What I am advocating in my recent articles is that Anglicans who are part of the Anglican Church in North America and who believe that historic Anglicanism is sufficiently catholic and does not need to adopt unreformed Catholic teaching and practices, Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, to become more fully Catholic take their future into their own hands. This requires bold action as I have pointed out in these articles.
Those who maintain that there is plenty of room in the Anglican Church in North America for such Anglicans do not appreciate their precarious position in the denomination. They underestimate the strength of the convictions of those who are a part of the Anglican Church in North America and who want to make the denomination more Catholic. Every doctrinal statement that the College of Bishops has endorsed to date has moved the Anglican Church in North America in the direction of unreformed Catholicism and away from historic Anglicanism.
If the College of Bishops had a genuine commitment to a policy of comprehension, the College would not be taking the denomination in that direction. It would be endorsing doctrinal statements that affirmed the beliefs and values of all schools of thought represented in the denomination. It has done nothing of the sort. To date it has endorsed:
· An ordinal that alters the historic preface of the Anglican Ordinal so as to permit only an Anglo-Catholic interpretation of the preface and which countenances unreformed Catholic teaching and practices;
· Eucharistic rites that give expression to the medieval Catholic doctrines of the sacrifice of the Mass and Transubstantiation and the equally unscriptural Lambeth doctrine of eucharistic sacrifice;
· A catechism that takes unreformed Catholic positions on the order of salvation, the sacraments, and sanctification.
Its actions are not the actions of a College of Bishops committed to comprehending the beliefs and values of all schools of thought represented in the Anglican Church in North America. They are the actions of a College of Bishops that seeks to Catholicize the doctrine, order, and practice of the denomination.
As I have also pointed out in previous articles, Anglicans who are part of the Anglican Church in North America and who believe that historic Anglicanism is sufficiently catholic have no standing in the denomination. They are not recognized as a distinct group with its own beliefs and values which must be considered in the development of rites and services and a catechism for the denomination.
How anyone can claim in the face of this and other evidence that there is plenty of room for such Anglicans in the denomination boggles the mind. They are clearly permitted in the denomination on sufferance and then mostly likely due to their gifts, numbers, and resources, which are presently needed for the denomination to grow. They, however, are apparently not needed enough to accommodate what they believe and value.
I am convinced that the College of Bishops will pursue its present direction as long as it does not encounter any major obstacles or serious objections. The College of Bishops in this regard is like a teenage who is testing how far he can push the limits. The more successful a teenager is in pushing the limits, the more emboldened he is to push them. At some point he will get totally out of control unless firm limits are set and enforced. This includes allowing him to experience the negative consequences of his actions. When parents fail to set and enforce such limits, outside intervention is required for the teenager’s own good.
The Anglican Church in North America unfortunately has very few mechanisms for holding its bishops accountable for their actions. It has no provincial synod that must approve the decisions of the College of Bishops and which acts as a counterbalance to the College. The Provincial Council is the official governing body of the denomination but the College of Bishops has to a large extent usurped its authority and effectively bypassed the Council as a policy-making body.
Due to the kind of system created by the present constitution and canons of the Anglican Church in North America and due to the way that it operates, lobbying the Provincial Council and the College of Bishops is pointless. Bringing about change in this type of closed system requires taking the initiative and acting independently of the system.
Among the steps that proponents of a second province within the Anglican Church in North America can take to lay the foundation for such a province are these ten steps:
1. Form a voluntary association of Biblically faithful Anglican congregations and clergy who are part of the Anglican Church in North America and who accept the Scripture-based doctrine and principles of the Anglican formularies. This association would be organized into regional and district branches, each composed of congregations and clergy affiliated with the association in a specific geographic area and having its bylaws, own general meeting, executive board, and officers. Provision for a form of affiliation with the association would be made for congregations and clergy who are not located in an area that has a district branch and for private individuals sharing its beliefs and values and sympathetic to its aims.
2. Develop and implement credentialing processes to establish the qualification of clergy and other ministry leaders and to assess their background and legitimacy. These processes would include screening candidates for ordination or licensure and overseeing their formation and training.
3. Establish and maintain a central registry of clergy and other ministry leaders meeting association standards. Congregations seeking to call a senior pastor or to hire additional staff would be able to access this registry in their search for suitable candidates. Congregations and clergy affiliated with the association would as a condition of their affiliation agree to employ or appoint only clergy and other ministry leaders on the registry or otherwise accredited by the association. They would also agree to require their clergy and other ministry leaders to sign an agreement at the time of their employ or appointment to the effect that they would tender their resignation in the event they ceased to subscribe to the Scripture-based doctrine and principles of the Anglican formularies. This would help ensure that only clergy and other ministry leaders meeting association standards would serve association-affiliated congregations.
4. Develop and produce or approve training modules for clergy and other ministry leaders. One of the aims of the association would be to help affiliated congregations to recruit and develop new leaders. Such leaders are critical to congregational growth.
5. Develop and implement a united plan of giving through which affiliated congregations give a percentage of their undesignated receipts in support of their respective regional branch and the association’s missions and ministries. Every year affiliated congregations would decide how much of its undesignated gifts would be committed to reaching people in the region and throughout the world through the association. They would then forward this amount to their regional branch. Delegates to the regional branch’s general meeting would decide what percentage of the gifts by affiliated congregations stay in the region to support regional branch missions and ministries. They would also determine what percentage would be forwarded to the national association for the association’s North American and international missions and ministries. Delegates to the national association’s general meeting from each regional branch would decide how the gifts received from the regional branches would be distributed among national association entities. These gifts would be used by national association entities to send and support missionaries, train clergy and other ministry leaders, provide relief for retired clergy and widows, and address social, moral, and ethical concerns related to the association’s belief and values and its families. *
6. Plant and grow new congregations. This would be primarily the responsibility of regional and district branches and local congregations. Association-wide church planting initiatives could also be launched at the national association level targeting unreached, unengaged people groups and focusing and supporting regional, district, and local church planting efforts in relation to these people groups.
7. Compile and publish liturgical resources which reflect the Scripture-based doctrine and principles of the Anglican formularies. These rites and services would include orders for Morning and Evening Prayer, alternative forms of morning and evening worship, services of the Lord’s Supper, baptism services, confirmation services, marriage services, services of thanksgiving for the birth of a child and the safe delivery of the child’s mother, services for the funeral of an adult and the funeral of child, forms of prayer for use with the sick and dying, services for the communion of the sick, services for the commissioning of lay readers, catechists, and evangelists, services for the installation of a senior pastor, and ordination services for deacons, presbyters, and bishops, and services for the installation of a bishop, and the like. They would use modern day English and have sufficient flexibility for use in a variety of settings by congregations in a variety of circumstances. They would be easy to understand and use and would have a minimum of rubrics.
8. Issue doctrinal statements on key issues such as the sacraments, articulating positions that are consistent with the Scripture-based doctrine and principles of the Anglican formularies. Offer webinars on the theology of the English Reformers, the history of the Anglican Church, the Homilies, the Thirty-Nine Articles, and The Book of Common Prayer. Publish popular and scholarly articles related to these topics. Produce videos for use at regional branch, district branch, and local congregational gatherings.
9. Develop and publish a catechism and other instructional material for adults and children in line with the Scripture-based doctrine and principles of the Anglican formularies.
10. Establish and build relationships with like-minded Anglicans outside the Anglican Church in North America. Form mission and ministry partnerships with such Anglicans.
What other steps do you think proponents of a second ACNA province might take to lay its foundation?
What step should they make their first priority?
*What I am describing in this paragraph is a giving plan similar to the Southern BaptistConvention’s Cooperative Program. I adapted the description of the Cooperative Program which appears on the Southern Baptist Convention website.