Thursday, June 07, 2012

An Appraisal of the Proposed PEARUSA Charter

By Robin G. Jordan

In this article I offer my appraisal of the proposed PEARUSA canonical charter for ministry. I have limited myself to those provisions of the charter about which I have concerns. The charter is to be presented at the PEARUSA Celebration gathering in Raleigh, North Carolina, on June 11-13, 2012, and to be finalized and approved by the House of Bishops of Rwanda by June 30, 2012. The full text of the charter may be found here.

Article 1

The Jerusalem Declaration upholds the final 1571 version of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England “as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today,” not the 1801 revision of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Protestant Episcopal Church. The two documents differ in a number of significant ways from each other. The Protestant Episcopal Church’s 1801 revision of the Thirty-Nine Articles goes well beyond being an adaptation of the Thirty-Nine Articles to the political situation in the United States. See my article, “Proposed PEARUSA Charter and ACNA/PEAR Protocol.” It is the final 1571 version of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England that the Anglican Communion and GAFCON recognize alongside the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the 1661 Ordinal as the long standing doctrinal standard of Anglicanism. It is to this version of the Thirty-Nine Articles that the Church of England and a number of other Anglican provinces require clerical subscription. It is acceptance of the authority of the final 1571 version of the Thirty-Nine Articles that the GAFCON Theological Resource Group identifies as “constitutive of Anglican identity.”

I am prompted to ask why those who drafted the proposed charter would require PEARUSA clergy to subscribe to an apostate Anglican province’s revision of the Thirty-Nine Articles. It is noteworthy that the Episcopal Church has itself never required clerical subscription to its 1801 revised version of the Thirty-Nine Articles. This was a concession to those who were opposed to the adoption of an official statement of faith for the fledgling province beyond the Creeds and the Book of Common Prayer, as were a number of alterations to the Thirty-Nine Articles made in the 1801 revision. These changes, combined with no clerical subscription requirement, arguably contributed to the development of the present state of the Episcopal Church.

The adaptation of the wording from the ACNA Fundamental Declarations in the qualifying phrase, “taken in their literal and grammatical sense, as expressing the Anglican response to certain doctrinal issues, and as setting out essential theological principles of the Anglican Church,” is open to the same interpretation as the original wording, “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.” It can be construed as an endorsement of John Henry Newman’s reinterpretation of the Thirty-Nine Articles in a Roman direction. It conflicts with the strong affirmation of the Thirty-Nine Articles in The Jerusalem Declaration.

The qualifying phrase, “insofar as they agree with the Holy Scriptures,” contradicts The Jerusalem Declaration which states, “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.” “Insofar as” is a form that introduces a restrictive clause. It means "to the extent or degree that…." The affirmation of the Thirty-Nine Articles in the proposed charter, like the affirmation of the Thirty-Nine Articles in the ACNA Fundamental Declarations, is very weak. As a consequence, the Anglican identity of PEARUSA, like that of the ACNA, is open to question. This reluctance to fully accept the authority of the Thirty-Nine Articles both PEARUSA and the ACNA appear to have inherited from the Episcopal Church.

I recommend the substitution of the following language for this section:

“PEARUSA accepts the doctrine of the reformed Church of England as set forth in the Thirty-Nine Articles of 1571 as understood in their plain, natural, and intended sense. PEARUSA allows that parts of the Thirty-Nine Articles of 1571 such as Article 37 assume and name political structures that do not directly apply to Anglicans outside the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth of Nations.”

Article 2, Section 1

Statements like“PEARUSA also works alongside and in collaboration with the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), in support of a common vision to unite biblical, missional Anglicans within North America and “together with the ACNA, PEARUSA seeks unity with all biblical, missional Anglicans in North America” are high sounding. But do they accurately describe what the ACNA is actually doing? The phrase “biblical, missional Anglicans” is open to more than one interpretation. The proposed charter does not attempt to define what it means by “Anglican,” “biblical,” or “missional.” How could it? The ACNA contains a number of groups who regard themselves as Anglican but who interpret the Bible differently and do not share the same understanding of mission. They do not preach the same gospel. What the ACNA in reality is doing is bringing together in North America self-identified “Anglicans” who are disaffected from the Anglican Church of Canada, the Continuing Anglican Churches, and The Episcopal Church and are willing to accept or tolerate an Anglo-Catholic doctrinal position on a number of key issues, doctrinal positions over which Anglo-Catholics and evangelicals historically have been divided. The constitutional and canonical requirements of acceptance or tolerance of these doctrinal positions excludes from the ACNA an entire group of orthodox Anglican Christians—conservative evangelicals--who fully accept the Thirty-Nine Articles (1571) and the Prayer Book (1662) as standards of Anglican teaching, genuinely subscribe to The Jerusalem Declaration, and are committed to proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ crucified and risen. The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and the GAFCON Primates has yet to face up to the reality of the current situation in the ACNA: For conservative evangelicals affiliation with the ACNA comes with a price—the sacrifice of their theological convictions.

Article 3, Sections 1 and 2

Section 1 states:

“Except in matters delineated by this Charter, the Constitution and Canons of the Province of Rwanda govern PEARUSA. By provision in the Provincial Canons, PEARUSA is established by the House of Bishops of Rwanda as a missionary district in North America.”

Section 2 states:

“Through GAFCON, PEARUSA is in full communion with the ACNA. At the direction of the Archbishop of Rwanda, PEARUSA will seek full
membership within ACNA as a missionary district of Rwanda. If admitted into ACNA, the relationship of PEARUSA to ACNA will be governed by a protocol established by the Archbishops of both Provinces, and ratified by the PEARUSA Assembly.”

Section 2 of the draft ACNA-PEARUSA Protocol states:

“The Constitution and Canons of the ACNA apply to the MD except in those matters addressed by the MD’s ‘Canonical Charter for Ministry’ or by those provisions of the Constitution and Canons of PEAR that are addressed by this protocol. The MD will be a sub-jurisdiction of
the ACNA.”

Those reading the proposed charter need to keep this in mind.

Both the canons of PEAR and the ACNA are highly problematic and in need of major revision, as is the constitution of the ACNA.

Article 3, Section 3

The wording of this section does not suggest that the General Assembly will play a substantial role in the governance of the missionary district.

Article 3, Section 4

This section adopts the same requirements for the formation of a PEARUSA regional network as those for the formation of an AMiA regional network and an ACNA diocese. It must be noted that under the provisions of Section 7 of the draft ACNA-PEARUSA Protocol no matter how large PEARUSA grows in size through the multiplication of congregations and regional networks, its representation in the ACNA Provincial Council will not reflect this growth. It will only have the representation of a single ACNA diocese—one bishop, one member of the clergy,and two lay persons. Section 7 of the draft ACNA-PERUSA Protocol specifies that the missionary district’s General Assembly and subsequent regional networks are to substitute for the ACNA diocese. They constitute together a single judicatory.

Article 3, Section 5

This section states:

“Ordinarily, candidates for the office of bishop will be proposed from among the presbyters within the regional network. The Network Assembly will propose two candidates for bishop to the PEARUSA College of Bishops. The PEARUSA College of Bishops, if they are in agreement, will recommend the two candidates to the House of Bishops of Rwanda for election. The House of Bishops of Rwanda will then elect one candidate as bishop.”

It further states:

“With the consent of the College of Bishops, Regional Networks may nominate presbyters to serve as Missionary Bishops in an assisting or specialized capacity within the Regional Network. Such nominations should follow the same procedure outlined in this Section.”

Note that it does not give the PEAR House of Bishops the option of rejecting the two candidates and requesting additional nominees. This is a significant departure from the provisions of the PEAR canons. Unlike the ACNA canons, the PEAR canons clearly state that the House of Bishops has that option.

The provisions of Section 4 of the draft ACNA-PEARUSA stipulate that all nominees for episcopal office in the missionary district must be “selected from the general assembly” and must first be approved by the ACNA College of Bishops. Consultation between the Primates of the ACNA and PEAR must take place prior to the election.

The resulting procedure for the selection of PEARUSA bishops is fairly complicated. It does not permit the nomination of candidates for episcopal office in the missionary district from the ACNA, PEAR, or another Anglican province—only from the clergy in the General Assembly. It is a procedure that is highly susceptible to being co-opted by whatever church party dominates the ACNA College of Bishops and subsequently the PEARUSA College of Bishops.

Article 3, Section 6

It is clear from this section that the real governing body of the missionary district is the PEARUSA College of Bishops and the Mission Council.

Article 3, Section 7

Under the provisions of this section the Presider of the College of Bishops chairs not only the meetings of College of Bishops but also the meetings of the Mission Council and the General Assembly. He also sets the agenda for these meetings. This gives him a large measure of control over what takes place at these meetings.

Article 3, Section 8

This section provides additional confirmation that the College of Bishops and the Mission Council, not the General Assembly, are the real governing body of the missionary district. Note that the Mission Council is dominated by the clergy, consisting of the College of Bishops and an elected clergy representative and an elected lay representative from each regional network.

As the Latimer Trust Memorandum of Association draws to our attention in its doctrinal basis statement, “…the government of the Christian community properly belongs under God to the Church as a whole both clergy and laity together and not exclusively to bishops or to any other particular order.” For those unfamiliar with the Latimer Trust, it is “an evangelical think tank dedicated to providing biblical input and a considered response to significant issues within the Christian community and elsewhere.” The Latimer Trust continues and develops the work of Latimer House which was founded in Oxford, England, during the 1960s. Among its publications is Being Faithful:The Shape of Historic Anglicanism Today.

As major stakeholders in the missionary district, regional network, and local church the laity should have a corresponding role in the governance of the ecclesiastical and secular organization of PEARUSA at these levels. They should participate in the discussion and determination of major issues at all levels. This means that the laity should be given greater representation on the Mission Council. The lay representation on the Mission Council should be expanded to include two or more lay representatives at large elected by and from the General Assembly as well one or more additional lay representatives elected by and from each regional network.

Article 3, Section 10

Except for the interim period prior to the Inaugural General Assembly, this section limits the board of directors of the PEARUSA non-profit corporation to lay persons. Note that the members of this board are elected by the Mission Council, not the General Assembly, and the PEARUSA non-profit corporation cannot take any action without Mission Council authorization. A better option to a lay board of directors that is chosen by a clergy-dominated Mission Council and which cannot act independently of that body would be to expand the lay representation on the Mission Council as proposed in my discussion of Article 3, Section 8 of the charter, to make the Mission Council the ex officio board of directors (or board of trustees) of the PEARUSA non-profit organization, and to require the appointment or election of a lay person as vice-chairman of the board. The Presider of the College of Bishops would serve as the chairman of the board with a lay person appointed as executive director of the non-profit corporation.

Article 3, Section 11

This section provides further confirmation that the real governing body of the missionary district is the College of Bishops and the Mission Council.

Article 4, Section 1

This section gives determination of affiliation solely to the Mission Council. Churches whose request for affiliation is rejected are not granted the right to appeal the determination to the General Assembly. Nor is the General Assembly required to give final approval to requests for affiliation provisionally approved by the Mission Council. The proposed charter would benefit from the addition of these provisions.

Article 4, Section 4

The first subsection of this section contains a typographical error. It states, “In every church of PEARUSA there shall be a duly constituted Parish Council (or Parish Council) that aids the Rector…”

Article 5, Section 4

The fourth declaration, “I subscribe to The Thirty-Nine Articles, taken in their literal and grammatical sense, as expressing the Anglican response to certain doctrinal issues, and as setting out essential theological principles of the Anglican Church, insofar as they agree with the Holy Scriptures” conflicts with the sixth declaration, “I affirm the Jerusalem Declaration of 2008….” See my discussion of Article I of the charter. I recommend the re-wording of the fourth declaration along the lines of the rewording of Article 1 that I  recommend. This would eliminate the conflict between the two declarations and strengthen the affirmation of the Thirty-Nine Articles and The Jerusalem Declaration.

While the proposed charter goes further than the ACNA constitution and canons does in the case of the Anglican Church in North America to align the PEAR missionary district in North America with the tenets of The Jerusalem Declaration and to involve the laity in the governance of the missionary district, it does not go quite far enough. The charter also makes no provision for an ecclesiastical court system for the missionary district. As I have pointed out elsewhere, this lack of a system of ecclesiastical courts of its own mean that PEARUSA clergy will be tried in a court in which the judges, the court legal advisor, and the prosecutor will be appointed by the Archbishop of the ACNA and in which the likelihood of them receiving a fair and impartial hearing is not great. They also will not be tried by their peers--other members of PEAR, clergy and laity.

Both the draft protocol and the proposed charter need more work. I cannot personally recommend the adoption of these two documents as they are presently written. I think that PEARUSA needs to take more time in ironing out the wrinkles in these documents.

An Appraisal of the ACNA-PEARUSA Protocol
Proposed PEARUSA Charter and ACNA-PEARUSA Protocol

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