Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Looking Beyond This Week’s Primates Meeting

 By Robin G. Jordan

In North America and around the world Anglicans and non-Anglicans are waiting to see what will be the outcome of the Primates Meeting in Canterbury. A number of questions are on their minds. Will Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Archbishop Fred Hiltz be expelled from the gathering as a disciplinary measure against their respective provinces? Will Archbishop Foley Beach be seated as an equal with the other Primates and allowed to participate in the entire meeting? Will the Anglican Church in North America receive the recognition of the Archbishop of Canterbury as a member province of the Anglican Communion? Will the GAFCON and Global South Primates eventually walk out and form a second conservative Anglican Communion in which the ACNA is a full member?

The question that is on my mind is how the meeting’s outcome is going to affect the future of North Americans Anglicans who are faithful to the Bible and the historic Anglican formularies and stand in the Reformation heritage of the Anglican Church—Anglicans who are a part of the Anglican Church in North America and folks like myself who for a variety of reasons are presently not a member of an Anglican church in the United States or Canada?

I have contact with a number of folks who fall into this second group. Among the reasons that they are not a member of an Anglican church, the following reasons are the most common:

1. The only self-identified Anglican churches in their locality are traditionalist Anglo-Catholic Continuing Anglican churches and liberal Catholic Modernist Episcopal churches.

2. Their locality has no self-identified Anglican churches—Continuing Anglican or Episcopal. Church planting is not one of the strengths of the Continuum and the Anglican Church in North America’s church planting efforts are for the most part confined to the larger metropolitan areas and their outskirts. A number of Continuing Anglican jurisdictions, like the Episcopal Church, are in decline, which has led to church closures.

3. The Anglican Church in North America is officially unreformed Catholic in its teaching and practices, based upon its Fundamental Declarations, its Canons, its Catechism, and its proposed Prayer Book. While a number of churches in the ACNA identify historic Anglicanism and themselves as Protestant and accept the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion as their confession of faith, they generally use service books that are unreformed Catholic. They, like other ACNA churches, are confined to certain areas of the United States and Canada. These churches also have no official standing and an uncertain future in the ACNA which does not make room in its formularies for their doctrinal beliefs and worship practices.

If the Anglican Church in North America is recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury or is recognized as a full member of a second conservative Anglican Communion, its present leaders will have no incentive to change the direction in which they are taking the denomination. They will have little if any motivation to make the denomination more comprehensive in doctrine and practices and more synodical in its form of governance at the provincial level and to implement needed reforms in its disciplinary canons as well as the methods in which it selects bishops. The churches in the ACNA that identify historic Anglicanism and themselves as Protestant and accept the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion as their confession of faith will be forced to further compromise their convictions and abandon their theological identity or join folks like myself out in the cold.

These churches, however, do have a third option. They can band together and form their own denomination and compile and adopt their own Catechism and Prayer Book—a Catechism and a Prayer Book, which are Scriptural and Protestant. They can also adopt a policy of aggressive church planting, organizing congregations and worship communities in all areas and segments of the population of the United States and Canada rather than just the areas and population segments upon which the Episcopal Church has focused in the past and the Continuing Anglican jurisdictions and the Anglican Church in North America have more recently focused. They do not have to leave their future in other people’s hands.

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