By Robin G. Jordan
The Jerusalem Declaration—a common confession—was not a bad idea for the basis of fellowship between ecclesial bodies that identify themselves as Anglican. But it is clear from the recent actions of the GAFCON and Global Primates at the Cairo meeting that this group of Primates is not really committed to this basis of fellowship. It extended membership in the Global South Primates Council to Archbishop Foley Beach whose jurisdiction does not in practice accept a number of key provisions of the Jerusalem Declaration. Its affirmation of the Jerusalem Declaration is purely rhetorical.
While such an action is not particularly surprising for those Global South Primates who are not GAFCON Primates and therefore may not accept this confession, it is for those who are leaders in the GAFCON movement. It is inconsistent at best for such leaders who supposedly believe that the doctrinal foundation of Anglicanism—what defines their core identity as Anglicans, is expressed in the words of Canon 5A of the Church of England and who also supposedly subscribe to the Jerusalem Declaration. It raises questions as to what they really believe, what they actually see as the tenets of orthodoxy underpinning Anglican identity.
Whether or not leaders of GAFCON and the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans realize it, the Anglican Church in North America is not a good advertisement for what they are supposed to stand for. Doctrinally it is on an entirely different page from that which GAFCON and the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans is supposed to be on. Its bishops show strong leanings toward the unreformed teaching and practices of the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. It takes positions on a number of key issues that effectively exclude positions that are in line with the Bible, the Anglican formularies, and the Jerusalem Declaration. Clergy who subscribe to these excluded positions are at the present tolerated but their theological views enjoy no official standing in the jurisdiction. Their beliefs and convictions are not protected by its canons. Under the provisions of the canons ACNA clergy are expected to conform to the official doctrine of the jurisdiction as set out in its formularies—its fundamental declarations, its canons, its catechism, and its Book of Common Prayer. A member of the ACNA clergy teaching these excluded positions may be charged with contravention of its constitution and/or violation of the canons and may be subjected to disciplinary action ranging from admonishment to deprivation. Comprehension in the ACNA is negligible. It is limited to liturgical usage and is very narrow in range.
This is the true state of affairs in the jurisdiction that GAFCON Primates Council Chairman Archbishop Iliud Wabukala has praised in a number of public statements. While one segment of the ACNA may exhibit vigorous activity and progress in evangelism and church planting, other segments are stagnant. The ACNA is not quite the spiritual power house that Archbishop Wabukala describes. What may be happening in one wing of the church does not apply to the whole church.
The ACNA is certainly not a beacon of Anglican orthodoxy in North America, not by Anglicanism’s longstanding doctrinal and worship standard of the Anglican formularies. It is creedal and maintains a traditional view of marriage and human sexuality. But that description fits the Roman Catholic Church and a dozen other denominations.
One is prompted to ask, “By what objective criteria did the GAFCON and Global South Primates who met in Cairo decide that the Anglican Church in North America is 'Anglican' and therefore should be recognized as a partner jurisdiction of the Global South Provinces and its Archbishop seated as a voting member on the Global South Primates Council—being creedal and maintaining a traditional view of marriage and human sexuality?" Or were these actions based solely based on the subjective judgment of the Primates present at the Cairo meeting. Is such an approach any different from that of the Archbishop of Canterbury recognizing an ecclesial body as 'Anglican'?"
The bishops may be different but the approach is the same and suffers from identical shortcomings. Without an binding, objective criteria (such as adherence of the candidate for recognition to the teaching of the Bible and the doctrinal and worship principles of the Anglican formularies) to guide them, an assembly of bishops meeting to consider recognition of an ecclesial body is capable of erring and is likely to err. Bishops are not infallible. They have no special gift of the Holy Spirit that keeps them from erring. They can and do err.
If Archbishop Wabukala and the Primates who met in Cairo believe that by recognizing the Anglican Church in North America as a partner jurisdiction of the Global South Provinces and extending Global South Primates Council membership to its archbishop, they are encouraging the ACNA to move in more Anglican direction, they are sadly mistaken. The ACNA College of Bishops has to date shown no inclination to lead the jurisdiction in that direction. Indeed the ACNA College of Bishops gives every appearance of being set on moving the jurisdiction further away from authentic historic Anglicanism and closer to Roman Catholicism and Easter Orthodoxy in its teaching and practices. The ACNA College of Bishops has also shown no inclination to make the jurisdiction more comprehensive, making room in its formularies for what have been longstanding Anglican beliefs and principles grounded in the Holy Scriptures.
Archbishop Wabukala and the Primates who attended the Cairo meeting have left themselves open to the charge that what matters most to them is opposing the gay agenda. They have played into the hands of the liberals who are only too glad to spin the division between the liberal and conservative wings of the Anglican Communion as a struggle over human rights, not a disagreement over the authority of the Bible and its interpretation. How can they claim to stand for the Bible and the doctrinal and worship principles of the Anglican formularies when with their recent actions they have countenanced the departure of the Anglican Church in North America from this touchstone of authentic historic Anglicanism? How can they make such a claim when with the same actions they tacitly approved the ACNA's denial of official standing to the theological views of Anglicans who do fully accept the Bible as their rule of faith and practice and the Anglican formularies as their standard of doctrine and worship?