By Robin G. Jordan
Rough seas lies ahead for Biblically faithful, genuinely Anglican, mission-oriented clergy and congregations in the Anglican Church in North America. They need to batten down the hatches and prepare for the onslaught of the storm.
Under the provisions of Canon II.2.1 of the Anglican Church in North America until the adoption of a Book of Common Prayer in the ACNA clergy and congregations in that jurisdiction may use the authorized Books of Common Prayer of the originating jurisdictions. Among the originating jurisdictions that have an authorized service books of their own are the Anglican Church of Kenya, the Anglican Church of the Province of the Southern Cone, the Anglican Church of Rwanda, The Anglican Mission in the Americas, the Church of Nigeria (Anglican), and the Reformed Episcopal Church.
The American Anglican Council, The Anglican Communion Network, The Anglican Network in Canada, and Forward in Faith – North America, however, did not have an authorized service book of their own. Clergy and congregations in these ecclesial organizations used one of the authorized service books of the Anglican Church of Canada or the Episcopal Church.
Whether the provisions of Canon II.2.1 apply to the authorized services books of the last two jurisdictions is debatable. They are not originating jurisdictions of the Anglican Church in North America. A strict interpretation of the provisions of Canon II.2.1 would prohibit their use.
In any event when the proposed Prayer Book currently in preparation is formally adopted, whatever services books are presently being used by ACNA clergy and congregations will no longer be authorized. The ACNA canons make no provision for their continued use.
Clergy and congregation who do not agree with the unreformed Catholic teaching and practices countenanced in the proposed Prayer Book will have no choice but to use it. To do otherwise will constitute a violation of the ACNA canons.
Presumably the ACNA catechism will be incorporated into the proposed Prayer Book along with such rites as have not yet been completed. This means that clergy and congregations who do not agree with its teaching will be required to teach what it teaches. The ACNA catechism departs in a number of places from the teaching of the Holy Scriptures and the principles of doctrine and worship laid out in the Anglican formularies--the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1571, the Book of Common Prayer of 1662, and the Ordinal of 1662..
The doctrine of the proposed Prayer Book, including the catechism, will be the official doctrine of the jurisdiction. Teaching anything beside what it teaches will also constitute a violation of the ACNA canons.
Under the provisions of the governing documents of the Missionary Dioceses of CANA East and CANA West in the case ofa mission the bishop may at the present time “permit whatever degree of autonomy and deviation from the usual Anglican order of worship… which he deems appropriate for the particular group.” The adoption of the proposed Prayer Book will take away this authority from CANA bishops and will require them to permit only the use of the proposed Prayer Book. CANA will no longer be able to authorize its own rites of baptism and confirmation.
The proposed Prayer Book is not designed for the North American mission field. Its use may prove a significant hindrance to CANA missions and may reduce CANA’s effectiveness as a church-planting network.
CANA is not the only group of churches that will be negatively affected by the adoption of the proposed Prayer Book. Two other groups will be greatly impacted by this change. The first group of clergy and congregations are those who fully accept the teaching of the Holy Scriptures and the principles of doctrine and worship laid out in the Anglican formularies. They will be required to accept and teach what are in the words of the 1662 Ordinal “erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God’s word.” They will be required to follow practices associated with such doctrines.
Essentially they will be forced to compromise their own beliefs and convictions in order to participate in the Anglican Church in North America. They will be prohibited from passing on those beliefs and convictions to future generations.
In other words, the proposed Prayer Book implements a form of theological exclusion—one that goes further than the ACNA’s fundamental declarations with their insistence upon the acceptance of an Anglo-Catholic/Roman Catholic view of the episcopate as being essential to the very existence of the Church. This view, as the late Peter Toon pointed out as early as 2006 in an assessment of the Common Cause Theological Statement, “excludes the majority of Anglicans since 1549 who have recognized other Churches (Lutheran, Presbyterian etc) as genuine churches with genuine presbyters, even if lacking the good thing of the Episcopate.” The ACNA fundamental declarations were taken from the Common Cause Theological Statement.
The target of this theological exclusion are conservative Evangelical Anglicans and other confessional Anglicans particularly those who are Biblical and Reformed in their theological outlook.
The second group of clergy and congregations that the adoption of the proposed Prayer Book will greatly impact are those seeking to reach and engage the unchurched segments of the North American population. The proposed Prayer Book is seriously lacking in the kind of flexibility needed for the mission field in the twenty-first century.
The teaching embodied in its rites and services and articulated in its catechism proclaims a different gospel from that of the New Testament. It includes that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross must be offered again and again in the celebration of the Mass. The gospel that it proclaims is not the gospel that transforms lives. It is a gospel of sacraments and good works.