By Robin G. Jordan
Archbishop Justin Welby’s extension of an invitation to the Anglican Church in North America to send representatives to a Primates meeting in January 2016 and more recently to the dedication of Virginia Theological Seminary’s new chapel is a part of his effort to bring different elements to the table to discuss and adopt his proposal for the restructuring of the Anglican Communion. Under this proposal the very touchstone of authentic historic Anglicanism—the Holy Scriptures and the Anglican formularies—would be jettisoned and would be replaced by a policy of tolerance of moral and theological pluralism. The proposal would recognize the chaotic state of affairs in the Anglican Communion with disparate moralities and theologies competing with each other for ascendancy as normative.
While the Anglican Church in North America may style itself as “Anglican,” the liturgies and the catechism that the ACNA has produced to date and to which the College of Bishops have given its endorsement represent a major departure from authentic historic Anglicanism. They deviate significantly from the faith and doctrine commanded in the Holy Scriptures and taught in the Anglican formularies—the Articles of Religion of 1571, the Book of Common Prayer of 1662, the Ordinal of 1662, and the Book of Homilies of 1547 and 1571. They countenances teaching and practices rejected by the Anglican Reformers and eschewed by biblically faithful Anglicans
Under Welby’s proposal any ecclesial body may style itself as Anglican whatever it may believe and practice as long as it has formal recognition of the See of Canterbury. While the Anglican Church in North America might benefit from the adoption of the proposal, it would come at a great cost to authentic historic Anglicanism and to the gospel.
In the Jerusalem Declaration the GAFCON Primates issued a call to the churches, provinces, and dioceses of the Anglican Communion to return to the Holy Scriptures and the Anglican formularies. The ecclesial body that they helped to birth in North America, however, has not responded to that call. The ecclesial body that they prematurely endorsed as being “genuinely Anglican” has emerged as not being fully Anglican in terms of its adherence to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures and the doctrinal and worship principles of the Anglican formularies. Its affirmation of the Jerusalem Declaration is purely rhetorical. While it contains biblically faithful, fully Anglican clergy and congregations, this description cannot be applied to all its clergy and congregations and particularly to a large segment of its College of Bishops.
The GAFCON Primates are presently considering how they should respond to the invitation to attend the January Primates meeting. At that meeting they will be asked to endorse a proposal that would make the Jerusalem Declaration a dead letter. They have tolerated the Anglican Church in North America’s divergence from authentic historical Anglicanism. On what grounds can they refuse to attend the meeting? The departure of the Anglican Church in North America from the teaching of the Holy Scriptures and the doctrinal and worship principles of the Anglican formularies undercuts their own claim to be upholding and defending the touchstone of genuine Anglicanism.
Whatever the GAFCON Primates decide, the pressing need for the formation of a convocation of Anglican churches in the United States and Canada that is faithful to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures and the doctrinal and worship principles of the Anglican formularies is not going to go away. Biblically faithful Anglican clergy and congregations need an ecclesial body in which they can flourish and grow. Not only is the future of authentic historic Anglicanism in North America at stake but the gospel itself. The gospel implicit in the teaching and practices countenanced in the liturgies and the catechism of the Anglican Church in North America is not the gospel revealed in the Holy Scriptures. It is a different gospel!