Thursday, December 22, 2011

An Indictment of North American Anglicanism


By Robin G. Jordan

Since the Anglican Church in North America was established in 2009, a number of changes have been made in the governance and structure of the Province that are not authorized by alterations or additions to its Provincial Constitution and Canons. In this article I examine these changes and how they were made.

Archbishop Robert Duncan has introduced changes in the governance and structure of the Province without first obtaining legislation in the form of alterations and additions to the Provincial Constitution and Canons authorizing these changes. He created the office of Dean of the Province and appointed his longtime friend, ANiC Bishop Don Harvey, to that office. He also created the offices of Provincial Archdeacon and Provincial Canon and made appointments to these offices. He created the body that he named the Archbishop’s Cabinet and made appointments to that body. No provisions are found in the Provincial Constitution and Canons that give authority to the Archbishop to create such offices and bodies and to make appointments to these offices and bodies nor that recognize this authority as inherent in the office of Archbishop.

In creating such offices and bodies Archbishop Duncan has exceeded his authority as Archbishop and violated the provisions of the Provincial Constitution and Canons. Title IV.2 identifies “violation of any provision of the Constitution of this Church” and “disobedience, or willful contravention of the Canons of this Church…” as charges or accusations on which an Archbishop in the ACNA may be presented. Archbishop Duncan is openly flouting the provisions of the ACNA governing documents and none of the other ACNA leaders appear to have any problem with his actions, which is a poor reflection upon them as the Province’s leaders. Respect for constitutionalism and the rule of law appears to be at very low ebb in the ACNA particular among its top leaders.

The Provincial Council has introduced changes in the governance and structure of the Province without drafting and adopting legislation in the form of alterations and additions to the Provincial Constitution and Canons authorizing these changes:

First, the Provincial Council has acquiesced to the unlawful changes that Archbishop Duncan has introduced. In doing so, the Council has become complicit in Duncan’s open flouting of the provisions of the ACNA governing documents. Under the provisions of Title IV.2 the clerical members of the Council, bishops and presbyters, are due to their complicity guilty of the same violations of the provisions of the Constitution and Canons as Duncan, and are liable to presentment.

Second, the Provincial Council has refused to approve the provisions of the governing documents of the Diocese of the Gulf Atlantic when it was seeking recognition as an ACNA diocese. The provisions in question did not conflict with the provisions of the Provisional Constitution or Canons. However, they did not conform to the vision of the structure and governance of a diocese of whatever group of ACNA leaders that dominates the Council. Article IV.7 of the Constitution states:

This Constitution recognizes the right of each diocese, cluster or network (whether regional or affinity-based) to establish and maintain its own governance, constitution and canons not inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution and Canons of this Province.

Article VIII.1 further states:

The member dioceses, clusters or networks (whether regional or affinity-based) and those dioceses banded together as jurisdictions shall each retain all authority they do not yield to the Province by their own consent. The powers not delegated to the Province by this constitution nor prohibited by this Constitution to these dioceses or jurisdictions, are reserved to these dioceses or jurisdictions respectively.

By using coercion—the threat of non-recognition, the Provincial Council forced the Diocese of the Gulf Atlantic to yield more authority to the Province than it was required to yield under the provisions of the Provincial Constitution. It gave up its power to limit the term of office of its bishops, a power that the Provincial Constitution does not delegate to the Province nor withhold from the dioceses and jurisdictions formed under its provisions.

The College of Bishops has introduced changes in the governance and structure of the Province without obtaining legislation in the form of alterations and additions to the Provincial Constitution and Canons authorizing these changes. It has made these changes through its usurpation of the authority of the Provincial Council. Article V of the Provincial Constitution states:

The Provincial Council, subject to ratification by the Provincial Assembly, has power to make canons ordering our common life in respect to the following matters:
1. Safeguarding the Faith and Order of the Province
2. Supporting the mission of the Province
3. Common Worship
4. Standards for ordination
5. Clergy support and discipline
6. Ecumenical and international relations
7. Norms for Holy Matrimony
8. Providing for the proper administration of the Province

Under the provisions of Article V the Provincial Council adopted and the Provincial Assembly ratified Title II.1.2:

It is understood that there is a diversity of uses in the Province. In order to use these rich liturgies most advantageously, it is the responsibility of the Bishop with jurisdiction to ensure that the forms used in Public Worship and the Administration of the Sacraments be in accordance with Anglican Faith and Order and that nothing be established that is contrary to the Word of God as revealed in the Holy Scriptures.

A bishop with jurisdiction is the diocesan bishop, or ordinary of a diocese. While Title II.1.2 does not specify where the bishop with jurisdiction is to ensure the forms used are in accordance with Anglican Faith and Order and nothing is established in contradiction to God’s Word, the use of the phrase “bishop with jurisdiction” reduces the where to wherever the bishop with jurisdiction has jurisdiction—his diocese. A bishop with jurisdiction by no stretch of the imagination is a College of Bishops. While Title II.1.2 may recognize the responsibility of the ordinary of a diocese to approve forms of service used in the diocese, it does not give the diocesan bishops authority to authorize forms of service for use in the entire Province. If the Provincial Council wishes to delegate this authority to the College of Bishops, it needs to enact a canon to this effect and submit it to the Provincial Assembly for its consideration.

Authorization of a Prayer Book and authorization of an Ordinal are, however, much too important a decisions to place solely in the hands of the College of Bishops. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal annexed to the 1662 Prayer Book were approved by the Convocations of the Provinces of Canterbury and York and by Parliament. It also received the royal assent of the King.

In the Anglican Church of Kenya any deviations from and additions or alternatives to the forms of service provided in the Book of Common Prayer and any new forms of liturgy required to meet the needs of the Church must be approved by the Provincial Synod. In the Church of Nigeria a provision touching doctrinal formulae of the service or ceremonies of the Church of Nigeria or the administration of the sacraments or sacred rites of that Church must first be submitted to its House of Bishops and then to its General Synod. In the Church of Uganda any new form of Liturgies, apart from experimental occasional liturgies permitted by a diocesan bishop, must be approved by the Provincial Assembly. In the Episcopal Church any revision of the Prayer Book requires the approval of two consecutive General Conventions.

With the authorization of the ACNA Ordinal the College of Bishops recognized as permissible within the ACNA doctrines and practices that the English Reformers rejected at the Reformation on solid biblical grounds. They also recognized as permissible within the Province a Tractarian reinterpretation of the Thirty-Nine Articles in a Roman direction or the complete disregard of the Articles. The language of Article I.7 is very weak as it is. With the authorization of the ACNA Ordinal the College of Bishops showed that to that body the provisions of Article I.7 are nugatory.

The Governance Task Force has introduced changes in the governance and structure of the Province without obtaining legislation in the form of alterations and additions to the Constitution and Canons authorizing these changes. It has made these changes through its two model-diocesan governing documents and the advice of its representatives to groups of churches drafting governing documents. Under the provisions of Article V.1 of the model diocesan canons a diocese yields to the College of Bishops power to appoint an acting bishop to be in charge of the diocese upon the request of the standing committee until a bishop is elected. Under the provisions of Article V.2 a diocese yields to the Archbishop power to make the final determination as to whether the office of bishop of the diocese is vacant due to his prolonged absent or physical or mental incapacity. They require the standing committee to obtain the Archbishop’s consent before declaring a vacancy in the office of the bishop of the diocese. Under the provisions of Title I.6.2.c of the model diocesan canons the diocese yields to the Executive Committee power to admit a congregation or mission of another denomination to the province, requiring such a congregation or mission to first apply to the Executive Committee for admission to the province before it may be received into the diocese. Its provisions contradict the provisions of Title I.6.2 of the Provincial Canons: “Every congregation of the Church belongs to the Church by union with a Diocese of the Church or through a Diocese-in-Formation.” Under the provisions of Title I.7.4.e of the model diocesan canons a diocese yields to the Archbishop power to settle disputes between vestries and congregations, unnecessarily involving the Archbishop in diocesan matters.

As well as seeking to rob dioceses of their powers and to reduce their autonomy through its model governing documents, the Governance Task Force has sought to force dioceses into the same mold. The diocesan model canons contain references to provisions of the Provincial Constitution and Canons that have no bearing upon the governance of dioceses but which appear to have been incorporated with the intent to mislead dioceses in formation drafting their governing documents into believing that these provisions do have such bearing. For example, Title I.1.7 of the model diocesan canons contains a reference to Article VII of the Provincial Constitution and implies that it is applicable to “synod councils” wherein fact it applies only to the Provincial Council and has nothing to do with “synod councils.”

Among the intents of the Governance Task Force’s model governing documents is to give extensive power to the bishop while limiting the power of the diocesan synod. They seek not to establish responsible, synodical church government at the diocesan level but a form of prelacy. Article VIII of the model diocesan constitution requires a diocesan synod to obtain the consent of the bishop of the diocese before creating a synod council. Until the creation of a synod council it vests the functions of the synod council in the standing committee of the diocese. Title I.1.7 of the model diocesan canons vests legislative and “non-ecclesiastical executive” authority of the diocese in a diocesan synod and between the meetings of the diocesan synod in a synod council. Title I.2.1 under the heading “Powers and Duties” recognizes the diocesan synod as having power to adopt and amend the diocesan constitution and canons; approve the budget; establish and oversee the program of the diocese; and elect the bishops of the diocese, members of the diocesan standing committee, and diocesan representatives to the Provincial Assembly and the Provincial Council. Title I.2.5 authorizes the synod council to perform the duties of the diocesan synod between the meetings of the diocesan synod and authorizes the diocesan standing committee to perform the functions of the synod council until the synod council is created.

When Diocese of Mid-Atlantic proposed to impose a term limit upon its bishop, representatives of the Governance Task Force discouraged the constitutional convention from adopting the proposal, claiming that the Provincial Council would not recognize the Diocese if it set a limit upon the term of office of the bishop. The Provincial Constitution and Canons impose no mandatory retirement age upon bishops of the Province and they may serve until they die, retire, or become too incapacitated to perform their episcopal duties. However, they do not prohibit the dioceses from imposing such a requirement or otherwise limiting a bishop’s term of office.

I quite frankly cannot see why anyone would want to join an ecclesiastical organization whose leaders and their representatives operate in such a lawless and unethical manner. What even more troublesome is that the people in the ACNA are either oblivious to their lawless and unethical conduct or they rationalize it. The ACNA has in its short existence acquired an organizational culture that overlooks or tolerates lawlessness and unethical conduct. This cannot bode well for the future of the ACNA.

The ACNA is currently negotiating a new agreement with the AMiA bishops who resigned from the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Rwanda. Under the terms of this agreement the ACNA may recognize these bishops and the congregations and clergy loyal to them as a ministry partner of the ACNA or accept the bishops and the congregations and clergy loyal to them as a jurisdiction of the ACNA. As a condition of this agreement the ACNA may require the bishops to implement a number of reforms in the AMiA. I hope that the irony of the ACNA requiring the reform of the AMiA possibly in the very same areas that the ACNA itself desperately needs reform is not lost on the readers of this article.

These developments within the Anglican Church in North America along with the developments in the Anglican Church of Canada, the Anglican Mission in the Americas, the Continuing Anglican Churches, and the Episcopal Church are a telling indictment of North American Anglicanism. North American Anglicanism has fallen into an extremely degraded state and there is a clear need for a reform movement in the North American Anglican community. This may come as a shock to conservative North American Anglicans who believe that in withdrawing from the Anglican Church of Canada or the Episcopal Church, they have escaped the worst of the degradation. The degraded state of North American Anglicanism, however, is not confined to its liberal wing or to the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church. It extends throughout the entire spectrum of North American Anglicanism. No Anglican entity in North America is unaffected.

2 comments:

Joel Wilhelm said...

Note on page 6 here:

www.crechurches.org/documents/minutes/2011_CREC_Council.pdf

That the CRE accepts the Articles as valid. Perhaps Anglicans will one day have to flee there.

http://www.crechurches.org/

Robin G. Jordan said...

Joel,

In attempting to correct spelling errors, I deleted without first saving a copy my response to your comment The English Congregationalists and Presbyterians as well as a number of continental Reformed Churches recognized the validity of the Thirty-Nine Articles or the doctrinal part of the Articles. Despite the degraded state of the North American Anglicanism I am not advocating abandoning the North American Anglican Church but reforming it. This may involve the establishment of a reformed Anglican entity in North America, which is unwavering in its commitment to the authority of the Scriptures and the Anglican formularies, the fulfilment of the Great Commission, and the maintenance of responsible, synodical church government.