"A journey of thousand miles begins with a single step" - Laozi
By Robin G. Jordan
Any movement for the formation of a second province within the Anglican Church in North America, a province whose doctrinal foundation is firmly grounded in the Holy Scriptures and the Anglican formularies and which has its own constitution, canons, ordinal, service book, catechism, bishops, and synodical government, will face a number of obstacles. The biggest hurdle that its proponents must overcome is themselves and their own hesitancy. However, unless they seize the initiative, nothing is going to happen.
The Anglo-Catholic - philo-Orthodox leaders who presently occupy the place of power in the Anglican Church in North America have no motivation to introduce the kind of reforms that would officially make room in the denomination for an Evangelical – low-church wing committed to the Protestant and Reformed doctrine and principles of the Anglican formularies, reforms in the doctrinal foundation of the denomination, its organizational structure and form of government, its ordinal, service book, and catechism. They are not under any external or internal pressure to undertake such reforms. They see no benefit for themselves in reforms of this type.
Any movement for a second province in the Anglican Church in North America will face opposition. There are always those who have an investment in the status quo and are not open to any kind of change, even change that over the long haul will greatly benefit the denomination. However, it will be the kind of opposition that is not likely to generate sympathy for those who oppose the second province movement.
The Anglo-Catholic – philo-Orthodox wing of the Anglican Church in North America is selfishly seeking to impose upon the denomination the teaching and practices that it espouses rather than pursuing a policy of comprehension which generously provides space for all schools of Anglican thought represented in the denomination. It has put in place an organizational structure and form of government which enables it to do so. Taking steps to suppress a movement that seeks to gain official standing in the denomination for what the English Reformers and generations of Anglicans have believed and valued and still believe and value and to establish a more synodical form of government is not going to generate sympathy from Evangelicals in the provinces and dioceses of the Anglican Communion and in Anglican entities outside of the Communion.
What I anticipate is that those opposing the movement will initially seek to marshal opinion in and outside the Anglican Church in North America against the movement, labeling its proponents as divisive and calling for denominational unity. What will go unsaid is that such unity will require embracing unreformed Catholic teaching and practices and an organizational structure and form of government that is closer to that of a sub-unit of the Roman Catholic Church than it is to a province of the Anglican Communion, an organizational structure and form of government which permits one ecclesiastic party to dominate the system at all levels, determining official doctrine, vetting or approving who may be seated on the episcopal bench, and otherwise shaping the denomination to its liking. The specter of liberalism may be raised, accompanied by a call for renewed solidarity against this bogeyman.
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.
What I am not expecting is a frank admission from opponents of the movement that they themselves are responsible for the state of affairs in the Anglican Church in North America. What they fear most is that control of the denomination will slip from their grasp.
I also anticipate that a second province movement and the opposition that it faces will dispel a lot of the illusions that members of the Anglican Church in North America and outsiders have in regards to the denomination. Their disappearance will enable ACNA members and outsiders to make an honest assessment of the denomination’s doctrinal foundation, organizational structure, form of government, ordinal, service book, and catechism and their undeniable partisan character. They will be confronted with the incontrovertible fact that one wing of the denomination, whatever its reasons, is seeking to impose its agenda on the rest of the denomination to the point of marginalizing the denomination’s other wings. This is occurring in a denomination that was formed in response to the exclusion that the different groups comprising the denomination experienced in the Episcopal Church, a denomination which was to provide an environment in which all the excluded groups could flourish and in which the narrow interests of one group would not dominate their common life and ministry.
Among the benefits of the formation within the Anglican Church in North America of a second province of the type that I have been describing is that it would be a major step toward the creation of such an environment.
A second benefit of its formation would be, as I pointed out in yesterday’s article, that it would secure a future for the Evangelical- low-church wing of the denomination (and I would add, for other marginalized groups in the denomination as well) and would provide a boost to their church planting and evangelism efforts.
A third benefit would be that it would make the Anglican Church in North America more attractive to Evangelicals and other Protestant Christians who, while drawn to the Anglican Prayer Book tradition and liturgical forms of worship, are turned off by the denomination’s doctrine, organizational structure, and form of government. The Anglican Church in North America could greatly benefit from an inflow of such Christians, congregations and clergy, particularly those who have church planting and evangelism in their DNA.
Right now orthodox Anglicans of any stripe other than Anglo-Catholic – philo-Orthodox are part of the Anglican Church in North America purely on sufferance. Their beliefs and values have no official standing in the denomination. The doctrinal statements that the College of Bishops has endorsed to date make this perfectly clear. They countenance only unreformed Catholic teaching and practices. They do not show toleration, much less approval of any other teaching or practices. The formation of a second province within the Anglican Church in North America, a province whose doctrinal foundation is firmly grounded in the Holy Scriptures and the Anglican formularies and which has its own constitution, canons, ordinal, service book, catechism, bishops, and synodical government, would remedy this situation.