Friday, February 17, 2012

Moving Forward Together: The Next Step—Part 1

By Robin G. Jordan

The Moving Forward Together Statement identifies three options that congregations and clergy in PEAR USA have expressed an interest in pursuing as their next step. PEAR USA is the wing of the Anglican Mission in the Americas that did not break with the Anglican Church of Rwanda. These options are:

1. Full participation in an existing diocese of the Anglican Church in North America;

2. Remain affiliated with the Anglican Church of Rwanda while also forming a sub-jurisdiction of the Anglican Church in North America; and

3. Remain affiliated with the Anglican Church of Rwanda by establishing a missionary jurisdiction in North America..

In weighing the first option a congregation and its clergy need to size up the organization they will be joining—not only the diocese but also the Anglican Church in North America itself.

The Province. The Anglican Church in North America has adopted a constitution that waters down the authority of the classic Anglican formularies in matters of doctrine to the point that their authority is negligible in the ACNA. The ACNA constitution substitutes for the 1662 Book of Common Prayer its own nebulous standard of worship that permits the restoration of pre-Reformation medieval doctrines and practices. Rather than adopting a neutral position, it takes a partisan stance upon the historic episcopate, an issue over which Anglicans historically have been divided. It favors the Anglo-Catholic side of the issue over the evangelical, asserting that bishops and episcopacy are of the essence of the church.

ACNA canons take a number of doctrinal positions that are in conflict with the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion. For example, they classify confirmation and matrimony as sacraments. Like the canons of the Anglican Church of Rwanda, they incorporate doctrine, language, norms, and principles from the Roman Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law (1983). As well as establishing the minimum age requirement of Roman Catholic bishops as that of ACNA bishops, they take Roman Catholic doctrinal positions on apostolic succession, ordination, and the sacraments.

Archbishop Robert Duncan, the Primate of the ACNA, has called for a new settlement. He has spoken of doing away with the Elizabethan Settlement and of regressing, of moving backwards, in response to a crisis. The Elizabethan Settlement has shaped the character of Anglicanism since the sixteenth century. In a number of areas Archbishop Duncan gives every sign of seeking to turn back the clock to a time before the English Reformation.

The ACNA College of Bishops has given its approval to a “theological lens” to guide the ACNA Prayerbook and Common Liturgy Taskforce in its creation of liturgies for use in the ACNA, which not recognize all Scripture as the word of God, gives a very large place to tradition in matters of faith and worship, and takes a Pelagian view of human nature, sin, grace, and salvation. This “theological lens” favors 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 ACNA “theological lens” contains only passing reference to the Thirty-Nine Articles and treats the 1549 and 1928 Prayer Books as if they are Anglican formularies. It views the 1928 Book of Common Prayer as a continuation of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. This is far from the case as a comparison of the doctrine of the two books show.

The ACNA “theological lens” does not contain a statement that affirms in no uncertain terms salvation by grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone as the essence of Gospel teaching. Rather its references to salvation by faith are open to a Roman Catholic interpretation.

ACNA College of Bishops has authorized an Ordinal that departs from the classical Anglican Ordinal at a number of points and which favors medieval doctrines and practices rejected by the English Reformers on solid biblical grounds. Among the doctrines this Ordinal countenances are the doctrines of transubstantiation and the sacrifice of the Mass. Archbishop Duncan has enthusiastically endorsed this Ordinal and has used the medieval ceremonies permitted by its rubrics in his consecration of new bishops, for example, anointing the head of Bishop Foley Beach with oil of chrism. Identical ceremonies are seen in the Roman Catholic Church. The ACNA College of Bishops is set to approve a Prayer Book that gives countenance to the same doctrines and practices.

The ACNA canons require all candidates for ordination, all clergy, all new congregations’ leaders, all new dioceses, and all ministry partner organizations to unreservedly subscribe to the ACNA constitution and canons. This means that they are expected to assent to doctrine that is contrary to the teaching of the Bible, that is antagonistic to the doctrine of the classic Anglican formularies, or about which they otherwise may have serious reservations. It also means that they are expected to sacrifice their own convictions.

A number of pastors in the Anglican Church in North America also preach “a different gospel” from the New Testament gospel. Congregations and clergy joining one of the ACNA dioceses will be expected to submit to their oversight as bishops, consult with them regarding major decisions affecting the life and ministry of their churches, and to welcome them to their churches. Congregations will be expected to call them as rectors or senior ministers and clergy moving to another charge or retiring from ministry to turn congregations over to their care.

Archbishop Duncan has shown impatience with deliberative assemblies and due process. He championed what he described as a “minimalist” constitution and canons for the Anglican Church in North America. These governing documents leave out critical details and dispense with needed safeguards. He has also shown little regard for constitutionalism and the rule of law. He has arrogated powers to his office that the ACNA governing documents to not give the office or recognize as inherent in the office. For example, he has created the offices of provincial archdeacon, provincial canon, and provincial dean and made appointments to these offices, which under the provisions of the ACNA constitution and canons he has no authority to do. He has also established an Archbishop’s Cabinet, modeled upon a similar body found in Roman Catholic archdioceses, and made appointments to this body, which under the provisions of the ACNA governing he also has no authority to do.

The Provincial Council is seeking to regularize these appointments with a series of amendments to the ACNA canons but the amendments that the Council is presenting for ratification at the upcoming Provincial Assembly are a further example of the tendency in the Anglican Church in North America to concentrate too much power in too few hands without requiring any real accountability from person or persons in whose hands the power is concentrated. Along with the lack of openness and transparency in the ACNA, the want of genuine accountability is a serious problem at the provincial level.

In the Anglican Church of Rwanda and the Church of Uganda the dean of the province is the senior most bishop according to date of consecration as a bishop or ordination as a priest. In the Anglican Church of Kenya the dean of the province is nominated by the House of Bishops and elected by the Standing Committee of the Provincial Synod from the bishops of the province. In the Church of Nigeria the dean of the province is “the provincial archbishop, senior by presentation as archbishop.” Provincial archbishops are nominated and elected by the episcopal synod. The Anglican Church of the Province of the Southern Cone does not have a dean of the province. It does have a vice president of the provincial executive council who is a bishop and is elected by the provincial synod. The canon that the ACNA Provincial Council is presenting to the ACNA Provincial Assembly would permit the Archbishop of the ACNA to handpick the dean of the province who would serve at his pleasure. This might be the way to appoint an officer in an Anglican diocese but not in an Anglican province.

The ACNA canons give powers to the Archbishop of the ACNA that other Anglican provinces do not give even to the metropolitan of the province and which represent a significant departure from Anglican practice. They permit the Archbishop to overrule a diocesan bishop’ suspension of clergy under his jurisdiction, require a diocesan bishop to obtain the permission of the Archbishop and the Executive Committee to reduce or terminate the sentence that the diocesan bishop imposed upon a member of the clergy under his jurisdiction, and require the College of Bishops to obtain his permission to reduce or terminate the sentence that the College of Bishops imposed upon one of its members.

The ACNA canons promote the practice of the College of Bishops’ election of the bishops of a diocese over that of the diocesan synod’s election of its bishops. If a diocese adopts this practice and adopts the provisions of the model diocesan canons governing nominations for the position of diocesan bishop, coadjutor bishop, and suffragan bishop, the diocese effectively surrenders the choice of its bishops to the College of Bishops since the College of Bishops can repeatedly turn down a diocese’ nominees until it finds one to its liking.

The ACNA College of Bishops has assumed powers that the ACNA constitution and canons do not vest in that body. This includes authorizing an Ordinal, which under the provisions of the ACNA constitution and canons it has no authority to authorize.

The ACNA Governance Taskforce discourages groups of churches seeking recognition as ACNA judicatories 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 ACNA Governance Taskforce developed a model diocesan constitution and model diocesan canons that give a very limited role in the governance of the diocese to the diocesan synod, relinquish powers to the province that dioceses are not required to yield under the ACNA constitution and canons, and thereby reduce the autonomy of the diocese. These model diocesan governing documents also permit the Archbishop of the ACNA to meddle in parochial matters.

The way that the ACNA is structured at the provincial level reveals a basic distrust of lay participation in the discussion and determination of major issues. The ACNA has no proper Provincial Synod. The governing body of the province is supposed to be the Provincial Council but the Archbishop’s Cabinet and the College of Bishops have been usurping its powers. The ACNA Provincial Assembly has an extremely limited role in the governance of the province: it ratifies changes in the ACNA constitution and canons and makes recommendations. In practice, the Assembly is bypassed on most important matters.

Under the provisions of the ACNA canons the Archbishop of the ACNA appoints the prosecutor and legal advisor to the court for the trial of bishops. He appoints the judges, prosecutor, and legal advisor for the court of extraordinary jurisdiction. This court tries clergy canonically resident in other provinces and clergy of dioceses that do not possess a trial court. His appointive powers in relation to these courts enable him to influence the outcome of hearings in them. Basic procedural safeguards necessary to guarantee a fair and impartial hearing are conspicuously absent from the disciplinary canons of the ACNA.

The Diocese. The trend in the Anglican Church in North America is to encourage a congregation and its clergy to affiliate with an existing judicatory in the region in which they are located. This means that there is a strong possibility that they may end up in a judicatory with which they are mismatched.

In sizing up the ACNA diocese that they are thinking about joining, congregations and their clergy exploring the first option need to take a close look at its constitution and canons. They particularly need to carefully study its constitutional and canonical provisions related to the ownership of property. The ACNA constitution and canons do not prohibit dioceses from taking the property of congregations in trust, only the province.

They need to closely examine the diocese’s leaders. What kind of leadership do they provide the diocese, particularly in the areas of church planting and evangelism? Would these leaders likely support members of their congregation seeking ordination? Would these leaders permit them to attend a seminary or theological college that stands in the same theological tradition as the congregation and its clergy?

They need to scrutinize the diocese’s culture and ethos. Would their church fit into this particular diocese? Would its people really feel at home? Would they experience constant pressure to adapt to the dominant culture and ethos of the diocese?

They need to explore whether the diocese offers the kind of environment in which they can grow and flourish as a church. If they are evangelical, Protestant and Reformed in their theological identity, would they be able to retain that identity over the long term? Would they be able to plant other churches with the same identity and see them grow and flourish and in turn plant more churches with that identity? Would they be free to network with like-minded churches in and outside the diocese for mission, mutual assistance, and other purposes?

They need to look at the basic orientation of the diocese. Is the diocese primarily viewed as a voluntary association of churches banded together to carry out the Great Commission and to help and support each other’s ministries—an evangelical orientation? Are the churches of the diocese seen as ancillary to the diocese and clergy of the diocese as auxiliary to the bishop—an Anglo-Catholic orientation?

They also need to investigate diocese’s position on key issues. Where, for example, does it stand on the issue of the ordination of women?

The preceding list is just a few of the areas that a congregation and its clergy need to cover in sizing up a diocese. It is not exhaustive.

If the diocese has adopted the model ACNA diocesan constitution and canons, they may need to first seek the approval of the ACNA Executive Committee before they may join that diocese. This requirement is not found in the ACNA constitution and canons but it is in the model diocesan governing documents. It is one of the powers that a diocese yields to the province if it adopts certain provisions of the model diocesan governing documents. The model diocesan constitution and canons also contain references to certain provisions of the ACNA constitution and canons, which have nothing to do with the governance of a diocese and are deliberately misleading.

They also need to remember that they are latecomers to the table. While some congregations and clergy in the diocese may welcome them, others may harbor resentment toward them because of their past affiliation with the Anglican Mission in the Americas. They may adopt the attitude that the congregation and its clergy must “earn” their acceptance. They may be unwilling to make room for the congregation and its clergy in the major decision-making bodies of the diocese. They may insist upon treating the congregation and its clergy as probationers.

Having weighed this option, congregations and their clergy will need to decide whether it is the best option for them. They need to ask themselves whether the second option or the third option identified in the Moving Forward Together Statement might be a better option for them.

If a congregation and its clergy chose to pursue the first option, they will need to consider whether they will maintain ties with the Anglican Church of Rwanda and other PEAR USA and former PEAR USA congregations and clergy. One way that the PEAR USA transition team can help congregations and clergy opting to join an ACNA diocese is to establish a network of such congregations and clergy linking them to PEAR USA bodies established in and outside the Anglican Church in North America. This will provide them with an ongoing support system, especially if they discover that they have made a bad choice in joining a particular ACNA diocese.

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