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!