By Robin G. Jordan
While some Anglicans in the United Kingdom may be celebrating the upcoming consecration of Canon Andy Lines as a Missionary Bishop to disaffected Anglicans in Scotland and England (see Q&A on new ACNA bishop in Europe), I believe that celebration of this event is premature. Here’s why:
1. The ACNA in its own official formularies does not stand with the longstanding historical positions of Anglican evangelicals on a number of key issues. This is evident from a careful examination of these formularies – its constitution, its canons, its catechism, and the rites and services of its proposed Prayer Book. In its constitution and canons the ACNA equivocates in its acceptance of the doctrinal and worship principles laid out in the historical Anglican formularies. Its disregard of these principles is quite evident in its catechism and the rites and services of its proposed Prayer Book. This disregard is also quite evident in both past and more recent actions of its College of Bishops.
2. The Anglican Church in North America demands full acceptance of its particular interpretation of the “Anglican Way” from clergy, congregations, and networks of churches desiring to affiliate with that ecclesiastical body or partner with it. In its interpretation of the “Anglican Way” the ACNA represents a ecclesiastical tradition that diverges from the Protestant, Reformed, and evangelical character of authentic historical Anglicanism. It has far greater affinity with the unreformed and unbiblical beliefs and practices of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy than it does with those of authentic historic Anglicanism.
3. Since its formal organization in 2009 the Anglican Church in North America has sought to export its brand, its revisionist reinterpretation of Anglicanism, to other parts of the Anglican Communion, and to expand its influence in these provinces. The ACNA has promoted the translation of its catechism, “To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism,” into other languages and its use in more biblically-orthodox Anglican provinces. The ACNA disregards biblical teaching and ignores or misinterprets and misrepresents historic Anglican formulary principle. Its views on salvation have more in common with the views of Arminianism and Roman Catholicism than they do with the biblical, Reformed views of authentic historic Anglicanism. Its views on the sacraments are identical to the views of Roman Catholicism.
4. The ACNA Bishop in Europe will be supervised by and accountable to the Anglican Church in North America’s College of Bishops, a body that is dominated by bishops who are strongly Anglo-Catholic and philo-Orthodox in their leanings. His Oversight Committee is chaired by former ACNA Archbishop Robert Duncan who has been instrumental in leading the ACNA in its present direction away from authentic historic Anglicanism. (The other members of the committee are not identified in the aforementioned article. ) Archbishop Duncan has in the past criticized the Elizabethan Settlement which has shaped authentic historic Anglicanism and called for the establishment of a “new settlement,” one that would turn back the clock to a time before the English Reformation. He has enthusiastically endorsed the ACNA catechism and its departures from Biblical Christianity and authentic historic Anglicanism. Archbishop Duncan is presently the chairman of the Liturgical Task Force that is drafting the rites and services of the proposed ACNA Prayer Book. The ACNA Bishop in Europe would not be accountable to the clergy and the congregations under his episcopal pastoral care in the United Kingdom. Under the present ACNA system of church governance they are likely to have little if any say in the choice of his successor.
5. The constitution and canons of the Anglican Church in North America make negligible provision for the clergy and congregations of the province to have any significant input into major policy decisions affecting them. Over the past six years ACNA College of Bishops has repeatedly usurped the authority of the ACNA Provincial Council, the official governing body of the province. It has arrogated to itself powers and responsibilities not delegated to it by the ACNA constitution and canons or recognized as inherent in it by those governing documents. This includes vetting all proposed legislation to be acted upon by the Provincial Council. The ACNA Provincial Assembly, by far the most representative of three provincial bodies, has no power at all. It cannot initiate legislation or amend legislation submitted to it. It only can rubber stamp canons and constitutional amendments adopted by the Provincial Council.
On the other hand, the recent consecration of the Reverend Jonathan Pryke, senior minister of Jesmond Parish Church, by Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa does not suffer from these drawbacks. The beliefs and practices of REACH South Africa are much more in line with the teachings of the Bible and the doctrinal and worship principles of historic Anglican formularies than are those of the ACNA. Its views on bishops are also in line with those held by the English Reformers and their Anglican evangelical successors. REACH South Africa is genuinely synodical in its form of church governance with the clergy and laity sharing in the government of the church. Its bishops are elected by its General Synod from nominees submitted by the clergy and congregations to which they will be providing episcopal pastoral care.
While it is regrettable that GAFCON and Anglican Mission in England were not consulted in advance of this consecration, the consecration was an important step toward providing episcopal pastoral care to clergy and congregations who are committed to the teaching of the Bible and the doctrinal and worship principles of the historic Anglican formularies and who have become disaffected from the Church of England over its abandonment of Biblical Christianity and authentic historic Anglicanism.