By Robin G. Jordan
Where the promotion of the protestant, reformed, and evangelical character of the Anglican Church is concerned, I am very reluctant to describe any judicatory of the Anglican Church in North America as a “safe community.” Here’s why.
To the best of my knowledge the clergy and congregations that are faithful to the Bible and the Anglican formularies and stand in the Reformation tradition of the Anglican Church and which are also a part of the Anglican Church in North America are scattered among several of its dioceses. They are not concentrated in one diocese under the oversight of bishops who are themselves faithful to the Bible and the Anglican formularies and stand in the Anglican Church’s Reformation heritage. The ACNA has no such diocese.
Indeed, under the provisions of the ACNA constitution and canons the formation of such a diocese is impossible. In order to become an ACNA diocese, a grouping of congregations and their clergy must accept the provisions of the ACNA constitution and canons. This includes acceptance of the weak position on the Anglican formularies and the unreformed Catholic position on the historic episcopate articulated in the ACNA’s fundamental declarations.
Clergy must agree to conform to the official doctrine of the ACNA and take an oath of obedience to bishops approved and in some case selected by the ACNA College of Bishops—a body dominated by the Catholic Revivalist wing of the denomination.
Under the provisions of the ACNA canons all ACNA congregations must use the proposed ACNA Prayer Book presently in preparation once it is completed and receives final approval. This includes the ACNA Ordinal and the ACNA Catechism incorporated into the Prayer Book.
To date all the sections of the proposed ACNA Prayer Book that have been completed countenance unreformed Catholic teaching and practices. These teaching and practices are at variance with the Bible and the Anglican formularies. They are not part of the Anglican Church’s Reformation heritage.
The situation facing congregations and clergy faithful to the Bible and the Anglican formularies and standing in the Anglican Church’s Reformation heritage is akin to that which the early English Protestants faced before the English Reformation. The irony of it is that they face this situation in what identifies itself as an Anglican Church, in other words, a Church of the Reformation!
The problem is not just the requirements for participation set out in the ACNA constitution and canons and unreformed Catholic teaching and practices countenanced in these governing documents and the proposed ACNA Prayer Book. The form of government and the organizational structure of the ACNA is closer to that of a Roman Catholic province or archdiocese than it is to Anglican province. The role of the Provincial Assembly is largely consultative. The College of Bishops has usurped the authority and power of the Provincial Council, which is the official governing body of the jurisdiction, and functions like a conference of bishops in the Roman Catholic Church.
I believe that I would be doing a great disservice to my readers if I inferred in any way that there exists in the Anglican Church in North America a “safe community” for congregations and clergy faithful to the Bible and the Anglican formularies and standing in the Anglican Church’s Reformation heritage. No such community exists. The ACNA is not set up to permit the formation of an enclave for this particular group of congregations and clergy. If the same group of congregations and clergy want to create an enclave for itself, it will have to make a choice between the ACNA and its convictions and take matters into its own hands. It is as simple as that!