By Robin G. Jordan
When the doctrines and practices of the Anglican Church in North America as mandated or sanctioned in its formularies, its Constitution, Canons, Ordinal, Catechism, and proposed Prayer Book, are compare with those of Roman Catholicism and historic Anglicanism, it is quite evident that the ACNA is far closer to Roman Catholicism in what it officially mandates or sanctions than it is to biblical Anglicanism. This makes GAFCON’s support of the ACNA surprising since GAFCON ostensibly is committed to the restoration of the Bible and the historic Anglican formularies to a central place in the life of the Anglican Communion and the renewal of confessional Anglicanism in the Communion.
Please note that I am using historic Anglicanism, biblical Anglicanism, and confessional Anglicanism interchangeably as these three terms refer to the “Protestant Reformed religion” of what its nineteenth century champions sometimes described as “Old Anglicanism,” the Anglicanism of the English Reformation, the Protestant Elizabethan Settlement, and to a certain extent the Restoration—the Anglicanism of the Homilies, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Canons of 1604, and The Book of Common Prayer and Ordinal of 1662.
Those in the ACNA who adhere to these doctrines and practices are nominally Anglican but they are not convictionally Anglican. They do not stand in continuity with the English Reformers, the Elizabethan divines, and the Anglican Reformed bishops and theologians from the reign of Charles II to George I.
From a historical perspective they represent a foreign element in the Anglican Church despite their attempts to appropriate as their forerunners the Carolinian High Churchmen along with the description of themselves as “Anglican.” As scholars from the nineteenth century on have shown, their claim is not a credible one. Based upon their strong unreformed Catholic leanings a better description for them would be “independent Catholics.”
Having occupied the place of power in the Anglican Church in North America, they have shown no willingness to share that jurisdiction with those who are not only Anglican in name but also in conviction. At most they for the time being tolerate the convictional Anglicans in their midst as it suits their purposes. As it becomes increasingly evident to them that they have nothing to fear from the GAFCON Primates if they show less tolerance toward convictional Anglicans, that tolerance will gradually disappear. After all, the GAFCON Primates at last month’s gathering only succeeded in giving the Episcopal Church in the USA a slap on the wrist. I do not believe that this lesson was lost on the occupants of the place of power in the ACNA. They can be expected to further entrench their views while denying official standing to those of convictional Anglicans. They can be expected to press for further accommodation and conformity by this segment of the ACNA.
From the recent Anglican Connection Update I gather that elements of this segment of the Anglican Church in North America and like-minded Anglicans and other Christians outside the ACNA are forming informal ties with each other. 2016 is the year to make these connections more concrete and to hold a series of gatherings for the purpose of organizing a new province. I realize that some parties may be reluctant to take this step, having invested in the ACNA. But I believe that much is to be gained from all parties gathering to envision a future together under one roof, as a province that stands in the Anglican Church’s Reformation heritage and is fully committed to the renewal of biblical Anglicanism.
Right now the members of this segment of the Anglican Church in North America are in the position of unwanted guests in a house of which those occupying the place of power in the ACNA act as if they are the sole owners. The occupants of the place of power in the ACNA do not recognize them in any way as part-owners of the house. They have been given a small room in the attic while those occupying the place of power in the ACNA decide what to do with them. The wise thing is to make plans to live elsewhere before they are turned out in the cold.