Tuesday, August 04, 2015

The Anglican Church in North America: A Denomination in Need of Reorganization and a Leadership Shakeup


By Robin G. Jordan

I thought that it would be helpful to go back over what I wrote in my last article, offer clarification and more detail, and point out further implications. This I believe will give readers a better understanding of what I was driving at in that article.

If orthodox Anglican clergy and congregations in the Anglican Church in North America are going to fulfill the Great Commission in their generation, they need a Prayer Book that emphasizes the gospel and embodies the Biblical, Reformation, and revivalistic doctrine of the Thirty-Nine Articles and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. They also need a Catechism, or outline of the faith, which also incorporates this doctrine. Since the rites and services and the catechism produced in the Anglican Church in North American over the past five years do not meet this critical requirement, they must band together and compile their own Prayer Book and Catechism.

Through a series of irregular, unconstitutional, and uncanonical actions the Anglican Church in North America’s College of Bishops has in effect nullified the contractual agreement underlying the governing documents of the Anglican Church in North America and thereby rendered these governing documents invalid and without force. The nature of this type of contractual agreement, which typically underlies voluntary associations, is that if one or more parties to the agreement fail to abide by its provisions, the agreement itself becomes null and void. None of the other parties are required to abide by its provisions. The next step is usually for the voluntary association to develop a new contractual agreement by which all parties are willing to abide or to disband. Typically the first option involves reorganization and a leadership shakeup. The parties may choose to take other steps.

A major defect of the Anglican Church in North America from the outset has been that the clergy and congregations forming the denomination do not share a common vision of the Church. Anglo-Catholics whose beliefs are largely based upon tradition and orthodox Anglicans whose beliefs are grounded in the teaching of the Bible and the doctrine of the Anglican formularies do not see the Church in the same way. This is one of a number of significant differences between the two groups.

A second major shortcoming of the Anglican Church in North America is that its governing documents—its constitution and its canons—lack clarity and necessary detail. At the Anglican Church in North America’s inaugural Provincial Assembly former Archbishop Robert Duncan touted the two flawed documents as an improvement over the governing documents of the Episcopal Church. The Anglican Church in North America was majoring in the majors, as he put it, and derided those who wanted greater clarity and more detail in the two documents. He compared them with the people of Israel who wanted to return to Egypt.

The Anglican Church in North America’s so-called streamlined governing documents, however, have failed to show that they are really an improvement over those of the Episcopal Church. In reality, the Anglican Church in North America needs to discard its present constitution and canons and start again from scratch.

A third major failing of the Anglican Church in North America is that its College of Bishops under the leadership of former Archbishop Duncan repeatedly violated its constitution and contravened its canons. Duncan himself was particularly flagrant in his violation of the constitution and his contravention of the canons. Rather than taking Duncan to task for his irregular, unconstitutional, and uncanonical actions, the members of the College of Bishops made themselves accomplices and accessories to these actions. Their actions suggested that they, like Duncan, had a low regard for constitutionalism and the rule of law. The College of Bishops repeatedly encroached upon the role of the Anglican Church in North America’s provincial synod, the Provincial Council, which the constitution identifies as the governing body of the denomination and to which it gives authority over all matters of faith, order, and worship, and usurped an increasingly larger part of the Provincial Council’s role.

By its actions the College of Bishops cancelled the contractual agreement that forms the basis of the Anglican Church in North America’s governing documents. It is this agreement that gives effect or force to the constitution and canons. These governing documents have no effect or force of their own other than that which the parties to the agreement give them. If one party chooses to disregard the provisions of the constitution and the canons, they are also ignoring the contractual agreement underpinning these governing documents. If they repeatedly violate the constitution and contravene the canons, they render the agreement null and void. The other parties are under no constraint to abide by its provisions either. They are free to take whatever steps that they consider to be appropriate under the circumstances.

In the case of orthodox Anglicans committed to the fulfillment of the Great Commission and to adherence to the teaching of the Bible and the doctrine of the Anglican formularies , they can band together and compile their own Prayer Book and Catechism. They can also form their own voluntary association for the purposes of mission, credentialing of clergy, and the like. They can establish a united plan of giving for mission and other purposes. This may be the only realistic way forward for them. They can chose to remain a part of the Anglican Church in North America but in a separate organization of their own—a second province. Having formed such an organization, they can choose to withdraw from the Anglican Church in North America and to part company with that denomination if circumstances warrant such a move.

Whatever decision they make, they need to bear in mind two things. The first is that our Lord has an agenda for his Church. It is spreading the gospel, reaching and engaging the lost, discipling them, and enfonlding them into new churches.  An influential segment of the College of Bishops has a different agenda. It is to promote “Catholic faith, order, and practice.” The two agendas have different priorities. One is the saving of souls from an eternity of separation from God. The other is maintaining a particular cultus.

The second thing that they need to bear in mind is that the College of Bishops’ infraction of the Anglican Church in North America’s governing documents is not going to stop on its own accord. It is likely to spread to other areas in the life and ministry of the Anglican Church in North America. It is a form of episcopal abuse and episcopal abuse left unchecked tends to expand and grow. A fourth major weakness of the Anglican Church in North America is the lack of any accountability mechanisms affecting the episcopate.

The next step is theirs. 

7 comments:

Austin Olive said...

Hi Robin. Have this:

http://www.virtueonline.org/acc-archbishop-calls-clarity-north-american-anglicans-womens-ordination-remains-central-issue

This fellow's talk perfectly illustrates what have been describing. I don't disagree with him about women's ordination, but way emphasizes Catholicism and belittles the Diocese of Sydney could more clearly encapsulate what you keep on about.

Robin G. Jordan said...

Austin,

As Mark Haverlnd points out, Anglo-Catholics are Catholics first and Anglicans second. I would have to ask what happened to being Christian. Being Christian and being unreformed Catholic, which is what he means by "Catholic," are NOT synonymous, Whether Anglo-Catholics like himself are really Anglican in any sense is debatable. The Affirmation of St.Louis to which he refers takes positions unacceptable to historic Anglicanism, placing the authority of tradition above that of Scripture and recognizing all of the teaching of the Seven General Councils, which included the veneration of images. His acceptance of the Affirmation's positions throws into doubt his claim that he is an Anglican.

The slur Haverlnd directs at the Diocese of Sydney is consistent with how Anglo-Catholics have historically sought to present themselves--as the only true Anglicans--and those who stand in continuity with the English Reformers and hold to the teaching of the Bible and the doctrinal and worship principles of the Anglican formularies--as not genuinely Anglican. They seek to gain acceptance of their definition of themselves and of others. Revisionism is not the exclusive province of liberals. But in reality they are a foreign element in the Anglican Church--squatters who have taken over a part of the house and now claim that they are the rightful owners of the house.

Austin Olive said...

What I find disturbing is the fact that the speaker says that what he's about to sayis going to possibly upset his listeners, but what he's referring to is his stance on WO, not the abysmal and heterodox hermeneutic that he uses. Additionally, when arguing against WO he never once, to my recollection, appeals to Scripture, but rather solely to the Catholic tradition. While there is a place for Ann appeal to tradition, surely it isn't in a place with such firm Scriptural ground.

As I have reflected on this article, it makes me despair of the ACNA in a way I haven't before. It's not that your articles and my experience are not persuasiveenough. Rather, it's that such an extreme unreformed address was made two a gathering of the leading lights of the denomination, and that his extremism is apparently wholly unremarkable to his listeners. This, more than anything, is surely a damning commentary on the ACNA.

Austin Olive said...

By the way, please excuse my typos. I'm using my phone to type.

Robin G. Jordan said...

Mark Haverland is the Archbishop of the Anglican Catholic Church, a Continuing Anglican jurisdiction which embraces an extreme form of Anglo-Catholicism. His remarks are not particularly surprising. His description of Sydney Anglicans reflects an old prejudice toward evangelicals, which had its origin in the Episcopal Church. Evangelicalism and evangelism of any kind was associated with the Southern Baptists. Episcopalians built their identity around the rejection of evangelicalism and evangelism. You will also hear liberals making similar remarks about evangelical Anglicans. It is one of a number of reasons why I believe that North American "Anglicanism" is fundamentally defective and dysfunctional. The ACNA may have broken away from the Episcopal Church and its liberal leanings. But it has not broken free of defective, dysfunctional North American "Anglicanism."

Austin Olive said...

Robin, perhaps you can illuminate me. I find myself wondering over and over again why these people who love Romanism so much don't just bow the knee to Rome and join the Catholic Church. They aren't Protestants, indeed they seem to hold the whole Reformation heritage in disdain. The Papacy will let them have their wives and will allow them to use their service books. So why then do they trouble the Anglican's house? Is it a desire to be the big dog on a small porch?

Robin G. Jordan said...

Austin,
While Anglo-Catholics have much in common with Roman Catholics in the areas of doctrine and worship, they do disagree with Roman Catholics on a number of issues. One of those issues is papal authority. Anglo-Catholics are essentially independent Catholics.

While the Roman Catholic Church may allow Anglo-Catholic clergy to keep their wives, it does not allow them to use their service books. This is what the Anglo-Catholics who joined the Anglican Ordinariate quickly discovered. It was almost a year or longer before the Roman Catholic Church approved a traditional English rite that former Anglo-Catholics in the Anglican Ordinariate might use. Those celebrating Mass in contemporary English must use the Roman Rite.

The Roman Catholic Church also will not let Anglo-Catholics stay together as a congregation if their congregation is small and a Roman Catholic parish is nearby. They must attend the Roman Catholic parish. Many Roman Catholic parishes are too liberal and too modern for traditionalist Anglo-Catholics.

Anglo-Catholics converting to Roman Catholicism must enroll in the nearest Roman Catholic Initiation of Adults program and complete that program, which includes studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church, before they may be received into the Roman Catholic Church.

Anglo-Catholic clergy have no assurance that they will be admitted to Roman Catholic orders if they convert to Roman Catholicism. Roman Catholic requirements for ordination to the deaconate and the priesthood are much more stringent than those of a number of Continuing Anglican jurisdictions. They may be laicized.

If an Anglo-Catholic converting to the Roman Catholicism is a bishop, he will not be permitted to retain that office. The best that he can hope for is ordination as a Roman Catholic priest.

Most traditionalist Anglo-Catholics hold a view that is similar to that of nineteenth century Tractarian leaderEdmund Bouverie Pusey. Pusey would become the leader of the Oxford Movement after John Henry Newman converted to Roman Catholicism. Pusey maintained that the Anglican Church was the third branch of Catholic Christianity. Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church are the two other branches of Catholic Christianity.

Pusey and his followers fabricated a pedigree for themselves showing that they were part of a line of Catholic Anglicans stretching back to the pre-Reformation English Church. They selectively cited the works of the English Reformers and the Caroline High Churchmen to make their case. When the works of the English Reformers and the Caroline High Churchmen whom they cited are read in their entirety, it is clear that they were not the Catholic Anglicans that Pusey and his followers claimed that they were.

The Puseyites not only reiterated Newman’s claim that the Tractarians were the only genuine High Churchmen, they also maintained that they were the only genuine Anglicans. They argued that the rightful identity of the Anglican Church was Catholic on the basis of pre-Reformation documents referring to the English Church by its Latin name, ecclesia Anglicana.

The Roman Catholic Church really is not an option for these folks. Neither are the various Orthodox Churches in the United States and Canada. Converts are second class citizens in these Churches.