Friday, September 25, 2015

Goodbye PEAR-USA

Anglican Church of Rwanda to Transfer US Church Networks to ACNA

By Robin G. Jordan

While the Anglican Church in America’s publicist is spinning this development as “a bold move for Anglican unity,” I personally would like to know the backstory behind the decision of the Anglican Church of Rwanda’s provincial synod to disencumber itself of PEAR-USA. PEAR-USA will no longer operate as an extraterritorial missionary district of the Anglican Church of Rwanda. It will be reorganized as Rwanda Ministry Partners, a ministry association within the Anglican Church in North America. I became well-acquainted with the Byzantine nature of Rwandan ecclesiastical politics several years ago while investigating the backstory to what was then the new canons of the Anglican Church of Rwanda.

When PEAR-USA was first organized, it was clear from its new charter that it was moving in the direction of eventual integration into the Anglican Church in North America. The organizational structure and form of governance that the new charter created for PEAR-USA was modeled upon that of the Anglican Church in North America.

PEAR-USA affirmed the Episcopal Church’s 1804 revision of the Thirty-Nine Articles and the Jerusalem Declaration while acceding to the fundamental declarations of the Anglican Church in North America. The Episcopal Church’s 1804 revision of the Thirty-Nine Articles is not recognized with the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as the longstanding doctrinal standard of Historic Anglicanism and it is not the Thirty-Nine Articles to which the Jerusalem Declaration refers. As I have written elsewhere, the ACNA fundamental declarations equivocate in their acceptance of the authority of the Thirty-Nine Articles. The only logical conclusion was that PEAR-USA’s affirmation of the Thirty-Nine Articles was purely rhetorical and had nothing to with what it believed.

While the Anglican Church of Rwanda’s House of Bishops elected bishops for PEAR-USA, only the names of candidates nominated by PEAR-USA council of bishops and approved by the Anglican Church in North America’s College of Bishops could be presented to the Rwandan bishops.

The clergy and congregations in the PEAR-USA church networks were given only a consultative role in the decision-making process and then under extraordinary circumstances.

North American Anglicans who have harbored the thought that PEAR-USA might become an enclave for Anglicans who are Biblical and Protestant in their stance and evangelical and reformed in their theology can write off that idea. Absorption into the Anglican Church in North America means that former PEAR-USA clergy and congregations will be using the ACNA prayer book presently in preparation and To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism. Neither of these two ACNA formularies (not to be confused with the Anglican formularies) fit the description of Biblical, Protestant, evangelical, and reformed. They display the strong influence of unreformed Catholic teaching and practices.

The future of authentic Historic Anglicanism in North America looks even grimmer. 


Greg said...

I really enjoy your blog. Many thanks. In regards to the future of reformed, protestant, confessional Anglicanism I would be really interested to hear your opinion about the United Episcopal Church of North America. The UECNA seems to be strongly committed to "classical Anglicanism" and has a 'low church evangelical' to 'traditional central church' ethos and I believe gives a significant theological status to the 1662 BCP as well as authorizing the American editions of the BCP up to and including the 1928 BCP

Robin G. Jordan said...


I do not believe that “the future of protestant, reformed, confessional Anglicanism” lies with any of the existing Anglican jurisdictions in North America. Neither the Anglican Church of Canada nor the Episcopal Church in North America has a viable Evangelical wing. The Anglican Church in North America has an Evangelical wing but it is disorganized and leaderless and consequently weak. The College of Bishops has also been fostering an environment in the ACNA, which will make it increasingly more difficult for its Evangelical wing to survive much less to thrive. None of the Continuing Anglican jurisdictions have a viable Evangelical wing. This includes the United Episcopal Church of North America.

Being Low Church is not synonymous with being Evangelical. I also question whether even Low Church accurately describes the UECNA today.

One of the problems is the UECNA’s use of the 1928 Prayer Book. The 1928 Prayer Book is the product of an alliance between Anglo-Catholic movement and the Broad Church movement in the early twentieth century. While this alliance was stymied in its attempt to remove the Thirty-Nine Articles from the American Prayer Book, it were successful in introducing a number of far-reaching and radical changes in that Prayer Book as E. Clowe Chorley points out in The New American Prayer Book: Its History and Its Content (1929). These changes would bring the American Prayer Book closer in its teaching and practices to Roman Catholicism. It would also move the American Prayer Book in a more liberal direction.

The 1928 revision diluted the penitential language of the American Prayer Book and permitted the omission of the Exhortation beginning, “Dearly beloved brethren,” and the Ten Commandments. As Samuel Leuenberger points out in Archbishop Cranmer’s Immortal Bequest: The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England: An Evangelistic Liturgy (1992), these elements are what make the 1662 Prayer Book an evangelistic liturgy.

The 1928 revision also incorporated prayers for the dead. Their inclusion was vigorously opposed by a group of Low Churchmen in General Convention. (cont'd)

Robin G. Jordan said...

The rubrics of the 1928 revision direct the priest to offer the bread and wine at the Offertory as well as during the consecration—a restoration of the Medieval practice of the Lesser Oblation and Great Oblation associated with the Medieval doctrines of the transubstantiation and the sacrifice of the Mass. If one takes the view that the point at which the elements are consecrated is during the recitation of the Words of Institution—a view held by the Medieval Church and the Usager Non-Jurors, then what the priest is offering during the consecration is the consecrated elements. If one believes that the consecrated elements have become the Body and Blood of Christ, what the priest is offering is Christ substantively present under the form of the sacramental species.

The Prayer of Humble Access was moved to a position after the consecration, the position from which Archbishop Cranmer moved it because it inferred the substantive presence of Christ in the consecrated elements in that position.

The 1928 revision made the signing of the cross on the newly-baptized mandatory. Until the 1928 revision it had been permissive.

A new Office of Instruction was added. The first prayer for those preparing for confirmation, which follows the Office of Instruction, infers that the Holy Spirit is given at Confirmation and implies that Confirmation is a sacrament. So does the reading for the Order of Confirmation. It is taken from Chapter 8 of the Acts of the Apostles. The text is one the Medieval Church used to bolster its claim that Confirmation was a sacrament.

A form for the anointing of the sick and dying was added to the Office for the Visitation of the Sick. Inferred in the rite is that such anointing confers sacramental grace.

The 1928 revision also retained the invocation of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the bread and wine. Archbishop Cranmer dropped this invocation from the consecration in the 1552 Book Prayer for two reasons. First, it has no basis in Scripture. The Bible describes the descent of the Holy Spirit upon people in response to prayer, not inanimate objects. Second, it infers that the elements at consecration undergo a change in substance.

From an Evangelical perspective the 1928 Prayer Book is not a Prayer Book that conforms in its doctrine and liturgical usages to the doctrinal and worship principles of the Anglican formularies—the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty-Nine Articles, the 1661 Form for the Ordering of Deacons, Priests, and Bishops, and the two Books of Homilies. On its new website the UECNA claims to accept the authority of both the 1928 Prayer Book and the Thirty-Nine Articles. (cont'd)

Robin G. Jordan said...

In its new website the UECNA insists that the Thirty-Nine Articles and the two Books of Homilies must be interpreted in accordance with the Patristic writers and the General Councils of the Church. The Evangelical position, however, that the doctrine of Articles and the Homilies must be subjected to the Holy Scriptures as must all thought, including the opinions of the Patristic writers and the pronouncements of the General Councils of the Church. The UECNA position is more consistent with a High Church or Anglo-Catholic position.

The current UECNA Presiding Bishop is a self-acknowledged Broad Churchman. His predecessor had Anglo-Catholic leanings. A number of clergy in the UECNA also have similar leanings. It was these clergy who proposed that the title of UECNA’s chief bishop be changed from Presiding Bishop to Archbishop. The UECNA was at one point involved in negations with the Anglican Catholic Church and the Anglican Province of Christ the King and entered into an intercommunion agreement with these jurisdictions, both of which are decidedly Anglo-Catholic in their doctrine and practices. Intercommunion agreements generally require a common understanding of the Holy Eucharist, including agreement on key areas such as apostolic succession, eucharistic presence, and eucharistic sacrifice.

On its new website the UECNA takes this position in regards to Confirmation, Matrimony, Orders, Absolution, and Anointing of the Sick:

“Confirmation, Holy Matrimony, Holy Orders, Penance, Holy Unction - are sacramental in character, as they are outward signs of inward spiritual graces. However, they do not have the same nature as Baptism and Holy Communion in that they were instituted by the Church, and lack a direct mandate from our Saviour Jesus Christ.”

This position is not the position of the Thirty-Nine Articles. The Articles maintain that these rites “have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures; but yet have not like nature of Sacraments with Baptism, and the Lord's Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.” (cont'd)

Robin G. Jordan said...

The UECNA, like the other Continuing Anglican jurisdictions, is stagnant if not in decline. Its only growth in recent years has been transfer growth. According to its new website:

“The events of 2009-2010 had reduced the UECNA to just sixteen churches, so there was a real need to consolidate the UEC's position. However, events dictated that the Eastern Missionary Diocese received a group of clergy and parishes from the Orthodox Anglican Church following the partial collapse of that jurisdiction in early 2012. Additional parishes were received from the same source in the West, and the UECNA grew from 15 to 21 congregations during the late summer of 2012. Additional churches in Kentucky affiliated to the UECNA in 2013, and in January 2014, Bishop Robinson made an appeal to the leaders of other traditional Episcopal bodies to work for consolidation of the traditional Anglican work on the basis of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion and traditional BCP within a single jurisdiction. This lead to visits from Bishop George Conner, Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Episcopal Church, US, just ahead of the 2014 General Convention, and from Bishop David Hustwick, Bishop of the Diocese of the Great Lakes to Convention, began the process which brought both of these smaller jurisdictions into the United Episcopal Church. The Diocese of the Great Lakes affiliated in July 2014, and the Anglican Episcopal Church, US, in February 2015.”

These additions are not going to prevent the UECNA from becoming moribund if it is not already dying. I am acquainted with the state of two of the Kentucky congregations to which the website refers. They were originally one congregation that split. The original congregation was a part of an Episcopal Missionary Church congregation from which it split. They are not healthy congregations. They have negligible connection with their communities. They are essentially chaplaincies to a handful of families.

I am also familiar with the AEC and the DGL. They are very small jurisdictions. In 2008 they formed the North American Anglican Conference, which accomplished nothing because the leaders of the two jurisdictions were unwilling to take the initiative at a time when bold action was needed.

I must also point out that a major reason for the original split in the Anglican Orthodox Church that resulted in the Orthodox Anglican Church and the Anglican Orthodox Church was churchmanship. The group that formed the OAC wanted to move in a more Anglo-Catholic, High Church, and ritualistic direction. The influx of OAC congregations and clergy must be considered in evaluating the over-all doctrine of the UECNA. The Reformed Episcopal Church would experience a similar influx from the Episcopal Church, which was one of the factors behind its shift away from the principles of its founders in an Anglo-Catholic, High Church, and ritualistic direction.

Generally I have observed that almost all, if not all, of the Continuing Anglican jurisdictions are lacking in vitality. They do not have church planting and evangelism in their DNA. Their focus has been the tiny segment of the population that has a sentimental attachment to the 1928 Prayer Book. That population segment is shrinking. They are likely to disappear with it.

Greg said...

Hi Robin, thank you for a very informative and enlightening answer. Would CANA be a better a better home for Reformed evangelical Anglicans who belong to the ACNA community?

Robin G. Jordan said...

That, Greg, is a very good question, one which I honestly cannot answer. In its vision statement the Convocation of Anglicans in North America states:

“The vision of CANA is to be a building block and an incubator that works to build up the Anglican Church in North America as the provincial structure for orthodox Anglicanism in North America within the next several years.”

From what I gather, there has been discussion in the Missionary Diocese of CANA East of strengthening the judicatory’s avowal of the Anglican formularies, particularly the Thirty-Nine Articles. However, I find no evidence of such an affirmation in the May 2015 revision of its constitution and canons. In Article I of its constitution CANA East “adopts, receives, and affirms the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) Statement and the Jerusalem Declaration issued June 29, 2008.” Perhaps this statement was intended to serve that purpose. Article I further states:

“…we acknowledge the authority and powers of the Protocol signed between the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) (CoN) and the Anglican Church in North America (the Province) issued on July 24, 2010 together with the updated Protocols which the respective Provinces thereafter shall adopt; and we acknowledge the Fundamental Declarations of the Province as set forth in Article I of the Provincial Constitution.”

To acknowledge something is to accept or admit its existence or its truth. The Jerusalem Statement and Declaration and the ACNA’s fundamental declarations take different positions on key issues. Consequently an affirmation of one and an acknowledgement of the other is problematic—even contradictory.

The ACNA’s fundamental declarations also take the esse position on the episcopate and reflect a particular view of apostolic succession. Anglicans are divided not only over whether the episcopate is of the essence of the Church or of its well-being but also over whether apostolic succession should be rightly viewed as a succession of bishops or a succession of doctrine. Reformed Evangelicals take the bene esse position, a position which they share with the Anglican Reformers who retained the episcopate because it had a long history and was not expressly prohibited by the Bible. Reformed Evangelicals also view apostolic succession as a succession of doctrine as did the Anglican Reformers. The position of the ACNA’s fundamental declarations on the episcopate and its view of apostolic succession is that of Roman Catholicism, not historic Anglicanism.

Robin G. Jordan said...

CANA East has issued its own rites for Baptism and Confirmation and an examination of these rites may be revealing into the theology of Baptism and Confirmation affirmed in the judicatory. The Deacon’s Mass: The Case for a Reappraisal , which is also posted on the CANA East website discusses the theology of the Lord’s Supper as well as the role of deacons. It too may be revealing into the theology of the Lord’s Supper prevalent in the judicatory or it may just reflect the thinking of the author. The fact that it is posted on the website suggests that its contents are commended for the consideration of those visiting the website. Links to all three documents are found on the website’s Resources page.

Article I of CANA West’s constitution is identical to that of Article I of CANA East’s constitution.

CANA West has posted on its website on the Resources page Ten Elements of Historic Anglicanism, an article by former Bishop of Sydney Dr. Paul P. Barnett. This article affirms the protestant, reformed character of historic Anglicanism. CANA West also has posted on the same page an article What Is Anglicanism? which also affirms the protestant, reformed character of historic Anglicanism.

CANA East and CANA West are dioceses of the Anglican Church in North America and come under the jurisdiction of the ACNA as well as the Church of Nigeria (Anglican). This means that if the ACNA formally adopts the Prayer Book in preparation and To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism, clergy and congregations in these two judicatories will be required to use the Prayer Book and the Catechism. Both formularies (not to be confused with the Anglican formularies) countenance Roman Catholic and to a lesser extent Eastern Orthodox teaching and practices.

A Google search failed to produce the July 24, 2010 Protocol between the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and the ACNA. This Protocol may have bearing upon the use of the ACNA Prayer Book and Catechism in CANA.

Another problem area is that as in the case of PEAR-USA the ACNA College must vet and approve all candidates for the office of bishop in CANA nominated by CANA East and West before their names may be presented to the Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican) for election by the Nigerian House of Bishops. This means that the ACNA College of Bishops can reject any nominee that it does not believe will support the present direction in which it is taking the ACNA.

CANA has potential as a prospective second ecclesiastical province within the ACNA but whether it will be able to fulfill that potential is another matter. Since the Rwandans have decided to cut PEAR-USA loose, the Nigerians may follow suit with CANA. I suspect that they are under pressure from the ACNA to do so.

Greg said...

Robin, thank you again for a very informative and insightful response. It provides me with much food for thought. Thanks again. God bless.