Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Rationale for a Second ACNA Province


By Robin G. Jordan

Some of my readers may wonder why I have lately been advocating the formation of a second province within the Anglican Church in North America rather a second province independent of that body. The Anglican Church in North America has a school of thought that that wishes to appropriate the label “Anglican” solely for itself and to redefine Anglicanism as only encompassing what it believes and values. This school of thought would like to see congregations and clergy that are Evangelical and low-church in tradition and committed to the Protestant and Reformed doctrine and principles of the Anglican formularies withdraw from the denomination, leaving it free to characterize and portray the departing congregations and clergy as not genuinely Anglican. This is one of the reasons, if not the principal reason, that the ACNA leaders who belong to this school of thought have not made room for other schools of thought beside their own in the denomination.

This school of thoughts which has its roots in the nineteenth century Oxford Movement has sought to reshape Anglican identity from Protestant to unreformed Catholic for the past 182 years. It has sought to exclude Evangelicals and others who do not share its beliefs and values from the Anglican Church.

If congregations and clergy that stand in continuity with the English Reformers form their own province within the Anglican Church in North America, the formation of this province will deny the same school of thought of what it covets. It will not be able to claim that it alone represents authentic Anglicanism. Indeed its true nature will be exposed – a movement to weaken the authority of the Bible and to undo the effects of the English Reformation in the Anglican Church.

This school of thought’s claim to be a theological strand within Anglicanism is very tenuous at best. Its argument that true Anglicanism is a form of unreformed Catholicism relies on false logic and sophistry. The description of the Medieval English Church as “ecclesia Anglicana,” or “English Church,” in Latin documents is a flimsy basis for making such a claim.

Claiming its antecedents include the Remonstrants and the Caroline High Churchmen does not qualify it as such a theological strand nor does selectively citing the works of Bishop John Jewel and benchmark Anglican divine Richard Hooker. The Remonstrants were clandestine Roman Catholics who secretly celebrated the Latin Mass and plotted the overthrow of England’s Protestant monarchs. The Caroline High Churchmen regarded the Anglican Church and themselves as Protestant and upheld the Thirty-Nine Articles as the Anglican Church’s confession of faith. Archbishop John Bramhall whose writings are sometimes quoted out of context as laying out the core argument against the Articles was a stalwart defender of the Anglican Church against its Roman Catholic critics, referring to the Articles in his defense of the Anglican Church . Both Jewel and Hooker were Biblical and Protestant in their stance and Evangelical and Reformed in their doctrine.

The concerted effort upon the part of the adherents of this school of thought to not only revive pre-Tridentian Roman Catholic teaching and practices in the Anglican Church but also to introduce post-Tridentian Roman Catholic innovations in doctrine and worship point to its true nature. Having failed to bring the Anglican Church into the orbit of the Roman Catholic Church in the nineteenth and twentieth century, it now seeks to reshape the Anglican Church along the lines of an imaginary golden age of Christianity—the purportedly undivided Church of the early High Middle Ages before the East-West schism in the eleventh century.

Essentially this school of thought views classical Anglicanism as not fully “Catholic.” On the other hand, by the standards of classical Anglicanism, the same school of thought is insufficiently reformed and consequently falls short of being regarded as genuinely Anglican. It may have expropriated the Anglican name but it has not assimilated the Anglican genius.

Leaving this school of thought to exclusively take the Anglican name for itself would not serve the cause of the gospel in North America. As Roger Beckwith and James Packer point out in The Thirty-Nine Articles: Their Place and Use Today, one of the functions of the Articles of Religion is to safeguard the truth of the gospel.

At the present time the adherents of this school of thought have sought to push those who do not share their beliefs and values out of the Anglican Church in North America by denying official standing to what they believe and value. They may become more aggressive in this effort if the formation of a second province in the denomination threatens to check their aspirations.

At that point the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans will not be able to continue to ignore what it happening in the Anglican Church in North America. Otherwise, it will place itself in the untenable position of countenancing the persecution of Anglicans faithful to the teaching of the Bible and loyal to the doctrine and principles of the Anglican formularies through its failure to intervene after committing itself to a policy of intervention.

The formation of a second province within the Anglican Church in North America, a second province which in its doctrinal foundation is fully aligned with the Holy Scriptures and the Anglican formularies, is essential to the furtherance of the gospel in North America, as well as to the preservation of Anglican identity and orthodoxy. Organized into their own province, congregations and clergy that are Evangelical and low-church in tradition and committed to the Protestant and Reformed principles of the Anglican formularies will be able devote their full attention to the central task of Christ’s Church—making disciples. They will no longer have to navigate their way through a denominational environment that is barely tolerant of their presence and is decidedly unsupportive of their beliefs and values.

The formation of a second province within the Anglican Church in North America with such a doctrinal foundation gives those who claim that they are moderate and are committed to a policy of comprehension an opportunity to demonstrate that they are indeed what they claim they are. To do nothing and not to take a stand is to tacitly support the extremist element in the denomination. Demonstrating the truth of their claim requires pushing for much needed reforms in doctrine, governance, and worship in the denomination, distancing themselves from the extremist element and repudiating the policies associated with that element by their actions, not just their words.

The formation of a second province independent of the Anglican Church in North America should be considered only as an option at the stage when the extremist element in the Anglican Church in North America become overt in their effort to force congregations and clergy not sharing their beliefs and values out of the denomination. At that stage the extremist element will not be able to shift the blame for its actions on the departing congregations and clergy and will have to accept responsibility for the damage that it has inflicted to the Anglican Church in North America’s public image.

At the same time maintaining the status quo in the Anglican Church in North America is not going to secure a future in that denomination for congregations and clergy who are Evangelical and low-church in tradition and are committed to the Protestant and Reformed doctrine and principles of the Anglican formularies. They will eventually disappear as the processes of attrition and assimilation take their toll. Their only hope for a future in that denomination is in a second province with its own doctrinal foundation, constitution, canons, ordinal, service book, catechism, bishops, and synodical government.

Maintaining the status quo is also not going to free them to devote their full attention to fulfilling the Great Commission. They will be encumbered in their gospel work by an ordinal, catechism, and service book that do not uphold what they understand the Scriptures to teach. They will be required to work under overseers who are prepared to rob them of the fruits of their labors. Only in a province of their own, a province that welcomes their presence and shares what they believe and value, will they be able to devote themselves wholeheartedly to the spread of the gospel. 

13 comments:

Austin Olive said...

Robin,

A question has been running around in my mind as I think about the idea of a second, Reformed, province or synod. My thought is that while such a is a great idea, how can it happen? If the Anglo-Catholics are the gatekeepers, how would evangelical, Reformed/Protestant folk get in gate? They have recognition and the establishment. How then could this second province come to pass?

Wouldn't evangelicals have to first establish a structure and quasi-denomination? After all, as I have found through bitter experience, the Anglo-Catholics will force out or refuse to admit Reformed/Evangelical ministers, especially those seeking to transfer in from the outside.

What are your thoughts?

Pax,

-A.

Robin G. Jordan said...

What I am proposing is that those who are Evangelical and low-church in tradition and committed to the Protestant and Reformed doctrine and principles of the Anglican formularies and who are already a part of the Anglican Church in North America form a second province within the ACNA on their own initiative. I am not proposing that they seek permission from “the powers that be” but they simply go ahead and do it.

What can the “powers that be” do—revoke the clergy’s licenses, inhibit them, depose them, expel congregations, expel networks of congregations. How are they going to explain these actions? It’s one thing to deny official standing to the beliefs and values of the Evangelical - low-church wing of the ACNA and discriminate against them in other ways but it is entirely another thing to take these kind of steps.

For what are “the powers that be” going to prosecute them—for being faithful to the Holy Scriptures and loyal to the Anglican formularies? How is that going to look—persecuting their fellow Anglicans for wanting official standing for what the English Reformers and generation of Anglicans after them have believed and valued?

If they do take these kind of steps, they are going to start bearing a strong resemblance to the leaders of the Episcopal Church. They will find themselves tangled in a public relations nightmare.

Any illusions that members of the Evangelical – low church wing of the ACNA have about the fear of losing congregations and clergy holding the Anglo-Catholic – philo-Orthodox wing of the ACNA in check will evaporate. Rather than discouraging the formation of a second province, such actions might provide the catalyst needed to accelerate the process of its formation.

If the “powers that be” have any sense they will step back and let it happen and then take credit for the idea afterwards.

The “powers that be” have also sat loose to the constitution and canons of the Anglican Church in North America, ignoring the provisions of these governing documents when it suits them. They themselves have set a precedent. They are in no position to object if other people do what they have done.

As I pointed out in an earlier article, they have broken faith with those who are Evangelical and low-church in tradition and committed to the Protestant and Reformed doctrine and principles of the Anglican formularies and who are a part of the ACNA. The Evangelical – low church wing of the ACNA is under no moral obligation or constraint to follow their leadership.

How will the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans look if they side with the “powers that be” in the Anglican Church in North America against a group of Anglicans who, unlike “the powers that be,” share what they claim to believe and value? All the statements that the GFCA has made will be empty words.

The Rev Canon David Wilson said...

FWIW, I am a low church protestant Anglican minister and pastor an Evangelical parish in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. My bishop is +Bob Duncan. In my experience of over 30 years in this Diocese and in the ACNA, I have never had anyone impose any doctrinal limitations on what I believe, teach, preach, teach, or advocate. There has always been room in both the Diocese of Pittsburgh and in the ACNA for any orthodox Anglican of whatever stripe. There are plenty of low church protestant Anglicans among the clergy, lay people and bishops of the ACNA who do not experience the marginalization that Anglican Ablaze has been promulgating since 2009. Christian leadership guru John Maxwell once said, "If you're leading and no one is following, you're just taking a walk". Brother Robin, I think you're just taking a walk.

Robin G. Jordan said...

How, David, do you explain that the Anglican Church in North America has made no discernible effort to comprehend in its official doctrinal statements Anglicans who are Evangelical and low-church in tradition and committed to the Protestant and Reformed doctrine and principles of the Anglican formularies? These doctrinal statements evidence decided unreformed Catholic leanings and contain positions on key issues that are objectionable to confessional Anglicans. How is that making room for "any orthodox Anglican of whatever stripe"? The ACNA grants official standing to the beliefs and values of the Anglo-Catholic - philo-Orthodox wing but not to those of any other group represented in the ACNA. Under the provisions of its canons clergy who do not hold these views are subject to disciplinary proceedings and groupings of congregations to expulsion.

The Rev Canon David Wilson said...

Robin

Please cite for me one clergyman who has been disciplined for holding to Reformed doctrine or one congregation that has expelled for holding to
reformed doctrine.

Robin G. Jordan said...

David, you did not answer my questions but dodged them.

Austin Olive said...

David,

St Luke's Anglican Church, Tucson, AZ. The clergy were the Rev'd Dr Reynolds Stone & the Rev'd Olive. Fr Stone was forcibly retired without prior notice, and Rev'd Olive was informed that he had renounced his orders.

There's one.

-A

Austin Olive said...

It was my parish. I was there.

Robin G. Jordan said...

I am aware of a number of instances where ACNA bishops have discriminated against individuals due to their commitment to Reformed theology or resorted to underhanded tactics in their dealings with such individuals. I fully expect more such cases to come light over the passage of time.

At least one former Trinity School for Ministry student has told me that he counted himself lucky to have graduated from that seminary with his Reformed convictions intact, a sad commentary on how far Trinity has departed from its Evangelical beginnings.

In my contacts with Evangelicals in and outside the Anglican Church in North America, in and outside the United States, they have expressed concern about developments in the ACNA. Among these concerns is the failure of the ACNA to extend official standing to the beliefs and values of confessional Anglicans. At least one Evangelical leader has referred to these problem areas in an article that he wrote for the Internet.

The Rev Canon David Wilson said...

1. Robin: The ACNA subscribes to the Jerusalem Declaration of GAFCON 08, lists both the 39 Articles and the 1662 prayerbook as official doctrinal standards of the ACNA. I am alum of TSM and a current DMin student, the Dean, the dean of the DMin Program and the mission prof are all either ACNA priests or licensed by the ACNA and reformed protestant theologians. You haven't cited any clergy being actually disciplined for holding reformed doctrine within the ACNA.

2. Austin Olive: What jurisdiction and which bishop expelled your parish.

Austin Olive said...

Honestly, it's a long, painful story and I don't want to get into it publicly. I will say that I very much dispute the way it has been described by the one who has blackballed me. In short, it bears all of the hallmarks Robin describes. Unreformed Catholic practices, prayers to Mary and for the dead, abuse of authority, promises left unfulfilled, etc. The results were catastrophic in the lives of several members of the plant's core group, and in others were merely painful or traumatic. If you want the whole story I would be happy to tell it privately.

Pax

-A

Robin G. Jordan said...

David,

The ACNA’s affirmation of the Jerusalem Declaration is purely cosmetic. It is relegated to the preamble to the ACNA constitution where it is incidental to the account of the ACNA’s formation. The ACNA constitution and canons do not require clerical subscription to the Jerusalem Declaration nor do they prescribe any sanctions against clergy who do not uphold the tenets that it identifies as underpinning Anglican orthodoxy. The doctrinal statements that the ACNA has produced to date show that the ACNA in practice does not affirm the Jerusalem Declaration.

The constitution in relation to the Thirty-Nine Articles uses the language of equivocation to avoid committing the ACNA fully to the Protestant and Reformed principles set out in the Articles. The constitution treats the 1662 Book of Prayer as a doctrinal standard, in other words, one standard among many accepted by the ACNA—an observation made by Ephraim Radner in his assessment of the fundamental declarations. The constitution dilutes the 1662 Prayer Book as the ACNA worship standard by including all the books that preceded it in its worship standard, including the pre-Reformation medieval Catholic service books. Nowhere in its constitution and canons does the ACNA require subscription to the Thirty-Nine Articles and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Nowhere in these governing documents does it have any provisions like this one in the Anglican Church of Australia’s Constitution:

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.

Or this provision in the Constitution of the Church of Uganda”

It maintains this faith as embodied in the Doctrine. Sacraments and Discipline of the Church as they have been received by the Church of England and set forth in the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal and in the Articles of Religion commonly called the 39 Articles. It accepts the principles o f worship set forth in the Book of Common Prayer and disclaims any right to depart from the standards of Faith and order or the principles of Worship set forth in the said formularies of the Church of England. [Continued]

Robin G. Jordan said...

Dean Justyn Terry himself has acknowledged the shift of focus in Trinity School of Ministry. The faculty of Trinity now includes professors who are Anglo-Catholic or Convergentist in their theological leanings. They are also ACNA clergy. It is also the home of the Robert Webber center which promotes Convergentist theology. Trinity is hardly a locus of Reformed Evangelicalism in the Anglican Church of North America. If anything it has become the locus of Convergentism, which promotes greater acceptance of unreformed Catholic teaching and practices.

You are still dodging my questions. Whether any ACNA judicatory has taken disciplinary actions against a Reformed Evangelical for being a Reformed Evangelical is a red herring, something to draw attention away from the questions that I asked you. In any case I responded to your question in yesterday’s article. “If the opponents of the second province movement take more aggressive steps to suppress the movement, they are going to draw unwanted attention to themselves and their motivations. The similarity between the movement’s opponents and the Episcopal Church’s oppressive leaders will not escape the astute observer.”This has not prevented ACNA bishops from being dishonest in their dealings with Reformed Evangelicals seeking ordination or licensing in the ACNA or to bring their congregation into the ACNA. Such actions pass easily under the radar. Whether or not any ACNA bishops have taken advantage of the provisions, they still exist in the constitution and canons of the denomination. There is nothing to prevent the use of these provisions tomorrow or the next day if fear of drawing unwanted attention to themselves and their motivations ceases to be a deterrent to the use of the provisions.