No future for Anglican evangelicalism in the Anglican Church in North America.
By Robin G. Jordan
In September 2010 I posted two articles identifying the obstacles, doctrinal and non-doctrinal, at that time to the participation of Anglican evangelicals in the Anglican Church in North America. Since I wrote those articles, I have identified a number of additional barriers to Anglican evangelical participation in the ACNA.
Among these obstacles is the practice of the ACNA Governance Taskforce of discouraging dioceses from incorporating provisions in their governing documents that are not prohibited by the ACNA constitution and canons such as mandatory retirement ages and other forms of term limits for bishops. The same taskforce is also championing a model diocesan constitution and model diocesan canons that gives a very limited role in the governance of the diocese to the diocesan synod and relinquishes powers to the province that dioceses are not required to yield under the ACNA governing documents. They also permit the Archbishop of the province to meddle in parochial matters. The ACNA College of Bishops has approved a “theological lens” to guide the ACNA Prayerbook and Common Liturgy Taskforce in its creation of a Prayer Book for use in the ACNA favoring an Anglo-Catholic interpretation of Anglican Church history, the character of Anglicanism, and the development of the Book of Common Prayer and Anglican worship. The College of Bishops has also authorized an Ordinal for use in the ACNA, which sanctions beliefs and practices rejected by the English Reformers and historic Anglicanism.
The Anglican Church in North America is emerging as an ecclesial body that is far from supportive of the beliefs and practices of historic Anglicanism, much less those of traditional Anglican evangelicalism. Indeed parts of the ACNA may be described as openly hostile to both historic Anglicanism and traditional Anglican evangelicalism.
Two groups need to pay closer attention to the emerging face of the Anglican Church in North America. The first group consists of congregations, clergy, and individuals who are weighing the option of affiliation with the ACNA. For members of this first group, if they are genuine Anglican evangelicals, committed to the authority of the Scriptures and the Anglican formularies, affiliation with the ACNA is not a good choice. They will not be able to retain their Anglican evangelical identity. To a number of them the ACNA may appear to be the only game in town. However, it is not a game in which they will be winners. The deck is stacked against them.
This first group also includes congregations, clergy, and individuals who are already affiliated with the Anglican Church in North America.
The second group consists of Anglican leaders outside of North America who may be encouraging members of the first group to affiliate with the Anglican Church in North America. If they are genuine Anglican evangelicals, they need to think twice about urging members of the first group to join the ACNA or to remain in that ecclesial body. The ACNA is not GAFCON in North America by any stretch of the imagination. Anglican evangelicals face a very bleak future in the ACNA. Anglo-Catholics in positions of power are entrenching their views and are marginalizing those who do not agree.
The GAFCON Theological Group in The Way, the Truth, and the Life identifies two challenges to the authority of the Scriptures and the Anglican formularies that arose in the nineteenth century. The first challenge came from Tractarianism; the second challenge came from modernism. While modernism may be a strong influence in the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church, Anglo-Catholicism, the successor to nineteenth century Tractarianism, is a strong influence in the ACNA. None of these ecclesial bodies is ruled by the Scriptures and the Anglican formularies.
Members of the second group, if they truly have the best interest of members of the first group at heart, need to assist them to erect a new church home—a North American convocation of Anglican evangelical churches that is unwavering in its commitment to the authority of the Scriptures and the Anglican formularies. It will also need to be equally as committed to the fulfillment of the Great Commission and the maintenance of responsible, synodical church government. Only in a church built on this foundation can orthodox Anglicanism as defined in The Way, the Truth, and the Life hope to flourish in North America.