Monday, July 27, 2015

New Member to Join ACNA Bishops' Club

By Robin G. Jordan

The Rt. Rev. Roger Ames, the Bishop of the Anglican Church in North America’s Diocese of the Great Lakes, has issued a call for the appointment of a coadjutor bishop for the diocese. The Diocese of the Great Lakes adopted the second method for the selection of a bishop in the Anglican Church in North America. The canons of the Anglican Church in North America commend this method to the founding entities of the denomination and prescribe it for new dioceses and networks affiliating with the denomination.

Whether the canons prescribed this method for such dioceses and networks was a subject of heated debate before the adoption of the canons. A representative of the Governance Task Force maintained that a grouping of congregations affiliating with the denomination was free to adopt either of the two methods, arguing that Article IV(7) of the constitution guaranteed the right to “establish and maintain its own governance, constitution and canons.”

However, Article IV(7) of the constitution contains this proviso, “not inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution and Canons of this Province.”

Canon III.8. 4.4 states, “Where the originating body is newly formed, that body shall normally nominate two or three candidates, from whom the College of Bishops may select one.”

The Guidelines for Submitting an Application Form to the Provincial Council for Recognition as a New Diocese/Network or as a Diocese/Network “In Formation contain these instructions:
All groupings are to be united by a bishop (Article IV) except those “In Formation,” which may be led by a Vicar General at the discretion of the Archbishop (Canon I.5.6). The College of Bishops has authority in the election of bishops as set out in Article X.5. Canon I.5.5 states that the application shall contain the name of the recommended nominee or nominees for Bishop. In the case of a newly formed originating body, Canon III.8.4.3 states that that body shall normally nominate two or three candidates. In the case of a single nominee the College may grant consent for his consecration, or in the case of multiple nominees the College may choose one and grant consent for his consecration (Article X). Canon III.8.3 provides further criteria for the episcopate, to include the stipulation that an eligible candidate for bishop will be a duly ordained male presbyter of at least 35 years of age.
35 is also the minimum age requirement for a Roman Catholic bishop. See Canon 378 § 1. A comparison of the section of the Code of Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church in which this canon is found with the corresponding section of the ACNA canons show that the latter was to a large extent based on that section.

Nowhere in the guidelines do we find anything that informs the grouping applying for recognition that it has the option of electing its own bishop and submitting the name of the bishop-elect to the College of Bishops for confirmation. Clearly the intention of those who oversaw the drafting of the canons and the annexed guidelines was to make the second method of selecting a bishop the primary method and then the sole method of selecting a bishop in the denomination.

The guidelines also state:
Article IV recognized the right of each grouping to establish and maintain its own governance, constitution and canons not inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution and Canons of the Province. While not required at this time, future canons may require each grouping to write a constitution and canons in support of the Provincial Constitution and Canons.
Why would this method of selecting a bishop be more desirable than the first method - election of a bishop by the diocesan synod and confirmation by the episcopal college of the province? The first method is the oldest method of selecting a bishop, going all the way back to the primitive Church.

In the days before the adoption of the ACNA constitution and canons the main reason given for the desirability of the second method was the claim that it was based upon the method of selecting bishops used in one of the African provinces. The explosive growth of the African provinces was attributed to their bishops. It was inferred that the selection of bishops by this method would produce the same results in North America. It was also claimed that it would eliminate the problems associated with the election of a bishop by a diocesan synod.

An examination of the history of this particular method shows that it has its origins in the Roman Catholic Church. In the Roman Catholic Church designated nominators submit the names of suitable candidates for the episcopate to the Pope who in turn selects one of the candidates. The Pope, however, is not required to select one of the nominees. He can appoint whomever he chooses. Where it has been adopted by a number of Africa provinces in an adapted form, it has proven to have a set of problems of its own.

In the ACNA adaptation of the method the College of Bishops replaces the Pope. Under the provisions of the ACNA canons the College of Bishops can reject all the candidates that a diocese nominates and keep rejecting the diocese’s nominees until the diocese nominates a candidate to its liking. The College of Bishops is not prohibited from nominating a candidate of its own and appointing that candidate as bishop of the diocese. Whether the College of Bishops is bound by the provisions of a diocese’s constitution and canons is debatable. The ACNA canons contain no provision requiring the College of Bishops to abide by the provisions of these governing documents. It is one of a number of areas in the ACNA canons where the lack of necessary details in its provisions leaves the College of Bishops free to do what it likes.

The ACNA adaptation of the method enables whatever group or faction that wields the most influence in the College of Bishops to determine who joins that exclusive club, ensuring that the episcopal college is made up of bishops who hold its views and share its aspirations or who will not prove an obstacle to the direction in which it wishes to take the Anglican Church in North America.

It is the ideal method of episcopal selection for ideologues seeking to entrench their views in the Anglican Church in North America and to exclude from the College of Bishops those who do not agree with them.


Austin Olive said...

Hi Robin,

I'm still percolating on the idea that the vision you've been ringing the bell about is a form of conciliarism that was desired by the Council of Constance in 1415. The idea that the Pope's prerogatives are assumed by the College reflects this.

I've also been thinking about what might have happened if Constance had accepted Hus instead of condemning him. His call to reform was not as thoroughgoing as Luther's, let alone Calvin's. Perhaps the (unselfconscious?) vision that animates the Anglo-Catholics in the ACNA is for an early Hussite/Constancian reformation. I.e., eliminate the worst excesses of the late Middle Ages, yet not embrace the full vision of the 16th Century Reformers (e.g., Luther, Calvin, Cranmer).

One can easily see the appeal. I am a fan of "What If?" counterfactual historical studies and fiction. And, though I haven't ever come across an essay related to the Council of Constance and Jan Hus, I can remember discussions in seminary about it. Really, it is probably one of the great unsung counterfactuals of European history. Had the conciliarists and the Hussites prevailed at Constance, the Reformation would likely have been preempted and something similar to what you describe might have eventuated.

Just thinking. Keep up the good work, Robin.

Grace and peace,


Robin G. Jordan said...

The nineteenth century Oxford movement was not united in its view of the English Reformation. If you survey the views of the movement on this subjects and those of later Anglo-Catholics, you’ll find basically three views: One view is that the English Reformation was a mistake that requires correcting. A second view is that it did not happen. This view simply ignores the English Reformation and may be the most untenable of the three views. The third view is that the English Reformation did away with the worst of the Medieval excesses, which included a liturgy in a language that only a few scholars and educated people understood—Latin. The first view and third view of the English Reformation is most commonly held by contemporary Anglo-Catholics. The second view has dropped by the wayside and does not enjoy much if any currency today. You will also find overlap between the first view and the third view. Where the English Reformers are viewed as having gone too far is blamed upon foreign influence or Puritanical tendencies and is dismissed as not representative of genuine Anglican thought. The third view is historically associated with selective citation from the works of the Edwardian and Elizabethan Reformers and the Caroline High Churchmen. The third view ignores the fact that the English Reformers embraced a Biblical and Reformation theology not too different from that of Continental Reformers like Martin Bucer, Peter Vermigli, and Henry Bullinger. While the Remonstrants may have clung to the teaching and practices of the Roman Catholic Church, the official doctrine of the reformed Church of England was Protestant and Reformed. While the Caroline High Churchmen revived some practices that the English Reformers had abandoned and espoused with notable exceptions an Arminian theology, they viewed the Church of England and themselves as Protestant. (Technically classical Arminanism is a variant of Reformed theology, representing a reaction to certain positions of John Calvin.) They vigorously defended the Church of England against its Roman Catholic critics. While they had a high view of the episcopate, they recognized the orders and sacraments of the Continental Reformed Churches that had done way with the episcopate. The third view is groundless.

Austin Olive said...

Do you find that the Anglo-Catholics tend to be Arminian in toto, or are there also Amyraldian and Calvinistic groups as well?

Robin G. Jordan said...

Before the Oxford Movement the High Church wing of the Anglican Church tended to be Arminian but not exclusively. The Laudian reforms would leave their mark on the worship of the Church of England. While the post-Restoration Church of England had a vigorous Reformed wing, the worship of the Church of England reflected the influence of these reforms, even in diocese with Reformed bishops and churches with Reformed ministers.

With the advent of the Oxford Movement the Tractarians claimed that they were the only true High Churchmen and appropriated the title of High Church for themselves. They essentially changed the identity of the Church of England’s High Church wing from Protestant to unreformed Catholic.

Doctrinally the beliefs and convictions of the Tractarians were much closer to Roman Catholicism than to classical Arminianism (Grotius) or evangelical Arminianism (Wesley). However, they did diverge from Roman Catholicism on a number of issues. The Ritualists were even closer to Roman Catholicism in their beliefs and convictions than the Tractarians, adopting a number of post-Tridentian Roman Catholic innovations in doctrine and worship.

Modern-day Anglo-Catholics are not an entirely homogenous group. They tend to describe themselves as holding “the faith of the undivided church.” The “undivided church,” however, is mythical. Even before the East-West Schism, also known as the Great Schism, in the eleventh century the Eastern Church and the Western Church had moved away from each other significantly both in doctrine and worship. There were divisions in the Christian Church in New Testament times. Anglo-Catholics typically appeal to the Vincentian Canon:

“The famous threefold test of Catholic orthodoxy expressed by St. Vincent of Lérins (400-50) in his two memoranda (Comonitoria): "Care must especially be had that that be held which was believed everywhere [ubique], always [semper], and by all [ab omnibus]." By this triple norm of diffusion, endurance, and universality, a Christian can distinguish religious truth from error.” John Hardin, Modern Catholic Dictionary

Consequently, Anglo-Catholics will argue on the basis of the Vincentian Canon that the Eucharist is a reiteration or representation of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world, pointing out that it is a longstanding belief of the Eastern and Western Churches. These three norms, however, do not guarantee that a doctrine or practice is Scriptural, that it comes from Scripture or is clearly based upon Scripture. Error and superstition can spread over a wide area or among a large number of people, last for a very long time, and can be seemingly ubiquitous.Protestants, including Anglicans, will argue on the basis of Scripture that the Lord’s Supper is a commemoration and proclamation of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world. They will point out that Scripture emphasizes that Christ’s sacrifice was once for all time and eliminated the need for any other sacrifice for sin.

Modern-day Anglo-Catholics include those who lean toward Eastern Orthodoxy as well as those who lean toward Roman Catholicism. They include those who may have begun their faith journey as charismatics and evangelical Arminians, been influenced by Reformed theology, and then by classical Anglo-Catholic theology. They also include those who have come to an unreformed Catholic theological outlook directly from an evangelical Arminian (or Wesleyan) background.

Modern-day Anglo-Catholics embrace liberal theology and modernism to varying degrees, something traditionalist Anglo-Catholics will adamantly deny but nonetheless is the case.

Individuals who identify themselves as Anglo-Catholic and hold to the classical Arminianism of the seventeenth century Caroline divines and the High Church principles of the Laudians as far as I have been able to ascertain are not common. Indeed I am inclined to view them as an anomaly.