Friday, January 4, 2013

Barking up the Wrong Tree?

Some of you will be aware of the recent letter to the leadership of the Anglican Church in North America that was composed by Archbishop Haverland, and co-signed by several other heads of jurisdictions including the present writer.  Whilst I would agree with almost everything in that letter, especially the fact that it highlights that the ACNA policy of 'local option' on the Ordination of Women prevent substantial dialogue with the older Continuing Groups, there were a couple of things in the final paragraph from which I strongly dissent.  In retrospect I probably should have encouraged Archbishop Haverland to drop those references, rather than put myself in a position where I have to clarify my position.

Firstly, whilst I would agree with the idea that the ACNA take a look at the Affirmation of St Louis, I would suggest that they do so with a critical eye, and reject those parts of it which are contrary to traditional Anglicanism.  The seven sacraments, and the seven Ecumenical Councils, whilst widely referred to as teaching tools in traditional Anglicanism were never accorded official status. The Articles require that dogma have Biblical warrant creating a hierarchy of authority which subordinates the Councils to Scripture.  More mischieveous than those provisions is the call in the Affirmation that all older Anglican formularies be interpreted, not in accordance with the Ecumenical Councils, but with the Affirmation itself.  This has always stuck in my craw because it strikes me as just as revisionist as the party line from 'Miss Kitty Cat House' (aka "815") condemning Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina for schism when in fact he is faithful maintaining the doctrine, discipline and worship of the post-'79 Episcopal Church! Taken with the clause in the Affirmation allowing liturgies 'containing the BCP' (you ain't foolin' me; you mean the Missals) these clauses constitute an assisted suicide programme for all forms of orthodox Anglicanism except Anglo-Catholicism.  Therefore, if classical Anglicanism is to survive and flourish, and a united Continuum is to emerge, we need to eschew the Affirmation of St Louis at least in part.

Secondly, I am a little slow on the uptake sometimes, and missed the reference to Metropolitan Jonah's remarks when I first read it.  This is my own fault because Eastern Orthodoxy is something that exists at the far side of the Baltic so far as I am concerned.  However, having educated myself a bit, it seems that Metropolitan Jonah's remarks were in fact a trashing of the whole Western theological tradition, and especially the Evangelical (Lutheran) and Reformed traditions.  As I believe quite firmly that Anglicanism is, in the words of the Church of Ireland Constitution, a 'Catholic and Apostolic, Protestant and Reformed' Church, I am compelled to say that Metropolitan Jonah's remarks are just another trip down that familiar road - when dealing with Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism - of convert heretic scum!  Whilst I do not have a problem with that position; as it is (in liberal theologian speak) "their integrity;" I do not see why we should be so daft as to agree with them.  After all, Anglicanism has its own integrity based on Scripture, the ancient Creeds and Council, the Articles and the BCP.

In calling the ACNA to take heed to the Affirmation of St Louis and the remarks of Metropolitan Jonah, I think the letter ends on a false note in what is otherwise an excellent letter by basically asking ACNA to bark up the same wrong tree as most of the older Continuing jurisdictions.  Personally, I think they should use the Affirmation of St Louis as a warning and make no new formularies.  The old American Episcopal Church, to which the Anglican Province in America and the Anglican Church in America are successors, had it right with their Declaration of Principles which affirmed the male character of Major Orders, the Sanctity of Life, and the nature of Christian Marriage.  It was a sort of 'off side rule' which put the "neology" of the 1960s out of play so far as the AEC was concerned.  The UECNA pursued a very similar path by subordinating the Affirmation of St Louis (which is not mentioned in our Constitution and Canons) to the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion and the BCP (which are.)  Both approaches are intended to mark a straightforward return to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the old Church without restoring to the 'invisible mending' indulged in by the Affirmation.

My great fear is that unless a united and uniting Continuing Church firmly subordinates the Affirmation of St Louis to the Articles, BCP and Homilies, that Church will not remain united for long.  The original ACNA(E) of 1977 was torn apart by politics steming from the 'revisionist' clauses of the Affirmation of St Louis.  As a 'non-party Anglican' - Central Churchman, as we would say in England - I have come to distrust some of the implications of the Affirmation of St Louis.  On the face of it, it is a fine document, but there are some subtle revisions of orthodox Anglican theology and practice which are dangerous, not just to Evangelicals, but to Classical Anglicans as a whole.  Its aim is not to maintain the Elizabeth Settlement as revised in 1662 and 1787, but more the Church a good distance along the roads to Rome and Byzantium.  Whilst I am not opposed to Ecumenical Dialogue and understanding, I do oppose shifting one's own position in a dishonest way.  My own fear is that if a new Continuing Church emerges based on the Affirmation of St Louis rather than the Articles and the BCP, Classical Anglicanism will be tolerated for a generation and then progessively eliminated.  You say it cannot happen - well, the history of the Continuum says it can.  As a Prayer Book clergyman, firstly in the ACC Diocese (MDEW) where I served in the mid-1990s, then in the Hepworth version of the TAC from 2000-2007 I was very much a second class citizen, and then later a more or less tolerated eccentric laughed at when he was gauche enough to mention the Articles and the BCP.  I believe both organisations have got over those teething troubles, but there is always a danger of it re-emerging. As both jurisdictions were following pretty much the same glide path, and  and both accepted the Affirmation of St Louis, I came to the conclusion that the problem was largely managerial and partly the Affirmation itself.  The Affirmation of St Louis, when put into the hands of dedicated party men, can so easily become a way of excluding as unsound those who come from other orthodox Anglican traditions.  If the pathology that can be fostered by the Affirmation of St Louis' revisionist clauses is allowed to continue in a united Continuum we will doom ourselves to bark up the wrong tree forever, as we will be calling for unity, then finding we have enshrined a cause of disunity in our midst! 


  1. Dear Bishop,

    I always appreciate your very thoughtful posts. This one causes me sadness. Certainly you speak from great experience and with great wisdom, but I have seen you at several ACC events - the 2011 Provincial Synod and the recent consecration of Bishop Steven Ayule-Milenge; surely you didn't feel like a second class citizen or an eccentric at those events? I have found Archbishop Haverland and all in the ACC to be very welcoming to me and my parish, which would be considered very Low Church. My experience is that the ACC insists on the 1928 BCP, but the Missals are permissible.

    On another subject, your recent post in which you said that the UECNA encourages its parishes to "be the Anglican Church in your community" has really captured my imagination; that is exactly what I want my church to be! so thank you!

    May God bless you!


  2. The impression I have gotten over the past few years is that the UECNA and the ACC can work together, and have a very good relationship, but that a merger between the two would be suicidal. The reason for this is that the two jurisdictions are on opposite sides of the fundamental divide within the continuum between those who want the Continuing Church to be the old Protestant Episcopal Church without the heresy and goofiness, and those who want Anglicanism to have a more tightly Catholic identity. Sometimes the key to maintaining a fruitful relationship is to maintain a little bit of distance between the parties so that both can breathe. I believe the ACC and the UECNA have become very adept at that to the benefit of the wider Continuum. What does worry me, however, is the notion that reunion of the Continuum HAS to be on the basis of the Affirmation of St Louis rather than on the traditional Anglican formularies. A narrow interpretation of the Affirmation coupled with some strong personalities is what broke the Continuum apart in the first place, and I am rather afraid that to reunite the Continuum on the basis of the Affirmation without subordinating it to the Articles and BCP would simply set us up for another trip down the familiar path of schism and counter-schism.

    1. Regarding the ordination of women, Rules of Order in 1 Corinthians 15:34-37, 1 Timothy 2:11-12. It states that women should keep silent in the churches. But these passages as well as others in the Bible don't say that women can't be ordained priests. It just explains church etiquette in general for both male and female while at Church. It also states the role of women as subservient. Given the fact of the role women played thousands of years ago in the middle east. Clearly there role has changed in our present day society for the better. Now that they are seen and proven themselves capable in leadership roles. To not allow them to be ordained would be to retract hundreds of years of progression for the better. The interpretation of these Biblical passages have to take into account the time and place. There would be no doctrinal changes in denominational belief systems. The fact that men have dominated in these positions is purely traditional. An example would be the Roman Catholic Church not allowing their priests to marry, which is purely tradition. Since at one point they did. This in no way compromises doctrinal Christianity. Because as we know Roman Catholic priests were allowed to marry hundreds of years ago. My point is I don't see problem. I think Bishop Peter that you and Bishop Robert William Duncan should have a sit down with me in the middle moderating the conversation. What say you?

  3. The whole problem with the Affirmation - and indeed with strident Anglo Catholicism & Liberalism - is the erosion in unityregarding the foundational documents (i.e., the formularies). Both strains can keep some sort of coherent Christianity for about a generation. Then it dissolves into rancour, party spirit, and something that is distinctly unAnglican.

  4. Based on your comment over at The Continuum, I suspected that a post like this might be forthcoming, and I thank you for it, Your Grace. You don't know how much I thank you. I hope we'll hear from Bishops Hewett, Grundorf and Marsh on the matter.

  5. Bishop, thanks for your honest assessment of the Affirmation. While I have a generally high regard for the Affirmation, I agree that it fails in part. Those who wish to hold it as the standard of Anglican identity are embracing an idea contrary to the heritage of Anglicanism. Insofar as the Affirmation is an affirmation of the Scriptures, the Creeds, the Dominical Sacraments, and the undisputed Councils, its voice is sufficient. Where it reaches beyond these, it reaches too far.

    I am afraid that--given the Anglican Catholic Church's insistence that it is the sole untainted guardian of Anglicanism; that its canons alone are the infallible successors of the primitive Church; that "its" Affirmation is the standard of Anglican identity; that its jurisdiction is the one, true successor of the ancient faith--unity among North American churchmen will have to go forward without the ACC. I have no ill will toward the ACC, and I wish it could join the rest of us on the journey, but the chasm may be too great.

    The ACC wishes to ignore the Reformation (even the English Reformation), and to reach back to a pre-Reformation, medieval catholicism. It was the Reformation that freed the Church from the abuses of error, and I have no desire to go back to those things. There are certainly enough challenges in maintaining orthodoxy without returning to those errors. Anglicanism's identity is caught up in the Reformation, and no one who seeks to deny it or disregard it can truly call himself an Anglican.

  6. I don't think it's fair to say that "The ACC wishes to ignore the Reformation (even the English Reformation), and to reach back to a pre-Reformation, medieval catholicism" - as I have heard Archbishop Haverland express it (this is not a direct quote, though I think it is substatially accurate), the ACC seeks to return to the ancient Church - (and I think this part is verbatim) "without Roman additions or Protestant subtractions." Certainly not a rejection of the Reformation - only the excesses of it.

  7. As I think more about this, I think what Bishop Robinson said above should guide our discussions:

    "the UECNA and the ACC can work together, and have a very good relationship, but..." but no merger.

    As we work together, in good (and growing, I hope) relationship, let's pray as our Prayer Book teaches us:

    For the Church.
    O gracious Father, we humbly beseech thee for thy holy Catholic Church; that thou wouldest be pleased to fill it with all truth, in all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, establish it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of him who died and rose again, and ever liveth to make intercession for us, Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Amen.

    For the Unity of God's People.
    O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Saviour, the Prince of Peace; Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions. Take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatsoever else may hinder us from godly union and concord: that as there is but one Body and one Spirit, and one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

  8. What DO the majority of "conservative" Anglicans in this nation want from their church body? "PECUSA without the goofyness"?
    An "Anglo-Catholic" church body? A "Prayer Book" church body? A "Lititudinarian" church body which tolerates differences in doctrine and practice? This is what I have long been trying to understand. Speaking as a former "Anglo-Catholic" member of ECUSA from many years ago, I believe that the current ACNA carries the seeds of its own destruction in tolerating the ordination of women. If the acceptance of homosexuality by the ECUSA is what what finally persuaded such "conservative" Anglicans to leave, one might believe that homosexuality is the "Shibboleth" which separates "conservative Anglicanism" from the "liberal" variety. Are the XXXIX Articles "too Reformed" for many of today's "conservative" Anglicans? Is the Chicago-Lambeth Quadralateral a sufficient basis for visible fellowship?

  9. I am always a wee bit perplexed by those who want to return to the past. They tried doing that with the liturgy in the 1960s and made a right dog's breakfast of it. You can learn from the past, but you cannot recreate it simply because as human beings we cannot fully overcome our inherited cultural perceptions. In short, the idea is appealing, but ultimately unworkable. OTOH, I do think you have to read Reformation era documents in the context of the Early Fathers and Councils because that is the era to which the reformers themselves were appealing, but you cannot unmake history, so trying to wind the clock back so that the Reformation becomes irrelevant strikes me as being more an activity for the Society for Creative Anachronism than for the Church.

  10. God rejects Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox; as he has rejected Roman Catholics. The Reformation affirmed and sealed his Rejection for them. Although the Eastern (and Oriental) Orthodox are not the Antichrist as Catholics; they are the Roman Catholics spiritual underling. The former Protestant churches and societies, have forsaken the ordainment to resist and reject Catholicism. The want for a catholicity, against a transforming of the Church, regressing to a pretended lore; is an obstacle equal to an Anglican pretending a place among the Two previous mentioned. Without them; do you not see your place, spiritual Church?

  11. Mr. McGranor --
    I am a Baptist. I was raised in an environment where my mother was raised in a church that categorically believed that the RCC was not christian, and my own church had serious discussions on the topic. We came down, in my youth, with the conclusion that yes, it was possible, but not easy, for an RCC member to be a christian. And indeed, I have told one of my closest friends (only half jokingly) that I feel that if I believed in redemption by works, if I can prevent him from converting to papism, it will be greatly helpful.

    I say this to make clear that I am no fan of the RCC, although I have less problem with the EO church, I'm not a huge fan there. This said, I ALSO have, at least once a year, for as long as I can remember, spoken the following words:

    I believe in tGod the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
    I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died ad was buried; on the thir day he rose from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
    I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen"

    I would say, if there is any single definition of 'Christian' that nearly the entire world can agree on, it is the ability to speak this statement and have it be true. While one needs to make a clear distinction between the sins of the roman so-called catholic church, not least of which is its claim to be the sole repository OF the catholicity of the church, and the catholicism of Christ's Church. One CANNOT, and be christian, deny that Christ has only one holy catholic church, whatever disputes may have as to its constitution.

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