By Robin G. Jordan
Here are five reasons why the Anglican Church in North America is a raw deal for evangelicals:
1. A set of fundamental declarations that equivocate over the authority of the historic Anglican formularies as the doctrinal and worship standard for Anglicans and take a historically unreformed Catholic position on the episcopate.
2. An ordinal that embodies an unreformed Catholic view of ordination.
3. A catechism that where it does not adopts unreformed Catholic positions on key issues is open to interpretation as supporting these positions.
4. Prayer book rites and services that are unreformed Catholic in their doctrine and liturgical usages.
5. A form of governance that is weighted in favor of the church party with the most bishops in its pocket. This enables a church party while small in size to exercise a degree of influence disproportionate to its size. A church party does not need to have a large base to wield controlling influence in the ACNA. It just needs enough bishops to tip the scales in its favor. These bishops may come from small dioceses in terms of numbers of clergy and congregations. They may not be an ordinary of a diocese. They may be coadjutors, suffragans, or assistant bishops of a diocese or bishops of convocations (or other subdivisions) within a diocese. What it means is that as long as the Anglo-Catholic-Philo-Orthodox wing has the larger number of bishops in its pocket, it will control the direction of the Anglican Church in North America even though it lags behind the other wings of the church in number of clergy and congregations.
Bishops comprise half of the Provincial Council which is the official governing body of the ACNA. Each diocese has the same representation in the Provincial Council whatever its size. (Here again I am talking about size in terms of number of clergy and congregations, not geographical territory.) Under the provisions of the ACNA canons the Provincial Council may co-opt six additional members. Nothing in the canons prevents these additional members being bishops. Bishops chair the major task forces. Any proposed changes to the constitution and canons are scrutinized in the College of Bishops before they are presented to the Provincial Council. (This examination and even revision of proposed changes to the constitution and canons is something that the College of Bishops has taken upon itself. The ACNA constitution and canons do not assign the College of Bishops any role in the legislative process.) The Provincial Assembly, representation to which is based on the number of clergy and congregations in a diocese, has a negligible role in the governance of the province.
Among the implications is that even though the ACNA’s evangelical wing plants news churches and ordains new clergy in large numbers, it will not influence the direction of the ACNA as it is presently structured. It can only increase its influence by increasing its number of bishops and dioceses.
Here is the difficulty. The Anglo-Catholic-Philo-Orthodox wing through its bishops in the College of Bishops and the Provincial Council has the final determination in who becomes a bishop and whether a diocese is recognized. Having gained the ascendancy in the ACNA, the Anglo-Catholic-Philo-Orthodox wing cannot be expected to give ground easily.