By Robin G. Jordan
Among the three options that the Moving Forward Together Statement identifies as a possible next step for PEARUSA congregations and clergy is to remain with the Anglican Church of Rwanda while also forming a sub-jurisdiction of the Anglican Church in North America. The Moving Forward Together Statement does not state what it means by the term “sub-jurisdiction.” The ACNA constitution permits the banding together of dioceses, clusters, and networks for common mission or as distinct jurisdictions at the sub-provincial level (Article IV.4) as well as the formation of regional or affinity-based dioceses, clusters, or networks (Article II.2). If the ACNA is viewed as a jurisdiction, the term “sub-jurisdiction” could apply to both structures.
In its March 1, 2012 communiqué PEARUSA narrowed its options to two:1. Affiliation with a nascent North American Missionary District of Rwanda, in full communion and collaboration with the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA).
2. Direct affiliation with existing dioceses or dioceses‐in‐formation of the ACNA.
It also provided clarification of how the term “sub-jurisdiction” was used in the Moving Forward Statement.
In this article I examine the constitution of the Anglican Church in North America and how it might affect the proposed PEARUSA sub-jurisdiction envisioned in the communiqué.
Article I of the ACNA constitution identifies “seven elements characteristic of the Anglican Way and essential for membership.” No ecclesial body may become a sub-jurisdiction of the Anglican Church in North America unless it unconditionally expresses adhesion to these seven elements as they are stated in the ACNA constitution. Article I.3 aligns the ACNA with the Anglo-Catholic position on an issue that historically has divided Anglicans. It is a position that Anglo-Catholics share with Roman Catholics. Article I.3 states:We confess the godly historic Episcopate as an inherent part of the apostolic faith and practice, and therefore as integral to the fullness and unity of the Body of Christ.
Compare Article I.3 with the following provision from the Constitution of the Church of South India, a province that brought together into one church Christians, Anglican and non-Anglican, with different views of the historic episcopate.The church of South India does accept and will maintain the historic episcopacy but this acceptance does not commit it to any particular view or belief concerning orders of ministry and it will not require the acceptance of any particular interpretation or view as a necessary qualification for its ministry. What ever differing interpretations there may be, however, the Church of South India agrees that, as episcopacy has been accepted from early times, it may be in this sense fitly be called historic, and that is needed for the shepherding and extension of the church in South India. Any additional interpretations, though held by individuals, are not binding on the church of South India.
It displays sensitivity to the divisions between Anglicans as well as Christians over this particular issue. It does not align itself with the position of one school of thought on the issue. It makes room in the Church of South India for a variety of schools of thought on the historic episcopate.
Article I.5 states:Concerning the seven Councils of the undivided Church, we affirm the teaching of the first four Councils and the Christological clarifications of the fifth, sixth and seventh Councils, in so far as they are agreeable to the Holy Scriptures.
As the late Peter Toon points out in his assessment of the original Common Cause Theological Statement, “the historic Anglican Way has always affirmed four general councils and stopped at that – leaving to the area of discretion by local churches whether to affirm more.” Clause 3 of The Jerusalem Statement stands squarely in the historic Anglican Way.We uphold the four Ecumenical Councils and the three historic Creeds as expressing the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
Toon points out that if one carefully reads the Thirty-Nine Articles—…one will learn that Councils may err and so one will not accept automatically the teaching of “the Seven Ecumenical Councils.” And this is especially important with regard to the seventh, the Second Council of Nicea, whose teaching on the veneration of icons is effectively rejected by the Articles and specifically by the Book of Homilies to which Article XXXV points.
The Thirty-Nine Articles are also very clear:Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. (Article VI)
If the ACNA fully accepted the authority of the Thirty-Nine Articles, statements like Article I.5 would be unnecessary. However, the ACNA does not fully accept their authority. This is not only evident from the wording of Article I.7 but also from the doctrinal provisions of the ACNA canons, the ACNA “theological lens,” and the ACNA ordinal.We receive the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1571, taken in their literal and grammatical sense, as expressing the Anglican response to certain doctrinal issues controverted at that time, and as expressing fundamental principles of authentic Anglican belief.
Compare this statement with Clause 4 of The Jerusalem Declaration.
We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.
The ACNA’s position on the 1662 Book of Common Prayer warrants comment. Article I. 6 states:We receive The Book of Common Prayer as set forth by the Church of England in 1662, together with the Ordinal attached to the same, as a standard for Anglican doctrine and discipline, and, with the Books which preceded it, as the standard for the Anglican tradition of worship.
This is not the same as saying that the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the 1661 Ordinal have long been recognized as the doctrinal standard of Anglicanism, alongside the Thirty-Nine Articles. Indeed the doctrinal standards to which the ACNA “theological lens” gives the greatest weight are “Catholic tradition” and the 1549 and 1928 Prayer Books. As Doctor Toon also points out in his assessment of the original Common Cause Theological Statement, “it is the 1662 edition that is in the Constitutions of the majority of the Anglican Provinces ….” He further notes:No official province of the Anglican Communion authorizes the 1549 or the 1552 or the 1559 or the 1604 editions. A very small continuing group here or there may authorize the 1549.
Article I.6 is so worded that the 1637 Scottish Prayer Book and the pre-Reformation medieval service books may be interpreted as a part of the ACNA worship standard. It does not specify to which books that preceded the 1662 Book of Common Prayer it is referring.
The ACNA Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Taskforce has developed and the ACNA College of Bishops approved a set of principles that are guiding the taskforce in its compilation of a Prayer Book for use in the ACNA. These principles establish the 1549 and 1928 Prayer Books as the basis of the actual working standard that will be used in the preparation of the ACNA Prayer Book. While the 1549 Prayer Book is one of the books that preceded the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the 1928 Prayer Book is by no stretch of the imagination a predecessor of the 1662 Prayer Book even thought it incorporates features of the pre-Reformation medieval service books, the 1549 Prayer Book, and the 1637 Scottish Prayer Book.
The ACNA College of Bishops’ approval of these guiding principles points to one of the major problem areas of the Anglican Church in North America—the ACNA College of Bishops’ disregard for constitutionalism and the rule of law. It suggests that the ACNA bishops see themselves above the ACNA constitution and free to ignore its provisions as they see fit. Archbishop Robert Duncan has certainly displayed this attitude toward both the ACNA constitution and the ACNA canons. It also raises questions about the orthodoxy of the ACNA College of Bishops. In approving these guidelines and authorizing the ordinal prepared in accordance to them the ACNA College of Bishops not only sanctioned doctrines and practices that the English Reformers rejected on solid biblical grounds in the sixteenth century but also took the position that human beings are by their very nature drawn to God and only sin keeps them from enjoying a full relationship with him—a doctrine that conflicts with the doctrine of the Thirty-Nine Articles (Article IX)—and that the Bible contains the Word of God, that every word of the Bible is not God-breathed—a modernist view of the Bible.
Any ecclesial body that maintains as did the English Reformers and as have evangelical Anglicans that the Bible mandates no particular church order or polity and is unwavering in its commitment to the classic Anglican formularies and the Protestant, Reformed, and evangelical character of the Anglican Church will not be able to hold on to these convictions if it applies to become a sub-jurisdiction of the ACNA. Giving up these convictions is a part of the price that it must pay for admission to the ACNA.
Article II.3 states:Member dioceses (or groups of dioceses organized into distinct jurisdictions) are free to withdraw from the Province by action of their own governing bodies at any time.
Article II.3 says nothing about groups of clusters or networks organized into distinct jurisdiction being free to withdraw from the ACNA. As we shall see the lack of precise language in this and other articles of the ACNA constitution is problematic.
Article IV.3 of the ACNA constitution states:Each diocese, cluster or network (whether regional or affinity-based) shall be represented in the Provincial Assembly.
Article VI.3 further states:The Provincial Assembly shall be composed of representatives of all the dioceses, clusters and networks (whether regional or affinity-based) in balance and in number from the laity, bishops and other clergy as from time-to-time determined by canon.
Article VI, however, gives no real authority to the Provincial Assembly. Its involvement in the legislative process is limited to ratifying canons made by the Provincial Council. It cannot initiate or amend legislation or, as was seen at the first Provincial Assembly in Bedford, Texas, deliberate upon the legislation brought before it for ratification. It was modeled upon the annual Winter Conference of the Anglican Mission in the Americas. The annual AMiA Winter Conference has no legislative functions. It primarily serves as a mechanism for rallying the rank and file of the AMiA in support of the latest initiative of the AMiA leadership.
Under the provisions of Article IV.5 only bishops in active episcopal ministry may be included in the ACNA College of Bishops, “as provided by canon.” This clause permits the Provincial Council determine the conditions under which a bishop may be included in the College of Bishops or to delegate such determination to the College of Bishops or the Archbishop of the province. Article X.2 reiterates what is stated in Article IV.5.
Article IV.7 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.
This has in practice not been the case. While the ACNA constitution acknowledges the right of groups of churches seeking to become an ACNA judicatory to establish and maintain their governance, constitution, and canons, there is evidence of a deliberate effort on the part of the ACNA Provincial Council and the ACNA Governance Task Force to infringe upon this right and force all new judicatories into the same mold, disregarding the provisions of the ACNA constitution and canons and curtailing judicatorial autonomy. I will explore this development in more depth in an upcoming article.
At the time the ACNA Governance Task Force drafted the present constitution and canons, it also produced a document, Guidelines for Submitting an Application Form to the Provincial Council for Recognition as a New Diocese/Cluster/Network or as a
Diocese/Cluster/Network “In Formation”, which contains the this ominous statement:Article IV recognized the right of each grouping to establish and maintain its own governance, constitution and canons not inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution and Canons of the Province. While not required at this time, future canons may require each grouping to write a constitution and canons in support of the Provincial Constitution and Canons. [Emphasis added.]
It must be emphasized that the ACNA constitution does not recognize the right of dioceses, clusters, and networks banding together for common mission or as distinct jurisdictions to establish and maintain their governance, constitution, and canons, only the right of individual dioceses, clusters, and networks. This may prove an obstacle to PEARUSA’s affiliation with the ACNA on the terms envisioned in the March 1, 2012 communiqué. It may become a bone of contention at a future date in the ACNA. As previously noted, there is an element in the ACNA leadership that is trying to take away powers from the ACNA judicatories and give them to the province. The banding together of dioceses, clusters, and networks for common mission or as a distinct jurisdiction may eventually prove to be an obstacle to their aspirations and they may seek to remove it.
Article VII does not guarantee the representation of all judicatories in the Provincial Council. Article VII.2 states that the membership in the Provincial Council shall be prescribed by canon. Article VII.3 requires each diocese to “take steps to implement a system of staggered terms.” Whether this provision is referring to all judicatories—clusters and networks as well as dioceses—is unclear. The provisions of Article VII may prove an obstacle to the organization of PEARUSA as envisioned in the March 1, 2012 communiqué. This depends upon how the ACNA leadership chooses to interpret these provisions. It must be noted that there is an element in the ACNA that wishes to enfold all the congregations and clergy forming the ACNA into geographic dioceses and do away with non-geographic judicatories.
Article VIII.1 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. [Emphasis added.]
This means that an ACNA judicatory retains all authority that it does not relinquish to the province by acceding to the provisions of the ACNA constitution or by adopting the ACNA model diocesan governing documents or certain provisions in these documents. The latter provisions exploit the clause “shall retain all authority they do not yield to the Province by their own consent” to reduce the authority of the judicatory in a number of areas, turning that authority over to the province. The areas concerned are not areas in which the constitution delegates powers to the province that the judicatory otherwise might exercise nor prohibits the judicatory from exercising such powers. The result is a significant reduction in the autonomy of the judicatory. I will examine the specific provisions of the ACNA model diocesan constitution and canons in an upcoming article.
Article VIII.2 further states:The Province shall make no canon abridging the authority of any member dioceses, clusters or networks (whether regional or affinity-based) and those dioceses banded together as jurisdictions with respect to its practice regarding the ordination of women to the diaconate or presbyterate.
The provisions of Article VIII.2 appear to protect the practice of dioceses banded together as jurisdictions but not clusters or networks. This is one of the main defects of the ACNA constitution—the lack of precise language, which opens its provisions to multiple interpretations. While it might be argued dioceses include clusters and networks, the provisions of Article VIII.2 do not say so.
Article X.5 gives the ACNA College of Bishops control over the choice of bishops for the province. The College of Bishops exercises this control in two ways. It must consent to the election of a bishop by a diocese, cluster, or network or it may actually choose the bishop from a slate of two or more candidates nominated by the diocese, cluster, or network “in the manner set forward by canon.” Article X.5 further states that the College of Bishops, having chosen a new bishop from such a slate of nominees must consent to its own choice. This makes no sense since in choosing a bishop the College of Bishops gives its consent. The language of Article X.5 is an example of number of defects in the ACNA constitution.
I have discussed the problems associated with the second mode of choosing bishops elsewhere. Among these problems is that if the PEARUSA sub-jurisdiction is unwavering in its commitment to the classic Anglican formularies and the Protestant, Reformed, and evangelical character of the Anglican Church but it turns over the final choice of its bishops to the ACNA College of Bishops, it opens itself to the strong possibility that the College of Bishops will choose nominees who are not as unwavering in this commitment as they might ought to be and in this way undermine the sub-jurisdiction’s commitment to the Anglican formularies and the Anglican Church’s Protestant, Reformed, and evangelical character.
Article XII states:All church property, both real and personal, owned by each member congregation now and in the future is and shall be solely and exclusively owned by each member congregation and shall not be subject to any trust interest in favor of the Province or any other claim of ownership arising out of the canon law of this Province. Where property is held in a different manner by any diocese or grouping, such ownership shall be preserved. [Emphasis added]
The provisions of Article XII do not prohibit a diocese or other grouping from holding the property of a congregation in trust or from seizing the property of a congregation if it chooses to withdraw from the diocese or grouping.
Article XIII states:Each member diocese, cluster or network (whether regional or affinity-based) or any group of dioceses organized into a distinct jurisdiction agrees to share the cost of operating the Province as provided by canon.
Here again we find a reference to dioceses “organized into a distinct jurisdiction” but not to clusters or networks. The Common Cause Governance Task Force, when it drafted this and similar provisions in the ACNA constitution, appears to have the Reformed Episcopal Church in mind. It is organized into dioceses. As previously noted in relation to the provisions of Article VIII.2, the lack of precise language opens the provisions of Article XIII to multiple interpretations. It might be used along with other provisions in the ACNA constitution to pressure PEARUSA to organize into dioceses or even a single diocese rather than as envisioned in the March Communiqué.
Article XIV states:As may be provided by canon, a member diocese, cluster or network (whether regional or affinity-based) or any group of dioceses organized into a distinct jurisdiction may be removed from membership in the Province, after due warning from the Executive Committee, if agreed to by two-thirds of the members present and voting and at least a majority in two of the three orders of bishops, clergy and laity within the Provincial Council.
Article XIV suffers from the same problem as Article VIII.2 and Article XIII—the lack of precise language. Article XIV as it presently worded permits the expulsion of a judicatory from the ACNA for what may in the final analysis be a frivolous reason. The process is relatively easy—warning by the Executive Committee, followed by the requisite vote of the Provincial Council. There is no provision for a cooling-off period, followed by a second vote of the Provincial Council.
The ACNA Governance Task Force has proposed and the Provincial Council has approved a number of changes in the ACNA constitution. These changes will be submitted for ratification at the next Provincial Assembly in Ridgecrest, North Carolina this coming June. They include the following additions to Article XI:2. There shall be a Court for the Trial of a Bishop to function as provided by canon.
3. The Provincial Council may, by canon, create additional courts, inferior to the Provincial Tribunal, as may be necessary or appropriate to determine matters of church discipline.
4. Each Diocese shall, by canon, establish its own ecclesiastical Trial Court for the trial of a deacon or presbyter.
These amendments to Article XI were proposed and approved despite the provisions of Article V.5 recognizing that the Provincial Council has power to make canons ordering the common life of the ACNA in respect to “clergy support and discipline,” making these provisions both unnecessary and arguably cosmetic. What concerns us is that Section 4 says nothing about clusters and networks establishing their own ecclesiastical court for trial of deacons and presbyters, only dioceses. This points to the influence of the element in the ACNA seeking to enfold all the congregations and clergy forming the ACNA into geographic dioceses and do away with non-geographic judicatories.
The March 1, 2012 communiqué compares the relationship of PEARUSA with the ACNA as analogous to a marriage. Marriages that endure the test of time are those in which the couple takes time to get to know each other. They do not let the pressures of the moment to cause them act with undue haste. Long engagements enable a couple to discover whether they are the right marriage partners for each other, whether they can really live together as husband and wife.
In my next article in this series I will examine the canons of the Anglican Church in North America and how they might affect the proposed PEARUSA sub-jurisdiction envisioned in the March 1, 2012 communiqué.
Saturday, March 03, 2012
Moving Forward Together: The Next Step—Part 2
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 3:15 PM