Monday, November 23, 2015

A Word to North America’s Confessing Anglicans: Do not Fear, for God Is with You

By Robin G. Jordan

“…fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 ESV

The breakup of the first Anglican Church in North America even before it got off the ground has made some folks in the second Anglican Church in North America skittish about standing up for their beliefs. They fear that they may be blamed if the ACNA becomes embroiled in theological disputes over their convictions and these disputes lead to the breakup of the ACNA. They have adopted the motto “unity at all costs” even thought it involves damaging concessions where their beliefs are concerned.

Catholic Revivalists have exploited this skittishness. Bishop John Rodgers, at the prompting of other leaders in the ACNA, published an open letter in which he urged evangelical delegates to rally to support of the ACNA’s draft constitution and canons and to ratify the two documents despite their misgivings about their provisions. If evangelical delegates did not vote in favor of their ratification, Rodgers argued, North America would have no alternative province to the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada. Implied in his letter was that if the draft constitution and canons were not ratified, the Common Cause Partnership would fall apart and with its breakup the opportunity to form such a province would disappear. He assured evangelical delegates that the problem areas in the two documents would be fixed once they were ratified.

Evangelical delegates would vote in favor of ratification even though they were not happy with the two documents. The open letter which had been posted on the Internet was subsequently taken down. More than five years later nothing has been done to fix the problem areas.

At the inaugural Provincial Council meeting CANA Bishop Martyn Mimms raised the question of modifying the proposed ACNA fundamental declarations to make them more acceptable to evangelicals. The Catholic Revivalist response was that any substantive change to the proposed fundamental declarations would cause the coalition of conservative Anglican groups to unravel. In other words, they would withdraw from the coalition.

Since the Common Cause partnership days of the Anglican Church in North America a cacophony of voices has been heard on the Internet, accusing as divisive those who call for greater comprehensiveness in the ACNA and urging them to leave the ACNA and/or join a Presbyterian or Reformed church. Almost all of these voices are Catholic Revivalists. A large number of them are members of the clergy. These voices reveal a lot about the attitude of one segment of the Catholic Revivalist clergy in the ACNA toward those who are faithful to the Bible and the Anglican formularies and stand in the Anglican Church’s Reformation heritage.

This attitude is is shared by a number of ACNA leaders. In their case they have been more cautious and circumspect in what they say. If Confessing Anglicans outside of North America had been more familiar with those who identify themselves as Anglicans in North America, their theological leanings, and their particular terminology and its significance, they might not have been so quick to extend their recognition and support to the Common Cause Partnership and eventually the Anglican Church in North America.

On at least one occasion former ACNA Archbishop Robert Duncan publicly called for a new settlement, maintaining that the Elizabethan Settlement, which shaped historic Anglicanism, was no longer relevant for today. His words were reminiscent of those used in an earlier controversy.

At the time of the merger between the ultra-Anglo-Catholic Anglican Catholic Church and the more comprehensive American Episcopal Church, Catholic Revivalists in the ACC used the Elizabethan Settlement as a catchword for what they regarded as “doctrinal and liturgical laxity” in the AEC as well as the Episcopal Church (USA). The ACC took a very dim view of the sixteenth century Elizabethan Settlement and historic Anglicanism.

This negative view of the Elizabethan Settlement and historic Anglicanism is evident in the Anglican Church in North America. It is reflected in its position on the Anglican formularies, which are a product of the English Reformation and the Elizabethan Settlement. This position is not only discernible in its fundamental declarations but also its canons, its catechism, and its proposed Prayer Book. It is in conflict with that of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.

If Anglican Church in North America breaks up or Confessing Anglicans break away from the jurisdiction to form a province faithful to the Bible and the Anglican formularies and standing in the Anglican Church’s Reformation heritage, the fault will lie not with Confessing Anglicans but with Catholic Revivalists in the jurisdiction. They have made no genuine effort to comprehend the beliefs of Confessing Anglicans. Rather they have done whatever they can to entrench their views. They have exacted all kinds of concessions from Confessing Anglicans but have made negligible concessions of their own. 

Confessing Anglicans need to face up to the unpleasant truth that whatever they do, Catholic Revivalists are going to blame them for any fallout. They are not going to admit that their own intransigence is the cause. Confessing Anglicans should not let the fear of censure prevent them from taking needed action.

They will be misunderstood. They will be criticized. If they are truly faithful to the Bible and the Anglican formularies and truly stand in the Anglican Church’s Reformation heritage, however, they have no choice but stand up for their beliefs. Their beliefs are consistent with the Bible. The Anglican formularies derive their authority from the Bible. What they are standing up for is God’s Word and the gospel of grace.  

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