What’s Going on at Wheaton?

November 23, 2008 at 7:18 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

By Robin G. Jordan

The leaders of the Anglican Communion Network and other Common Cause Partners are playing their cards close to their chest. When I asked for a summary of the proposed constitution, I was politically told that I would have to wait with everyone else to the Common Cause Partnership Council meeting in December when the CCP will receive the proposed constitution and then unveiled it to the world. I have heard the suggestion that they are still hammering out the final details. I learned from the ACN that after the CCP Council has received the proposed constitution, it would remain a draft for up to a year until it is ratified and during this time public comment would be invited. From another source I learned that once the CCP Council approves the proposed constitution at its December meeting, it would no longer be a proposed constitution but would be the constitution of the Anglican Church in North America and then it would be sent to each CCP member organization to ratify—“up or down” as it stood. Each of the judicatories that would be forming the new province would be similar to dioceses without borders except for the four breakaway Episcopal dioceses. The ACN would remain the ACN; the AMiA, the AMiA; the ANiC, the AniC; CANA, CANA, and so on. If clergy and congregations are with the ACN now, they would with the ACN in the new province. This source anticipated some mergers in the future but was unwilling to predict which judicatories might merge. Bishop Iker has been quoted as saying that the new province would be a reality by Easter 2009. So we have three conflicting accounts of what is going to happen at the CCP Council meeting and in the next 12 months.

During the earlier part of this month VirtueOnline published three articles in which I called attention to the token place of the Anglican formularies in the CCP Theological Statement and the implications for the new province and confessional Anglicans. The CCP Theological Statement is supposed to form the theological foundation upon which the new province will be erected. In giving a token place to the Anglican formularies the CCP risked recreating in the new province a situation much like the one that exists in The Episcopal Church. In The Episcopal Church we see little regard for the Bible and the Creeds, much less the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1571, the Book of Common Prayer of 1662, and the Ordinal of 1661. The Bible and the Creeds are rapidly becoming historical curiosities along with the Anglican formularies. I urged confessional Anglicans to organize in defense of the gospel.

The Thirty-Nine Articles identify what are the essentials of an evangelical faith, a faith according to gospel teaching. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer expresses that faith in liturgical form. The 1662 Ordinal defines the roles of deacon, presbyter, and bishop as ministers of that faith. The three formularies outline what the English Reformers and classical Anglicanism understood and confessional Anglicans still understand to be the gospel, the faith of the gospel and the ministry of the gospel. In The Episcopal Church where these formularies are historical curiosities, all three are disappearing.

In the judicatories that constitute the four breakaway Episcopal dioceses and the Common Cause Partners the Anglican formularies occupy a tenuous place. They may be affirmed in the constitution or declaration of principles of these judicatories but they do not significantly influence and shape the life and worship of the judicatory. The 1928 Book of Common Prayer and the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, which do not adhere to the biblical-Reformed doctrine of the 1662 Prayer Book or respect its liturgical usages, are still used. Earlier this year the Prayer Book Society of the USA and the AMiA jointly released a service book, An Anglican Prayer Book (2008), which in its doctrine is not too distant cousin to both the 1928 Prayer Book and the 1979 Prayer Book. This book is now being used in some churches of the Common Cause Partners.

In response to my articles I have encountered several disturbing attitudes. One is that since the Anglican formularies were little regarded in The Episcopal Church, why should they be regarded at all in the Anglican Church in North America. A second is outright hostility toward the formularies and confessional Anglicanism. Those exhibiting this attitude have for the large part been Anglo-Catholics or lean toward Anglo-Catholicism. A third is that the formularies mean nothing to the people in the pews. They have no place in their faith or worship. It is even suggested that they would mean nothing to Christ when he returns in glory. How widespread these attitudes are, I do not know but their existence does not portend well for the new province or for confessional Anglican. They suggest that what may be in the making is another Episcopal Church but without the liberals—at least for now.

These attitudes point to the great neglect of the formularies in The Episcopal Church and how their neglect may have contributed to the present state of that church. If one looks around the Anglican Communion the neglect of the formularies and the encroachment of liberalism, modernism, and unreformed Catholicism appear to go hand in hand. This neglect has not only lead to the encroachment of liberalism, modernism, and unreformed Catholicism but their encroachment has also lead to the neglect of the formularies.

While I called in my articles for a larger place for the Anglican formularies in the CCP and the new province, the reality on the ground is that this is not likely to happen. Three of the four breakaway Episcopal dioceses are Anglo-Catholic. The CCP is a disparate group. It is made up largely of Anglo-Catholics and charismatic evangelicals with confessional evangelicals in the minority.

I see four ways forward for confessional Anglicans. The first is to identify and network with other confessional Anglicans and incipient confessional Anglicans—those who are confessional but do not yet recognize it—in their respective judicatories and in the new province. The Heritage Anglican Network is being formed to help facilitate this process. I say being formed because it still is very much a work in progress. This includes identifying and networking with confessional Anglicans in the Americas and the Caribbean outside the structure of the new province.

The second way forward is to form linkages with confessional Anglicans in other parts of the world—in Australia, Ireland, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. We need to not only overcome our isolation from each other in the Americas and the Caribbean but also worldwide. We live in the age of the Internet. We are a mouse click away from each other even though we are thousands of miles apart.

Confessional Anglicans are confronting similar conditions in the United Kingdom as we face in the United States and Canada.

The third way forward is to devote our combined energies and resources to campaigning for provisions in the constitution of the new province for the formation of confessional Anglican judicatories within the Anglican Church in North America and the admission of confessional Anglican judicatories formed outside the new province and to forming at a minimum one confessional Anglican judicatory but preferably two or more and securing their admission to the new province if they were formed outside the province. These provisions should include:

(i) Provision for unrestricted voluntary transfer of confessional Anglican clergy and congregations from the other constituent bodies of the new province to confessional Anglican judicatories formed within the new province or formed outside the province and subsequently admitted to the province.

(ii) No penalization of confessional Anglican judicatories for having formed within the new province or having formed outside the province and admitted to the province after the initial ratification of the proposed constitution.

(iii) The same guarantees for their structure, identity, priorities, and participation in inter-provincial structures as the original constituent bodies of the new province.

(iv) No requirement for the involuntary amalgamation or merger of a confessional Anglican judicatory forming within the new province or formed outside of the province and being admitted to the province—with one of the original constituent bodies of the province. For example, a network of confessional Anglican churches could directly be admitted to the new province. They would not have to join the ACN, AMiA, ANiC, CANA, or another such judicatory in order to be admitted to the province.

(v) Freedom to establish and maintain the Anglican formularies as the doctrinal and worship standard of a judicatory.

(vi) Freedom to use the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the 1661 Ordinal and to develop and adopt modern English services adhering to the doctrine of the 1662 Prayer Book and the 1661 Ordinal and showing due regard for their liturgical usages, to use along with the 1662 Prayer Book and the 1661 Ordinal.

(vii) Freedom to plant churches and to establish networks of churches throughout the entire geographic territory of the new province.

(viii) No penalization of clergy and congregations transferring to confessional Anglican judicatories in the province such as loss of pension contributions or seizure of church property.

These provisions might be described as a confessional Anglican Bill of Rights for the new province.

The fourth way forward is to plant confessional Anglican churches and link them together in a network that crosses judicatory lines. The Heritage Anglican Network can play a useful support role.

We may not succeed at changing the culture of the Anglican Church in North America but we can work to establish a strong confessional Anglican presence in the new province.

We need to do whatever we can to bring pressure to bear upon the CCP and the Anglican Church in North America to make room in the new province for confessional Anglican judicatories that can freely order their doctrine and worship and can operate throughout the geographic territory of the new province. This may require turning a spotlight on any policy or policy maker that even gives the appearance of barring full inclusion of confessional Anglicans into the new province, of dismissing or ignoring their concerns, of marginalizing them, and of relegating confessional Anglicanism to obscurity. It may include pointing attention to the equivalence between how the CCP and the Anglican Church in North America is treating confessional Anglicans and how The Episcopal Church treated disaffected Episcopalians and the Anglican Church of Canada, disaffected Anglicans. It will certainly entail courting and mobilizing the support of confessional and other Anglicans outside of North America. It may also require making appeals to other Anglican Provinces and their primates and even calling for intervention in the new province.

Every journey begins with a first step. Our first step is to pray. We must immerse this whole undertaking in prayer. We must pray for the cause of the gospel, genuine Anglicanism, and evangelical Christianity. We must pray for the four breakaway Episcopal dioceses and the Common Cause Partnership, for our respective judicatories, and for their leaders. We especially must pray the Common Cause Partnership Council will have the discernment and wisdom to recognize the flaws in the proposed constitution and will amend it to make room in the Anglican Church in North America for confessional Anglicanism and to guarantee a place at the table for confessional Anglicans alongside the four breakaway Episcopal dioceses and the Common Cause Partners. We must pray for our brothers and sisters outside these bodies. We must pray for the Heritage Anglican Network and for ourselves.

Let us not forget that we are contending for the faith once delivered for all to the saints—not the faith of human tradition, not the faith of men’s devising, but the faith of the New Testament, the faith of the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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