By Robin G. Jordan
The decision of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina to affiliate with the Anglican Church in North America comes as no surprise. The Diocese of South Carolina has been experiencing pressure from the ACNA and the global South as well as from within to take this step. But in light of the deep entrenchment of Anglo-Catholic-Philo-Orthodox doctrine in the ACNA’s formularies—its Ordinal, its Catechism, and its proposed Prayer Book rites and services, I must question the wisdom of that decision. According to what I have been told, most of the congregations and clergy in the Diocese of South Carolina, while diverse in their style of worship, are “evangelical” in their theology.
As they are presently written, the constitution and canons of the Anglican Church in North America do not make any credible provision for the full range of theological opinion found in the province. The fundamental declarations, while they do not go as far as the ACNA’s Anglo-Catholic-Philo-Orthodox wing would like them to, nonetheless favor Anglo-Catholic-Philo-Orthodox positions on key issues such as the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal, and the episcopate. The Ordinal, the Catechism, and the proposed Prayer Book rites and services have moved the official doctrine of the ACNA even closer to what the Anglo-Catholic-Philo-Orthodox wing views as “orthodoxy,” and further away from the biblical and Reformation orthodoxy of the historic Anglican formularies.
Despite its size, at this late stage, the Diocese of South Carolina cannot be expected to exercise much influence upon the theological direction of the Anglican Church in North America. Indeed, in choosing to affiliate with the ACNA, it has tacitly endorsed that direction.
While I have no hard data to support this contention, my impression is that Anglo-Catholic-Philo-Orthodox wing is over-represented in the College of Bishops, the Provincial Council, and the key provincial task forces. It exercises a degree of influence that is disproportionate to its actual size. While evangelicals may have the numbers in the Provincial Assembly, the Assembly has no power. It cannot conduct inquiries and investigations. It cannot develop and implement policy or make canons and regulations. It cannot censure or remove bishops and other provincial officials.
I see a real need to survey the clergy and congregations of the Anglican Church in North America to identify their theological outlook. It might prove eye-opening. If it showed that evangelicals comprise the largest wing of the ACNA, it would provide further evidence that ACNA in its basic structure as well as its fundamental doctrine is slanted against evangelicals. It might provide the much needed impetus for the reform of the ACNA.