Friday, July 26, 2013

Appraising the New FIFNA Declaration - Sensationalism or Valid Criticism?

By Robin G. Jordan

I am posting a link to “A Hasty But Comprehensive Response to the Critics of the New FIFNA Declaration,"  Nathaniel Kidd’s defense of the recent changes in the FIFNA Declaration of Common Faith and Purpose. The Rev. Kidd would lead us to believe that those who draw attention to the changes in the FIFNA Declaration and their implications are engaging in sensationalism. Their criticism of this theological statement is unwarranted.

Kidd’s defense of the new FIFNA Declaration assumes that Henry Newman’s interpretation of the Thirty-Nine Articles in a Roman Catholic direction is an acceptable interpretation of the Articles. The GAFCON Theological Resource Group in The Way, the Truth, and the Life, however, rejects Newman’s interpretation of the Articles. They identify his interpretation of the Articles as part of the Anglo-Catholic movement’s challenge to the authority of the Bible and the classic Anglican formularies in the Anglican Church. Newman disregarded authorial intent and historical context in interpreting the Articles as have subsequent Anglo-Catholics in imitation of Newman. Newman would eventually reject the Articles and become a Roman Catholic, believing that his earlier attempts to reconcile the Articles and Roman Catholic theology were untenable.

Nineteenth century Evangelical and Protestant High Church scholars in the Church of England effectively refuted the claims of the Tractarian and Ritualist movements that they alone represented authentic historic Anglicanism and their churchmanship was the only true churchmanship. Twentieth century scholars have also shown the falseness and inaccuracy of these claims. The Anglo-Catholic movement in the twenty-first century continues to make such claims. They underlie its claim to be a genuine expression of Anglicanism.

Both nineteenth and twentieth century scholars have shown that the Anglo-Catholic movement is essentially an anti-Bible, anti-Reformation movement that seeks to change the identity of the Anglican Church and to make the Anglican Church more Roman Catholic in belief, order, and practice. At one time the hope of Anglo-Catholics was that if they made the Anglican Church sufficiently like the Roman Catholic Church, the pope would accept the Anglican Church back into the Roman Catholic fold.

The acceptance of Anglo-Catholicism in the Anglican Church is confined to one segment of the Church. This acceptance may be attributed largely to the erosion of Biblical authority and the liberalization of the Church. 

The late Peter Toon’s observation that the initial Common Cause theological statement went well beyond historic Anglicanism in its affirmation of the teaching of the first seven Councils of the undivided Church is applicable to the new FIFNA Declaration of Common Faith and Purpose. Interestingly a number of the church leaders involved in the Common Cause Roundtable also serve on the FIFNA Council. The final Common Cause theological statement forms the basis of the Anglican Church in North America’s Fundamental Declarations.

The new FIFNA Declaration of Common Faith and Purpose’s assertion that Christ is substantively present under the species of bread and wine is clearly at odds with Article 28. While a segment of the Anglican Church may have embraced the doctrine of transubstantiation under the influence of the Anglo-Catholic movement, this is not sufficient grounds to disregard the doctrine of the Articles as it applies to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. A segment of the Anglican Church also no longer regards homosexual behavior as immoral and sinful. Are we then on the same basis to reject the teaching of the Bible and the doctrine of the Articles as they apply to God’s moral law?

Forward in Faith in North America may now be representing itself as a teaching organization, rather than a lobbying group. However FIFNA represents itself, the organization promotes Anglo-Catholicism. It unites in its membership Anglo-Catholics who desire to export their beliefs and practices to the global South and change the shape of global Anglicanism. Anglo-Catholicism and liberalism are the two major challenges to the authority of the Bible and the classic Anglican formularies that the GAFCON Theological Resource Group identifies in The Way, the Truth, and the Life.

The observation that the new FIFNA Declaration of Common Faith and Purpose puts Forward in Faith North America at odds with historic Anglicanism, the Thirty-Nine Articles and the Jerusalem Declaration is a valid one. Kidd may wish to gloze over this fact—explain it away. But it is undeniable.

The making public of the changes in the ACNA Ordinal, of the ACNA Catechism, and of the ACNA Holy Communion rites may shed light on this development. They will reveal the theological direction of the Anglican Church in North America, which Forward in Faith North America may be seeking to anticipate and influence with its new Declaration of Common Faith and Purpose. We shall see when the Anglican Church in North America finally releases those documents.


nathaniel kidd said...

Thanks for your comprehensive response, Mr. Johnson. I may have to say a few things in greater detail.

Immediately and foremostly, let me absolutely affirm the appropriateness of critiquing the FiFNA Declaration, and Anglo-Catholicism more broadly. But let me also distinguish between critique and categorical denouncement.

I deeply value sound Evangelical critique of Anglo-Catholic beliefs and tendencies -- including my own -- and will acknowledge it is much needed. There is a kind of Anglo-Catholic romaniticism that wants to deny any Reformed element to the Anglican tradition whatever: such a person is really better suited to Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism. There is also a kind of erosive Anglo-Catholicism that subverts present authority in the name of past tradition, which can end in liberalism. All of these tendencies indeed need to be thoughtfully engaged.

Categorical denouncement lacks this thoughtfulness, and much less helpful accordingly. Since this is personally addressed to me, and I happen to have the leisure and the patience to wrestle with it, I will stay engaged, but this is a fairly abnormal circumstance. Usually, such rhetoric serves only to galvanize a party spirit, and all of the evils that attend to it.

In the interest of separating the wheat from the chaff, may I invite you to reflect critically on how you frame such critiques?

nathaniel kidd said...

Mr. Jordan - having considered this very carefully, I feel I need to consult with you privately about this, but I cannot find any means of contacting you. Please send me an email at nathaniel.kidd [at]

RMBruton said...

Like Humpty Dumpty, who declared that "words mean whatever I want them to mean", FiFNA and ACNA have altered the very definitions of Anglicanism. They have embraced a Roman Catholic Worldview which is not held by most Catholics and which was rejected by the English Reformers. You are about the only person still trying to get anyone's attention to this fact. But, just as the current leadership of the Executive Branch refers to Benghazi as a "Phony Crisis", these people just don't get it. They resent not only your critique stylistically, but any criticism. This works in denominations with no public representation, synod or general assembly/convention. And to think that some people think that the Bilderbergers are the only elitists?

Hudson Barton said...

Once you weigh the matter in conjunction with the declaration of faith of this group of "Anglican" Franciscans, now headed up by Bishop Akerman. , it's hard to imagine any kind of reaction that would be overly sensationalist. There is simply no way to appraise FIFNA as making a sincere effort to stay within the bounds of confessional Anglicanism.

RMBruton said...

Thanks for posting the link to Ackerman's Third-Order Franciscans. Some people are attracted to such things, perhaps as a pious hobby, perhaps to make-up for a spiritual/communal deficiency in their religious life in the World. I understand that there are even such Franciscans associated with certain parishes within the REC. What other manifestations of pseudo-Catholicism will appear on the horizon. I guess that it is part and parcel of Ackerman's New Oxford Movement!