Friday, March 26, 2010
Authority, Mission, and the Anglican Church in North America – Part IV: The Structure and Form of Governance of the ACNA
By Robin G. Jordan
The Anglican Church in North America is a federation of Anglican para-church organizations in Canada and the United States. It was created in response to the call of the GAFCON Primates for the establishment of a new North American Anglican province “to uphold orthodox faith and practice.” A number of these para-church organizations existed before the formation of the ACNA and formed the Common Cause Partnership. Some of these para-church organizations were formed in anticipation of the creation of the ACNA; others were organized after the ACNA was formally constituted. In this fourth article in the series, “Authority, Mission, and the Anglican Church in North America,” I will examine the structure and form of governance of the ACNA at its federal level particularly in terms of oversight and accountability. I will identify a number of problem areas and consider the possible effects of these problem areas upon the future direction of the ACNA
If we examine the federal organization of the Anglican Church in North America, that is, the Provincial Council, the Executive Committee, the Provincial Assembly, the College of Bishops, and the Archbishop, we discover a number of problem areas in relation to oversight and accountability. (We will examine the Provincial Tribunal in a separate article.) By canon each ACNA judicatory—diocese, cluster, or network—is supposed to be represented in the Provincial Council by a bishop, another member of the clergy, and two lay people. The actual representation is determined by protocol between the ACNA and the individual organizations forming it. For example, the Anglican Mission’s protocol with the ACNA states,
“The Anglican Mission in the Americas will be represented in the Provincial Council as if it were three dioceses (clusters or networks); the bishops, clergy and lay representatives being chosen by the leadership of the Anglican Mission in the Americas by whatever means this sub-provincial jurisdiction elects to use.”
Note the final clause of this statement. “….the bishops, clergy and lay representatives being chosen by the leadership of the Anglican Mission in the Americas by whatever means this sub-provincial jurisdiction elects to use.” The ACNA canons do not prescribe any particular means by which a judicatory or sub-provincial jurisdiction may choose those representing it in the Provincial Council. A judicatory or sub-provincial jurisdiction may adopt any form of governance that it chooses as long as it conforms to the provisions of the ACNA constitution and canons. But as the foregoing protocol shows, its form of governance does not have to completely conform to the provisions of these documents. Under their provisions a sub-provincial jurisdiction may adopt an authoritarian form of governance like the Anglican Mission with a centralized hierarchy with a senior bishop at its top or a judicatory may adopt a more conventional synodical form of governance like that of the Diocese of the Gulf Atlantic with a bishop sharing the governance of the diocese with its clergy and laity. Since the judicatories and sub-provincial jurisdictions forming the ACNA determine the method by which its representatives to the Provincial Council are chosen, they may be elected by a synod or its equivalent or appointed by the senior bishop, in consultation with a standing committee or its equivalent or alone.
Whoever has oversight of Provincial Council members and to whom they are accountable and to what extent varies according to judicatory or sub-provincial jurisdiction. The constitution and canons leave to the judicatory or sub-provincial the determination of what kind of oversight or accountability mechanisms, if any, it will put into place. Under the provisions of the ACNA constitution and canons it is possible for Council members, once they are chosen, to function independently of the judicatory or sub-provincial jurisdiction that they are supposed to represent. It is also possible for the appointing agency of a judicatory or sub-provincial jurisdiction to closely supervise its Council members give specific directions to them, require them to make reports to the appointing agency and to consult with the appointing authority on major policy decisions. It cannot, however, remove and replace them as it sees fit. The canons make no provision for the suspension or removal of Council members, enabling a Council member to remain in office even if the Council member and the appointing authority are at loggerheads over his support of actions and policies of the Council that are contrary to the interests of the judicatory or sub-provincial jurisdiction that he represents.
The terms of office of Provincial Council members are staggered. This practice is usually adopted to minimize turnover in a deliberative assembly and to provide continuity and stability. At the same time it greatly reduces the likelihood of a reform movement taking office and introducing sweeping changes. A deliberative assembly with a small turnover in its membership each year is likely to develop its own culture and modus operandi like the US Senate, a culture and method of procedure to which each freshman member is introduced upon his arrival and which shape how the deliberative assembly conducts business and the part each member plays in its deliberations. It will tend to be conservative in its actions and policies and inclined to maintain the status quo even when the need for change is widely recognized and clearly warranted.
The Executive Committee is the Board of Directors of ACNA non-profit corporation. It sets the agenda of Provincial Council meetings. The Executive Committee is composed of the Archbishop and twelve Council members, six who are ordained—bishops or other clergy—and six who are lay. The Executive Committee members are elected by the Council from its members. If a casual vacancy occurs in the Executive Committee, the Committee fills it for the remainder of the unexpired term. The Executive Committee has “custody of documents and other property of the Church not vested in any other body or person.”
The canons nowhere give the Provincial Council oversight over the Executive Committee or make the Committee accountable to the Council. The Provincial Council elects the Executive Committee, exclusive of the Archbishop, but it cannot recall members, censure, suspend or otherwise discipline them, or remove them from office. The Executive Committee is not required to make reports to the Provincial Council. On the other hand, the Provincial Council is required to consider and report, with reasonable promptness, upon any matter…the Executive Committee may refer to the Council.”
With the exception of the Archbishop, the Council appoints the ACNA officers and determines their duties. The canons give the Provincial Council authority to “establish” the program and the budget of the ACNA, “including such organizational decisions as may facilitate the work of the Church.” This presumably means that the Council can fund new offices that it has created, reduce the funding to existing offices, and, except for those required by canon, abolish them. The canons, however, give the Council no authority to oversee church officers, give directions to them, regulate their operating procedures, require reports from them, review their performance, censure, suspend or otherwise discipline them, or remove them.
Once the Provincial Council elects the Executive Committee and appoints church officers, they function independently of the Council. This is not a very efficient form of administration and management as has been the experience of town councils and county boards in their dealings with independent municipal and county commissions and officials.
The Executive Committee’s control of the Provincial Council’s agenda effectively gives the Committee control of what business comes before the Council. The canons require almost as many Provincial Council members as Executive Committee members to place an item of business on the agenda. With the Executive Committee vested with power to require the Provincial Council to consider matters it refers to the Council and report to it on these manners and to set the agenda of the Council, the Committee appears to have oversight over the Council with the Council being accountable to the Committee, rather than visa versa. This kind of reverse oversight and accountability is seen in some political organizations like the Communist Party of the former Soviet Union.
Under the provision of the canons, the Provincial Assembly has no role in the governance of the Church except “to ratify the Constitution and Canons and any amendments adopted by the Council.” If it does not ratify these changes, it must return them to the Provincial Council for further consideration. It cannot discuss and suggest alterations to the proposed changes—simply approve or reject them. The Provincial Council may “deliberate on any matter concerning the Faith and Mission of the Church and to make recommendations to the Provincial Council concerning such matters.” This includes “recommendations to strengthen the mission of the Province.” The Provincial Assembly also receives reports from the Provincial Council. The Provincial Assembly is essential an advisory body. It does not oversee the Provincial Council or any of the other organs of the federal organization of the ACNA nor are they accountable to it.
The Provincial Council by canon is supposed to determines the representation of each judicatory and “founding non-ecclesial organization” in the Provincial Assembly, using a formula set forth in the canons. It may delegate this determination to the Executive Committee. All active bishops and church officers are ex officio members of the Provincial Assembly. The actual representation is determined by protocol. For example, the Anglican Mission’s protocol with the ACNA states, “The Anglican Mission in the Americas will be represented in the Provincial Assembly based on
the ASA of its clusters.” Consequently, the Anglican Mission has the largest number of delegates in the Provincial Assembly.
The Archbishop either serves as the presiding officer of the Provincial Assembly or delegates this duty to one or more people. The Archbishop was by canon given authority to determine the rules by which the inaugural Provincial Assembly was conducted. The Provincial Assembly is supposed to adopt its own rules for the conduct of subsequent Provincial Assemblies.
During the inaugural Provincial Assembly Archbishop Duncan discouraged any real deliberation upon the proposed constitution and canons and a number of amendments that were submitted to the Assembly for ratification. He set the tone in his address to the Assembly equating the deliberative process with “the ways of slavery in Egypt,” old ways that the delegates to the Assembly must leave behind them in The Episcopal Church. The delegates were instructed to either ratify the new constitution and canons and the accompanying amendments or return them to the Provincial Council for further work. The delegates were given one day to complete this task. To make matters worse, the meeting was repeatedly interrupted by announcements and video presentations. The delegates were urged to approve or reject each section of the two documents and the proposed amendments as quickly as possible as speakers were waiting to address them.
As the inaugural Provincial Assembly revealed, the Provincial Assembly is high vulnerable to exploitation and misuse. The Provincial Assembly offers too many opportunities for one or more persuasive speaker to convince the delegates of a judicatory or sub-provincial jurisdiction to vote against its interests, as well as lobbying groups to employ pressure tactics to achieve the same results. It also permits the sub-provincial jurisdiction with the largest number of delegates to determine what proposed changes are ratified.
As a safeguard the Provincial Assembly’s one role in the governance of the ACNA—the ratification of any amendments to the constitution and canons—should be given to the “governing bodies” of the judicatories and sub-provincial jurisdictions of the ACNA. Any proposed changes to constitution or canons should be circulated among the judicatories and sub-provincial jurisdictions before they are submitted to the Provincial Council for their approval and then, if approved, submitted to the “governing bodies” of the judicatories and sub-provincial jurisdictions for their ratification. As in the constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia, judicatories and sub-provincial jurisdictions should not be bound by the provisions of canons in certain constitutionally defined categories unless they assent to them. If a judicatory or sub-provincial jurisdiction assented to a canon in one of these categories but withdrew its assent at a later date, it should no longer be bound by the provisions of the canon. These mechanisms would give the “governing bodies” of the judicatories and sub-provincial jurisdictions greater oversight over the Provincial Council in matters relating to the constitution and canons and would make the Council more accountable to these “governing bodies” in such matters.
The canons grandfather in as “the Committees of the Church” the committees and task forces that were operating at the time of their ratification. They give the Provincial Council authority “to alter or end” these committees and task forces and “to appoint such other committees and task forces as deemed necessary.” The canons do not give the Council authority to oversee church committees and task forces; select their chairpersons; give directions to them; regulate their operating procedures; require reports from them; review their work; censure them or their members, suspend or otherwise discipline their members; or remove and replace their members. While the Council has authority to change or abolish existing committees and task forces, it does not have the authority to change or abolish new ones. Once they are appointed, church committees and task forces, like church officers, function independently of the Council.
The canons require every congregation to submit an annual report to its bishop. They give authority to the Provincial Council to determine the form of this report and its contents. They require the bishop to submit to the Executive Committee a composite report of all such reports that he has received. The Executive Committee is required to make a report to the Archbishop on the state of the church. The Executive Committee is not required to share the information gathered in these reports with the Provincial Council or to provide the Council with a copy of its report to the Archbishop. The Council is completely bypassed. Since the final report is submitted to the Archbishop, the Executive Committee in this matter appears accountable to the Archbishop, not the Council. However, the constitution and the canons do not give oversight of the Executive Committee to the Archbishop nor do they make the Executive Committee accountable to him. Since the Archbishop chairs the Executive Committee and as the chairperson of the Executive Committee is in a position to determine what goes in this final report, the requirement that the Executive Committee make the final report to the Archbishop does not make sense unless the Archbishop is ultimately the one to decide if the final report is released to the church and the general public. The canons, however, do not say anything and we are left to speculate. This is one of the major weaknesses of the ACNA’s “minimalist” canons: they do not provide details when they need to provide them. Among the consequences of this lack of detail is a lack of oversight and accountability and a high potential for abuse of power and arbitrariness in governance.
The Executive Committee has responsibility for preparing the program and the budget of the ACNA, which is then submitted to the Provincial Council for adoption. This means that the Executive Committee has control of the purse strings, which is an important accountability mechanism. It also means that it is the real focus of power in the ACNA. As we have seen, the Executive Committee sets the agenda for the Council. The Council is required to consider matters that the Executive Committee refers to it and report back to the Committee on these matters. The Executive Committee may determine the representation of each judicatory and sub-provincial jurisdiction in the Provincial Assembly. The Executive Committee receives the annual composite report from each bishop with jurisdiction of the ACNA. As we shall see, the Executive Committee has other functions that support this conclusion. For example, the Executive Committee establishes “standards for record keeping, audits, insurance, investments and the bonding of financial officers.” The office of any bishop for special missions is created by the College of Bishops in consultation with the Executive Committee.
The College of Bishops may order its own life and adopt its own rules of procedure. It operates independently of the Provincial Council while having representation in the Council. Up to six of its members, not counting the Archbishop, may be elected to the Executive Committee. It sits with the Provincial Assembly. It confirms the election of newly elected bishops or elects a bishop for a judicatory from a slate of two or three nominees submitted by the judicatory. The canons do not limit the College of Bishops to electing a nominee from this slate. Except for requiring written notification of the judicatory, they are silent on what happens if the College of Bishops rejects all the nominees on the slate. They do not prohibit the College of Bishops from nominating and electing a candidate of its own as a bishop of a judicatory. The College of Bishops is in a position to exercise considerable influence in the ACNA.
The adoption of a canon creating the office of a bishop for special missions or the Provincial Council’s approval of the creation of the office is not required, only consultation with the Executive Committee, which, as we have seen, has control of the purse strings in the ACNA. Bishops for special missions are under the oversight of the College of Bishops and are accountable to that body. They are nominated and elected by the College of Bishops. The canons make no provision for their suspension or removal, nor does it make any provision for the abolition of the office of a bishop for special missions once it has been created. The creation of the office of a Bishop Coadjutor or Bishop Suffragan for a judicatory requires only the consent of the College of Bishops. The canons are silent on whether its consent is required to abolish such an office.
The only oversight exercised over the College of Bishops is the oversight, if any, exercised by each judicatory or sub-provincial jurisdiction over its bishops. Any accountability required of the College of Bishops is the accountability, if any, required by each judicatory or sub-provincial jurisdiction of its bishops. The canons give the College of Bishops limited oversight over its members: It oversees the bishops for special missions elected by it and, as we shall see three bishops may initiate presentment proceedings against a bishop and three of the five senior bishops inhibit a bishop. The latter are the only mechanisms by which the College of Bishops can formally discipline its members or hold them accountable for their conduct. The canonical provision authorizing the College of Bishops to order its own life might be interpreted as giving the College of Bishops authority to exercise oversight over its members and to require accountability from them through such additional mechanisms as a voluntary code of episcopal conduct, committees of investigation, censure, suspension of privileges, and the like.
Article IX of the ACNA constitution states:
“1. The Archbishop will be known as the Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church In North America. The Archbishop will be elected by the College of Bishops.
2. The person elected as Archbishop will hold office for a term of five years concluding at the end of the meeting of the College of Bishops which elects the next Archbishop. An Archbishop who has served one term of office may be elected for a second term of office but not a third. Initially, the Moderator of the Common Cause Partnership shall serve as Archbishop and Primate of the Province.
3. 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.”
While “metropolitan” is not one of the titles that the constitution gives the Archbishop of the ACNA, the canons stipulate that all bishops owe canonical obedience to him as if he were the metropolitan of the ACNA, adopting language from the Church of England canons. A primate is the archbishop or equivalent of a province. The primate may be the metropolitan of the province as in the Church of Nigeria; he may be the metropolitan of an ecclesiastical or internal province as in the case of the Anglican Church of Australia, or he may not be a metropolitan at all as in the case of the Anglican Church of the Province of the Southern Cone of the Americas in which metropolitan authority is vested in the Provincial Executive Council. A primate is not automatically a metropolitan by his possession of that title or the title of archbishop. If the ACNA constitution does not recognize the Primate and Archbishop of the ACNA as the metropolitan of the province, he is not entitled to canonical obedience from the other bishops of the province as its metropolitan. If it is desired that the Primate and Archbishop of the ACNA should be the metropolitan of the province, then the constitution should be amended to make him the province’s metropolitan. This, however, would radically alter how the ACNA is organized. A metropolitan is the canonical superior to all the bishops of the province. They owe canonical obedience to the metropolitan as to a patriarch or pope and can be removed from office for contumacy to the metropolitan. A metropolitan is not “the first among equals,” as a bishop primus, moderator, president bishop, or presiding bishop. In requiring canonical obedience to the Archbishop on the part of ACNA bishops as if he was the metropolitan of the province like the Archbishop of Canterbury is of the province of Canterbury in the Church of England, the canons can be interpreted as empowering the Archbishop to exercise oversight over the province’s bishops and making them accountable to him. This has tremendous implications.
The canons do not prescribe by what procedure the College of Bishops is to nominate and to elect the Archbishop. This is another example of how the so-called “minimalist” canons of the ACNA omit very important details. While a constitution typically may provide only an outline of the structure, organization, and governance of a province or diocese, the canons are supposed to flesh in this skeleton, providing the details that the constitution does not provide. These details must be consistent with the provisions of the constitution. In a number of places the ACNA canons do not flesh in the skeleton: they omit important details. In some places they make additions for which the constitution does not provide. These provisions do not flesh in the skeleton. They add to it and should have been incorporated into the constitution. The requirement of canonical obedience on the part of ACNA bishops to the Archbishop, which we have just examined, is an example of such an addition.
The last clause of Article IV.3 was added to this section by the Governance Task Force after representatives of CANA drew to attention of the Governance Task Force that the canons were arrogating powers to the Archbishop that the constitution did not give him. This was a forewarning of what may be emerging as a serious problem in the ACNA and is establishing a dangerous precedent for future Archbishops of the ACNA—the present Archbishop’s arrogation of powers that he is not given by the constitution or the canons. Recently Archbishop Duncan appointed Bishop Don Harvey as the dean of the ACNA. This appointment was made with the approval of the Provincial Council and the Executive Committee. However, the constitution does not give the Archbishop any appointive powers or recognize any such powers as inherent in his office. The Provincial Council can by canon give appointive powers to the Archbishop but the Provincial Council and the Executive Committee have no authority to authorize Bishop Harvey’s appointment as dean except pursuant to a canon requiring their authorization of the Archbishop’s appointments. The Provincial Council can make “organizational decisions as may facilitate the work of the Church.” It can appoint church officers and determine their duties. The constitution very specifically states that the Archbishop “carries out such other duties and responsibilities as may be provided by canon.” There is no canon providing for his appointment of a dean of the province in consultation with the Provincial Council and the Executive Committee. The office of dean of the province is important enough to warrant a canon or even a constitutional amendment creating the office of dean of the province and making provision for the provincial dean’s appointment. The manner in which Bishop Harvey was appointed dean of the ACNA suggests that the Provincial Council, the Executive Committee, and Archbishop Duncan are willing to disregard the provisions of the constitution and the canons when it suits them. This sets a very bad precedent, and raises questions as to why high-level leaders of the ACNA such as Archbishop Duncan were so insistent that the inaugural Provincial Assembly should ratify the present constitution and set of canons.
The canons have no separate title, canon, or section delineating the other duties and responsibilities of the Archbishop. Rather they are scattered around the canons. Among the duties and responsibilities of the Archbishop is that he is the presiding officer of the church, Provincial Assembly, the Provincial Council, and the College of Bishops. He is the chairman of the Executive Committee and in that capacity is the chairman of the Board of Directors.
Under the provisions of the canons the Archbishop may invite any individual or group to observe the functions of the church and accord them a seat and a voice in these functions. He is not required to consult with the particular body, the function of which he has invited a particular individual or group to attend. He may accord that individual or group a seat and a voice in that function even though that body may object the presence of the individual or group at the function. For example, he can invite a group of women clergy to observe a conference sponsored by a sub-provincial jurisdiction opposed to women’s ordination and planning the jurisdiction’s response to proposals to give women a larger place in the ministry of the ACNA and accord to them a seat and voice in its deliberations. The conference, even though it is at the sub-provincial level, is a church function. While it might be customary to first consult with the body concerned, the Archbishop is not required to do so by canon.
The Archbishop may, upon application of the sponsoring bishop, remove the impediment to ordination created by the canonical prohibition against the admission to holy orders of persons who have been divorced and remarried. In giving directions for such pastoral exceptions the Archbishop acts in consultation with the College of Bishops.
While the Archbishop is in a position to exercise considerable influence in the Anglican Church in North America, he has little if any oversight and next to no accountability. The constitution and canons contain no provisions for his suspension or removal from office. They make no provision for the appointment or election of a dean of the province to perform his duties and responsibilities in the event of his incapacity, absence from the country, suspension, removal, or other inability to perform them or in event of a vacancy in the office of Archbishop. They contain no mechanism for declaring the Archbishop incapacitated and unable to perform the duties and responsibilities of his office. They do not require the Archbishop to make an annual report of the state of the church to the ACNA and its federal level bodies—the Provincial Assembly, the Provincial Council, and the College of Bishops. They do not empower the Provincial Council and the College of Bishops to require periodic reports from the Archbishop upon his work or to review his performance of his duties and responsibilities or the expenditures of his office. They do not require the Archbishop to consult with the Provincial Council and the College of Bishops or even the Executive Committee before making statements articulating his vision and long-range goals for the ACNA, changes in its policies on key issues that he desires to see implemented, or the like, or other statements that may affect the direction of the ACNA, its relationships with other churches, and/or internal relations within the ACNA. The lack of these provisions in the constitution and canons deny the other leaders of the ACNA an opportunity to express their disagreement with the Archbishop, advise a different course of action or an alternative policy, to offer other wise counsel, and to work out compromises upon which all parties can agree. It also deprives the Archbishop of a mechanism by which he can realistic determine whether the course of action or policy he is proposing has the support of other ACNA leaders.
A wise Archbishop will consult with other leaders before embarking on a course of action or introducing a new policy. But a future Archbishop may not be as wise as his predecessor and such mechanisms are needed to check “the sinfulness and folly” of Archbishops. They do not allow Archbishops to become popes or tyrants, and they can be an effective means of holding them accountable to Scripture.
We see a distinct tendency in the governance of the ACNA at its federal level is to put people in positions of authority, to give them considerable discretion, to provide them with negligible oversight, and to require very little accountability from them, and then to justify doing this as giving the people in those positions more flexibility and freedom of action and encouraging their use of initiative. This is a formula for abuse of power, arbitrariness in governance, malfeasance in office, and a number of other problems. It establishes precedents that the ACNA may come to regret and may find difficulty to undo.
In a number of his addresses and sermons Archbishop Duncan equates the experiences of former Episcopalians in the Episcopal Church with slavery in Egypt. He repeatedly warns against clinging to “the ways of Egypt,” that is retaining practices that he identifies as undesirable in the Anglican Church of North America. These practices range from deliberating the provisions of proposed constitutional amendments and canons and considering modification of these provisions to following due process and observing the rule of law. He appears to see himself as Moses figure leading the children of Israel out of captivity into the Promised Land. In these addresses and sermons Archbishop Duncan infers that the ACNA is the Promised Land, in which North American Anglicans must abandon their differences and join together in the common task of bringing Christ’s transforming love to North America. He seems to forget that Moses only saw the Promised Land from afar. He never set foot in the land that God had set apart for his chosen people to be their possession. In its present stage the ACNA is a rag tag company of former American Episcopalians, former Canadian Anglicans, and others whom they have gathered along the way, traveling through the wilderness. There is a very real danger that those who have led them “out of slavery in Egypt” will lead them into a new captivity. This will happen not because they hung on to the old ways from the time they were in Egypt but because they placed too much reliance in the judgment of their leaders and left too much of the important decision-making to them.
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 9:38 AM
The Loss of a Tradition of Prayer Book Worship
"As any orthodox Anglican can appreciate,it is dangerous when traveling to drop into an unknown parish for Sunday worship. When visiting Britain over the years, I often asked friends to recommend good Church of England parishes. Most of the recommended churches have been excellent congregations with solid preaching and faithful parishioners. Yet the worship almost never follows the Book of Common Prayer (1662). Copies are not in the pews. The official doctrinal standard of the established church is obviously not in regular use, certainly not at the main Sunday service. The rectors of these parishes would heartily endorse the theology of Cranmer’s masterpiece but they almost never use it, except perhaps to comply with a family’s request at the funeral of an elderly member. Why is the BCP so rarely used by those who most warmly embrace its doctrine?
The answer to this puzzle is complicated. For one, English evangelical Anglicans played a significant role in the movement of liturgical revision that occurred in the Church of England during the 1960s and 1970s. Evangelical scholars such as Colin Buchanan were key participants in the process and the result was that Series Two and Three (1966, 1978), and the Alternative Service Book (ASB,1980), contained elements that evangelical churchmen could use with a reasonably clear conscience. Though they loved the theology of the Book of Common Prayer, these churchmen believed its Elizabethan language was a barrier to reaching the unchurched and its continued use in the ‘Space Age’ smacked of antiquarianism.
Their case was strengthened by the spectacle of prominent defenders of the prayer book who praised its literary merit while openly deriding its theology. Many evangelicals reasoned that if orthodoxy was going to continue to be relevant, it needed to discard its 16th century dress. Some (though by no means all) young people who attended evangelical parishes welcomed the contemporary language that meshed well with the upbeat musical choruses that were becoming popular in Christian circles during the 1970s.
One unfortunate by-product of these developments was that evangelicals ceased making regular use of the historic Book of Common Prayer. There was a silver lining to this dark cloud, however. One happy result of evangelical participation in the revision process in England was that the ASB,though certainly influenced by the liberal theology of the ‘60s and ‘70s, was less stridently revisionist than its North American counterparts – the 1979 American book and the Canadian Book of Alternative Services (BAS, 1985). Still, as part of an overall strategy to make the Church of England more relevant and refill its pews, liturgical revision was a spectacular failure. Instead, church attendance plummeted during the ‘70s and ‘80s. Though many evangelical parishes didn’t liberalize their preaching, their worship definitely became less identifiably Anglican. While the message remained robustly Reformational in some parishes, the medium took on the folksy informality of American pop evangelicalism (though when the British adopt American manners it usually comes across as forced and unconvincing).
Meanwhile, in North America, evangelical Anglicans were following a similar path but with even less sound liturgical resources. Liturgical commissions in the Episcopal Church USA and in the Anglican Church of Canada had no significant evangelical participation, and the results were predictably awful. The 1979 American book contained a catechism that was explicitly Pelagian, and the Canadian BAS declared blithely in the preface to its funeral rite: 'For the truth is that we do not know the condition of the dead, and while faith may consign their wellbeing to the creative and redemptive remembrance of God, everything we say about them remains, as thing said, at the level of symbol.'1 And that is to mention only two more egregious features of the updated orders."
To read the full article in the Winter 2010 issue of Mandate, the Prayer Book Society journal, click here and scroll down to page 8.
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 9:03 AM
"The love/hate relationship between the Church and the arts has been well documented. Many better educated men and women than myself have written about the subject. For that reason, I will not attempt to pontificate on this matter. However, I have wondered most of my life why the majority of my artsy friends recoiled at the thought of attending church. God began to give me a passion to find out what a church would look like that authentically wanted to love, serve, and minister to a local arts community.
When I was asked by the North American Mission Board to accept my current role as National Missionary to Cultural Creatives, my first question was “What is a Cultural Creative?” A friend told me that I was one! Huh? After further research, I determined that I am one after all. Cultural Creatives is a term used by sociologist Paul H. Ray and psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson. They define Cultural Creatives as a group of people (26 percent of the adults in the United States, 50 million people) who have made a comprehensive shift in their worldview, values, and way of life – their culture. These creative, optimistic millions are at the leading edge of several kinds of cultural change, deeply affecting not only their own lives, but also our society as well.
Ray and Anderson go on to say that just under half of Cultural Creatives, about 24 million people, are involved in the creative arts. I never thought of myself as one who has set out to change the North American culture. Yet, I am a trained visual artist and an amateur musician. I must admit that the thought of being a missionary developing a model of starting churches among the affinity group of creatives was not on my radar. I was, and still am, humbled by this assignment.
My “laboratory” where I have the opportunity to “experiment” is Atlanta, Georgia. My wife, Twyla (Mission Service Corps Missionary), and I began our new journey as missionaries. We moved from the suburbs to midtown Atlanta to plant Bezalel Church. (See www.bezalelchurch.org). We knew that serving the art community and helping the community be successful was going to be the best entry point for us to build relationships. We signed up to volunteer at many of the arts venues in the city. We have ushered for local theaters, hung art work for exhibitions, assisted the teaching artists and staff at the local museum, painted sets, made props, sewn costumes, fed the cast and crew during tech week, helped clean out prop warehouses, helped with telemarketing, garden work, and many other service projects. All this was done in an effort to show we care for and love our arts community. Just as we thought, God blessed our efforts. We praise Him that we are seen as trustworthy and authentic people. That goes a long way in seeing skeptical people attend our small groups and creative worship gatherings.
I have learned so much in just two years. Here are ten things that I have observed. Maybe they will help you as you plant churches in your local arts community."
To read the full article, click here.
To learn more about the Creative Class, the Cultural Creatives, and the Renaissance Generation, click here.
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 8:46 AM
"I’ve been excited and surprised by a change that I have observed.
We are on Moore College Mission at the moment, and a large part of our time is spent door knocking. Usually I experience team members who will find anything else to do rather than door knocking. Let’s face it the idea terrifies all of us.
This year not only has the whole team been keen to door knock during the allocated times, but during free time some are going out in pairs to continue door knocking.
I have begun to think why the change has occurred. Is it just that this team is different to the ones I normally lead? So I asked our team for their thoughts."
To read more, click here.
Lib.com prepared this doorknocking guide for energy activists and other campaigners but the tips it offers can be used by Christians.
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 8:21 AM
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Authority, Mission, and the Anglican Church in North America - Part III: Authoritarian Forms of Governance in Para-Church Organizations
By Robin G. Jordan
In this third article in the series, “Authority, Mission, and the Anglican Church in North America,” I examine several mistaken beliefs about denominations and other para-church organizations with authoritarian organizational structures as well as look at a number of major weaknesses of this type of denominational organization. I also take a look at the Anglican Mission, the largest para-church organizations forming the Anglican Church in North America, and the drawbacks of its particular structure and form of governance.
One fallacy is that authoritarian para-church organizations are more missional. The organization of a denomination along authoritarian lines does not guarantee a mission mindset. The Church of England was at one time more authoritarian in its organizational structures but it did not have a strong mission orientation. The missionaries of privately organized Church Missionary Society and the chaplains of the East India Company and the Hudson Bay Company were largely responsible for the spread of Anglican Christianity outside of the British Isles. The Roman Catholic Church in North America is not particularly noted for its missionary zeal in the twenty-first century. The Eastern Orthodox Churches are authoritarian in their organizational structures but they have generally confined themselves to the various ethnic and national groups that embraced Eastern Orthodoxy in the past. They may start new Eastern Orthodox churches to serve outside their country of origin the ethnic or national groups they traditional have served. But they do not engage in missionary work outside these groups. Their approach is not to seek those who may be interested in Eastern Orthodoxy but to let those who are interested in Eastern Orthodoxy seek them. A number of Continuing Anglican jurisdictions are authoritarian in their organizational structures but they have been slow to grow if they have grown at all. Missionary work has not been one of their strengths.
Two of the groups of Christians who played a leading role in the evangelization of the American frontier—the Baptists and the Congregationalists—had no denominational organization to speak of during the early stages of the westward expansion. What denominational organization that they did develop was not particularly authoritarian in organizational structure. Most Baptist church plants were largely the work of indigenous church starters, farmer-preachers, and took advantage of natural social networks in frontier communities. The Congregationalists did send some missionaries west to the frontier. These missionaries were sponsored by individual churches or by loose associations of churches organized for missionary purposes. The Congregationalists also exploited natural social networks that they found. In its church planting efforts in the twenty-first century the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention relies heavily on indigenous church starters and bi-vocational church planters as well as full-time church planters sponsored by individual churches, local associations, and state conventions. The exploitation of natural social networks is very much a part of its denominational church planting strategy. In a century and a culture that values horizontal networking over vertical hierarchies, the organization of a denomination or other para-church organization that takes advantage of this development may be the more culturally-appropriate way of reaching and evangelizing the lost in twenty-first century North America and enfolding them into new churches.
The adoption of the authoritarian organizational structures of the African provinces does not eliminate bureaucracy as is sometimes claimed. This can be seen from the ecclesiastical organization of the Anglican Mission, which has been strongly influenced by the authoritarian organization structures of the African provinces and the Roman Catholic Church. It also shows the strong influence of corporate America. While it is an overseas missionary jurisdiction of the Anglican Church of Rwanda and a sub-provincial jurisdiction of the Anglican Church in North America, the Anglican Mission as a para-church organization also has characteristics of a denomination.
At the top of the Anglican Mission’s bureaucracy is Bishop Chuck Murphy, chairman of the board and primatial vicar. Under him are the division managers, the missionary bishops, and under them are the middle managers, the network leaders. Under them are the supervisors, the clergy. This organization is similar to that seen in federal and state government as well as corporations.
The ecclesiastical organization of the Anglican Mission, however, differs from the organization of corporations and federal and state government in that external oversight and accountability are negligible. In corporations the man at the top is usually accountable to a board of directors that in turn is accountable to the investors. There may be state and federal agencies that regulate the business of the corporation, and one or more unions may have negotiated a contract with the corporation and have shop stewards in offices and departments of the corporation. The Enron scandal of a few years ago, however, revealed that in US corporate organizations the oversight that corporate stockholders were able to exercise over corporate management is minimal at best. There is very little accountability. Consequently, Enron executives were able to siphon off millions of dollars in corporate assets and profits.
In federal and state agencies the director of the agency is accountable to the governor or through a cabinet secretary to the president who in turn is accountable to the electorate. There will be federal and state civil service regulations. One or more unions may represent the employees of the agency. A federal board or commission may oversee a federal agency. A state agency may have a state board or commission that has oversight of the agency. There may be one or more oversight committee in the US Congress or state legislature and there is the US Congress or state legislature itself. If the state agency is administering federally funded programs, there may be one or more federal agencies overseeing the expenditure of these funds. Federal and state agencies have their own quality control department and federal and state governments have inspector general’s offices. There are various public watchdog groups and organizations.
In the Anglican Mission the primatial vicar and the missionary bishops are subject the oversight of the primate of a distant African province to whom they are as members of its provincial house of bishops accountable. If problems arise between Anglican Mission clergy and laity and their bishops, their only recourse is to appeal to the Primate of Rwanda. The situation of the clergy and laity of the Anglican Mission is reminiscent of the American colonists in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. The governor of the colony was appointed by the King or a company holding a royal charter. Both were on the other side of the Atlantic. If they had a dispute with the governor, their only recourse was to petition the King or the company. Their likelihood of a sympathetic hearing from the King or the company that had appointed the governor was not good.
In an ecclesiastical organization that has negligible external oversight and accountability, the likelihood of abuse of power, arbitrariness in governance, malfeasance in office, and other problems are high. Such an organization can draw out the worst instincts in those in the positions of authority. Human beings are prone to sinfulness. Even those whom the Holy Spirit has made regenerate are not free from this proclivity. The nature of sin is that the sinner may justify his conduct as suiting circumstances or otherwise rationalize his actions to himself.
The prospect of loosing clergy and laity or even the actual loss of clergy and laity, as is sometimes claimed, is no deterrent to the abuse of power or arbitrariness in governance. The last thirty years has shown that they were ineffectual in deterring Continuing Anglican jurisdiction leaders from abusing their power or acting despotically. The last decade has shown that they have failed to make Episcopal leaders abstain from doing the same things.
The bureaucratic structure of the Anglican Mission may be more streamlined than it is in many corporations and state and federal agencies. Its bureaucracy may operate more effectively and efficiently than that of older denominations with a centralized hierarchy. However, in any organization effectiveness and efficiency will reach an optimal level and then taper off. An organization that is effectively and efficiently performing its functions today may not be as effective and efficient in five or ten years. Once authoritarian organizational structures are made an integral part of a denomination, those structures are going to resist any change to the organization of the denomination. They may in time become obstacles to the denomination’s mission.
The recent scandals that have rocked the Roman Catholic Church in the United States and Ireland point to another major weakness of this type of ecclesiastical organization. Those in positions of authority not only have considerable discretionary powers but also they have no local oversight and accountability. Oversight and accountability is vertical. There is no horizontal or lateral oversight and accountability. In the case of the Roman Catholic bishops involved in these scandals they were ultimately subject to the oversight of the Holy Office and accountable to the Pope. However, there were several layers of hierarchy between them and the Vatican. Rather than deal openly and publicly with a chronic problem—sexual predators in the Roman Catholic priesthood who were abusing and exploiting children, they concealed and exacerbated the problem that did not come to light until a large number of children had fallen victim to the predations of these priests. They put what they saw as the interests of the institution before the safety and welfare of the children in its churches and schools.
Although Anglican Mission clergy and laity have a major stake in the Anglican Mission, they play no role in the oversight and accountability structures of the Anglican Mission except at the level of the local congregation. The Anglican Mission has a College of Presbyters but it serves only as a council of advice to the Primatial Vicar. Beyond the local congregation all oversight and accountability is vertical. There is no horizontal or lateral oversight and accountability.
Due to the Anglican Mission’s peculiar relationship with the Anglican Church in North America as an overseas missionary jurisdiction of the Anglican Church of Rwanda, which operates under the constitution and canons of its parent province, whose bishops and other clergy are clergy of the province of Rwanda and are under the authority of Archbishop Emmanuel Kollini, the Primate of Rwanda, the Anglican Mission is for a large part unaffected by the few oversight and accountability mechanisms in the ACNA constitution and canons. It exists as a separate para-church organization within the para-church organization of the ACNA. It is a part of the ACNA but is at the same time independent of the ACNA. It is not subordinate to the ACNA but functions more like a senior partner with the ACNA, a relationship that the ACNA judicatories that were not members of the Common Cause Partnership but have affiliated with the ACNA under the provisions of its provisional constitution and canons or its present constitution and canons do not enjoy.
The peculiar relationship of the Anglican Mission with the Anglican Church in North America raises a number of questions regarding the ecclesiastical organization of the ACNA and its status as “a province in formation.” At its present stage the ACNA is essentially a federation of Anglican para-church organizations, with each member organization having its own structure and form of governance and enjoying varying degrees of autonomy. The fourth article in this series will examine the structure and form of governance of the ACNA at its federal level particularly in terms of oversight and accountability. The article will identify a number of problem areas and consider the possible effects of these problem areas upon the future direction of the ACNA
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 8:00 AM
"Christians in Karnataka state are under an unprecedented wave of Christian persecution, having faced more than 1,000 attacks in 500 days, according to an independent investigation by a former judge of the Karnataka High Court.
The spate began on Sept. 14, 2008, when at least 12 churches were attacked in one day in Karnataka’s Mangalore city, in Dakshina Kannada district, said Justice Michael Saldanha, former judge of the Karnataka High Court.
“On Jan. 26 – the day we celebrated India’s Republic Day – Karnataka’s 1,000th attack took place in Mysore city,” Saldanha told Compass, saying the figure was based on reports from faith-based organizations."
To read the full article, click here.
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 7:30 AM
"A 19th century village church has been destroyed by fire after a suspected arson attack.
Police believe vandals started several fires inside St Mary's church in Westry, near March, Cambridgeshire, which spread to destroy all but the exterior brickwork of the building.
Yesterday's attack came just days after the windows of the church were smashed."
To read more, click here.
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 7:24 AM
"Well it is now official: The Episcopal Church (TEC), a province of Anglican dioceses in the USA (and some neighbouring countries) has declared that it doesn’t care what the vast majority of the Anglican Communion believes to be the teaching of the Bible concerning sexuality. It simply does not care. It is committed to the novelty of sanctifying sexual relations between males, as well as between females, elevating that sexual sin into the ranks of ministers of the gospel, including bishops whose special task it is 'to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God’s Word.'
The Anglican Communion “rejects homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture” (1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10), a resolution reaffirmed a year ago by the Primates of the Anglican Communion, including the Presiding Bishop of TEC (!), as “the position of the Communion.” This is consistent with the uninterrupted teaching of the church of God for two thousand years, as well as that of the prophets of the Old Testament. Yet TEC does not care, as evidenced by last week’s announcement by the Diocese of Los Angeles that the requisite majority of bishops and standing committees within TEC have given their consent to the election of Canon Mary Glasspool to become a Bishop Suffragan of the Los Angeles.
Of course the writing was on the wall last July when the General Convention (Resolution C007) removed the restrictions of a 2006 resolution (B033) which had called for restraint to be exercised in consecrating practising homosexuals and lesbians. The consent to the election of Canon Glasspool is merely the logical and inevitable outworking of the TEC’s position, which is contrary to Scripture and contrary to the teaching of the Anglican Communion. The 'ambiguous stance' of TEC, as perceived by the Primates in 2007, no longer lacks ambiguity."
To read the full article, click here.
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 7:12 AM
"An Anglican Church pastor and his wife were assaulted by Security agents in Luxor on March 18, 2010, in order to evacuate them by force from their home and demolish Church property. Out of the nearly 3000 sq. meters of buildings attached to the Church, only the 400 sq. meter prayer hall was left standing.
Pastor Mahrous Karam of the Anglican Church in Luxor, 721 km from Cairo, said that the Church was still in negotiations with the Luxor authorities the day before regarding a replacement for the community center building which lies within the Church's compound, and was told the authorities were still considering their options. Early next morning, a 500-man force of Central Security and State Security blocked all roads leading to the Church compound, forced their way in and broke into the pastor's residence, dragging the family out by force.
In an effort to save the buildings from demolition, the Pastor sat on the fence of the Church compound, to prevent the demolition work, but was beaten and dragged away, reported Katiba Tibia News."
To read the full article, click here.
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 6:54 AM
Saturday, March 20, 2010
"After being granted summary judgment in its lawsuit against the parish of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, New York, the Diocese of Central New York, through its Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Gladstone "Skip" Adams, served notice on the parish rector and his spouse, the Revs. Matt and Anne Kennedy, that they had to vacate the church property -- including the rectory, which was home to the Kennedys and their four children -- on extremely short notice. (You may read more about the details of the forced move here.)
One might think that the Diocese had an urgent and pressing need for the parish property, because of the abruptness of the notice. One would be wrong. The buildings were padlocked; agents for the Diocese even took down the signs which referred the homeless to the new temporary location of the parish's weekly soup kitchen. Through the bounteous intervention of the local Catholic Church and its monsignor, the Kennedys and their flock (both literal and spiritual) were soon relocated in a much larger, newer and better-equipped premises, complete with a four-bedroom rectory and rooms for meetings and Sunday school classes. Life picked up for them, and soon the Church of the Good Shepherd was boasting a higher Sunday attendance than ever (more than double what it had been when the Kennedys first came to Binghamton).
Now comes word from Binghamton that the Diocese has sold the church...."
To read the full article, click here.
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 10:34 AM
"Moral equivalency is a matter of dogma in the mainstream media: When five hundred Christians were massacred in their homes by machete-wielding Muslims in Nigeria’s Plateau Province on the night of March 7, news reports claimed it was simply retaliation for previous attacks on Muslims. That is an outright falsehood, according to The Barnabas Fund, an interdenominational Christian organization devoted to assisting Christians around the world who face persecution.
Here is the Barnabas Fund’s press release laying out the facts...."
To read the full article, click here.
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 10:21 AM
Friday, March 19, 2010
By Robin G. Jordan
The high growth rate of the African provinces that are organized along more authoritarian lines than the Western provinces is not the only reason that some North American Anglicans have supported the creation of similar authoritarian organizational structures in the Anglican Church in North America. A number of North American Anglicans who favor this type of ecclesiastical organization for the Anglican Church in North America display a tendency to be impatient with deliberative assemblies, due process, and the rule of law and to be distrustful of lay involvement in the governance of the church. They tend to blame the synodical form of ecclesiastical governance of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church and the laity of these churches for the direction that the two churches have taken. Their minimization of the major role the bishops and other clergy have played in the developments in these churches comes very close to denial.
Yet Canadian Anglican and American Episcopal bishops have been overseeing the selection of practicing homosexuals for ordained ministry in these churches, approving their candidacy for ordination, and ordaining them. They have also been sanctioning the blessing of homosexual couples in their dioceses and the development of rites for the blessing of these couples. American Episcopal bishops confirmed and consecrated openly gay man as a diocesan bishop and they have confirmed and will consecrate an openly lesbian woman as a suffragan bishop. Canadian Anglican and American Episcopal clergy have been preaching the acceptance of homosexuality and the tolerance of other religions from the pulpit and teaching it in the classroom. They have also been preaching and teaching universal salvation.
In Episcopal parishes and churches the rector or vicar plays an influential role in the life of the church. His influence extends to the selection of nominees for the churchwardens and the vestry or bishop’s committee, for the chairs and even members of church committees, officers of church organizations, and delegates to the diocesan convention. In a parish or church with a liberal rector or vicar, congregants who hold these posts are likely to share the views of the pastor, be sympathetic to them, or be amenable to doing things the way the pastor wants them done. Anyone who is not a “team player” is likely to find himself labeled as a troublemaker, marginalized, and pushed to the periphery of the church. As a parish or church becomes more liberal, some conservative members of the congregation are likely to migrate to more conservative churches or cease going to church altogether. Others may for a variety of reasons remain. They may privately cling to their conservative beliefs or in time adopt more liberal ideas and values. The likelihood of a parish or church with a liberal rector or vicar sending conservative delegates to the diocesan convention is very slim.
In the diocesan convention the bishop exercises considerable influence. If the bishop is a liberal and the majority of diocesan clergy are liberal, the likelihood that the delegates the diocesan convention sends to the general convention will be liberal or open to the liberal point of view is quite high. A liberal-dominated diocesan convention is likely to elect a liberal bishop and a liberal-dominated House of Bishops to confirm a liberal bishop.
The problem is not the organizational structures of the Episcopal Church. Liberals benefited from a changing culture outside of the church and conservative apathy, complaisance, and disorganization in the church. The structures themselves did not open the door to liberalism.
It is sometimes argued that if the Episcopal Church had been more authoritarian like the Roman Catholic Church, it would be less liberal. While the Pope may be conservative and official church teachings are conservative, the American Catholic Church has not escaped the influence of liberalism. It also has been affected by the cultural changes of the past fifty years. Once liberalism or any other ideology gains a hold in a denomination with an authoritarian organization, the adherents of this ideology can exploit the authoritarian organizational structures to promote the ideology. This process may take a number of years but eventually it will produce desired effects.
Some North American Anglicans who favor the organization of the ACNA along authoritarian lines see in this type of ecclesiastical organization the means by which their own particular theological and ecclesiological outlook may not only be saved from oblivion but also given greater prominence in the ACNA. Authoritarian bishops fit their particular view of episcopacy and the episcopate. In their view the episcopal institution is a prelatical institution and this institution is essential to the existence of the church. They have strongly been influenced by post-Constantine prelacy and “the liberal-catholic myth of a ‘prelatical-episcopate’.”
The authoritarian organizational structures of the African provinces to a large extent reflect the influence of traditional African society. From the days of the Pharaohs traditional African society has been authoritarian and hierarchical with the king or the paramount chieftain at the top of the hierarchy and the common people and the slaves at the bottom. The bishop in the African Church occupies a position similar to that of a chieftain in traditional African society. This is quite evident from the enthronement ceremonies of an African bishop. This is not to denigrate the role of the bishop in the African Church but to recognize the cultural influences upon that role.
In the Anglican Church of Rwanda, for example, the minimum age requirement for a bishop is much higher than that in Western churches. Bishops are chosen from the older clergy of the church: they must be at least 40 years of age. The primate must be 55 years of age. This in part reflects the Rwandan understanding of the New Testament requirements for a bishop. It also reflects the influence of traditional African society.
In the Anglican Church of Rwanda the primate is elected by the house of bishops and must be a member of the house of bishops. As for bishops of the diocese the diocesan synod presents two candidates to the house of bishops which elects one to be the diocesan bishop. If there is a tie, the candidate who has served the longest is declared elected. If both candidates have served the same length of time, the oldest candidate is declared elected. If the house of bishops is not satisfied either candidate meets the necessary requirements for bishop, it sends the names of the candidates back to the diocesan synod and requests additional nominees until a qualified candidate is found and elected. The election of the diocesan bishop must be confirmed by the primate. The influence of traditional African society is quite evident in the process for resolving ties. Assistant bishops and bishop coadjutors are appointed by the diocesan bishop after the diocesan synod and the house of bishops approve the creation of the office of assistant bishop or bishop coadjutor.
These structures also reflect the influence of the Roman Catholic Church. The African provinces are attracted to the structures of the Roman Catholic Church because they fit with their understanding of the role of the bishop. The feudal prelatical model of the bishop, inherited by the Church of England from the pre-Reformation medieval church, and the authoritarian, hierarchical character of traditional African society have influenced how they understand this role.
The authoritarian organizational structures of the African provinces may be a culturally appropriate way of organizing the Church in a traditional African context. However, they are not without their problems. In Africa provinces diocesan boundaries do not respect ethnic, linguistic, and tribal divisions. A number of these groups have histories of long standing enmity with each other. One group may dominate the provincial hierarchy while another group may comprise the majority of the clergy and laity in a diocese. The group dominating the provincial hierarchy may pick a diocesan bishop who is a member of their own group and not the majority group in the diocese. This happened in a diocese of the Province of Central Africa and resulted in a boycott of the new bishop’s enthronement. The doors of the cathedral were also locked against the new bishop, and the clergy and the people took to the streets in protest of the appointment. This is just one of a number of problems to which the authoritarian organizational structures of the African provinces are prone. As Stephen Noll, former vice-chancellor of the University of Uganda, has observed, the Africans still have a lot to learn about the difference between episcopal authority and episcopal tyranny.
In England bishops are officers of the state and lords spiritual of the realm. They have a political role as well as an ecclesiastical one. They sit in the House of Lords in Parliament. The episcopate in the Church of England is a prelatical institution. It suffers from a number of problems. There have been repeated calls for its reform. It is certainly not a model to adopt for an African province or a North American one.
The Church of England has a history of authoritarian bishops who have used their episcopal authority in a tyrannical manner to impose their unbiblical views in doctrine and their aesthetical tastes in worship upon the English Church or its overseas dioceses. Three such bishops are Archbishop William Laud in the seventeenth century and Bishops Robert Gray and Henry Philpotts in the nineteenth century. Among Archbishop Laud’s plans was to send a bishop to the Massachusetts Colony to which the persecuted Puritans were fleeing and put an end to the Puritan experiment with congregationalism in the New World. The original purpose of the system of conventions in the Episcopal Church was to serve as a check and balance to prelacy. Despite this safeguard the Episcopal Church has also had its share of tyrannical bishops.
Considering the recent experiences of former Episcopalians with the Episcopal Church’s prelatical episcopate, with a number of congregations and clergy involved in serious theological disputes with their bishops, their support of the authoritarian organizational structures in the ACNA and its member organizations is surprising. With these experiences fresh in their mind, they would be expected to want to limit the powers of bishops, place checks on their use of authority, and establish safeguards against the abuse of power and arbitrariness in governance. However, while they have left the Episcopal Church, they have not shaken off the liberal Catholic ideology of prelacy.
When confronted with the major role that bishops played in the developments in the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church, their response is typically, “But we have godly bishops.” They are highly uncritical and subjective in their view of the godliness of their bishops. They seem unable if not unwilling to consider the possibility that those whom they regard as paragons of godliness may, like all human beings, turn out to have feet of clay or that future leaders of the ACNA may prove to be not so godly. They also show a willingness to excuse or even condone in their present leaders what they do not in the leaders of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church.
Despite the claims of its proponents this type of ecclesiastical organization is not a good model for a new North American province. In the next article in this series, I will examine a number of its major weaknesses.
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 7:32 AM
"The evil, despicable massacre in Nigeria of some 500 Christian men, women and children has excited remarkably little international comment. This despite the fact that three villages were attacked near Jos by Muslim gangs who trapped women, children and the elderly — those who couldn’t run fast enough to escape — then cut them to pieces.
Archbishop Ben Kwashi described the scenes: “I could see kids from age zero to teenagers, all butchered from the back, macheted in their necks, their heads. Deep cuts in the mouths of babies. The stench. People wailing and crying.” Times (‘500 butchered in Nigeria killing fields’, Tuesday March 9, 2010) entire families were killed to the chants of ‘Allahu Akbar’. Muslim inhabitants of the villages were evacuated before the attackers came in an area which is under a military curfew. Archbishop Kwashi believed a powerful, well-connected grouping must have been responsible. Where are the statements from the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Pope in condemning this violence that has been meted out to Christian communities in Nigeria time and time again? Similarly mealy-mouthed has been the media describing such events as ‘inter- community is equally responsible for the aggression. Yet there is no equivalence, the vast number of lives claimed over the years have been Christian. Churches have been attacked repeatedly and the triumphant killing slogan ‘God is Greatest’ (‘Allahu Akbar’) has brought shame upon Islam repeatedly."
To read the full article, click here.
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 7:20 AM
"It seems that as the years pass, a smaller and smaller percentage of attendees are actually participating in church life.
Some of this arises from seeing our involvement as only during the time we are together on Sunday. We give our two hours on Sunday which is finely focused in our church gatherings, rather than an all week commitment to others.
Some have described the trend towards the ‘professionalisation’ of ministry: the ministry we should all be engaged in from the pew is done to us and for us by the people in charge.
Over the last few weeks I have been considering what can be done about this - so I have been watching the many congregational gatherings I have been part of."
To read the full article, click here.
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 7:13 AM
"Are there clergy who don't believe in God? That is the question posed by a new report that is certain to receive considerable attention -- and rightly so. Few church members are likely to be disinterested in whether their pastor believes in God.
The study was conducted by the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, under the direction of Daniel C. Dennett and Linda LaScola. Dennett, of course, is one of the primary figures in the 'New Atheism' -- the newly aggressive and influential atheist movement that has gained a considerable hearing among the intellectual elites and the media.
Dennett is a cognitive scientist whose book, Breaking the Spell, suggests that belief in God must have at one point served an important evolutionary purpose, granting an evolutionary advantage to those who had some belief in an afterlife as compared to humans without such a belief. The reality of death, Dennett surmises, might well have been the precipitating factor. In order to make life meaningful in the face of death (and thus encourage reproduction), Dennett suggests that primitive humans invented the idea of God and the afterlife. Now, he argues, we have no more need of such primitive beliefs.
Interestingly, Dennett also proposes a new interpretation of theological liberalism. Noting that many modern people claim to be Christians while holding to virtually no specific theological content, Dennett suggests that their mode of faith should not be described as "belief," but rather as 'believing in belief.'
Given Dennett's own atheistic agenda, we can rightly assume that he would be thrilled to see Christian ministers and believers abandon the faith. Indeed, the New Atheists have made this a stated aim. Thus, this new research report, "Preachers Who Are Not Believers," should be read within that framework. Nevertheless, it must be read. This report demands the attention of anyone concerned with the integrity of the Christian church and the Christian faith.
Dennett and LaScola undertook their project with the goal of looking for unbelieving pastors and ministers who continue to serve their churches in 'secret disbelief.' Their "small and self-selected" sample of ministers represents a microcosm of the theological collapse at the heart of many churches and denominations.
In their report, Dennett and LaScola present case studies of five unbelieving ministers, three from liberal denominations ('the liberals') and two from conservative denominations ('the literals')."
To read the full article, click here.
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 6:28 AM
The American Episcopal Election
Media Statement 18/3/10
With the election of the Reverend Mary Glasspool, a partnered lesbian, as a Bishop in Los Angeles in The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion reaches another decisive moment. It is now absolutely clear to all that the national Church itself has formally committed itself to a pattern of life which is contrary to Scripture. The election of Bishop Robinson in 2003 was not an aberration to be corrected in due course. It was a true indication of the heart of the Church and the direction of its affairs.
There have been various responses to the actions of TEC over the years. Some have been dramatic and decisive, such as the creation of the Anglican Church of North America, an ecclesiastical body recognized by the GAFCON Primates as genuinely Anglican. For others, however, the counsels of patience have prevailed and they have sought a change of heart and waited patiently for it to occur. Those who have sought a middle course may be found both inside and outside the American Church.
This is a decisive moment for this ‘middle’ group. Their patience has been gentle and praiseworthy. But to wait longer would not be patience – it would be obstinacy or even an unworthy anxiety. Two things need to be made clear. First, that they are unambiguously opposed to a development which sanctifies sin and which is an abrogation of the word of the living God. Second, that they will take sufficient action to distance themselves from those who have chosen to walk in the path of disobedience.
Peter F. Jensen,
Archbishop of Sydney
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 6:25 AM
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
By Robin G. Jordan
Due to several factors a number of African provinces have been highly successful in their evangelistic and church planting efforts. They are enjoying explosive growth. North American Anglicans look at these provinces and conclude that the strong leadership of the African bishops and the authoritarian organizational structures over which they preside are the reason for this growth. They further infer that if the new Anglican Church in North America adopts similar organizational structures, it will also experience a high growth rate.
If we look at the Episcopal Church in the second half of twentieth century and even earlier, we find that the primary cause for the Episcopal Church’s weak mission orientation and its consequent slow growth rate has not been structural. It has been attitudinal. This was particularly made evident during the Decade of Evangelism at the close of the twentieth century.
During this period most Episcopal clergy had a “maintenance mentality” They were preoccupied with maintaining the status quo, even though the status quo was no longer serving a useful purpose in furthering Christ’s Mission to a lost world. Keeping the program going as they had found it was what mattered most. It did not matter if people were not being evangelized, followed-up, nurtured in the faith, or trained in ministry. Clergy were willing to let the laity be passive recipients rather than active members of the church, as long as enough volunteers were available to keep the program going. The laity was content to be served rather than serving. This mind set dominated thinking at the parish, deanery, and diocesan levels.
Bishops were reluctant to sanction the planting of new churches when existing churches were struggling to survive. A bishop might see a need for new churches in fast growing areas of the diocese but the clamor for assistance from stagnant and declining churches kept him from responding to the need.
When the bishop of my former diocese launched a church planting initiative in the 1990s, one of the existing churches in one of the fastest growing areas of the diocese asked the bishop to not start any new churches in that area. It was afraid that a new church might attract its own members as well as newcomers to the area. The church had done very little to advertise its presence in the community, much less to actively seek to recruit new members. It had not even troubled to post “The Episcopal Church welcomes you” signs around the community with directions to the church’s campus. It had adopted the attitude that if people wanted to find an Episcopal church in the community, they could look in the telephone directory. The church’s campus was not located on a main street but a difficult to access side street and had no visibility. A number of the lay leaders of the church had come from a local Unitarian Universalist church and evidenced no interest in reaching the lost. The church had been served by a number of maintenance-minded clergy. The bishop decided against launch a new church in the area because it might further weaken the existing church even though a new church would have been much more effective in evangelizing the community.
Episcopal clergy generally were lacking in missionary zeal. Unlike the ministerial training schools of some denominations, Episcopal seminaries were not infusing in their graduates an enthusiasm for gospel work. Rather seminarians were acquiring a negative attitude toward evangelism and missions from their professors. Seminaries were not equipping their graduates to lead the local church in evangelism and missions, much less a diocese in the event they were elected a bishop at some point in their career. Training in church planting was non-existent.
In contrast, seminaries in the Southern Baptist Convention were not only equipping their graduates to lead the local church in evangelism and missions, but also they were training them in church planting. The planting of new churches was a denominational priority. Southern Baptist seminaries took pains to foster a lifelong enthusiasm for this task in its graduates, as well as to equip them for the task. In fostering this enthusiasm Southern Baptists had a decided advantage. Most of the seminarians came to the seminaries already enthusiastic about starting and pastoring new churches. As a part of their training seminarians were required to participate in new church plants in the vicinity of the seminary as well as encouraged to voluntarily do so. Completing a church planting internship also was a degree requirement.
During the first half of the twentieth century the two dominant theological schools of thought in the Episcopal Church were Anglo-Catholicism and Broad Church liberalism. Episcopalians of both schools developed their identity around the rejection of evangelicalism and with evangelicalism anything that was associated in their minds with evangelicalism. This included evangelism and the need for personal faith and conversion. Evangelism became a dirty word to Episcopalians. It was something that Southern Baptists and other evangelicals did but not Episcopalians.
Anglo-Catholicism maximized the importance of the sacraments and good works and minimized the importance of person faith and conversion. Broad Church liberalism emphasized Christian nurture over personal faith and conversion. A mixture of these beliefs, coupled with anti-evangelical identity, came to typify Episcopal thinking.
If we look at the history of the Episcopal Church, we also discover that even before the twentieth century the Episcopal Church was not particularly noted for its missionary zeal. The Baptists, Congregationalists, Methodists, and Presbyterians accompanied the settlers as they moved further and further west, traveling by horse and ox-drawn wagon. The Episcopalians waited for the steamboat and the railroads.
In the 1970s the Liturgical Movement fostered a recovery of the Holy Eucharist as a central act of Christian worship in the Episcopal Church. In 1979 the Episcopal Church adopted a new prayer book that stressed the centrality of the Eucharist. Between the Liturgical Movement and 1979 Book of Common Prayer regular weekly celebrations of the Eucharist became the norm in the Episcopal Church. It also became the expectation of Episcopalians. This made the task of planting new churches in the Episcopal Church more difficult. In the 1950s lay readers and deacons had been used to start new congregations. The expectation of regular weekly Eucharist celebrations put an end to this practice. It also made church planting more expensive. Priests required a stipend for their ministry. This meant that the diocese or a sponsoring church would need to include money for the stipend in its budget. In dioceses that had a maintenance mindset, there was often reluctance to expend money on new churches when existing churches needed it to keep their programs going. Maintenance-minded lay leaders also sat on the vestries of sponsoring churches and were reluctant to expend money on projects that did not benefit the church’s existing program. In a number of dioceses mission-minded bishops and diocesan conventions joined with like-minded clergy and vestries to plant new churches. My former parish, launched in 1985, was one of these churches.
By 1998 the gay rights agenda had come to the fore in the Episcopal Church. Bishops were ordaining openly gay and lesbian clergy. They were also sanctioning the blessing of homosexual couples. Theological diversity was increasingly espoused along with radical inclusivism in liberal quarters of the church. Calls for the tolerance of a wide range of diverse opinions in the church were followed by calls for tolerance of an equally wide range of religious beliefs outside the church.
Theological inclusivism and pluralism became accepted ways of thinking among liberal Episcopal clergy. Pluralism takes the position that the Christian faith is the Christian’s way to God. Other religions have equally valid ways to God for their adherents. A growing number of Episcopal clergy preached and taught some form of universal salvation. In many parts of the Episcopal Church, the exploration of alternative spiritualities, the delivery of social services, and social and political activism have replaced gospel work.
Theological inclusivism and pluralism are not confined to the Episcopal Church. They have also made inroads in the United Methodist Church, the United Presbyterian Church of the USA, and other denominations where liberalism had found its way into the seminary and into the parish church.
In an environment in which homosexual activity—regarded by the Bible as sin, rebellion against a holy God—is seen as a sacrament, a means of God’s grace; God is held to be so loving and accepting that no one may fear condemnation for what he has done in this life; and all religions are taught to lead to God, the proclamation of the gospel with its emphasis upon the gravity of human sinfulness, the need for a Savior, and the uniqueness of Christ are not only viewed as backward and old-fashioned but also as mean-spirited and intolerant. In this environment the attitude of our post-modern, post-Christian culture toward religion—that it is personal and therefore it is to be kept to ourselves and not to be imposed upon others—has also became the attitude of a growing segment of the Episcopal Church.
A pastor who adopts these views is not going to encourage the members of his congregation to become home missionaries wherever God has placed them. He is not going to urge them to make friends with non-Christians and other unchurched persons, to invest in these relationships, and eventually to talk with them about Jesus Christ. Indeed Jesus Christ no longer has a central place in the church.
In a diocese in which such views are dominant there may be some recognition of a need to plant new churches in order for the institution to survive. Closing dying churches and consolidating congregations may save the diocese money. However, maintaining the diocese requires a certain number of churches as a revenue base, necessitating the planting of new churches in high growth areas of the diocese where they have the best chance of thriving. In launching any new churches, what will receive the most emphasis is the Episcopal Church’s liberal ethos—its radical inclusivity, its tolerance of diverse spiritualities, and its humanitarian concerns. But the two most compelling reasons for planting new churches from a New Testament perspective—to glorify God and to reach a larger segment of the spiritually-disconnected and unchurched population with the gospel—will be missing. The new church plant will be a purely human endeavor. The most vital ingredient in any start-up, God himself, will not be there.
No particular structure can guarantee the success of the evangelistic and church planting efforts of a congregation, judicatory, or denomination. What is required to start a new church and reach the lost with the gospel are hearts and minds open to God and to his Word.
For about two years I was a part of a new church plant north of New Orleans, Louisiana. A group of local Southern Baptist churches had seen a need for a new church in their area and called a young pastor to start the new church. When I first became involved in the church, it was meeting in a fire station. When I relocated to western Kentucky, the church had bought a local café, converted it to a church sanctuary, office, and nursery, and grown to two services on Sunday morning. The young pastor who planted the church has started a second church in the area.
Hearts and minds open to God and his Word planted those two churches and are reaching the lost with the good news of Jesus Christ. God works in open hearts and minds to accomplish what he purposes. If a new church plant succeeds, if a lost soul accepts Christ, it is God’s doing and his alone. To him belongs all the credit. We are simply his instruments.
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 9:01 AM