Friday, June 15, 2012
A Conservative Evangelical View of the Anglican Church in North America—Part 1
By Robin G. Jordan
The constitution of the Anglican Church in North America identifies seven elements that it maintains are “characteristic of the Anglican Way” and “essential to membership.” This includes the assertion that the “historic episcopate” is “an inherent part of the apostolic faith and practice.” All Anglicans, however, do not agree with this position. Historically it is associated with the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Anglican Church.
The ACNA canons also contain a number of doctrinal statements. They permit the admission of baptized young children to the Holy Communion (Canon II.4.3.4). While some evangelicals may appeal to covenant theology as providing grounds for admitting young baptized children to the Holy Communion or even take the Lutheran view that baptism confers faith, others point to 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, to Articles 25, 28, and 29, to the three Exhortations and the Invitation to Communion in the 1662 Communion Service, and to the rubric at the end of the 1662 Confirmation Service. Those who are unrepentant and in whom a vital faith is not present are not partakers of Christ even though they eat the bread and drink the wine. Before baptized children are admitted to the Holy Communion they should evidence repentance and faith along with love and charity toward others.
Canon II.4.3.4 infers an ex opere operato view of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper: The sacrament automatically confers grace; faith in the heart of the recipient is not required. Anglo-Catholics and Roman Catholics share this view of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Conservative evangelicals reject this doctrine as did the English Reformers.
Canon II.7.1 maintains that matrimony is a sacrament, not a state of life allowed in Scripture as the Thirty-Nine Articles and 1662 Book of Common Prayer teach:
“The Anglican Church in North America affirms our Lord’s teaching that the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is in its nature a union permanent and lifelong of one man and one woman.”
Canon II.7.1 establishes the Anglo-Catholic sacramental view of matrimony as the official position of the ACNA. It also implies that confirmation, penance, ordination, and extreme unction also are sacraments. This is another position over which Anglicans historically have been divided.
Canon III.5.1 requires the re-ordination of ministers “ordained in a Jurisdiction not ordered in the Historic Succession” or in communion with the ACNA. Canon III.5.3, on the other hand, permits the reception as clergy of the ACNA ministers “ordained in a Jurisdiction by a Bishop of the Historic Succession” but not in communion with the ACNA. These two sections of Canon III.5 embody an Anglo-Catholic understanding of “historic succession,” which is not shared by all Anglicans. Canon III.8.2 maintains that bishops "…are successors of the Apostles through the grace of the Holy Spirit," an Anglo-Catholic doctrine. Canon III.8.2 is an adaptation of Canon 375 §1 of the Roman Catholic Church. Anglicans historically have been divided over this doctrine.
Among the doctrinal statements in the ACNA “theological lens,” adopted by the College of Bishops as an official statement of the doctrine of the Anglican Church in North America, is this assertion:
“As [we are] created in the image of God, we were made for union with God, and so are instinctively drawn to God in all of our choices”[Emphasis added].
The view articulated in this statement is associated with Anglo-Catholicism and liberalism. It conflicts with the doctrine of the Thirty-Nine Articles that all human beings are very far gone from original righteousness and naturally incline not toward God but toward evil. This includes the regenerate (Article 9)
The ACNA “theological lens” also assets that the creeds, episcopacy, and the Book of Common Prayer are the three essentials of Anglican identity. This view is largely held by Anglo-Catholics but is not entirely uncongenial to moderate liberals. It is, however, not the position of The Jerusalem Declaration, the GAFCON Theological Resource Group’s publications— The Way, the Truth, and the Life and Being Faithful: The Shape of Historic Anglicanism Today, and conservative evangelicals.
The 2011 ACNA Ordinal inserts “three” between “these” and in the historic preface to the Anglican Ordinal, establishing the Anglo-Catholic interpretation of the preface as the only interpretation. The original wording of the preface permitted the interpretation that while presbyter and bishop are distinct offices, presbyter and bishop are not separate orders—the position of the English Reformers in the sixteenth century and of conservative evangelicals in the twenty-first century.
This is not the only significant change that the 2011 ACNA Ordinal made in the Anglican Ordinal. It altered the form of the question put to the deacon concerning the Bible. The question in the classic Anglican Ordinal, the Ordinal appended to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, is:
“The Bishop: Do you unfeignedly believe all the Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testament?
Answer. I do.”
The 2011 ACNA Ordinal’s rewording of the question, taken from the 1928 Prayer Book, “avoids the necessity of asserting a blanket belief.”
“Bishop: Are you persuaded that the Holy Scriptures contain all Doctrines required as necessary for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ?
Answer. I am so persuaded.”
Here again we see the influence of Anglo-Catholicism and liberalism.
The 2011 ACNA Ordinal also permits a number of practices “beloved by Anglo-Catholics” and long associated with doctrines rejected by the English Reformers. In doing so it countenances these doctrines. There is no disclaimer that the Anglican Church in North America does not attach any particular doctrinal significance to these practices and the use of the practices is not to be understood as implying any doctrines other than those contained in the classic Anglican formularies—the Thirty Nine Articles, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the 1661 Ordinal, and the two Books of Homilies.
At the same time the ACNA canons require ACNA ministry partners to subscribe without reservation to the ACNA fundamental (Canon I.7). They make it the duty of every member of the ACNA to read and study the doctrine of the fundamental declarations (Canon I.10.2.2). They also require the use of the ACNA Prayer Book upon its adoption (Canon II.2.1) They require all clergy to instruct all within their cures “in the doctrine, sacraments, and discipline of Christ, as the Lord has commanded and as they are set forth in the Holy Scriptures, in the Book of Common Prayer, and in the Church Catechism” (Canon II.4.2). The Book of Common Prayer and the Church Catechism to which Canon II.4.2 refers is the ACNA Prayer Book and Catechism.
The ACNA do not permit the ordination of anyone who is not “sufficiently instructed…in the doctrine, discipline, and worship of this Church, as defined by this Province” (Canon III.2.1) They also do not permit the ordination of anyone who “has not been properly trained in the Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of this Church (Canon III.2.7). No one may be ordained a presbyter unless he (or she) “has demonstrated sufficient knowledge of…the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of this Church….” (Canon III.4.2).
The ACNA canons prohibit anyone from being ordained a deacon or a presbyter or consecrated a bishop who has not subscribed without reservation” to following declaration (Canon III.3.2, Canon III.4.3; Canon III.8.5):
“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.”
Canon IV.2 lists among grounds for the presentment of a member of the clergy of the ACNA “violation of any provision of the Constitution of this Church” and “disobedience, or willful contravention of the Canons of this Church or of the constitution or canons of the Diocese in which he holds office.”
The guidelines for submitting an application form to the Provincial Council for recognition as a new diocese or diocese-in-formation require that the vestry or it equivalent of each congregation in the group subscribe to the ACNA constitution and canons.
As can be seen, a minister is limited to teaching and a congregation to believing and practicing only what is officially mandated or sanctioned.
The purpose of this article is not to debate whether the particular doctrines are right or wrong but to draw attention to the fact that these doctrines represent only two traditions in the Anglican Church—the Anglo-Catholic and liberal. For the ACNA to mandate or sanction them and the associated practices is to take a decidedly partisan stance and to erect unnecessary barriers to the participation of Anglicans who subscribe to the Bible’s teaching regarding marriage and human sexuality but do not accept these doctrines or the practices associated with them.
The Anglican Church in North America aspires to become the sole recognized Anglican province in North America, supplanting the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church USA. Whatever we may think of its aspirations, the ACNA cannot hope to achieve them by not genuinely making room for the entire spectrum of conservative Anglicans and by requiring conservative evangelicals who affiliate with the ACNA to check their theological convictions at the door. The ACNA is contributing to the further fragmentation of North American Anglican Church, rather than uniting its conservative elements. It is leaving conservative evangelicals with little alternative than to erect an independent North American Anglican jurisdiction for conservative evangelicals.
The fact is that the Anglican Church in North America did not have to align itself with a particular doctrinal position on a range of issues over which Anglicans have long been divided. It could have adopted neutral language in several key parts of its constitution and canons. Its "theological lens" could have recognized the divergent and often conflicting views of conservative Anglicans and the need to accommodate all groups of conservative Anglicans in the preparation of an ordinal and a prayer book. The ordinal could have been more sensitive to conservative evangelical concerns. One is prompted to ask why the ACNA is flirting with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, the North American Lutheran Church, and the Orthodox Church of America when it has not been successful in creating an ecclesiastical environment in the province, in which conservative evangelicals as well as Anglo-Catholics and charismatics can feel at home.
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 2:35 PM