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.