and the laity of the two churches. Archbishop Duncan was very insistent that the inaugural Provincial Assembly should not try to modify the constitution and the set of canons that was submitted to it for its approval, and should avoid what he claimed to be another major weakness of The Episcopal Church’s system of ecclesiastical governance.

The AC-NA does not require that the judicatories—dioceses or other groupings of congregations—which form the church, must have a synodical form of church government. Under the AC-NA constitution and canons the outgoing bishop of a judicatory is not prohibited from choosing his successor and the successors to any auxiliary bishops of the judicatory. The AC-NA canons only require that a list of nominees or the name of the bishop elect should be submitted to the College of Bishops for appropriate action. They have very little to say about the governance of judicatories beyond requiring judicatories to have a standing committee or its equivalent to act as the ecclesiastical authority of the judicatory in the absence of the bishop, allowing judicatories to continue to operate under the provisions of the constitution and canons of their parent province, and permitting them to hold local church property in trust if they already do so or take it into trust if a local congregation gives its written consent.

One of the AC-NA’s largest founding entities, if not its largest, is the Anglican Mission in the Americas. A primatial vicar, acting on the behalf of the primate of the Anglican Church of Rwanda and responsible to him, governs the AMiA with the assistance of a council of missionary bishops. The primate and house of bishops of the Anglican Church of Rwanda chooses the missionary bishops that comprise this council. Each missionary bishop is responsible for overseeing a regional network of the AMiA. The council of missionary bishops may submit nominations for new missionary bishops. The primatial vicar may veto a nomination. He may also make nominations of his own. The council of missionary bishops may nominate a successor to the primatial vicar. The Rwandan primate and the house of bishops are not jurisdically bound to choose a new missionary bishop or primatial vicar from any of the nominees whose names are submitted to them. The AMiA has an agreement with the AC-NA that the AC-NA College of Bishops will welcome all new bishops that the Rwandan primate and house of bishop chooses. The AC-NA has no equivalent of a synod and its clergy and laity do not share with its bishops in the governance of that ecclesial body. The primatial vicar may convene and consult gatherings of AMiA clergy but these gatherings can make only recommendations. They have no legislative powers. Except in appointive positions its laity plays no role in the governance of the AMiA.

In the months before the formation of the AC-NA the provisions of the AC-NA provisional constitution and canons relating to the selection of the initial bishop for a new judicatory became the subject of heated debate on the Internet. They were open to interpretation that the College of Bishops selected this bishop from a list of two or three nominees that the new judicatory submitted to it. The guidelines for the completion of an application for the recognition of a new judicatory supported this interpretation. This writer and others drew to the attention of the Governance Task Force that the College of Bishops’ selection of new bishops represented a significant departure from a long tradition of a diocese electing its own bishop and the bishops of the province confirming the election, which went back to the early church. The ACNA finally issued a statement through one of the members of the Governance Task Force that, while the preferred method for the selection of the initial bishop of new judicatory was for the College of Bishops to select the bishop from such a list of nominees, a new judicatory could elect its own bishop and then submit the name of the bishop elect to the College of Bishops for confirmation of the election. However, the guidelines for the completion of the application form were not corrected. The language of the provisions of the proposed constitution and canons that had prompted the debate was not made clearer. The issues of what would happen if the College of Bishops rejected all nominees on a judicatory’s list and whether a judicatory could elect a successor to a bishop that the College of Bishops had selected were not properly addressed.

In the AC-NA there are two dominant schools of thought relating to ecclesiastical governance. The first school of thought is a strong advocate of prelacy. Adherents of this school of thought argue that the corrective to what happened in the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church is strong “spiritual” bishops governing the church. They downplay the contribution of bishops with prelatical aspirations to the plight of conservative Anglicans and Episcopalians in North America. It may also be said of many of its adherents as Stephen Noll once said of the Africans: they need to learn to distinguish between episcopal power and episcopal tyranny. Adherents of this school of thought are also likely to hold opinions similar to the two viewpoints described earlier in this article. A significant number of the AC-NA’s present leaders belong to this school of thought, particularly those who share a common dislike of a synodical form of church government and a common distrust of the laity.

The second school of thought favors a synodical form of church government in which ecclesiastical governance is in the hands of the church as whole, both clergy and laity together, and not exclusively in the hands of bishops or any other particular order. This school of thought sees bishops playing a limited constitutional and canonically defined role in the government of the church. It would give bishops and other church leaders much less discretionary powers than the first school of thought and would require a system of checks and balances and other safeguards to discourage arbitrariness in governance and the abuse of power. There are various shades of opinion between these two schools.

An aspect of the AC-NA church culture that deserves further comment is the secretiveness. As was noted in the preceding article, the provisional AC-NA constitution and canons were not made public until after their adoption. The lack of openness and transparency that characterized the Common Cause Leadership Council also characterizes the Provincial Council, its Executive Committee, and the other committees and task forces at the provincial level. A report of the Prayer Book and Common Worship Task Force that was released after the inaugural Provincial Assembly was given limited circulation and was not made public. The AC-NA canons make no provision for the publication of the deliberations of the Provincial Council in a journal and the only account of its most recent meetings were carefully worded press releases. What AC-NA members hear back home is what their leaders decide to tell them.

AC-NA members tend to deny the existence of problems in the AC-NA or minimize their seriousness and attack those who call attention to their existence or to their seriousness. Those in and outside AC-NA who express concerns over developments within the AC-NA are labeled as hostile to the AC-NA. There is very low tolerance for internal and external criticism even if it is constructive and friendly. These attitudes also appear to be a part of the AC-NA’s emerging ecclesiastical culture.

A final aspect of the AC-NA’s church culture that is coming out into view is the worldliness of that culture. Archbishop Duncan and its other spokesmen like to draw attention to the number of AC-NA congregations and to compare them with the number of TEC congregations. They sound like corporative executives comparing the growth of their corporation with that of their competitors. The preoccupation with being larger than the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church shows that the AC-NA, like the ACA and TEC, is a captive of the larger culture and is influenced by its values and ways of thinking. The AC-NA, like the larger Christian community in North America, is far from free of worldly influences. In this regard the difference between the AC-NA, the ACA, and TEC is one of degree.

The AC-NA does have a number of congregations that are vibrantly Christian and fully committed to the work of the Great Commission. In these congregations the spiritual gifts and natural talents of all members, young and old, are employed to bring the gospel to a lost and fallen world. The question is will these congregations grow and thrive in this kind of church culture in the long-term? Or will they be forced to seek a healthier environment in which they can carryout their ministry?

How Do You Put Your Sermon Together, part 1

[The GospelConnection] 26 Jan 2009--"While there are certain elements every pastor will want to incorporate (study and prayer for example), there is no one way to put a sermon together. Just like there is more than one way to skin a cat I suppose (a curious and inviting phrase that). So all I can talk about is what I do to get ready for Sunday.

In case you’re interested, here goes…."

To read the entire article, click here.

Discovering a Meeting Place For Your New Church Plant That Works!

[Church Planting Village] 26 Jan 2009--"I am amazed just how often I get a call from a church planter asking me about making him a list of potential meeting places for their new church to meet! Usually, their request comes prefaced with some sort of declaration that the one they had lined up fell through and now they need a place to meet and they need it fast! A few years ago, I was coaching a church planter in the northeast and I suggested to him during the year prior to launching that he not only needed a Plan A for a meeting place but he should also have a backup plan as well. He was a good planter and had developed a backup plan. About three weeks before his launch he lost the first place they had reserved and moved to their second selection quickly and except for the need to do an additional phone and print follow-up, everything went off with little trouble. In one of the church plants that I have been a part of since I have lived in the southeast, we had a wonderful school picked out and had what we thought was a rock solid commitment and contract to use a high school. Less than 30 days before launch we were informed they were not going to allow us to use the building. Providentially, we had always had a backup plan and while it cost us a little more and we had to do some quick last minute advertising and calling of our prospects, we launched in a warehouse with a little less than one hundred people (87) and never looked back. What has always brought me a smile is that the school in less than a month had begun renting it to another church plant from another denomination. Today both new churches are doing well but God’s hand of protection spared us from getting into a facility that was just too small for our growth. Our wise pastor moved quickly to secure our second option and it allowed us to grow to well over 800 people in attendance before we ever moved out of the launch facility and on to our own property and facilities. There was a time when a church planter had few choices in deciding on the facility they would rent. Today is a whole, new ball game!

So with the idea of securing a meeting place for your new church may I suggest some places that church planters have found useful over the years? Your call to talk over the options is still welcomed, but here are some ideas that might lead you to discovering that perfect place for you and your new plant to meet...."

To read the entire article, click here.

Seven Myths of Disaster Relief: What's really needed after a catastrophe

[Christianity Today] 26 Jan 2009--"News of the December 26 tsunami was almost immediately followed by news of donation scams, inefficient relief efforts, and good intentions gone awry. Longtime World Vision relief director Rich Moseanko sent out a list, condensed here, to help donors understand what's really needed after a major catastrophe.

1. Americans can help by collecting blankets, shoes, and clothing. The cost of shipping these items—let alone the time it takes to sort, pack, and ship them—is prohibitive. Since they are often manufactured for export to the U.S. in the very countries that need relief, it is far more efficient to purchase them locally. Cash is better."

To read the entire article, click here.

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.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Appointment of AC-NA dean points to need for new constitution and canons

By Robin G. Jordan

Among the objectionable features of the AC-NA constitution is that it concentrates too much power into the hands of a small group of people, contains few if any credible safeguards against the abuse of power, and does not require any accountability of those wielding power in the government of the church. These drawbacks became evident this past December with Archbishop Duncan’s appointment of a dean of the province that under the provisions of the AC-NA constitution and canons he has no authority to appoint. (See “Recent appointment of a Dean of the ACNA raise serious constitutional questions.”) In agreeing to this appointment the Provincial Council and its Executive Committee not only condoned this unconstitutional and uncanonical act but also became accessories to it. The Archbishop, the Provincial Council, and the Executive Committee have offered no explanation for this violation of the instruments of governance of the AC-NA.

The reaction of AC-NA members has been mixed. Many are unfamiliar with the church’s constitution and canons and do not realize that the appointment was illegal. Some have tried to justify it on the basis of the growing burden of office upon the Archbishop. What is even worse is that others, while recognizing that the appointment was not constitutional or canonical are willing to tolerate such actions on the part of their leadership.

The AC-NA canons contain a provision (Title I.1.5) by which the Provincial Council might have appointed an assistant to the Archbishop. They also contain a provision (Title III.8.6) by which the College of Bishops could have, with the concurrence of the Executive Committee, created an office of Bishop for Special Missions to act as an assistant to the Archbishop, to be elected by the College of Bishops and to work under the College of Bishops’ supervision. The AC-NA leadership, however, did not avail themselves of these constitutional and canonical options but instead chose one that was neither constitutional nor canonical.

The fact that the AC-NA leadership do not view themselves as bound by the church’s constitution and canons and feel free to set them aside at will should be a cause for alarm. If they are willing to disregard these instruments of governance in one area, in what other areas are they willing to disregard them? The danger is that if AC-NA members do not raise an outcry protesting this and similar actions, the AC-NA leadership will be emboldened to operate more and more in this fashion.

Disregard for the “rule of law” is one of the major problems that besets The Episcopal Church. The “rule of law” means that the “law,” in this particular instance, the provisions of the constitution and canons of the AC-NA, “is above everyone and it applies to everyone.” Whether bishop, clergy, or laity, whatever their leadership position in the church, “no one is above the law, no one is exempted from the law, and no one can grant exemption to the application of the law.” The “rule of law” is a safeguard against arbitrary governance. Where the “rule of law” prevails in an ecclesial body, a church leader cannot exercise discretionary powers beyond those specifically enumerated in the constitution and canons of that body. The “rule of law” is superior to the rule of any church leader.

The provisions of the AC-NA constitution require the Provincial Council to define the discretionary powers of the Archbishop by canon. Article IX.3 states:

“The Archbishop convenes the meetings of the Provincial Assembly, Provincial Council and College of Bishops, represents the Province in the Councils of the Church and carries out such other duties and responsibilities as may be provided by canon.”

The Provincial Council cannot simply meet and by a show of hands decide to give a particular discretionary power to the Archbishop. The Council must adopt a proposed canon specifying that power and then submit the proposed canon to the Provincial Assembly. If the Provincial Assembly does not agree with the Provincial Council that the Archbishop should have such discretionary power, it may refuse to ratify the proposal, in which case it is not binding upon the AC-NA.

The constitution and canons do not recognize the Executive Committee as having power and authority to enact legislation binding upon the AC-NA or to otherwise mandate the exercise by the Archbishop of powers beyond those enumerated in the constitution and canons. They do not give the Executive Committee such power and authority.

Under the provisions of the present AC-NA constitution and canons even if the Provincial Council, the Executive Committee and the College of Bishops unanimously agreed that it was within the discretionary powers of the Archbishop to appoint a dean of the province, such an appointment would not be constitutional or canonical as long as there was not a canon giving that authority to the Archbishop. Article IX.3 is very clear on the matter: “…and carries out such other duties and responsibilities as may be provided by canon.”

There is a great need to hold the Archbishop, the Provincial Council, and the Executive Committee accountable for their actions. But the mechanisms for that accountability are sadly lacking in the AC-NA constitution and canons. The Provincial Assembly has no real power. It cannot propose and adopt legislation, much less conduct investigations and impose sanctions.

This appointment should be a red flag to all AC-NA members who have concerns about the particular form of ecclesiastical governance that the AC-NA has adopted, its lack of safeguards and accountability, and the greatly diminished role of the laity. The threat of congregations and groupings of congregations withdrawing from the AC-NA is not going to serve as a deterrent to this kind of action. What are needed are far-reaching changes to the constitution and canons that would make the Provincial Assembly the central governing body of the AC-NA, would subordinate the Provincial Council and its Executive Committee to the Provincial Assembly, would clearly define the extent of the Archbishop’s powers, and would give the laity a much larger role in the government of the church. These changes should include provisions specifying how the constitutions and canons should be interpreted. But the most important change needs to take place in the attitude of those leading the AC-NA, that is, having agreed to conform to the provisions of the constitution and canons, they actually do so, working within the rules embodied in these instruments of governance.

Testing the limits of power and polity

[sydneyanglicans,net] 19 Jan 2009--"(This really happened) Rector to new parish councillor: “I think parish councils are totally unnecessary. I like to make all the important decisions.”

When I look at the way in which many clergy manage the administrative polity of power and decision making in their parishes, my mind goes back to a rather interesting interaction in Robert Bolt’s A Man For All Seasons between Tomas Moore and his soon to be Son in law William Roper about the rule of law. Roper is impatient with Moore’s reliance on the law rather than going straight after his enemies and accused him of even giving the Devil the benefit of law.

More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ‘round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?

This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down (and you’re just the man to do it!), do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?

Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

(A rather English, and may I say Anglican, attitude to the rule of law in human affairs.)

It seems to me it is too easy for clergy effectively to abuse the rule of law in their parishes for all kinds of good reasons but with long-term bad consequences."

To read the rest of this article, click here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Recent appointment of a Dean of the ACNA raise serious constitutional questions

By Robin G. Jordan

Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America Robert Duncan has appointed Bishop Don Harvey, the retiring Moderator of the Anglican Network in Canada, the Dean of the Province of the Anglican Church in North America. Bishop Harvey's duties will be to "support the Primate by representing Archbishop Duncan at various events and meetings both within North America and internationally when the Primate is unable to attend." An examination of the constitution and canons of the ACNA, however, reveals no provision for the appointment of a Dean of the Province by the Archbishop of the Province. Article IX.3 states:

“The Archbishop convenes the meetings of the Provincial Assembly, Provincial Council and College of Bishops, represents the Province in the Councils of the Church and carries out such other duties and responsibilities as may be provided by canon.”

The ACNA Constitution recognizes no inherent appointive powers associated with the office of Archbishop of the Province. The ACNA canons do not give any appointive powers to the office of Archbishop of the Province. This raises serious questions as to the constitutionality of this appointment. In consenting to this unconstitutional act the ACNA Executive Committee and the ACNA Provincial Council also violated the constitution and canons.

The Dean of a Province is such an important office that it is normally included in the constitution of the Province. The Dean of the Province is typically elected from the bishops of the Province by his fellow bishops. The Dean of the Province carries out the duties of the Primate of the Province during a vacancy in the office of Primate, or during his inability to perform the duties of his office or his absence from the Province. He may perform certain judicial duties. The Primate may also delegate to the Dean of the Province responsibilities and functions to be exercised by the Dean of the province when the Primate is present and ministering within the jurisdiction of the Province. In the exercise of these responsibilities and functions the Dean of the Province is under the authority of the Primate. The Dean of a Province functions very much like a Vicar General during a vacancy in the office of a Diocesan Bishop or the inability of the Diocesan Bishop to perform his duties or the absence of the Diocesan Bishop from the Diocese.

Title I.1.5 of the ACNA canons give the ACNA Provincial Council authority to appoint “such other officers of the Church as it deems necessary” and to “define the duties of each officer of the Church. This section lists several officers “deputy chair” of the Provincial Council, “chancellor, secretary, treasurer,” and “registrar.” None of these offices is on the same level as that of the Dean of the Province. Title I.1.5 does not give the Provincial Council authority to delegate its appointing power to one of its members. Title III.8.6 of the ACNA canons give the College of Bishops authority to create the office of Bishop for Special Missions in consultation with the Executive Committee of the Provincial Council and to fill that office by election from a list of two or three nominees proposed by the members of the College. A Bishop for Special Missions serves directly under the College of Bishops for “a special missionary purpose.” This is not the job description of a Dean of the Province. Neither Title I.1.5 nor Title III.8.6 forms any basis for Archbishop Duncan’s appointment of Bishop Harvey as Dean of the Province.

Archbishop Duncan certainly may need an assistant to take over some of his duties especially if the strain of the office of Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North American has become too great for him. He did not issue a Christmas or New Year’s Message as Archbishop of the ACNA or as Bishop of Pittsburgh, which is unusual for a leader in his position and has led to speculation in some quarters regarding his health. However, the need for an assistant does not justify the blatant disregard of the ACNA constitutions and canons by Archbishop Duncan, the ACNA Executive Committee, and the ACNA Provincial Council. This appointment sets a very bad precedent and shows a willingness on the part of the ACNA leadership to walk in the footsteps of their TEC counterparts.

The ACNA Provincial Council at its December meeting should have directed the Governance Task Force to draft for its consideration at its next meeting amendments to the constitution and canons making provision for the election of a Dean of the Province, delineating his duties, and identifying who would perform them during a vacancy in his office, his inability to perform them, or his absence from the Province. A special meeting of the Provincial Council should have then been called to adopt the proposed changes and a special meeting of the ACNA Provincial Assembly to ratify them.

Archbishop Duncan exceeded his constitutional authority in appointing Bishop Harvey as Dean of the ACNA and the Executive Committee and the Provincial Council exceed their constitutional authority in consenting to the appointment. Their actions suggest that the ACNA leadership has not freed itself from the influence of the ecclesiastical culture of the TEC. They are willing to take extra-constitutional measures when it suits their purposes. Despite what is described as "the need to support the Primate and ease what was becoming an overwhelming engagement schedule." their actions are not justifiable. The ACNA Provincial Council can at this stage still redeem itself and advance the cause of constitutional ecclesiastical governance in the ACNA by withdrawing its consent to this appointment and modifying the ACNA constitution and canons in a constitutional manner. Will the Anglican Church in North America be a shining example of constitutional church government? Or will the ACNA become another TEC in which the leadership give the nod to the constitution and canons of the Province when it serves their purposes to do so?

‘Moses Tay: A Prophet confronts Lambeth Pragmatism’

[Anglican Church League] 13 Jan 2009--Charles Raven’s latest column –

“if you try to keep the light and darkness together, righteous and immoral together, to say we are a church, it’s disparaging the meaning of covenant” – Bishop Moses Tay

In his recent interview with the Christian Post Moses Tay, onetime Archbishop of Singapore, brings a sharp prophetic insight to bear on the Anglican Covenant and warns that it is a ‘whitewash’. ‘It cannot be of God’ he says ‘because if you try to keep the light and darkness together, righteous and immoral together, to say we are a church, it’s disparaging the meaning of covenant’.

To read more, click here.

10 Ways to Encourage a Missionary

[The Gospel Coalition] 13 Jan 2009--In an effort to learn how we can best encourage missionaries, I emailed some and asked how they would most like to be served and encouraged. This list is drawn from their responses, including many direct quotes.

To read more, please click here.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Breakaway church has African ties

[Waterbury Republican American] 11 Jan 2010--A local spiritual leader's ties to Tanzania are shaping his ministries, both here and in the African nation.

The ties between the Rev. Bryan Bywater, of New Hope Anglican church, and Anglicans in Africa also help illustrate the powerful bond between conservative Anglicans in the United States and the church in Africa.

Bywater, who retains an affiliation with the Tabora Diocese in Tanzania, was ordained rector of New Hope on Saturday during a service in the auditorium at Swift Middle School. He has been the interim rector for the church, which formed after splitting from Christ Episcopal Church in 2008, for more than a year.

The breakaway from Christ Episcopal Church was part of a major rupture in the Episcopal Church of North America as conservatives rebelled against the ordination of homosexual priests and other trends in the church.

In the past decade, Africa has become a spiritual center for many Anglicans who have divorced themselves from the national Episcopal Church over divergent views on homosexuality and biblical interpretation, said Frank Kirkpatrick, a professor of religion at Trinity College in Hartford, and author of the book "The Episcopal Church in Crisis: How Sex, the Bible and Authority are Dividing the Faithful."

When dozens of congregations, like Christ Church in Watertown, broke with the national church, their leaders surrendered their religious authority as Episcopalians, he said. African dioceses, which have led the more conservative wing of the international Anglican Communion, continued to recognize the worshippers and consecrate former Episcopalian priests to lead them.

But for Bywater, his spiritual connection to Tanzania is the result of a personal journey, rather than a political one. He said that unlike other priests who are recognized by an African diocese, he is actually an ordained priest within an African diocese.

"My heart is in Africa," he said. "(But) my feet are in America."

Visit Bryan Bywaters' blog, Restless Heart Ministries at

Six churches attacked in Muslim protests

[The Australian] 11 Jan 2010--Another two churches were firebombed yesterday, taking to six the total of attacks in three days of unrest following a court decision allowing Christians and other non-Muslims to use "Allah" to refer to God.

Hundreds of worshippers whose parish church was partly gutted in a firebomb attack last week gathered at a makeshift prayer hall for their Sunday service and called for national unity and an end to violence.

A Molotov cocktail was hurled at the All Saints Church in Taiping town in central Perak state early yesterday before it had opened, said state police chief Zulkifli Abdullah. He said the building was not damaged. Also yesterday, a bottle of kerosene was thrown into St Louis Catholic Church, which wasn't damaged.

Four churches were hit by petrol bombs on Friday and Saturday. All except the Metro Tabernacle, whose parishioners moved their services, suffered little damage, and no one was hurt. The other three held normal services yesterday.

Churches need to catch up

[] 11 Jan 2010--Next time someone doesn’t come to your church, ask them what role your church website played in them deciding not to come.

Of course, this isn’t possible because you can’t speak with people who visited your website (or couldn’t find it) and concluded then and there that your church (or church full stop) isn’t for them.

There was a time when it was really dumb for a business not to advertise in the Yellow Pages. This is a time when it’s really dumb for a church not to have a decent web presence.

Decent doesn’t mean expensive.

It doesn’t mean technically complicated.

It doesn’t mean bells, whistles, podcasts, videos and Twitter streams.

It means having a presence on the internet to communicate at least the basic details about your church. When and where the church meets, what happens, and who is welcome. Think of it as a business card that’s available 24/7/365 for anyone in the world (but more likely, people in the surrounding suburbs), with internet access, to learn more about your church.

Basically, it’s about caring for the people who are considering coming to church.

And this is an area where many churches need to catch up.

Preach through the Lectionary or books of the Bible?

[Anglican Church League] 11 Jan 2010--The Diocese of Tasmania website has posted an article by David Roger-Smith on planning a preaching programme. Especially helpful for those whose practice is to preach on Lectionary readings –

“If you’ve never preached through or helped preached through a biblical book, it might seem a bit daunting, but we would encourage you to have a go. Start with small steps. Devote one school term this year to preaching through a biblical book rather than from the Lectionary readings.”

Download it as a PDF file here from the updated Preaching page.

Diocese of Recife membership doubles

[Anglican Church League] 11 Jan 2010--“Recent statistics show that the Diocese of Recife, under the Primatial Authority of the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of America, continues to grow. The number of confirmed members and regular communicants has more than doubled since its traumatic axing from the liberal Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil (IEAB) five years ago.

In 2005 the diocese had 1,488 communicants, today there are 3,240. The number of baptized members is 2,010 and the total membership of the community stands at 5,250 members.

Over the past 5 years Bishop Robinson Cavalcanti has confirmed 2,025 people (407 in 2009), 90% of whom were newcomers to the Anglican church.

In 2005, 32 clergy were excommunicated by the Brazilian Province, today, thanks to the hard work of 6 diocesan training institutions the number of clergy in the diocese stands at 60, in whose care are 46 congregations and social projects in 9 Brazilian States. Despite the fact that the Diocese of Recife is currently facing l awsuits brought to bear by the Brazilian Province (which is demanding property), its story has been one of growth in the face of material uncertainty.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Church of England to consider communion with conservatives in US

[Times Online] 9 Jan 2009--The Church of England is to consider recognising a new conservative church in the US in a move that will place further pressure on the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, as he struggles to keep his fracturing Communion in one piece.

The General Synod will debate a private member’s motion next month calling for the Church of England to declare itself “in communion” with the Anglican Church in North America, formed in opposition to the pro-gay liberals in the official Anglican body in North America.

The synod, dominated by evangelicals, could pass the motion by a 50 per cent majority, adding to the pressure on the primates and bishops to recognise the new church.

The motion, put down by Lorna Ashworth an evangelical from the Chichester diocese, comes after The Episcopal Church in the US elected a lesbian priest, Mary Glasspool, to be a suffragan bishop in the Los Angeles diocese.

Preaching our Theology

[] 9 Jan 2009--“A Calvinist on your knees and an Arminian in the pulpit” has been the counsel to young ministers for many years.

It is the thoughtless advice of pragmatism, declaring theology to be irrelevant to the work of ministry.

The short hand terms ‘Calvinist’ and ‘Arminian’ refer to the interplay of God’s will and the human will. To grossly oversimplify for the sake of this article - in the matter of our salvation and in preaching, the Calvinist emphasises the sovereignty of God whilst the Arminian emphasises the ultimate responsibility of the human.

I am not talking here of one sermon but generalising (with all the strengths and weaknesses of arguing this way) about the preaching agenda and pattern of two theological systems. In any one sermon it may be impossible to determine if the preacher is Arminian or Calvinist, though the theologically discerning can usually pick it. But over time the real theology of the regular preacher is demonstrated – even sometimes against his own profession. For many a preacher has not worked out how to practice his own theology – but rather follows the pattern of the day.

The “Calvinist on knees and Arminian in pulpit” saying appears to take the best from both theological systems. Unfortunately, instead of complimenting the two systems on their strengths, the saying insults both. It is an insult to say that Arminians do not depend upon God in prayer or that Calvinists do not preach challenging sermons.