Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Proposal for the Restructuring of the Anglican Church in North America – Part 2

By Robin G. Jordan

I am not under any illusions that the leaders occupying the place of power in the Anglican Church in North America would go along with what I proposed in yesterday’s article—the reorganization of the denomination into two provinces. Even if they did go along with the proposal, they would dilute it and turn it into something entirely different from the original proposal. The proposal would require their public admission that they have adopted an exclusionary policy toward Anglicans who are evangelical in tradition and committed to the doctrine and principles of the Anglican formularies. They would risk losing the more dynamic element in the Anglican Church in North America to the second province.

The formation of a second province in the Anglican Church in North America in any case is not something that should be begun at the top. It should be begun at the grass roots level. One of the reasons that it should be begun at this level is that its formation should represent a break with the top down legislative process by which changes to the ACNA governing documents are made and the thinking behind that process. Rather it should be the outgrowth of a “second-province” movement both in and outside of the Anglican Church in North America—a movement of church networks, clergy, and congregations faithful to the teaching of the Bible, loyal to the doctrine and principles of the Anglican formularies, and committed to the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

If those occupying the place of power in the Anglican Church in North America should oppose the “second province” movement—discipline clergy, deny ordination or licensure to its supporters, expel church networks and congregations, and take other steps to suppress the movement such as labeling its supporters as divisive, their actions would expose them as no real friend of authentic historic Anglicanism and the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. The Anglican Communion would once again be treated to the spectacle of purported Anglicans not just discriminating against Biblically faithful Anglicans (as is presently the case in the Anglican Church in North America) but also persecuting them.

One possible reaction from the same ACNA leaders is to institute a series of cosmetic reforms intended to make the Anglican Church in North America appear more comprehensive in its teaching and practice and more synodical in its structure and form of government and designed to deprive the “second province” movement—at least in some people’s minds—of its reason for existence and to weaken the movement. Having occupied the place of power in the Anglican Church in North America, they can be expected to resist any diminishment of that place of power and any loosening of their grip upon the denomination. The formation of a second province in the Anglican Church in North America with its own doctrinal foundation, structure, form of government, bishops, rite and services would lessen their authority, limiting it to the first province. They would be forced to share decision-making on matters affecting the entire denomination with another group of leaders. This would serve as a check upon their aspirations. (It also would serve as a check upon their abuse of their position of power in the denomination.)

As a side note I have added the following observation. Colin Podmore in Aspects of Anglican Identity makes a very important point.
Synodical government is often contrasted with episcopal governance, and sometimes it is suggested that the former is modern and protestant while the latter is ancient and catholic. The historical survey with which this chapter begins shows synodical government in the Church of England to be rooted not in the protestant Reformation but in the medieval Church….
Podmore goes on to point out that because the Church of England separated from Rome, it “was unaffected by the Counter-Reformation and subsequent changes in the structure of the Roman Catholic Church.”

As I have pointed out in a number of articles the Anglican Church in North America’s departure from historic Anglicanism involves not only its teaching and practice (i.e. unreformed Catholic) but also its form of governance.  The present structure of the Anglican Church in North America is in a number of ways closer to that of a subdivision of the Roman Catholic Church than a typical Anglican province. The formation of a second province in the Anglican Church in North America, one in which the doctrine and principles based on Holy Scripture and set out in the Articles of Religion of 1571 and The Book of Common Prayer of 1662 comprises its doctrinal foundation and which has a functioning synodical form of government would give the Anglican Church in North America genuine Anglican credentials, which it seriously lacks. 


Tom said...

The first bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church was consecrated as Assistant Bishop of Kentucky, and I have wondered why the evangelical low church tradition that the REC has continued did not flourish in that state. I'm not fully informed about the present dynamics of the REC, but it forms part of the ACNA, and might be a suitable home for the expression of Anglicanism discussed in these two articles. I had the privilege and pleasure of meeting some of the REC bishops about 13 years ago as a part of the Episcopal / REC-APA dialogue, and experienced them a godly bishops.

Thomas Rightmyer

Robin G. Jordan said...

Bishop George David Cummins himself was not a native Kentuckian. He was born in Delaware. Before his appointment as Assistant Bishop of Kentucky, he served as rector of parishes in Virginia, Washington, and Chicago. At the time of his appointment in 1861, Anglo-Catholicism, Ritualism and the Tractarian Movement had already made inroads into the Diocese of Kentucky. While the Bishop of Kentucky Benjamin Bosworth Smith was himself an Evangelical as was Cummins, the Anglo-Catholic-Ritualist-Tractarian party had come to dominate the Diocesan Convention since Bosworth’s election in 1832—the year before the first Tract for the Times was published. Bosworth became the ninth presiding bishop in 1868. The Anglo-Catholic-Ritualist-Tractarian party refused to allow him to relocate to New York to take up his duties as presiding bishop until he agreed not to give his full authority as Bishop of Kentucky to Cummins. Cummins was strongly opposed to the influences of Anglo-Catholicism, Ritualism and Tractarianism and the Anglo-Catholic-Ritualist-Tractarian party feared that Cummins would use that authority to reduce and even eliminate those influences in the diocese.

As the Anglo-Catholic-Ritualist-Tractarian party gained ground in the Protestant Episcopal Church, it worked to undermine Evangelical influence in the Protestant Episcopal Church. It refused to go along with Evangelical proposals for the revision of the baptismal service in the 1789 Prayer Book. It took the position that churches that did not have bishops not only did not have valid orders and sacraments but were not validly churches at all. It adopted a canon prohibit Episcopal clergy from fraternizing with the ministers of other churches. This canon was specifically aimed at Evangelicals who swapped pulpits with the ministers of other churches and otherwise were on good terms with these ministers. In 1873, Cummins himself was criticized for receiving communion with ministers outside the Protestant Episcopal Church. Cummins would resign his position as Assistant Bishop of Kentucky. He and other conservative Evangelicals from the Protestant Episcopal Church would form the Reformed Episcopal Church. After his resignation Cummins who had lived outside of Louisville would move to New York.

At the time of its formation the Reformed Episcopal Church may have been Evangelical. It is certainly not today. Since the closing decades of the twentieth century the Reformed Episcopal Church has been experiencing its own home-grown Anglo-Catholic Movement and Catholic Revival. It no longer stands for the principles of its founders. Its present leaders have sought to reinterpret those principles to bring them in line with their own beliefs. Those “godly bishops” that you met 13 years ago have played a leading role in the REC’s own Anglo-Catholic Movement and Catholic Revival. The REC founders would have never considered a merger with the Anglican Province of America or any other Anglo-Catholic Continuing Anglican jurisdiction, which is what those “godly bishops” were negotiating at that time. I would add that if you were more familiar with the conduct of a number of the same leaders, you might not have such a high opinion of them.

Robin G. Jordan said...

If you study the growth pattern of the Episcopal Church in the Jackson Purchase, you will discover that its growth in the nineteenth century was confined to towns accessible by steam boat—Hickman on the Mississippi River and Paducah on the Ohio River—or by railroad—Fulton, which is on the railroad line from New Orleans to Chicago and is a major railroad hub for the region. Its primary constituency during the nineteenth century was upper middle class—a segment of the population to which Anglo-Catholicism, Ritualism, and Tractarianism would have appealed during that period. This was the pattern elsewhere in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The two major concentrations of Episcopal churches in the nineteenth century were in Louisville in the north of the state and Lexington in the south—what are the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s largest urban areas today. The Protestant Episcopal Church did not do well in small towns and rural areas.

Tom said...

Three points: on history, on the REC, and on churchmanship. Bishop Benjamin Bosworth Smith was born in 1794, consecrated in 1832 by the venerable Bishop William White. and served as Presiding Bishop 1868 to his death in 1884. The Presiding Bishop in those days was the senior bishop, and the work was less than it is today. Bishop Smith moved to Hoboken in his old age to be cared for by his daughter. There was no provision for bishops to retire.
The REC as I know it was a very small and inwardly focused body for many years, but in recent years has become more moderate in its approach.
Evangelical low church Anglicanism is found in Sydney, Australia, and other places, but has not been seen in the Episcopal Church for many years. A moderate form was reintroduced in the Pittsburgh area in the 1970's and influenced the development of Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA. I know of a very few Episcopal and ANCA parishes with that kind of churchmanship. I don't know much about the United Episcopal Church where the late Bishop Dale Doren served, or the Episcopal Missionary Church where Bishop William Millsaps serves but maybe these churches carry on that tradition.
I would be interested in hearing more about contemporary expressions of this venerable Anglican tradition.
Tom Rightmyer

Robin G. Jordan said...

Smith had been living in New York intermittently for two years before he became presiding bishop. He then took up permanent residence in New York after he became presiding bishop, after the Diocesan Convention consented to his absenting himself from the Diocese of Kentucky under the terms that described in my earlier comment.

You will have to define what you mean by "moderate"? "Moderate" is a term that different people assign different meanings. For example, progressive liberals in the Episcopal Church claim to be moderate. From what I gather, those REC bishops who have been leading the REC in an Anglo-Catholic direction have presented what they are doing as moving the REC into the Anglican mainstream. When, however, did Anglo-Catholicism become the Anglican mainstream? There are a lot of Anglicans outside of the United States who would take issue with that assertion. Some of the forms of Anglo-Catholicism that are manifesting themselves in the REC today are not "moderate" by any stretch of the imagination.

The Episcopal Church did experience a short-lived Evangelical revival in the 1970s but it was overshadowed by the Charismatic Renewal Movement. The type of Evangelicalism involved in this revival was the British variety. Phillip Edgcombe Hughes played a leading role in the revival. Urban T. Holmes was one of its critics, characterizing it at odds with the more liberal spirit of the Episcopal Church.

The conservative evangelicals with whom I am acquainted in the ACNA are not particularly "low church" in style of worship. Indeed "low church" may no longer be a useful category into which to place a particular kind of worship. However, they subscribe to the Protestant and Reformed doctrine and principles of the Anglican Church based on Holy Scripture and set out in the Articles of Religion of 1571 and the Book of Common Prayer of 1662. Their church websites typically describe their churches as Protestant and identity the Thirty-Nine Articles as historic Anglicanism's confession of faith.

None of the conservative evangelicals outside of the ACNA with whom I am acquainted are in the UEC or the EMC. The 1928 Prayer Book is the official Prayer Book of both jurisdictions and its doctrine is their official doctrine. The two dominant theological strands represented in the 1928 Prayer Book are Anglo-Catholicism and Broad Church liberalism.