Saturday, June 06, 2015

A Breach of Faith in the Anglican Church of North America

By Robin G Jordan

The leaders who are exercising the most influence and calling the shots in the organs of governance which are the locus of power in the Anglican Church in North America are very myopic and have not learned from the lessons of history—particularly the history of the Episcopal Church in the United States. Giving the denomination a doctrinal foundation that is unreformed Catholic rather than classically Anglican, they have not only deprived of any official standing existing Anglican congregations and clergy in the denomination but they have also closed the door to breakaway evangelical groups from other denominations and evangelical pastors, pastors in formation, and lay persons attracted to liturgical forms of worship but not to unreformed Catholic teaching and practice.

The Anglican Church in North America is at a similar point in its brief history as the Episcopal Church was in the nineteenth century when August Muhlenberg and others petitioned the House of Bishops for greater flexibility in the denomination’s policy toward evangelicals in other denominations. The Episcopal Church could have made tremendous strides in advancing the cause of the gospel had the House of Bishops listened to the petitioners and implemented the changes that they were espousing. But short-sightedness and narrow interests prevailed then as they are prevailing in the Anglican Church in North America today.

Bringing about meaningful reforms in the Anglican Church in North America would require dislodging this group of leaders from the position that they have established for themselves in the management of the affairs of the denomination. The structure and form of government of the denomination makes that near impossible. They are clearly designed to enable one special interest group to dominate the denomination’s institutions and to determine its future.

Replacing this group of leaders with leaders committed to a more comprehensive vision of the Anglican Church in North America would require more than time. It would require a revolution. The same group of leaders have positioned themselves so that they are the ones who decides who joins them in the top leadership circles of the denomination.

Those who are loyal to authentic historic Anglicanism in the Anglican Church in North America give the impression of having no appetite for putting up any kind of resistance, much less for spearheading a revolution. They appear to be resigned to their own marginalization and the eventual disappearance of genuine Anglicanism with its protestant and reformed principles from the Anglican Church in North America. This may be attributed at least in part to the failure of the GAFCON Primates to show them any kind of support despite a public commitment to help groups that are excluded from their province or diocese.

Perhaps they believe that if they keep a low profile, they can somehow maintain a genuine Anglican presence in the Anglican Church in North America. I personally do not see how they can. The same group of leaders has stacked the deck against them.

North America does not need another unreformed Catholic Church, even one masquerading as an Anglican Church. It has a raft of such Churches. It also has a number of these Churches which are misrepresenting themselves as Anglican. None of them is doing too well. What it does need is a network of churches that are Biblically orthodox, genuinely Anglican, and evangelizing and discipling the unchurched.

Anglicans both in North America and outside of North America who are loyal to the protestant and reformed principles of authentic historic Anglicanism need to overcome the inertia that presently grips them and join forces to establish and grow such a network of churches in North America. If the classical Anglican formularies are in agreement with Holy Scripture as they believe, they are not being Biblically faithful when they accommodate unreformed Catholic teaching and practice that conflict with these formularies. Such teaching and practice conflicts not only with the formularies but also with Scripture.

Their inaction points to a serious lack of confidence in their own beliefs as well as confusion over what is genuinely Anglican. This confusion has its origins in the liberal consensus of the last century, which turned the Anglican Church into what J. C. Ryle in 1884 described as a Noah’s ark in which Anglicans may hold any kind of opinion and creed. The result was a “doctrinal free-for-all” in which the different sections of Church, while holding disparate views on key issues, were recognized as legitimately Anglican.

As the GAFCON Theological Resource Group draws to our attention in The Way, the Truth, and the Life: Theological Resources for a Pilgrimage to an Anglican Future, this consensus has broken down along with the broad comprehensiveness that it maintained. Liberal Anglican leaders and theologians would come to “have problems with a comprehensiveness that included the orthodox.” What the GAFCON Theological Resource Group fails to note is that liberals are not the only ones in places of power who are insisting on entrenching their views and excluding those who disagree. So are Anglo-Catholics.

The publication of The Way, the Truth, and the Life before the formation of the Anglican Church in North America partially explains this oversight. While The Way, the Truth, and the Life identifies Anglo-Catholicism as a major challenge to the authority of the Bible and the Anglican formularies along with liberalism in the twenty-first century Anglican Church, its primary focus is the deleterious effects of liberalism.

While congregations and clergy in the Anglican Church in North America who are loyal to the protestant and reformed principles of authentic historic Anglicanism may be committed to a comprehensiveness that embraces all Christians who believe the core doctrines that are widely accepted as essential to Biblically orthodox Christianity, the Anglo-Catholic-philo Orthodox leaders who are running the show in the Anglican Church in North America are not. They are only willing to make room in the denomination for those who share their convictions on the ordo salutis, apostolic succession, episcopacy, the sacraments, and other key issues.

These leaders have broken faith with their coalition partners in the Anglican Church in North America who do not share their convictions. They are essentially saying that they no longer need the coalition partners who joined with them in establishing the Anglican Church in North America. Under the circumstances the coalition partners whom they exploited and now are rejecting are not bound by any moral obligation or restraint to support their leadership or the Anglican Church in North America. They are free to withdraw from the Anglican Church in North America and to form with other like-minded Anglicans a Biblically orthodox, genuinely Anglican, mission-oriented church network. If their departure weakens the Anglican Church in North America, it will not be their fault but the fault of the leaders who broke faith with them.

The Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, if it truly upholds the authority of the Bible and the Anglican formularies, needs to address the Anglo-Catholic challenge to their authority. An ally that rejects your beliefs and doing all it can to stamp out those beliefs within its jurisdiction as is the case of the Anglican Church in North America is not an ally. If anything, it is unfriend who is taking advantage of what it views as a temporary alliance to achieve its own ends. Throughout history those who have adopted a policy of the enemy of my enemy is my friend have seen it backfire. The Muslim leader to whom the Arabic proverb 'عدو عدوي هو صديقي' ('Adu 'Aduyi Hooweh Ssadikki - My enemy's enemy is my friend) is attributed was himself murdered by one of his “friends.”

Photo credit: Pixabay, public domain


John Johnson said...

Robin, there are times that I have disagreed with you on some of you assertions about the ACNA. However I have to agree with you on this. While I have always been told that there would be room for the more reformed and evangelical Anglicans within the ACNA, I am beginning to get the feeling that this is, in fact, mere toleration. I consider myself a High Churchman myself, and I feel like I can see both the Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic viewpoints. And while I admire their efforts to come together for 'the greater good', I am convinced that in the end, they cannot remain together. I know that there is a bourgeoning group called the Reformed Anglican Church, and from all I can tell, they stand for the same principles and ideals that you do. I may disagree with them on some points, but I am happy to see their existence and pray for God's blessing on their continuance and growth.

Robin G. Jordan said...

I understand what may in part be motivating this particular group of leaders. They belong to a school of thought that does not believe Anglicanism is Catholic enough, that the Anglican Church went too far in jettisoning certain Catholic teaching and practice at the English Reformation. They see in the Anglican Church in North America an opportunity to reshape Anglicanism along more Catholic lines and to export this reshaped Anglicanism to other Anglican provinces.

Former Archbishop Bob Duncan has talked about the need for a “new settlement” and “regression” in response to the crisis in the Episcopal Church. He has promoted the use of To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism in other Anglican provinces. The document is a linchpin of this “new settlement.” Current Archbishop Farley Beach has talked about the renewal of Anglicanism but it is clear from his other statements that he not talking about the renewal of confessional Anglicanism.

They have freedom to implement their particular vision of the Church which they did not have in the Episcopal Church or would not have had if they had become a part of the Episcopal Church. They can do things in the Anglican Church in North America that they could not have done or would not have been able to do in the Episcopal Church. In some ways they are like a child on an outing to an amusement park for the first time. They are carried away by the excitement of the occasion.

At the same time they fear the repetition of what happened in the Episcopal Church and do not trust any other school of thought but their own. There is a tendency to blame the Enlightenment and Protestantism for the inroads that liberalism made in the Episcopal Church. There is also a tendency to deny that their wing of the Episcopal Church served as a nexus of liberalism within the Episcopal Church and not just the Broad Church wing. (The Episcopal Church lost its Evangelical wing in the nineteenth century and saw a brief revival of Evangelicalism in the mid-twentieth century, which was quickly overshadowed by the Charismatic Renewal Movement.)

They also take doctrine and practice more seriously than the other group that has a sizable representation in congregations and clergy of the Anglican Church in North America—those whom Gerald Bray describes as the “charismatic open evangelical ritualists.” This group tends to undervalue the importance of doctrine and the connection between doctrine and practice. Like a moth attracted to the flame of a candle, it is attracted to “three streams, one river” theology that glozes over significant difference in the interpretation of the Bible by Catholics, evangelicals, and Pentecostals. To date this theology has proven to be a smoke screen for a movement to unreformed Catholicism as the experience of the Convergence Churches has shown.

Unfortunately they are repeating what happened in the Continuing Anglican Movement of the 1970s. The tensions between those whom Douglas Bess describes as “Catholic Revivalists” and “Anglican Loyalists” would be a major factor that contributed to the fragmentation of the first Anglican Church in North America and the jurisdictions into which it splintered. Whether or not they want to admit it, they need to provide a “generous space” for Anglicans who are evangelical in tradition and committed to Reformed theology if the Anglican Church in North America is to become anything more than another Continuing Anglican Church. (Continued)

Robin G. Jordan said...

I am not sure what you mean by “High Church.” I associate the term with a particular style of worship and a group of seventeenth century Caroline divines. The latter were Protestant. They, however, largely in reaction to the extremism of some of their Puritan contemporaries but also to a certain extent due to a fascination with the Church of antiquity revived a number of earlier practices that they believed were not contrary to Scripture. They took a high view of the episcopate but at the same time did not reject the orders and sacraments of the Continental Reformed Churches that had done away with the episcopate. For the most part they were Arminian in their theological leanings and interpreted the Thirty-Nine Articles as countenancing Arminianism. Their successors would form a wing of the Church of England until the mid-nineteenth century when the Anglo-Catholic Movement would appropriate the term “High Church” for itself, claiming to be the only legitimate successor to the Caroline divines. However, scholars from the nineteenth century on have shown the falsity of this claim.

The Anglo-Catholic Movement has historically consisted of a number of sub-movements. They include a sub-movement to revive the teaching and practice of the unreformed Catholic Church in its Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox variants in the Anglican Church and a sub-movement to align the Anglican Church in its teaching and practice with the Roman Catholic Church in order to affect a rapprochement with the Roman Catholic Church. Both sub-movements have sought to change the identity of the Anglican Church from Protestant to what it considers to be Catholic.

As I point out in my article, this particular group of leaders is very short-sighted. No one is going to pour their energy, their money, and their time into an organization in which what they believe and how they practice their beliefs has no future. If the Anglican Church in North America was more comprehensive in doctrine and practice and more synodical in its form of governance, Reformed evangelicals like myself would be glad to throw our support behind the Anglican Church in North America. However, the welcome mat has been snatched from under our feet, the door has been slammed in our face, and an “Anglo-Catholics only” sign hung out for all to see.

John Johnson said...

Thanks for your reply Robin. By "High Churchmen" I mean the same thing as you do, with one very important difference. While I understand this movement to me Arminian, I am more Augustianian. The main point of my post is that while I may disagree, that is all it is a disagreement. It is not an reason to hurl invective remarks. I wish you and others could join with us, but in the end it simply would not work. Therefore there needs to be a separate group, call it what you will, for Reformed evangelical Anglicans. I would welcome that very much.

Robin G. Jordan said...

At the time the provisional constitution and canons were made public, I fielded an alternative proposal that would have organized the Anglican Church in North America into largely autonomous provinces based upon theological affinity. The concept was derived in part from the proposal for a third province in the Church of England, in part from the organization and structure of the Anglican Church of Australia, in part from what the late Lyle Schaller and others had written on how affinity networks might be used to reduce theological tensions within a denomination, and in part from the longstanding existence of what are known as “peculiarities” in the Church of England—parishes and deaneries that are not under the jurisdiction of the bishop of the diocese in which they are located but under the jurisdiction of the Crown or the archbishop of the province.

When the Anglican Church of Australia was formed, the situation in Australia was similar to that of the Common Cause Partnership at the time of the formation of the ACNA. The Common Cause Partnership was made up of several different entities including a number of church networks with connections to various Anglican provinces such as the AMiA and CANA. The Anglican Church of Australia is a loose federation of formerly autonomous dioceses, each with its own history, theological leanings and connection with the Church of England.

The ACA’s fundamental declarations have only three sections:

1 .The Anglican Church of Australia, being a part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, holds the Christian Faith as professed by the Church of Christ from primitive times and in particular as set forth in the creeds known as the Nicene Creed and the Apostles' Creed.

2. This Church receives all the canonical scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as being the ultimate rule and standard of faith given by inspiration of God and containing all things necessary for salvation.

3. This Church will ever obey the commands of Christ, teach His doctrine, administer His sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion, follow and uphold His discipline and preserve the three orders of bishops, priests and deacons in the sacred ministry. (continued)

Robin G. Jordan said...

I have examined the constitutions and canons of a number of Anglican provinces and the ACA’s fundamental declarations is typical of the fundamental declarations found in these governing documents.

The ACA’s ruling principles contains this provision:

This Church, being derived from the Church of England, retains and approves the doctrine and principles of the Church of England embodied in the Book of Common Prayer together with the Form and Manner of Making Ordaining and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests and Deacons and in the Articles of Religion sometimes called the Thirty-nine Articles but has plenary authority at its own discretion to make statements as to the faith ritual ceremonial or discipline of this Church and to order its forms of worship and rules of discipline and to alter or revise such statements, forms and rules, provided that all such statements, forms, rules or alteration or revision thereof are consistent with the Fundamental Declarations contained herein and are made as prescribed by this Constitution. Provided, and it is hereby further declared, that the above-named Book of Common Prayer, together with the Thirty-nine Articles, be regarded as the authorised standard of worship and doctrine in this Church, and no alteration in or permitted variations from the services or Articles therein contained shall contravene any principle of doctrine or worship laid down in such standard.

Provided further that until other order be taken by canon made in accordance with this Constitution, a bishop of a diocese may, at his discretion, permit such deviations from the existing order of service, not contravening any principle of doctrine or worship as aforesaid, as shall be submitted to him by the incumbent and churchwardens of a parish.

This provision is also typical of similar provisions found in the governing documents of Anglican provinces.

The ACA is organized into provinces, each with its own metropolitan, and is governed by a General Synod and its Standing Committee. Each diocese has its own synod or council and executive body. (continued)

Robin G. Jordan said...

Bishops are chosen by a variety of methods—election by the diocesan synod, election by a board of electors and ratification of the board’s choice by the diocesan synod, election by a selection committee made up of the diocese’s province’s metropolitan and others, and so on. A diocese is not restricted to using one method. A diocese may delegate the election of a particular bishop to the province and then elect his successor with the usual method.

Dioceses may impose term limits on their bishops and establish period review processes to determine whether a bishop’s term of office should be extended.

The episcopal confirmation process is basically to ensure that the new bishop meets the qualifications for the office of bishop prescribed in the ACA constitution. The metropolitan of the province, the bishops of the province to which the diocese belongs, or the diocese’ chancellor may confirm the new bishop’s election. The ACA’s Primate is elected from its diocesan bishops by a body of electors consisting of lay representatives as well as bishops and other clergy. The Primate’s role is largely ceremonial. He has little constitutional authority and has no authority over the other bishops in the ACA.

One of the unique features of the ACA constitution is that it permits dioceses to opt out of certain categories of provincial legislation. This legislation is only binding upon a diocese if its diocesan synod accepts its provisions. Having accepted its provisions, a diocese may opt out of the legislation again if the diocese so chooses. Amendments to the constitution adopted by General Synod require the ratification of a certain number of dioceses which varies with what provision of the constitution is affected by a particular amendment. Some parts of the constitution are more difficult to amend than others.

These and other provisions in the ACA constitution guarantee dioceses a large measure of autonomy.

The ACA has produced two service books to supplement the 1662 Book of Common Prayer—An Australian Prayer Book (1978) and A Prayer Book for Australia (1995). Both service books seek to reflect the theological diversity in the ACA and are authorized for use throughout the ACA. Dioceses, however, may produce their own service books. Sydney has produced two service books—Sunday Services (2001) and Common Prayer: Resources for a Gospel-Shaped Gatherings. Ballarat has also produced its own rites. (continued)

Robin G. Jordan said...

In my proposal the Anglican Church in North America would have had fundamental declarations and ruling principles similar to those of the Anglican Church of Australia. As I pointed out, they are typical of such provisions in the constitutions or canons of Anglican provinces.

Each of the provinces into which it would have been organized would have been made up of a network of churches that shared a particular theological outlook. These provinces would share the same geographic territory much in the same way as different denominations do. They would have adopted their own governing documents , would have had their own synods and executive bodies, elected their own bishops, and prescribed their bishops’ authority, duties, powers, responsibilities, and term of office. They would have produced their own rites and services for use in their churches. They would have cooperated on projects of common interest such as clergy pension fund, disaster relief fund, and the like.

Bishops from one province would have been free to exercise episcopal ministry in another province upon the invitation of that province and according to the terms of any agreements with the province, officiating at confirmation and ordination services using the rites of the province.

The denomination would have been governed by a Central Synod and its executive body and each province would have been free to opt out of certain categories of legislation. The provisions for amending the constitution would have been similar to those of the ACA constitution.

A bishop elected by the Central Synod would have served as Moderator of the denomination. The Moderator would have had very limited, constitutionally-defined authority, and would have had no authority over the other bishops in the denomination.

Adam said...

Hello John ,

can you tell me more about this group of reformed anglicans who is bourgeoning ?

Blessings ,


John Johnson said...

Adam, the group is called the Reformed Anglican Church and the Reformed Anglican Fellowship. They are still in the very beginning stages of formation. They have a few parishes on the east coast and are looking for church planters at the moment. They are very decidedly Reformed and low-church in their approach to worship. Like any other movement, it is not monolithic in it's outlook. They will be some the see it as too low and some who see it as not Reformed enough. I do have a link you to check out, but will only post it if Robin gives his permissions, since this is his blog. Or if he will allow, you can give me you email address and I can send it to you that way.

Adam said...

JOhn , now i know about who you are talking , for many time i've been learning about the RAC (reformed anglican church) , they are not really growing , the only church plant of this church left to CANA and the reformed anglican fellowship was a ministry of the pastor of this church . There is even a facebook page which is very active.
What is interesting is that CANA is going in a confessional way and maybe in a few times they will ask for subscription to the 39 articles . A number of reformed anglican fellows are joining CANA (Christ Church NYC is an example).
So PEARUSA and CANA would be safe places for reformed churches.

Robin G. Jordan said...

If by the "Reformed Anglican Church" you are referring to the former so-called "Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America," based in Florida, it is a breakaway group from the now-defunct "Traditional Protestant Episcopal Church." It uses the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and is arguably "Reformed" in name only.

I suggested the name "Reformed Anglican Church" as a possible name for a network of churches or denomination on my old Word Press "Heritage Anglican Network" blog a number of years ago. The lead bishop of the group, a former TPEC bishop, appropriated the name, copyrighted it, and registered it as a domain on the Internet. The individual in question was ousted from TPEC when he tried to engineer a takeover of TPEC behind the back of its then presiding bishop Charles Morley.

Based upon what I know about this group, I definitely DO NOT RECOMMEND that anyone become involved with the group.

The Anglicans with whom I am acquainted who are evangelical in tradition and committed to the doctrine and principles of the Anglican formularies and to confessional Anglicanism are in CANA, PEARUSA, the Diocese of the Carolinas, the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic (former CANA), the ANIC, and even the Diocese of Pittsburgh in the ACNA and the Anglican Connection outside of the ACNA here in the United States. Outside the United States they are in the Church of England, the Church of Ireland, the Anglican Church of Australia, and the Church of England in South Africa. I am also acquainted with a number of former REC clergy and a number of Reformed evangelicals who sought licensure or ordination in the REC only to discover that the modern-day REC does not welcome individuals of their theological outlook.