Friday, January 29, 2016

On the Wrong Track with the Anglican Church in North America

By Robin G. Jordan

The renewal of biblical Anglicanism in North America and the Anglican Church in North America are NOT synonymous. The movement that dominates the ACNA at the provincial level has little to do with biblical Anglicanism. Its focus is the revival of unreformed Catholicism in the Anglican Church, in other parts of the Anglican Communion as well as North America. Its vision of the Anglican Church is an Anglican Church reconstructed on the model of the supposedly undivided Church of the early High Middle Ages before the East-West schism in the eleventh century. It is NOT the vision of an Anglican Church that is biblical and reformed in its doctrine and practices.

The Anglican Church in North America did NOT get onto the wrong track very early in its existence. The ACNA has never been on the right track in the first place. This is evident from the original proposed Common Cause Theological Statement as well as from the one that eventually was adopted. Both documents took very weak positions on the historic Anglican formularies while affirming the Anglo-Catholic/Roman Catholic view of the episcopate as being essential to the very existence of the Church.

The US delegation to the Jerusalem Global Anglican Future Conference was the only delegation that questioned the confessional nature of historic Anglicanism. Members of that delegation sought to introduce changes into the wording of the Jerusalem Declaration to make it more unreformed Catholic in doctrinal positions.

Upon returning to the United States from the conference, Bishop Jack Iker assured Anglo-Catholics that the Common Cause Theological Statement, not the Jerusalem Declaration, would be determining the direction of the new province.

At the time the provisional Constitution and Canons were first made public, interested persons were given very little time to make comments and to recommend changes. The same thing happened when the draft Constitution and Canons were made public.  

A CANA ad hoc task force on the new province’s proposed Constitution and Canons, to which I acted as a consultant, received a negligible response to its concerns and recommendations from the Common Cause Governance Task Force. The Governance Task Force corrected one glaring oversight that I drew to their attention. Like those of the CANA ad hoc task force, however, my other concerns and recommendations generated a negligible response.

I also submitted to a number of Common Cause bishops an alternative proposal for the Constitution of the new province, modeled upon the Constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia. Only two bishops responded to my submission. Both bishops were on the Governance Task Force. Bishop Jack Iker demanded to know who had authorized the proposal. Bishop Royal Grote, then director of communications for the Reformed Episcopal Church and now its Presiding Bishop, claimed that he was the wrong person to whom to submit the proposal for distribution to the bishops of the Reformed Episcopal Church. Outsiders wishing to communicate with the REC bishops were at the time required to go through Grote. Both bishops gave me the distinct impression that the proposed Constitution and Canons had been already agreed upon. Making the proposed governing documents available for comments and recommendations from interested parties was cosmetic, for the sake of appearance.

One or more people in the Common Cause leadership or acting on its behalf pressured David Virtue into discontinuing the publication of a series of my articles critiquing the draft Constitution and Canons. Bishop John Rodgers posted on the Internet an open letter urging evangelicals to support the draft Constitution and Canons despite their misgivings, claiming that if they were not ratified, there would be no new province in North America. He also claimed that any problems in the two governing documents could be fixed later. After the documents were adopted and ratified, the letter was removed from the Internet. The problems have never been fixed.

Anglo-Catholics in the provisional Provincial Council would block any meaningful revision of the Fundamental Declarations that might have made them more acceptable to evangelicals and other Protestant-minded Anglicans.  CANA Bishop Martyn Mimms who drew the concerns of CANA clergy and laity to the attention of the provisional Provincial Council was told if any substantive changes were made to the Fundamental Declarations, making them more acceptable to evangelical and other Protestant-minded clergy and laity, it would cause the Common Cause Partnership to unravel. The Anglo-Catholic Council members essentially threatened a walkout.

On the motion of Bishop Jack Iker, a leading Anglo-Catholic Council member, affirmation of the Jerusalem Declaration was stripped from the proposed ACNA Fundamental Declarations, which were an adaptation of the final Common Cause Theological Statement. The Jerusalem Declaration was relegated to the Preamble of the ACNA Constitution where it is purely incidental to the Preamble’s account of the formation of the ACNA and is not binding upon the consciences of clergy and congregations in the ACNA.

At the Inaugural Provincial Assembly Archbishop-elect Robert Duncan gave an address in which he compared those delegates who wanted to make the draft Constitution and Canons clearer and more detailed to the Israelites who wanted to return to Egypt. While he turned the chair over to someone else during the business meeting, he frequently interrupted the meeting, urging the delegates to quickly ratify the two governing documents as speakers were waiting to address them. The delegates were given little opportunity to debate the provisions of the two documents.

The previous year Archbishop Duncan had gone on a speaking tour in England, in which he declared that the Protestant Elizabethan Settlement were no longer relevant for Anglicans today, and in which he called for a new settlement. The Protestant Elizabethan Settlement has shaped the character of historic Anglicanism. During the reign of Elizabeth I the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, historic Anglicanism’ confession of faith, was given its final form. During her reign the reformed 1552 Prayer Book with only three changes was adopted. It would be the Prayer Book of the Church of England for almost 100 years. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer is substantially the 1552 Prayer Book. With the Articles of Religion and the Ordinal of 1662, it forms historic Anglicanism’s longstanding standard of doctrine and worship.

If there is to be a renewal of biblical Anglicanism in North America, the Anglican Church in North America is NOT the ecclesial organization through which this renewal will come about. The ACNA does not have the right DNA for such a revival. It is like trying to cut sugar cane, rice and corn stalks with a butter knife instead of a cane knife or machete. It is the wrong tool for the job.

It is well past time that the GAFCON Primates and the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans came to their senses and admitted this to themselves. They have hatched a cuckoo’s egg. The cuckoo is a parasitic bird that lays its eggs in the nests of other birds, leaving the other birds to incubate the egg and feed the young cuckoo when it hatches. The young cuckoo pushes the other hatchlings and eggs out of the nest. The birds feeding the young cuckoo do not seem to realize what is happening. They raise the young cuckoo as if it is one of their own hatchlings. Eventually the young cuckoo grows big enough to fly away and lay its eggs in the nests of other birds. In the case of those occupying the place of power in the Anglican Church in North America, their goal is to spread unreformed Catholic teaching and practices throughout the Anglican Communion.

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