By Robin G. Jordan
While the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) describes itself as an “Anglican Church,” its teaching and practices, as evidenced in its canons, its catechism, and its proposed rites, are in fact unreformed Catholic. A more accurate description of the ACNA would be an “independent Catholic Church.”
Around the time that the ACNA was established, I wrote an article drawing attention to this fact. This article, if I recollect correctly, was posted on a number of websites beside Anglicans Ablaze. In response to the article ACNA leaders engaged George Conger to write an op-ed piece challenging the accuracy of the description and dismissing it as without substance.
Subsequent developments in the ACNA, however, have proven the description to be accurate. The ACNA is an independent Catholic Church in everything but name. The ACNA’s fundamental declarations equivocate in their acceptance of the authority of the Thirty-Nine Articles. They substantially dilute the authority of The Book of Common Prayer and the ordinal of 1662. They in essence reject historic Anglicanism’s longstanding standard of doctrine and worship.
While a wing of the ACNA is faithful to the Bible and the historic Anglican formularies and stands in the Reformation heritage of the Anglican Church, the denomination is officially unreformed Catholic in its doctrine, order, and practice with one exception. The ACNA does ordain women to the diaconate and the priesthood. In this regard the ACNA does not differ from a number of liberal independent Catholic Churches.
The Biblical and Reformation beliefs and convictions of the aforementioned wing have no official standing in the denomination. Its presence in the ACNA is at the present time tolerated. Its future in the denomination is uncertain.
Since that time George Conger himself has pointed out that the ACNA College of Bishops is dominated by Anglo-Catholic and philo-Orthodox bishops.
At the present time North America does not have a denomination that embodies the Protestant and Reformed principles based on the Holy Scriptures and set out in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion and The Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal of 1662. In other words, it does not have a genuine Anglican Church. It has several ecclesial bodies masquerading as Anglican Churches. They include the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada as well as the ACNA and the Continuing Anglican Churches. North America has various elements that if they separated from their current denomination and joined together in a new organization could form a recognizable Anglican Church, a denomination that embodies these principles.
Rather than giving their unqualified support to a denomination that is an independent Catholic Church, the GAFCON and Global South Primates need to rethink and reevaluate their support of the ACNA. The first GAFCON Conference called for the establishment of an orthodox Anglican province in North America. It is time that one was formed. The first GAFCON Conference did not call for the establishment of another liberal independent Catholic Church, which what the Common Cause Partnership formed after instigating the call for a new province.
The alternative is for the ACNA to bring the principles of doctrine and worship embodied in its formularies into line with the doctrinal and worship principles laid out in the historic Anglican formularies and to adopt a new constitution and canons that not only reflect these changes but also establishes a form of governance for that denomination that resembles that of a typical Anglican province, and not that of a subdivision of the Roman Catholic Church. I do not, however, see the present leaders of the ACNA as having the will to introduce, adopt, and implement these much needed reforms in that denomination if it is to represent itself as Anglican. They have a vested interest in the status quo.
Reducing the ACNA to observer status at GAFCON and Global South gatherings might give it a nudge in the right direction. As in the case of the present ACNA leaders, I do not see the current GAFCON and Global South Primates as having the will to take much needed corrective action. For whatever reasons they appear unable, if not unwilling, to recognize and acknowledge that the ACNA is not the orthodox Anglican province whose establishment in North America the first GAFCON Conference called for.
The only option that is open to North American Anglicans faithful to the Bible and the historic Anglican formularies and standing in the Anglican Church’s Reformation heritage is to proceed with the establishment of such a province in North America without the support of the GAFCON and Global South Primates. If the GAFCON and Global South Primates oppose this move, they will place themselves in the embarrassing, incongruous, and uncomfortable position of disapproving and attempting to prevent the formation of a genuine Anglican Church in North America.
On the other hand the establishment of such a province would provide an opportunity for those Primates who are genuinely committed to the faith and doctrine of Christ’s Church commanded in the Holy Scriptures and received and taught in the historic Anglican formularies to throw their support behind an Anglican entity in North America, which actually stands for what they believe. They would be also contributing to the re-establishment of doctrinal coherence in the Anglican Communion.
The launching of a “Biblically-faithful, fully Anglican, gospel-sharing” province in North America in 2016 would be a great way to make 2016 a banner year for authentic historic Anglicanism in North America.