Tuesday, June 19, 2012
A Conservative Evangelical View of the Anglican Church in North America—Part 2
By Robin G. Jordan
The barriers to conservative evangelical participation in the Anglican Church in North America are not entirely doctrinal. In this article I take a look at three major areas in which may found serious obstacles to conservative evangelical participation—governance, church discipline, and leadership.
(1) The Provincial Council and the Executive Committee. According to the ACNA constitution and canons the Provincial Council is the governing body of the Anglican Church in North America. The Council is composed of a bishop, a member of the clergy, and two lay persons from each diocese. The canons do not specify the means by which these council members are selected only that it must be consistent with the ACNA constitution and canons.
Under the provisions of the ACNA governing documents it is permissible for the ordinary of the diocese to appoint the diocese’s council members or even the archbishop of the province if the diocesan constitution and canons so provide. The ACNA governing documents do not mandate that council members should be elected or by whom they should be elected. The Council itself may appoint six additional members “of any order.” Members of the Executive Committee who are not otherwise members of the Council are ex officio members of the Council. Under the provisions of the ACNA governing documents it is quite possible for the number of clergy in the Council to exceed the number of lay persons.
The term of office of Council members is limited to two five-year term. The canons do not address what will happen if a diocese has only one bishop.
One of the recent ACNA Government Task Force’s proposals would limit the Council to adopting changes to the constitution and canons. The particular wording of this proposal suggests that the Council itself would not be able to draft amendments to these governing documents, only approve them before sending them onto the Provincial Assembly for final ratification.
Among the amendments to the canons presented to the Provincial Assembly for ratification at Ridgecrest was an amendment that takes away the Council’s power to enter into covenants with other Anglican and Christian bodies and gives it to the Archbishop and the College of Bishops. The power of the Council is reduced to affirming whatever covenants the Archbishop or the College of Bishops enter into.
A second amendment to the canons staggers the terms of the members of the Executive Committee. This enables single party or group to dominate the Executive Committee, to co-op new members, to maintain the status quo, and block needed reform in the ACNA.
(2) Officers of the Province. Nowhere in the ACNA governing documents does it state that the archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America is the metropolitan of the province and that he has metropolitical jurisdiction over the province. Yet the ACNA canons require the other bishops of the ACNA to swear canonical obedience to the archbishop. According to the ACNA constitution the archbishop is only a presiding bishop with a number of additional duties and responsibilities delineated in the canons. However, the ACNA canons give the archbishop powers that go well beyond those typically exercised by an archbishop who is a metropolitan and has metropolitical jurisdiction. In a number of instances these powers represent serious infringements upon what are long-recognized prerogatives of the ordinary of the diocese as well as the autonomy of the diocese. They constitute major departures from historic Anglican practice.
It is worthy of note that the annual reports of the dioceses of the Anglican Church in North America go not to the ACNA’s governing body, the Provincial Council, but to the archbishop.
A third amendment to the canons presented to the Provincial Assembly for ratification at Ridgecrest regularizes Archbishop Duncan’s irregular creation of the office of the dean of the province and his equally irregular appointment of his long-time friend ANiC Bishop Don Harvey to that post. Both the creation of the office of provincial dean and Bishop Harvey’s subsequent appointment to the post were unconstitutional and uncanonical. If the need for someone to assist Archbishop Duncan had been so great, the College of Bishops could have elected a bishop for special missions to act as his assistant under the provisions of the ACNA canons.
As well as regularizing Archbishop Duncan’s actions this amendment sets the terms of office of the officers of the province and the manner of filling vacancies in their offices occurring between meetings of the Provincial Council. Among the unusual features of this amendment is that the archbishop appoints the provincial dean in consultation with the College of Bishops. The provincial dean serves at the pleasure of the archbishop and he may only represent the archbishop in his absence with his authorization.
I have examined a number of the governing documents of Anglican provinces that have a dean of the province, the title generally used for this officer of the province. The provisions establishing the office of dean of the province, the manner of his election or appointment, and his duties and responsibilities are typically found in the provincial constitution, not its canons. Typically the dean of the province is elected by the other bishops of the province or the senior most bishop by consecration automatically becomes dean of the province. The dean of the province holds office for a fixed term. The dean of the province automatically assumes the duties and responsibilities of the primate of the province in his absence or incapacity or upon his resignation, death, or removal until the election of a new primate. He performs such other duties and responsibilities that the constitution, the canons, or the province’s primate may assign to him. Typically the deputy president of the equivalent of the Provincial Council and the equivalent of the chancellor of the province hold office for a fixed term, not at the pleasure of the province’s primate as in the amendment.
The ACNA deputy chair and the ACNA chancellor should be protected from arbitrary or summary dismissal by the archbishop of the province. They are not appointed by the archbishop. There may be occasions when they will be required to act in the best interests of the province and in which the best interests of the province and the personal interests of the archbishop do not coincide.
(3) The Provincial Assembly. The Provincial Assembly is a travesty of provincial synod. While the Assembly is the largest and most representative of the “governing bodies” of the Anglican Church in North America, it has the least power. The Assembly may consider only changes to the constitution and canons of the ACNA approved by the Provincial Council. It cannot discuss these changes in depth or appoint committees or taskforces to study them. It cannot amend the changes. It can only ratify them or send them back to the Provincial Council. The Assembly may make recommendations but only in regards to the faith and mission of the ACNA. It cannot make recommendations regarding governance, church discipline, leadership, and other areas of the life of the denomination.
Even in the days before the Church Assembly—the predecessor of the General Synod—the laity played a much greater role in the governance of the Church of England than the laity plays in the governance of the ACNA. Parliament enacted legislation affecting the Church of England. The monarch was the supreme governor of the English Church. Royal assent was required for all church-related legislation. The bishops were elected by the chapter of the diocese on the nomination of the monarch. The chapter chose whomever the monarch nominated.
The post-reformation English form of ecclesiastical governance was an adaptation of the Swiss Reformed model, which was found in every Swiss city state where there was a Reformed Church, the exception being Geneva. In this model the magistrates of the city state govern the church and the church serves as the conscience of the magistrates. In England parliament and the monarch replaced the magistrates of the city state. With the exception of Geneva, the Swiss Reformed Churches were essentially lay-governed churches. So was the reformed Church of England.
When what is now the United States of America became independent from England and the colonial churches became disestablished, the churches in the former English colonies would adopt a system of conventions made up of clergy and laity to govern the newly-formed Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA. The diocesan conventions derived their authority from the parishes forming them and the parishes derived their directly from Christ. A general convention derived its authority from the dioceses. This form of governance was itself an adaption of the English model.
In the United States in the nineteenth century a number of Anglo-Catholic bishops claimed that they had supreme authority over the church in their diocese in all matters on the basis of the theory that they were successors to the apostles and Christ had given this authority to the apostles and their successors. They argued that the authority of the diocesan convention was derived from the bishop of the diocese and the diocesan bishop could withdraw it at any time. The acts of the diocesan convention were only binding upon the diocesan bishop because he voluntarily agreed to them. They also claimed supreme authority over the entire church in the United States. This view of the episcopate would dominate the thinking of the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Episcopal Church. It has influenced the thinking of a number of ACNA bishops.
In the United Kingdom in the same period a number of Anglo-Catholic bishops in the Church of England made similar claims. However, a series of judicial rulings determined that English bishops were not above the law. They were bound by the canons of the Church of England, the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer, and the law of the land like any other member of the clergy. Their discretionary power was restricted to whatever discretionary power that the law granted them.
This is a part of the background to developments in the Anglican Church in North America in the area of governance. In the dioceses and sub-jurisdictions of the ACNA there has been an effort to maintain a semblance of the synodical form of church governance at those levels. A notable exception is PEARUSA. Its form of governance is modeled upon that of the ACNA at the provincial level.
At the same time the ACNA model diocesan constitution and canons point to an attempt at the provincial level to move the form of governance at the diocesan level closer to that at the provincial level. Provisions of the ACNA governing documents applying solely to the province have also been deliberately or erroneously applied to dioceses. The ACNA model canons contain provisions that if adopted would result in a diocese relinquishing additional powers to the province, which dioceses are not required to do so under the provisions of the ACNA governing documents. They curtail the autonomy of the diocese and enable the archbishop of the province to meddle in the affairs of the diocese.
Archbishop Duncan claims that the form of governance that the ACNA has adopted at its provincial level makes it more mission-shaped. This is highly debatable. Turning the Provincial Assembly into a three-day mission conference is not the most effective way of focusing an entire denomination on mission. A much more effective approach would be to sponsor annual regional, diocesan, deanery and parish mission conferences and seminars, to raise funds for scholarship to enable clergy and laity to attend these gatherings, and to develop training courses for use at the deanery and parish levels to equip clergy and laity for church planting, evangelism, and missions.
(4) The College of Bishops. Under the leadership of Archbishop Duncan the College of Bishops has been usurping the powers of the Provincial Council and the Executive Committee. For example, Archbishop Duncan created an Archbishop’s Cabinet made up of bishops. This body, which has no official standing under the provisions of the ACNA governing documents has taken and is performing a number of functions that by right belong to the Provincial Council and the Executive Committee. The ACNA constitution gives the Provincial Council power to make canons relating to common worship in the province. Under the provisions of the ACNA governing documents the College of Bishops has no authority to require reports from the Prayer Book and Common Worship Task Force, much less authorize an ordinal. The ACNA canons do not recognize the bishops of the province as having collective responsibility for ensuring that the forms used in public worship and the administration of the sacraments in the province be in accordance with Anglican Faith and Order and that “nothing be established that is contrary to the Word of God as revealed in the Holy Scriptures,” only individual responsibility in their respective dioceses.
The College of Bishops in the ACNA is a select club that chooses its own members. A diocese may elect a bishop but the College of Bishops must consent to his election. What is described as the preferred method in the ACNA canons is that a diocese nominates two or three candidates and the College of Bishops selects a bishop from these candidates. The canons do not require the College of Bishops to select one of the candidates nor do they prohibit the College of Bishops from selecting a candidate of their own choosing.
The guidelines for application for recognition of a diocese or diocese-in-formation refer to the applicant nominating one or two or three candidates. This is very revealing into how the Governance Task Force sees the two modes of choosing bishops for a diocese. Because the College of Bishops is the only body that is involved in the selection of bishops at the provincial level, it means that whatever party or group dominates the College of Bishops can dictate who is chosen bishop for a diocese—either a member of that party or group or an individual that it views as friendly to its interests.
The minimum age requirement for an ACNA bishop is 35 years of age, the minimum age requirement of a Roman Catholic bishop. There is no mandatory retirement age for an ACNA bishop. Representatives of the Governance Task Force have discouraged at least two applicants for recognition as an ACNA diocese from limiting the terms of their bishops in their governing documents, telling them that the Provincial Council would not approve their application. The ACNA constitution and canons, however, do not prohibit a diocese from limiting the term of its bishops. They do not rule out a diocese establishing a board or commission to periodically review the performance of a bishop and to determine whether his term of office should be extended.
The ACNA model diocesan constitution contains a provision that if it is adopted requires the standing committee of a diocese to obtain the permission of the archbishop to declare the office of a bishop of the diocese vacant due to incapacity or protracted absence. This is one of a number of provisions in the model diocesan constitution and canons that if they are adopted result in the diocese or diocese-in-formation yielding to the province powers that are reserved to the dioceses under the provisions of the ACNA constitution and canons. These provisions represent serious infringements upon the autonomy of the diocese.
A number of important procedural safeguards are conspicuously absent from the ACNA disciplinary canons. The disciplinary canons have no special provisions for dealing with allegations of sexual abuse.
The archbishop may over-rule the ordinary of the diocese and lift the inhibition of a member of the clergy canonically resident in the diocese. The standing committee, in the absence of the ordinary of the diocese, cannot ask the bishop of a neighboring diocese to pronounce the sentence, only the archbishop. The ordinary of a diocese cannot, without the consent of the archbishop and the Executive Committee, reduce or terminate a sentence that he has imposed. All of these provisions represent serious infringements upon the long-recognized prerogatives of the ordinary of the diocese and/or the autonomy of the diocese and constitute major departures from historic Anglican practice.
The College of Bishops cannot, without the archbishop’s consent, reduce or terminate a sentence that it has imposed. A long-standing principle of Anglican ecclesiastical jurisprudence is that the authority who imposes a sentence may reduce or terminate the sentence. This provision in the ACNA disciplinary canons clearly violates this principle. It also constitutes a major departure from historic Anglican practice.
The archbishop appoints the legal advisor and the prosecutor of the Court for the Trial of Bishops. He also appoints the members of the Court of Extraordinary Jurisdiction and the legal advisor and prosecutor of that court. The archbishop is not required to consult with the Provincial Council, the Executive Committee, the College of Bishops, or the Provincial Tribunal before making these appointments nor do the appointments require the confirmation of any of these bodies.
Archbishop Duncan as the Anglican Church in North America’s primate is admittedly bound to become a lightning road drawing criticism directed at the ACNA. At same time he is not entirely blameless. He shares responsibility with the other leaders of the ACNA for the direction that ecclesial body is taking.
Archbishop Duncan has evidenced little respect for constitutionalism and the rule of law in his three years as primate of the Anglican Church in North America and has shown himself a poor model in this regard not only for the province’s other bishops but future ACNA leaders. He has not only flouted a number of the provisions of the ACNA constitution and canons but also he has arrogated to himself powers that the ACNA governing documents do not give him or recognize as inherent in his office. They include the formation of an Archbishop’s Cabinet, an institution typically found in Roman Catholic archdioceses, as well as the creation of the offices of provincial dean, provincial archdeacon, and provincial canon, and appointments to these posts. He has established what may be described as dangerous precedents.
Archbishop Duncan is a leading champion of the ACNA’s “minimalist” canons with their inadequate provisions, imprecise language, and insufficient detail. He is also one of the more militant advocate of its elitist form of ecclesiastical governance.
Under his leadership an ecclesiastical culture characterized by a lack of openness and transparency has emerged in the Anglican Church in North America. There is very little if any real accountability at the provincial level. A diocese cannot recall its members of the Provincial Council and replace them if it concludes that they are not acting in its best interest. There are no provisions in the ACNA governing documents that give the Provincial Council and the Provincial Assembly authority to conduct investigations into the day-to-day operations of the province and to require the production of records and the giving of testimony. There are also no provisions requiring the archbishop to give an accounting of his decisions and policies to the Provincial Council, much less the Provincial Assembly and enabling the Provincial Council or the Provincial Assembly to adopt a vote of no-confidence or censure and even to refer the archbishop to the Colleges of Bishop for disciplinary action.
The claim that the Anglican Church in North America is an example of subsidiarity is far from the truth. Wikipedia in its article on subsidiarity points to the reader’s attention:
“Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. Political decisions should be taken at a local level if possible, rather than by a central authority. The Oxford English Dictionary defines subsidiarity as the idea that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level...Subsidiarity is, ideally or in principle, one of the features of federalism, where it asserts the rights of the parts over the whole.”
When the Anglican Church in North America is subject to close examination, this is clearly not what is happening in the ACNA. The principle of subsidiarity, if was properly applied in the ACNA, would mean that most functions of governance, church discipline, mission, etc. would occur locally, at the local congregational level. The diocese would undertake only those functions that exceed the capacity of the local congregation to undertake on its own. The province would in turn undertake only those functions that exceed the capacity of the diocese to undertake on its own. What we see happening in the ACNA is the misuse of the term "subsidiarity" to justify concentrating power in the hands of a limited number of people--an ecclesiastical elite.
A Conservative Evangelical View of the Anglican Church in North America—Part 1
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 1:00 PM