The ACNA Canons: The Ordained Ministry
By Robin G. Jordan
In this fifth article in the series “Moving Forward Together: The Next Step” I examine Title III of the canons of the Anglican Church in North America and consider how its provisions may affect the proposed PEARUSA sub-jurisdiction. Title III relates to the ordained ministry.
Canon III.1.2 is modeled upon Canon C1.3 of the Church of England but with one major difference:According to the ancient law and usage of this Church and Realm of England, the priests and deacons who have received authority to minister in any diocese owe canonical obedience in all things lawful and honest to the bishop of the same, and the bishop of each diocese owes due allegiance to the archbishop of the province as his metropolitan.
According to the provisions of Canon C 17 of the Church of England the Archbishops of Canterbury and York are the metropolitans of their respective provinces and have metropolitical jurisdiction throughout their provinces. This jurisdiction is exercised by the archbishop himself or by a vicar general, official, or other commissary to whom the archbishop has formally committed authority in that behalf. Canon C 14 requires diocesan bishops, suffragan bishops, and assistant bishops to take an oath of due obedience to the archbishop and the metropolitical Church of the province in which he is to exercise the episcopal office. Canon C 14 also requires all persons to be ordained a deacon or presbyter to first take the oath of canonical obedience to the bishop of diocese by whom they are to be ordained.
Nowhere in its governing documents is the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America recognized as being the metropolitan of the province and having metropolitical jurisdiction throughout the province, a common provision in the governing documents of provinces of the Anglican Communion in which an archbishop is the metropolitan of a province and has metropolitical jurisdiction throughout the province. Despite the titles of archbishop and primate, the Archbishop of the ACNA is essentially a presiding bishop to whom the ACNA canons and the model ACNA diocesan constitution and canons assign a number of additional duties and functions. What is remarkable about a number of these duties and functions is that in they are not duties and functions that an Anglican metropolitan, much less Anglican presiding bishop, would typically exercise. They go well beyond the normal sphere of ministry of the offices of metropolitan and presiding bishop. Since the ACNA governing documents do not recognize the Archbishop of the ACNA as being the metropolitan of the province and having metropolitical jurisdiction throughout the province, it is questionable whether the Archbishop of the ACNA can demand canonical obedience from the bishops of the dioceses of the ACNA irrespective of the provisions of Canon III.1.2. A presiding bishop, whatever his title and whatever his other duties and functions, is not the ecclesiastic superior of the other bishops of the province. He cannot command the due obedience of his fellow bishops.
Except as otherwise provided in the provincial canons, Canon III.1.3 vests the determination of the norms for ordination in an ACNA diocese exclusively in the Bishop having jurisdiction. Canon III.1.3 in effect prohibits the diocesan synod or its equivalent of a diocese or the representative governing body of a sub-provincial jurisdiction from developing and implementing norms for ordination in the diocese or the sub-provincial jurisdiction. Canon III.1.3 has serious implications for the proposed PEARUSA sub-jurisdiction. The norms for ordination are a matter that is too important to leave solely to the discretion of the bishop of a diocese. The process by which such norms are developed and implemented should fully involve the clergy and laity of the diocese and not merely in an advisory capacity. Canon III.1.3, as it is presently worded, opens the door for all kinds of abuses of episcopal authority in this area. For example, an Anglo-Catholic diocesan bishop can make it more difficult for persons not open to Anglo-Catholic doctrine and practice to be accepted for ordination in his diocese. It can be exploited to marginalize a particular group on the basis of its theological outlook not only in a diocese but also throughout the province.
Canon III.2.1 establishes these general requirements for ordination to the diaconate or the presbyterate in the Anglican Church in North America.Every Bishop shall take care that he admit no person into Holy Orders but such as he knows either by himself, or by sufficient testimony, to have been baptized and confirmed, to be sufficiently instructed in Holy Scripture and in the doctrine, discipline and worship of this Church, as defined by this Province [emphasis added], to be empowered by the Holy Spirit and to be a wholesome example and pattern to the entire flock of Christ.
The ACNA constitution and canons are discernibly Anglo-Catholic in their doctrinal and liturgical bias as is the ACNA ordinal. The provisions of Canon III.2.1 can be used to exclude from ordained ministry those who received their training in conservative Reformed - evangelical seminaries or theological colleges. They can also be used to require postulants and candidates for ordination from conservative Reformed - evangelical congregations to complete part or all of their training in Anglo-Catholic institutions or institutions open to Anglo-Catholic doctrine and practice.
Canon III.2.6 is modeled upon Canon C 4 of the Church of England.3A. The archbishop of the province, on an application made to him by the bishop of a diocese on behalf of a person who by reason of paragraph 3 of this Canon could not otherwise be admitted into holy orders, may grant a faculty for the removal of the impediment imposed by that paragraph to the admission of that person into holy orders, and any request made to a bishop for an application to be made on his behalf under this paragraph shall be made and considered, and any application made by the bishop to the archbishop shall be made and determined, in accordance with directions given from time to time by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York acting jointly.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are metropolitans of their respective provinces and have metropolitical jurisdiction throughout their provinces. As previously noted, nowhere in the ACNA governing documents is the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America recognized as being metropolitan of the province and having metropolitical jurisdiction throughout the province. According to the ACNA constitution the Archbishop is essentially a presiding bishop to whom are assigned a number of additional duties and functions by canon. It is questionable whether the duties and functions of a metropolitan of a province with metropolitical jurisdiction throughout the province should be assigned to a presiding bishop, much less duties and functions that go beyond those normally exercised by the metropolitan of a province in the Anglican Communion. While seemingly reluctant to accord its Archbishop the rank and title of metropolitan of the province, the Anglican Church in North America shows no hesitance at assigning to the Archbishop a role that borders upon being papal.
The final sentence of Canon III.2.6 states:Pastoral exceptions may be made in accordance with the directions given from time to time by the Archbishop acting in consultation with the College of Bishops.
This sentence is not as clear as the final clause of Section 3A of Canon Canon C 4 of the Church of England. It suggests that the Archbishop can issue directions, in consultation with the College of Bishops, in accordance with which the bishops of the province themselves can remove this impediment.
Canon III.2.7 is redundant. See Canon III.2.1, which establishes the general requirements for ordination to the diaconate or the presbyterate, including sufficient instruction in Holy Scripture and in the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Church. Canon III.2.7 uses the phrase “properly trained” in place of the phrase “sufficiently instructed” but the two phrases mean the same thing.
Canon III.3.1 contains no reference to the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal. It leaves entirely to the discretion of the bishop what other topics that a candidate for the ordination to the diaconate must demonstrate sufficient knowledge. Compare Canon III.3.1 with Canon C 7 of the Church of England:No bishop shall admit any person into holy orders, except such person on careful and diligent examination, wherein the bishop shall have called to his assistance the archdeacons and other ministers appointed for this purpose, be found to possess a sufficient knowledge of Holy Scripture and of the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Church of England as set forth in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal: and to fulfil the requirements as to learning and other qualities which, subject to any directions given by the General Synod, the bishop deems necessary for the office of deacon.
The final clause of Canon C 7 recognizes the authority of the Church of England’ General Synod to issue directions establishing standards for the entire church.
Canons III.3.2 and III.4.3 requires candidates for deacons’ and priests’ orders to subscribe without reservation to this declaration:
I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God and to contain all things necessary to salvation, and I consequently hold myself bound to conform my life and ministry thereto, and I do solemnly engage to conform to the Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of Christ as this Church has received them.
On one hand an ordinand is expected to bind himself to conform to the teaching of Scripture; on the other hand, he is expected to binds himself to conform to the Anglo-Catholic doctrine of the Anglican Church in North America. From a conservative Reformed – evangelical point of view the two are not the same. For ordinands with conservative Reformed - evangelical convictions the requirement of unreserved subscription to this declaration constitutes another barrier to ordination in the Anglican Church in North America.
Canon III.4.2, while providing a specific list of subjects in which a candidate for ordination to the presbyterate must exhibit proficiency in learning, leaves entirely to the discretion of the bishop what other qualities such a candidate must exhibit. The list combines subjects from the list of subjects for deacons’ and priests’ orders with those from the list of subjects for deacons’ orders in special cases from the canons of the Episcopal Church (as revised through 1967) with some additions (e.g. ascetical theology) not found in the aforementioned canons. What is remarkable about this list of subjects is that it does not include the study of the doctrine of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion. Like Canon III.3.1 it gives too much authority to the bishop in determining the requirements that must be met for ordination in the Anglican Church in North America.
The term “the historic succession” as used in Canon III.5 reflects an Anglo-Catholic view of that term. Subsection 2 of Canon III.5.3 has been amended as follows:if the person was ordained by a Bishop whose authority to convey such orders has not been recognized by this Church, ordain the person as a Deacon conditionally, and in accordance with Canon III.3.3.2, ordain the person a Presbyter conditionally (if previously ordained a Presbyter) having previously baptized and confirmed the person conditionally if necessary.
What is worthy of note about Canon III.5.4 is tht, while it stipulates no bishop from another jurisdiction not in communion with Anglican Church in North America may be received as a bishop of the ACNA “except by the consent of the College of Bishops and in accordance with the Canons of this Church,” there is no procedure delineated in the ACNA canons for the reception of such a bishop other than the College of Bishops’ consent. Deacons and presybers, on the other hand, must be examined on points of doctrine, discipline, polity, and worship in which the jurisdiction from which they come differs from the ACNA They must undergo a period of probation and even rebaptism, reconfirmation, and reordination.
The amendment to Canon III.7 adds the following sentence to the canon: “As a minimum the consultation in Canon I.6.4 shall be required. As I noted in my examination of Title I, this represents an encroachment upon the rights of the diocese and an infringement upon its autonomy. It involves a matter normally dealt with in the governing documents of the diocese.
Canon III.8.2 is adapted from Canon 375 §1 of the Code of Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church of 1983:By divine institution, Bishops succeed the Apostles through the Holy Spirit who is given to them. They are constituted Pastors in the Church, to be the teachers of doctrine, the priests of sacred worship and the ministers of governance.
Canon III.23.1.1 of the canons of the Anglican Church of Rwanda is also adapted from the same canon. In Canon 23, Sec. 1.1-2 and Canon 375 of the Roman Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law is articulated the Roman Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession. The language used in ACNA Canon III.8.2 and Rwandan Canon III.23.1.1 is open to interpretation as teaching the Roman Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession and the sacramental nature of the consecration of a bishop even though it has been modified slightly. An examination of the canons of a number of Anglican provinces—the Anglican Church of Kenya, the Anglican Church of the Province of the Southern Cone of America, the Church of England, the Church of Nigeria, and the Church of Uganda—reveals that they do not contain any statement in regards to how the bishops of the province are successors to the apostles. Only the ACNA canons and the Rwandan canons contain such a statement. AMiA Canon Kevin Donlon was involved in the drafting of both documents.
Canon III.8.3 is adapted from Canon 378 §1 of the Roman Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law (1983).To be a suitable candidate for the episcopate, a person must:
1° be outstanding in strong faith, good morals, piety, zeal for souls, wisdom, prudence and human virtues, and possess those other gifts which equip him to fulfil the office in question;
2° be held in good esteem;
3° be at least 35 years old;
4° be a priest ordained for at least five years;
5° hold a doctorate or at least a licentiate in sacred Scripture, theology or canon law, from an institute of higher studies approved by the Apostolic See, or at least be well versed in these disciplines.
Canon I.6.3 of the Anglican Church of Rwanda, which relates to the qualifications of missionary bishops, is adapted from the same canon.
Canon III.8.4 prescribes two modes for the choice of bishops in the Anglican Church in North America.1. Bishops shall be chosen by a Diocese in conformance with the constitution and canons of the Diocese and consistent with the Constitution and Canons of this Church.
2. An electing body from the Diocese shall certify the election of a Bishop for consent by the College of Bishops, or may certify two or three nominees from which the College of Bishops may select one for the Diocese. The latter practice is commended to all Dioceses in this
3. Where the originating body is newly formed, that body shall normally nominate two or three candidates, from whom the College of Bishops may select one.
4. Consent or choice and consent shall require the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the membership of the College of Bishops present and voting, which consent must be given within 60 days of certification and in writing. For purposes of the election of Bishops at a meeting of the College, a quorum shall be a majority of the active members of the College.
5. Upon the consent or choice of a Bishop-elect by the College of Bishops, the Archbishop shall take order for the consecration and/or installation of such Bishop.
6. In the event the Bishop-elect or the nominees are rejected by the College of Bishops, the College shall so inform the originating body in writing.
Note that subsection 2 of Canon III.8.4 commends to all dioceses in the Anglican Church in North America the second mode of choosing a bishop—the practice of the College of Bishops selecting a bishop for a diocese from a slate of two or three candidates nominated by the diocese. Subsection 3 of Canon III.8.4 prescribes that where a diocese or other grouping of congregations is newly-formed, it should normally adopt the second mode of choosing a bishop. During the intense debate on the Internet regarding this practice before the adoption and ratification of the present ACNA canons members of the Common Cause Governance Task Force maintained that a newly-formed diocese was not required to adopt the practice if it decided not to do so. It had been drawn to their attention that the wording of the proposed canons and the application for recognition as an ACNA diocese and its accompanying guidelines did not suggest that a newly-formed diocese or other group of congregations had a choice as to what mode of choosing a bishop they adopted. Since that time a number of newly-formed dioceses have adopted the first mode of choosing a bishop and elected their bishop and then obtained the consent of the College of Bishops to the election of the bishop-elect. The Governance Taskforce and the Provincial Council, however, have not modified the wording of Canon III.8.4 or the application for recognition as an ACNA diocese and its accompanying diocese.
During the same debate Phil Ashey, a member of the Governance Taskforce, claimed that the second mode of choosing bishops was African, specifically the mode of choosing bishops used in the Church of Uganda. Ashey was wrong on both counts. This particular mode of choosing bishops is an adaptation of the Roman Catholic Church’s mode of choosing bishops. The principle difference is that a group of bishops, rather than a single bishop, chooses the new bishop. It is similar to the mode of choosing bishops used in the Anglican Church of Rwanda. This is not surprising since AMiA Canon Kevin Donlon who drafted the present Rwanda canons was also involved in the the drafting of the ACNA canons. Unlike Rwandan Canon III.23.3, Canon III.8.4 contains no provisions for the nomination of additional candidates in the event the College of Bishops rejects the first slate of candidates and any subsequent slate of candidates. Canon III.8.4 does not prohibit the College of Bishops from rejecting the diocese’s nominees and choosing its own nominee as the bishop of the diocese. Canon III.8.4 leaves to the diocese how it nominates the two or three candidates from whom the College of Bishops selects a bishop. It does not prohibit an diocesan bishop from nominating the candidates for his position or the position of coadjutor or suffragan bishop. Nor does it prohibit the diocese from delegating the nomination of candidates to the College of Bishops or to another body. There is nothing in the ACNA governing documents to prevent its College of Bishops from becoming self-perpetuating.
The nomination and election of the bishops of a diocese by the diocesan synod or its equivalent is a long-standing practice in North American Anglicanism and is a part of its heritage that is worth preserving. It is a practice that is traceable to the early Church. It is an important form of diocesan autonomy. It is a major way that a diocese can protect its theological identity against encroachment. In a system in which the bishops of the province select the diocesan bishop and the other bishops for the diocese, one church party can over time come to dominate the college of bishops. The choice of a new bishop becomes a question of who will make the best new member of the college of bishops rather than who will make the best bishop for the diocese. A college of bishops dominated by Anglo-Catholic bishops is going to choice an Anglo-Catholic or someone open to Anglo-Catholic doctrine and practice. If the diocese nominates a slate of candidates from which the college of bishops selects a new bishop, an Anglo-Catholic-dominated college of bishops is likely to choose the candidate who, if not Anglo-Catholic, is most open to Anglo-Catholic doctrine and practice. In such a system a conservative Reformed-evangelical diocese is likely to gradually loose its theological identity particularly in the Anglican Church in North America in which a large role is assigned to the bishop.
What is also troublesome about Canon III.8.4 is that subsection 6 does establish a timeframe within which the College of Bishops must notify a diocese in writing that it has rejected the diocese’s bishop-elect or slate of nominees. Subsection 6 also does not require the College of Bishops to provide the diocese with an explanation of why it rejected the diocese’s bishop-elect or slate of nominees.
Canon III.8.5 poses the same dilemma for a presbyter with conservative Reformed-evangelical convictions elected or appointed to the office of bishop as Canons III.3.2 and III.4.3 pose for an ordinand with such convictions. It creates an obstacle to the election or appointment of conservative Reformed-evangelical presbyters to the episcopate in the Anglican Church in North America.
Canon III.8.6 empowers the College of Bishops to elect and supervise bishops for special mission. It makes no provision for the dissolution of the office of bishop for special mission once it is created, nor does it establish any limits on how long someone may serve as such a bishop. The only requirements are that the office of a bishop for special mission should be created for a specific missionary purpose and in consultation with the Executive Committee. Conspicuously absent from the process is the Provincial Council, which is the governing body of the Anglican Church in North America. Canon III.8.6 enables a church party that dominates the College of Bishops and the Executive Committee to add to its ranks in the College of Bishops by means of the election of bishops for special missions. It sets no limit upon the number of offices of bishop for special mission that the College of Bishops may create.
Canon III.8.7 requires a diocese to obtain consent of the College of Bishops before it “may commence the process of election” of a coadjutor or suffragan bishop. Canon III.8.7 enables a church party dominating the College of Bishops to pressure a diocese into making unwarranted and unwelcome changes in its doctrine, policies, and governance through the simple expedient of refusing to grant the diocese’s request for consent to elect a coadjutor or suffragan bishop.
The more I examine the canons of the Anglican Church in North America, the more I am convinced that the ACNA does not offer the kind of environment in which the conservative Reformed-evangelical congregations and clergy of PEARUSA can be expected to flourish. To create such an environment would require as a starter extensive revision of the ACNA governing documents. The right conditions do not exist in the ACNA at this stage to produce such revision. Those who believe that they can reform the ACNA from within that ecclesial body are deluding themselves. They will either be assimilated into the existing ecclesiastical culture or they will be marginalized.