Saturday, November 14, 2015

Does North America Have Any Organizations That Stand in the Anglican Church's Reformation Heritage?

By Robin G. Jordan

Among the existing North American Anglican organizations that to a certain extent give indications of standing in the Reformation heritage of the Anglican Church—at least in part—are the Anglican Connection, the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, the Ridley Institute, and the Secker Society.

The Anglican Connection is a network of Anglican and other gospel-centered churches that are Biblical and Protestant in their stance and Reformed and evangelical in their theological outlook. Its present chairman is the Reverend John Mason who is a canon of St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney, Australia and a commissary of the Archbishop of Sydney. The Anglican Connection is not a part of the Anglican Church in North America but an independent church network.

The Convocation of Anglicans in North America is a missionary jurisdiction of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and the Anglican Church in North America. Its relationship with the ACNA is governed by a special protocol between the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and the ACNA. While acknowledging the ACNA fundamental declarations, the CANA’s existing dioceses use much stronger language in their governing documents in their adoption, reception, and affirmation of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) Statement and the Jerusalem Declaration. CANA’s laity and clergy are reportedly largely Low-Church.

The Canon 1.1 of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) contains a strong affirmation of the Bible and the Anglican formularies:
"The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) hereinafter called “The Church of Nigeria” or “This Church” shall be in full communion with all Anglican Churches Dioceses and Provinces that hold and maintain the Historic Faith, Doctrine, Sacrament and Discipline of the one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church as the Lord has commanded in His holy word and as the same are received as taught in the Book of Common Prayer and the ordinal of 1662 and in the Thirty-Nine Article of Religion."
CANA East has issued its own rites for Baptism and Confirmation and an examination of these rites may be revealing into the theology of Baptism and Confirmation affirmed in the judicatory. The Deacon’s Mass: The Case for a Reappraisal , which is also posted on the CANA East website discusses the theology of the Lord’s Supper as well as the role of deacons. It too may be revealing into the theology of the Lord’s Supper prevalent in the judicatory or it may just reflect the thinking of the author. The fact that it is posted on the website suggests that its contents are commended for the consideration of those visiting the website. Links to all three documents are found on the website’s Resources page.

CANA West did have posted on its website on the Resources page Ten Elements of Historic Anglicanism, an article by former Bishop of Sydney Dr. Paul P. Barnett. This article affirms the protestant, reformed, and evangelical character of the Anglican Church.  CANA West also had posted on the same page an article What Is Anglicanism?  which also affirms the protestant, reformed, and evangelical character of the Anglican Church. These articles are not posted on the new website.

Under the provisions of July 24, 2010 Protocol between the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and the ACNA, the ACNA College of Bishops vets and approves all candidates for the office of bishop in CANA nominated by its dioceses before their names may be presented to the Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) for election by its House of Bishops. This means that the ACNA College of Bishops can reject any nominee that it does not believe will support the present direction in which it is taking the ACNA.

CANA’s affiliation with the ACNA and the role that the ACNA College of Bishops plays in the selection of new bishops for CANA in my estimation limits its ability to become a champion of the Anglican Church’s Reformation heritage in North America. Several of its present bishops are not particularly noted for championing that heritage.

The Ridley Institute was founded by Bishop Stephen D. Wood of the Diocese of the Carolinas of the Anglican Church in North America. Among its stated purposes are “forming Christian ministers in the orthodoxy and orthopraxy of Reformation Anglicanism” and “advancing the study of Reformation Anglicanism through original scholarship.” It takes the position that “the Articles of Religion of the Church of England are authoritative for Anglicans today, setting forth a precise confession of faith on many of the great points of Christian doctrine.”

I did not include Bishop Wood’s own diocese in this list as it constitution adopts the ACNA fundamental declarations as its own (Article I). This includes their weak position on the Anglican formularies and their Catholic Revivalist unreformed Catholic position on the historic episcopate.

Article X.2 of its constitution also contains this provision:
"The worship of Almighty God in the Diocese shall be according to Anglican faith and order and shall be conducted in accord with the Constitution and Canons of the Province and of the Diocese."
The Diocese of the Carolinas has essentially bound itself to the use of the proposed ACNA Prayer Book with its Catholic Revivalist unreformed Catholic teaching and practices upon its formal adoption. It is noteworthy that the CANA dioceses require only conformity to the diocesan canons in worship and administration of sacraments.

The Secker Society’s stated purposes include the promotion of “the use of the historic formularies of the Church of England in North America, including the Articles of Religion of 1571, the Authorized Version of 1611, the Prayer Book of 1662, the Psalter of 1539, the Ordinal of 1661, and the Books of Homilies of 1547 and 1571;” and the encouragement of the inclusion of liturgy from the 1662 Prayer Book in the life of the church in North America. It has published a number of articles on the formularies and their use.

It is noteworthy that the Authorized Version of 1611 is the only edition of the King James Bible that contains the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha was dropped from all subsequent editions of the King James Bible.

Because too often there is a gap between an organization’s stated beliefs and what it actually believes and a corresponding gap between its stated purposes and what it actually does, I generally refrain from endorsing any particular organization. What I recommend to my readers is that they investigate a particular organization for themselves and decide for themselves whether it in practice aligns with what they believe and whether what it actually does is consistent with its stated purposes. I adopted this cautious approach in part based on the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglican’s experience with the Anglican Church in North America. The GFCA extended its unqualified support to the ACNA only to discover that the majority of ACNA leaders are unsympathetic to what it stands for.

North America to my knowledge has no organization that corresponds to the Church of England’s Church Society or the Diocese of Sydney’s Anglican Church League. The Church Society was “established to promote and defend the evangelical foundations of the Church of England.” “This doctrine,” its website maintains, is clearly expressed in the Church’s formularies: The 39 Articles of Religion, the Prayer Book, and the Ordinal.” Anglican Church League is “an association of evangelical Australian Anglican Christians who desire to maintain the reformed, protestant and evangelical character of the Anglican Church.” There is a real need for such an organization in North America, an organization that is committed to the advancement of orthodox Biblical Christianity, the continuation of the Evangelical tradition in the Anglican Church, and the preservation of the Anglican Church’s Reformation heritage. Drawing attention to the need for this kind of organization and encouraging and supporting its formation has been a longstanding objective of Anglicans Ablaze. It is one of the blog's primary focuses. 


Greg said...

An excellent article- thank you. What are your thoughts about PEARUSA in this regard? Admittedly PEARUSA is being dissolved and its three networks are becoming, ( I believe), three regional dioceses of the Anglican Church in North America. However PEARUSA does seem to honour and value the Reformation heritage of Anglican Christianity. Would you regard these emerging three dioceses out of the former PEARUSA networks to be potentially safe communities when it comes to promoting the reformed, evangelical and protestant ethos of the Anglican Way? Thanks in advance for your research and perspective on thus issue.

Robin G. Jordan said...

While the three PEAR-USA networks may include congregations and clergy that stand in the Anglican Church's Reformation heritage, I would not regard these networks as potentially safe communities when it comes to promoting the protestant, reformed, and evangelical character of the Anglican Church.

PEAR-USA is, like the original AMiA of which it was once a part, a mixed bag. The original AMIA in its Solemn Declarations affirmed the Anglican formularies and its clergy annually pledged themselves to conform to their doctrine and principles. But in practice it was an entirely different matter. This was evident from An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) which its senior bishops endorsed for use in the AMiA.

AMiA Bishop John Rogers in his commentary on the Thirty-Nine Articles ignores the original intention of their compilers and the historic context in which they were compiled. He uses the commentary as platform from which he endorses positions that the two principle authors of the Articles, Thomas Cranmer and Matthew Parker, would not have endorsed. Roger's thinking in the commentary reflects the influence of Convergence theology, not Reformation theology.

PEAR-USA in its charter adopted a formulary of the Episcopal Church, its 1804 revision of the Articles, not the Articles themselves. It is not recognized as a formulary of the Anglican Church and subscription to its doctrine and principles was never required from Episcopal clergy. PEAR-USA essentially took what may be described as a weak position on the Articles, one more in line with the ACNA's position on the Articles.

Since PEAR is turning the three networks over to the ACNA, it will no longer have input into who serves a bishops of the three networks. The three networks will also no longer have the special protocol between PEAR and the ACNA which gave them a measure of autonomy from the ACNA. They will be subject to the provisions of the ACNA constitution and canons in their entirety, which includes using the ACNA Catechism and the ACNA Prayer Book, which by no stretch of the imagination stand in the Anglican Church's Reformation heritage.

The ACNA Catechism is unreformed Catholic in its doctrine and the proposed ACNA Prayer Book is unreformed Catholic in its teaching and practices. Together they form a centerpiece of Catholic Revivalist influence in the ACNA.

Convergence theology was a strong influence in the original AMiA and it has been a strong influence in PEAR-USA. This will most likely be the dominant theological tradition in the three new dioceses and it is susceptible to Catholic Revivalist influence.

Greg said...

Thanks again for a well researched and well reasoned response. God bless.