Wednesday, February 24, 2016

What the Future Holds for Convictional Anglicans in the ACNA

By Robin G. Jordan

What can convictional Anglicans expect if they remain in the Anglican Church in North America? By “convictional Anglicans” I mean self-identified Anglicans who are Anglican in conviction as well as name. They “uphold and maintain the faith of the Churchs expressed in the Holy Bible, the Anglican Formularies, and the Jerusalem Declaration.”

Convictional Anglicans will lead a marginal existence in the Anglican Church in North America. Whether convictional Anglican congregations are tolerated in a particular diocese or network will depended upon the bishop of the judicatory. Whether convictional Anglican clergy are tolerated will depend upon the other clergy of the judicatory as well as its bishop. While convictional Anglican congregations and clergy may be tolerated by one bishop, they may not be tolerated by his successor.

Convictional Anglican congregations will be discouraged from calling clergy who are convictional Anglicans. They will be forced to accept clergy who do not stand in the heritage of the English Reformation and the Protestant Elizabethan Settlement. 

Convictional Anglican congregations will be assessed hard-earned dollars to pay the salaries of bishops and other clergy who do not uphold and maintain the Anglican Church’s “historic faith” or preach the New Testament gospel. They will be asked to pay for the costly ornaments of these clergy and of the church buildings that they construct.

 They will be called upon to fund new church plants whose congregations and clergy do not stand in the heritage of the English Reformation and the Protestant Elizabethan Settlement. They will be expected to subsidize missions whose congregations and clergy also do not uphold the Anglican Church's "historic faith."

Since bishops in the ACNA license clergy for ministry in their judicatory and approve their employment by congregations in the judicatory, convictional Anglican clergy will be particularly subject to the vagaries of the ordinary of a particular diocese or network.  A bishop may initially tolerate a member of the clergy who is a convictional Anglican but may become less tolerant with the passage of time due to pressure from his fellow bishops in the College of Bishops or due to other circumstances.

Convictional Anglican clergy can look forward to receiving the cold shoulder from other clergy in the judicatory at gatherings of the judicatory’s clergy. They can expect not be appointed to important boards, commissions, committees, and task forces. They can look forward to having preferment withheld from them on the basis of their theological outlook. They can expect not to be offered leadership positions in the judicatory or elected or appointed to the office of bishop.

Since the bishop of the diocese or network must approve all new church plants, convictional Anglican clergy can look forward to the routine rejection of their church planting proposals on flimsy grounds. They can also expect their bishop to permit a new church plant to go ahead only to appoint as its vicar a member of the clergy whose theological outlook is more in line with the unreformed Catholicism of the ACNA.

Convictional Anglican clergy who recommend promising candidates for ordination can look forward to their bishop rejecting these candidates or sending the candidates to a seminary that does not uphold and maintain the Anglican Church’s “historic faith” or stand in the heritage of the English Reformation and the Protestant Elizabethan Settlement.

Convictional Anglican congregations and clergy will be required to use the ACNA Prayer Book when the book is finalized. The ACNA canons do not even permit bishops to authorize even minor changes in the ACNA Prayer Book or special services. If convictional Anglican clergy make unauthorized changes in the Prayer Book, they can expect visiting clergy to question the changes. They can also look forward to scrutiny and criticism from other clergy in their deanery. They can also expect unhappy church members to make complaints to the bishop. At mandatory clergy gatherings related to the Prayer Book and its rites and services, they can look forward to feeling out of place or even pressured to conform.

Little by little convictional Anglican clergy who do not leave the Anglican Church in North America will compromise their convictions. They will make one concession after another and slowly lose their theological identity. The possibility of a larger church, a higher salary, a prestigious preferment, a bishopric, or a pension and a comfortable retirement will undermine their resolve to stay faithful to their principles. They eventually will be assimilated.  On the day of reckoning they will be required to give a stricter accounting to the Lord Jesus Christ who will sit enthroned not as their Savior but as their Judge. They will have to explain why they made peace with false teachers and took part in their wickedness.

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