By Robin G. Jordan
This statement grabbed my attention in a comment thread on Anglican Ink: “…today's [Reformed Episcopal Church] on the whole is not phobic of Anglo-Catholicism.” As I understand the term “phobic,” based upon my years of working as a social worker in fields of mental health and child welfare, it means to have an irrational fear of something. The use of the term in relation to Anglo-Catholicism was reminiscent of the liberals’ use of the term in relation to homosexuality.
Convictional Anglicans have genuine disagreements with Anglo-Catholics over their interpretation of Scripture, and their theology. This includes Anglo-Catholic acceptance of the authority of tradition to the degree that tradition is given more weight than Scripture in their thinking. Their disagreements with Anglo-Catholics involve primary matters—the order of salvation, justification, sanctification, the sacraments, apostolic succession, ordained ministry and other key issues. They also object to the way that the Anglo-Catholic Movement has sought to change the identity of the Anglican Church. Their disagreements with Anglo-Catholics have nothing to do with an irrational fear of Anglo-Catholicism.
In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries convictional Anglicans devoted a great deal of thoughtful scholarship to the critiquing of the unreformed Catholic teaching and practices of the Anglo-Catholic Movement. They showed that the movement did not represent a tradition that had existed in the Anglican Church since the English Reformation. Rather it constituted a foreign intrusion into the Anglican Church, not only reviving pre-Reformation doctrine and practices that the Church at the Reformation had rejected on solid biblical grounds but also introducing unscriptural innovations in doctrine and worship that the Roman Catholic Church had adopted since the Reformation. They also showed that Anglo-Catholicism, or Catholic Revivalism, was antithetical to historic Anglicanism, the Protestant Reformed faith of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal. At its heart the Anglo-Catholic Movement was a movement to undo the English Reformation and the Protestant Elizabethan Settlement in the Anglican Church.
From a convictional Anglican perspective the openness toward unreformed Catholic teaching and practices that the person who made this comment describes as characterizing younger members of the Reformed Episcopal Church is an openness to error and superstition. While this individual describes himself as an Anglican, he is an Anglican in name only and not in conviction. What he views as Anglicanism is in actuality Anglo-Catholicism/Catholic Revivalism, not historic Anglicanism.
One is prompted to ask how large a segment of the Anglican Church in North America does this individual and others like him represent. Whatever the size of this wing of the ACNA, it certainly exercises power and influence over members of a number of key task forces and committees in the ACNA and the province’s College of Bishops. To date it has determine the content of the province’s Ordinal and Catechism and is determining the content of its Prayer Book currently under preparation. A term that describes the power and influence it wields in these bodies is “dominance.” While some refuse to acknowledge that Anglo-Catholicism/Catholic Revivalism is strongly influencing the present direction of the ACNA, they do so in the face of the mounting evidence that Catholic Revivalism in the form of traditional Anglo-Catholicism and Convergentism are a dominant influence in the ACNA formularies.
The present situation in the Anglican Church in North America is not unlike that in the Anglican Communion. A handful of provinces are seeking to promote a particular sexual culture in all provinces of the Communion. In the case of the ACNA, Catholic Revivalists are seeking to promote their views throughout the province at the expense of convictional Anglicans. In both cases biblical Anglicanism is under fire. Just as there is a need for a “special status” for biblically faithful Anglicans in the Anglican Communion, there is also a need for a similar status for convictional Anglicans in the ACNA.
This special status may take the form of substantial changes to the constitution and canons of the Anglican Church in North America and revision of its other formularies or the establishment of a second province within the ACNA, a province with its own declaration of principles, its own form of government, its own bishops and method of choosing them, and its own prayer book, ordinal, and catechism. The third option is the formation of a second alternative province separate from the ACNA. This option goes beyond a special status for convictional Anglicans in the ACNA but it may prove the only workable option.
As I have argued elsewhere, convictional Anglicans should not wait for the provincial authorities to form a second province within the Anglican Church in North America but should take steps to establish the province themselves. I do not see in the provincial authorities the will to make substantial changes to its constitution and canons and to revise its other formularies, much less the inclination to form a second province within the ACNA, especially a province with its own declaration of principles, its own form of government, its own bishops and method of choosing them, and its own prayer book, ordinal, and catechism. Convictional Anglicans in the various subdivisions of the ACNA should join together to establish the organizational structure for a second province, to elect its governing body, to select bishops and to secure their consecration, to frame a declaration of principles, and to adopt a prayer book, ordinal, and catechism. The provincial authorities would be presented with a fait accompli, which they would be forced to accept or reveal their true colors.