Thursday, November 17, 2011

All Is NOT Well in the Anglican Mission

By Robin G. Jordan

One of the reactions to the revelations about the Roman Catholic doctrinal content of the Anglican Church of Rwanda’s Code of Canon Law has been denial. Title II.12.1 of the Rwandan canons asserts, “The Creeds and Thirty Nine Articles of Faith statements found in the Prayer Book of the Church of Rwanda are not different from the doctrine of the Anglican Church of Rwanda.” If the canons state that no difference exists between the doctrine of the Creeds and the Thirty-Nine Articles and the doctrine of the Church of Rwanda, the reaction is that the canons must be right. The doctrine of the Church of Rwanda must be Anglican! A related reaction is that if Archbishop Emmanuel Kollini signed The Jerusalem Declaration, the doctrine of the Rwandan canons must be Anglican!

Denial is an all too common reaction whenever anyone draws attention to a problem affecting the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Mission. Those responding with this reaction do not want to face reality. It does not fit with how they want to see things.

The fact is that the Rwandan canons can assert that no difference exist between the doctrine of the Creeds and the Thirty-Nine Articles and the doctrine of the Church of Rwanda, and be wrong! Archbishop Kollini can endorse and promulgate canons that contain Roman Catholic doctrine and then go to Jerusalem and sign The Jerusalem Declaration that affirm the classic Anglican formularies! These things do happen. When they do happen, they raise unpleasant questions. Why would an Anglican province adopt Roman Catholic doctrine? Why would an Anglican primate sign The Jerusalem Declaration after endorsing and promulgating canons containing this doctrine?

The doctrine of the canons of the Church of Rwanda is unquestionably Roman Catholic. There is no doubt about it. I devoted this past summer to analyzing the Rwandan canons and identifying the doctrine contained in the canons and the sources of this doctrine. My purpose was to document the nature and extent of the influence of these sources upon the Rwandan canons. My assessment supported what I had concluded from a preliminary examination of the Rwandan canons: they are indebted heavily to the Roman Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law (1983) and to a lesser degree to the Roman Catholic Church’s Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992) and Guide for Catechists (1993)

The Church of Rwanda was established by missionaries from the Church Missionary Society. The CMS was an outgrowth of the eighteenth century Evangelical Revival. The East African Revival began in Rwanda in 1934 and spread to other parts of East Africa, including Kenya and Uganda. The adoption of Roman Catholic doctrine is decidedly out of character for the Church of Rwanda. This lends credence to the allegations of deception and trickery associated with the adoption of the 2007 Rwandan canons.

If the Anglican Mission becomes an independent missionary organization, its adoption of the Rwandan canons as Canon Kevin Donlon proposes would destroy its Anglican identity as their adoption has destroyed the Anglican identity of the Church of Rwanda. The Anglican Mission would be Roman Catholic in doctrine as well as ecclesiastical structure. It would no longer be an Anglican mission despite retaining the word “Anglican” in its name.

Anglican Mission clergy, congregations, and mission partners need to be asking why Anglican Mission leaders are not taking steps to prevent Bishop Chuck Murphy and Canon Donlon from destroying the Anglican Mission’s Anglican identity. Bishop Murphy’s authority over the ecclesiastical structure of the Anglican Mission is delegated. The one who delegated that authority—the Primate of Rwanda—can revoke that delegation of authority. Anglican Mission leaders could appeal to the Primate of Rwanda to revoke the delegation power of the Primatial Vicar. The Primate of Rwanda not only can revoke the delegation power of Bishop Murphy, but also he can terminate the appointment of Canon Donlon as Murphy’s Canon for Ecclesiastical Affairs. This would leave Murphy in control of the secular structure of the Anglican Mission as chairman. How he might be removed from that position depends upon the Anglican Mission’s articles of incorporation and corporate by-laws, which, it must be noted, have never been posted on the Anglican Mission web site. However, they should be a matter of public record.

Anglican Mission leaders themselves may be in denial. They may be reluctant to act from fear of the consequences. Or they may have appealed to the Primate of Rwanda and found him reluctant to act. They may also be divided, some supporting the proposed restructuring out of misplaced loyalty to Bishop Murphy. Bishop Murphy is in a position to control the flow of information between the Anglican Mission and the Church of Rwanda, interpreting developments in the Anglican Mission to the leaders of the Church of Rwanda and the developments in the Church of Rwanda to the leaders of the Anglican Mission. The Anglican Mission media releases show a clear attempt to manipulate perceptions of what is happening. There is also what has been described as “the Molosovich factor,” the tendency of a group to rally to the support of a leader under fire because he is the group’s leader despite the validity of the criticisms leveled at him.

The fact that the Anglican Mission has no mechanisms for reining in a senior leader who is intent upon a course of action that conflicts with the best interests of the Anglican Mission show how flawed is the overall structure of the Anglican Mission. It points to the danger in any ecclesiastical organization of allowing too much power to be concentrated in the hands of one person and reveals a major weakness of hierarchical forms of ecclesiastical governance.

The Anglican Mission may weather the storm of controversy surrounding its proposed restructuring. However, if the proposal is adopted, it will no longer be truly Anglican. It will no longer be proclaiming the New Testament gospel and planting Biblically-faithful, gospel-centered churches. Those who have been giving money to support the work of the Anglican Mission will need to find a genuine Anglican missionary organization to support—one that is unwaveringly committed to Scripture, the classic formularies, and the Great Commission. If they are planning to bequeath money or property to the Anglican Mission, they are well advised to reconsider their plans.

What is happening in the Anglican Mission shows the clear need for checks and balances and safeguards not only in that organization but also in the Anglican Church in North America. Developments in the Anglican Mission and the Anglican Church in North America cannot be justified on the basis that they are start-up organizations as some have sought to do. If checks and balances and safeguards are not established in an organization in its start-up stage, it will be nigh impossible to establish them at a later stage. Precedents will have been set and practices adopted that will be extremely difficult to undo. Those forming the structures that have been built around these precedents and practices will resist any attempts to introduce changes and to make reforms. Those occupying positions to which their predecessors or they arrogated power will be unwilling to relinquish this power.

What is happening in the Anglican Mission may be God’s way of warning those who have a stake in the Anglican Church in North America what can happen in that ecclesial body if a high level of accountability is not demanded from its top leaders and much needed checks and balances and safeguards are not devised and implemented. The Anglican Church in North America is arguably only a step or two behind the Anglican Mission. The preponderance of evidence supports this conclusion.

While not quite as hierarchical and top heavy as the Anglican Mission, the Anglican Church is moving in that direction. Archbishop Duncan has created the office of Dean of the Province to which he appointed his friend Bishop Don Harvey. He has also created an Archbishop’s Cabinet, an institution typically found in the Roman Catholic Church, and made appointments to that body. The ACNA constitution and canons do not give the office of Archbishop such powers or recognize them to be inherent in the archiepiscopal office. The College of Bishops has been usurping power that is the Provincial Council’s and the Provincial Council has acquiesced to this usurpation. ACNA governance task force model diocesan constitutions and canons and representatives encourage dioceses in formation to relinquish powers to the Archbishop beyond those that a diocese yields to the province with its accession to the ACNA constitution and canons. The ACNA fundamental declarations show an Anglo-Catholic bias in a number of key areas and the doctrinal content of the ACNA canons shows the influence of the 2007 canon law code of the Church of Rwanda and the 1983 canon law code of the Roman Catholic Church. The ACNA ordinal authorized by its College of Bishops countenances doctrines and practices that the Anglican reformers rejected in the sixteenth century on solid scriptural grounds and which are associated with the pre-Reformation Medieval Catholic Church and the post-Tridentian Roman Catholic Church.

All is NOT well in the conservative wing of the North American Anglican Church anymore than it is in its liberal wing. Conservative Anglican leaders may, like their liberal counterparts, be trying to persuade the faithful that it is. But it is time for them to come clean and to acknowledge a growing list of serious problems. It is also time for them to admit their contribution to these problems. It may also be time for them to stand down and let others take the helm of the Anglican Mission and the Anglican Church in North America and to guide these ecclesial bodies back to the Scriptures, the classical Anglican formularies, the Great Commission, and responsible, constitutional, and synodical forms of church government.


Reformation said...


Start or join an Anglican/BCP work.

Your credibility will sky-rocket afterwards.


Robin G. Jordan said...


My credibility might soar. However, then I would no longer be free to draw attention to the serious problems in the ACNA, the AMiA, and other Anglican entities in North America. I would be subject to pressure from a number of directions. Invariably folks would be attracted to the new work with their own vision of what it should become, which in all likelihood would include affiliation with the ACNA, the AMiA, or another Anglican entity. There would be growing pressure to join one of these Anglican entities. Almost all the Anglican entities in North America that are not moving in a liberal direction are moving in a ultra-Catholic direction. There are no viable evangelical, Protestant, and Reformed Anglican alternatives to TEC, the ACNA, and the AMiA with which to affiliate. Until such an alternative becomes available, any thoughts of starting a new work must be placed on the back burner of the stove.

I also lose credibility if, after drawing attention to the serious problems of an Anglican entity, I join it. My readers will conclude that the problems cannot be that serious. "Actions speak louder than words," to quote my grandmother. I would appear to be hypocritical and unprincipled.

As David Phillips pointed out this summer's Church Society Conference, evangelicals in working with Anglo-Catholics to resist the growing influence of liberalism ultimately are in danger of conceding the evangelical, Protestant, Reformed nature of the Anglican Church. During the same conference John Richardson showed "how Anglo-Catholicism, by adding ceremonial rituals to the gospel, is spiritually dangerous because it obscures Christ. The end result is that the gospel is eclipsed and people are led into slavery."

The proponderence of evidence points to the movement of the ACNA and the AMiA away from the reformed catholicism of Anglicanism in an ultra-Catholic direction. While what is driving this movement in the ACNA is different from what is driving it in the AMiA, the two movements are not unrelated. No longer restrained by an ascendent liberalism, Anglo-Catholics are now seeking to establish Anglo-Catholicism as the dominant ideology in the ACNA and the AMiA. "Three streams" theology with its tolerance of variations and its fragile commitment to given truth in Scripture, its naive, overly-Romantic view of the Early and Medieval Churches, and its ignorance of the Reformation and even unacknowledged antipathy toward the Reformation does not provide a counterbalance or check to their effort. It is actually helps it.