1/08/2008

Consolidation of Anglicanism outside The Episcopal Church

Various blog sites and Anglican news venues have posted the transfer of ten congregations that have been connected to the Diocese of Bolivia to CANA (The Convocation of Anglicans in North America.) What has mostly been posted is the press release from CANA. But here is what the CANA website says on its front page.

"In a historic act, Bishop Frank Lyons of Bolivia has transferred ten congregations in the midwest United States to the care and jurisdiction of CANA. These congregations had been under the oversight of Bishop Lyons and the Diocese of Bolivia, part of the Anglican province of the Southern Cone in South America. Now, these congregations will be part of the indigenous US ecclesial structure in CANA. This transfer of congregations is a harbinger of the consolidation of Anglicanism for which many orthodox Anglicans in the US have been longing."

The phrase "the indigenous US ecclesial structure in CANA" needs to be noted. CANA has in the past been presented as part of the Church of Nigeria, and indeed the letter from Bishop Lyons to Bishop Minns is copied to the Primate of the Southern Cone (Bishop Venables), the Primate of Nigeria, (Archbishop Akinola) and the Moderator of the Common Cause / Network group, Bishop Duncan. But the website referes to CANA as a "indigenous US ecclesial structure."

The ecclesial autonomy of CANA is a possibility given that CANA now has suffecent bishops to guarentee its own episcopal future independent of the parent church of Nigeria. At some point, when there are sufficent members to organize as dioceses CANA may be in a position to announce that it now has dioceses suficent to constitute a provincial system of its own and will form a separate church. There is already a diocese in the making in Virginia in the form of a missionary district. Now with the ten parishes in the Midwest and a variety of other parishes in other areas we can look for consolidation of these areas into additional missionary districts and from there into dioceses. There are now six bishops in CANA: Minns, Bena, Anderson, Ames, Kanu and Fagbamiye. Enough to do the job.

As CANA consolidation takes place, the Network now Common Cause Partnership will begin to consolidate the various ongoing non-Canterbury related Anglican bodies and bring them into the mix along with parishes that might not otherwise want to first find a home outside the US. That consolidation is well under way. Large parts of several dioceses might joint in that effort.

CANA sees the inclusion of parishes under foreign episcopal leadership in an indigenous as a harbinger. When we ask what is to come, the answer may be rapid movement into an emerging structure with CANA as the new core into which Network, other international "partners" (Kenya, Uganda, perhaps AMia/Rwanda, and Southern Cone) will feed their American charges.

CANA has claimed to have sixty parishes and 100 clergy. This weeks acquisitions will raise that to perhaps 70 parishes and 110 clergy. If they consolidate some more the effort will become more and more indegenous and at some point Archbishop Akinola will declare CANA a new province in the making.

I would not be surprised if that happens just in time for the Jerusalem meeting, wherever that takes place. Recognition of this new ecclesial structure rather than the Episcopal Church would then be part of the litmus test for inclusion in Anglican Communion II, with its center and leadership determined by its own leadership group.

George Conger gave an end of the year summary last week. Parts of it were a bit iffy, but on the whole it was an interesting read. At the close he remarked, "While local concerns dominated the concerns of the 38 member churches, the overarching issue of the Communion—what it stood for, what it meant, what it believed, remained unresolved. While the oft foretold crack up of 2007 did not take place through Dr. Williams’ efforts to keep everyone talking, 2008 may prove to be the final year of the Anglican Communion as it is currently constituted."

The Anglican Communion as currently constituted, AC I, is a wheel with Canterbury at its hub and the Provinces connected to it, the whole thing rolling along by the connections among the Provinces that are consolidated in that way. A new wheel is being build it appears, AC II. Who will be the at the center and who will belong? And will some belong to both?

The one thing we know is that CANA is on the move and the end will either be another Anglican splinter group in the US or an emerging alternate international organization, similar to the Traditional Anglican Communion, only with recognition from several of the Primates of AC I.

What a mess.

18 comments:

  1. Who will be the new "indigenous" Archbishop -- Minns (not native by any stretch of the imagination), Duncan, Iker? Minns is a full blown evangelical leaning to pentecostal, Iker - Anglo-cat, Duncan - protestant with vestments. Can they keep it together?

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  2. (Dan)
    Since the Elizabethan Settlement, the Church of England more or less "kept it together" despite having high and low church factions. Except for the many spin-offs the CofE spawned, it managed to survive despite having a variety of styles of worship and a variety of understandings of the sacraments. It does not appear able to withstand so wide a variety of understandings regarding the person and nature of Our Lord and the new theolgical teachings that seem to permeate "progressive" Anglicanism.

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  3. o Dan please show a little bit more erudition regarding the variety of understandings of our Lord throughout history and show me what is really so new in progressive theology. Much which seems to spout for orthodoxy is no more substantial then the religiousity of 19th century paper mache statue saints, both equally in bad taste.
    The theological disagreements of the schismatics is merely a smokescreen to hide their willful ignorance if not vile hatred of homosexuals, making the whole enteprise a bit tawdry and tired.

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  4. Excellent point Dan - it's only in the last century or so that a new brand of theology has appeared which is neither high or low church but liberal, and the distinction is becoming ever sharper. There are now those who claim to be Christian but have a very low view of Scripture and a higher view of their own intellect. They place their experience and their emotions above the authority of Scripture. This leads to a variety of theological positions which are no longer Christian, although they appropriate Christian theological terminology and Christian ecclesiological structures. It is difficult to consider them to be any longer Christian because the centre of their theology is no longer Christ, but humanity. The basis of their theology is no longer the whole of Scripture alone, but only the few parts of Scripture which seem to be most in tune with the present society, combined with humanistic ethics, and a smattering of mysticism. Liberal theology has become unrecognisable to either the high church or the low church factions of the past. The various expressions of Anglicanism in North America outside PECUSA and ACoC have much more in common theologically with each other than with the majority of those within PECUSA and ACoC, hence their coalescing together; despite the naysayers who focus on the distinctives (vestments, sacraments, liturgical style, music and women's ordination etc) which are only 2nd and 3rd order issues.

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  5. christopher+9/1/08 9:53 AM

    I, for one, am well able to, as Dan essentially put it, "withstand...a variety of...theological teachings." After all, as he correctly points out, Anglicans have historically lived with incredibly wide diversity on vital issues, such as the nature of the Eucharist - a rather central issue in the life of the Church. Truth be told, I do not know any progressive Anglicans who are not able to live with wide theological diversity within the parameters of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, the traditional - mind you, traditional - Anglican understanding of the essentials of faith and practice for Christian unity. It is only one side of current discussions that argues it cannot (or simply will not) be in communion with those who disagree with them.

    As to "a variety of understandings regarding the person and nature of Our Lord," the Quadrilateral is unequivocal in its affirmation of the Creeds, the primary statements of Christian orthodoxy. (Or would anyone like to step up and argue that the Creeds are not the primary statements of Christian orthodoxy?)

    It is a lie - a rather persistent and tiresome lie, and one Dan is not necessarily perpetuating here, though one hears it elsewhere - that the Anglican Church of Canada, the Episcopal Church (USA) or any other "progressive" province of the Anglican Communion teaches anything but Christian orthodoxy, as upheld in the Creeds.

    Let's get beyond that bit of propaganda and not spend so much time focusing on individual theologians who think outside the box. What matters is what the Church teaches, and all of the provinces of the Anglican Communion teach consistent Christian orthodoxy.

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  6. Christopher+ When the PB (not to mention a host of other bishops and clergy) teaches that Jesus ia "a way" and not THE way to the Father, I don't think it is true to say that all provinces within the Communion teach the same orthodox Christianity. If the church wrote the Bible and can change it (a la Bp Bennison) are we teaching the same othodox Christianity? I won't bother to catalog the teachings of Bp. Spong who certainly does not preach/teach orthodox Christianity. So do we really teach the same orthodox Christianiy or is it simply the case that one can find the same theology expressed in the various BCP regardless of the ever-increasingly divergent ways we have of understanding the language in the BCP?
    (Dan)

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  7. Brian F. writes @ 8:55 am: "They [liberals] place their experience and their emotions above the authority of Scripture."

    A few liberals probably do indeed do this. I suspect, however, that more of them simply accept something that my then-12 year old said (unprompted) a few years ago: A thousand-page book doesn't contain everything God will ever have to say to us.

    Parents give their kids different instructions at different stages of their development. Sometimes the later instructions will seem to contradict the earlier ones. It's way above our pay grade to decree that God would never do such a thing.

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  8. christopher+9/1/08 3:47 PM

    brian f,

    Thank you for acknowledging that there are indeed "2nd and 3rd order issues" in the realm of theology and ecclesiology.

    I probably disagree with how you arrived at this very significant conclusion - after all, women's ordination is a vital issue of biblical authority and tradition for many - but I am glad to see someone on the "other" side of these discussions admit that not every issue addressed in the Holy Scriptures is a first-order issue of faith and practice.

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  9. christopher+9/1/08 5:34 PM

    Dan,

    It will come as no suprise that I disagree with your assessment of the orthodoxy of the Anglican provinces in North America. It sounds like you are attempting to describe as fundamentally heterodox an unwillingness on the part of some Christian leaders to turn select biblical proof-texts into a sweeping public judgment of other religious communities. By no means does such humility mean that one is in any way less committed to Christ and Christ's Gospel. On the contrary. Let's be clear, once again: Christian orthodoxy is defined in the Creeds, and all provinces of the Anglican Communion profess this orthodoxy. Disagreements on second-tier issues of doctrine are not matters of orthodoxy.

    As I said earlier, don't bother trying to focus attention on individual theologians. None of us on our own is the whole Church. As we pray, thus we believe - and all Anglicans pray and profess the Creeds of orthodox Christianity, even when people continue to discuss and struggle with their meaning.

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  10. How does such a move affect membership of the transferred parishes in the that "branch" of the Anglican communion led by +Cantuar? Do the transfer res know that they have been transfeered to a "separate" branch of the Communion led by Nigeria? Did they have any say in the matter? Did the the bishop of Bolivia even tell them that they no longer have any relationship to +Cantuar viz:
    the following from the Dec. 21, 2007 CANA Congregations Post Trial Opening Brief in the VA cases:

    “As a result of these recent changes, the Anglican Communion is now divided into two“branches”—those that relate to all provinces that relate to the See of Canterbury, and those that relate only to those who are understood as adhering to the historic faith, doctrine, and discipline of the Anglican Communion. See Sept. 14, 2007, Tr. 41 (directing the parties to address the branch issue at the Anglican Communion level). The Church of Nigeria, with which the CANA
    Congregations have affiliated, is the principal leader of this new branch. Tr. 363-64, 372-74 (Minns); Tr. 639-40 (Yisa). Indeed, TEC Presiding Bishop Schori herself referred to CANA as a distinct “part” or “branch of the Anglican Communion” repeatedly in her deposition. Schori Dep, Designations 54-56, 79, 83. The evidence at trial thus independently satisfied the “branch”
    requirement of § 57-9 at the Anglican Communion level.” EPfizH

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  11. Brian, I am getting very tired of the "conservative" lie that those who disagree with them "have a very low view of scripture."

    The fact that this lie is constantly repeated doesn't make it any less a damnable lie - and it certainly doesn't make it true.

    Just because one doesn't happen to agree with your particular interpretation of scripture does not mean that one does not take scripture seriously.

    Personally, I believe that scripture upholds the real presence. After all, Jesus does not say, "this represents my body."

    So, what of my less high church friend? Does that fact that he disagrees with me mean that he doesn't take scripture seriously? Or that he has, "a very low view of scripture?"

    No. It means that he has interpreted scripture differntly than I have. If I were to claim otherwise (which I won't) it would make me a liar.

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  12. Malcolm - I fully respect those who wrestle with the interpretation of Scripture and come to different conclusions to mine on the nature of the presence of Christ in the Holy Communion, or on the issue of women's ordination; and I am happy to live in communion with them. However this not the point of departure we are arguing about. However Scripture is clear on the sinfulness of all mankind, on the things which are sinful and separate us from God, on our need for an atoning sacrifice to propitiate the wrath of God and that God, by his love for us provided that sacrifice in the person of the Son, who offered himself as the once for all perfect sacrifice for sin. Thus Jesus is the unique way to eternal life with the Father for all mankind.

    Furthermore, Scripture is also clear about the divine abhorrence towards any kind of homosexual activity; yet a substantial majority have placed their own personal experience or feelings as a higher authority than the word of God. By special pleading, they change the meaning of words which are unambiguous in their original meaning to remove any challenge to their sinful nature. This kind of issue and the special exegesis attached to it is not in any way comparable to the issues of women and slavery as some try to argue. Scripture specifically prohibits slavery in unambiguous language, which can only be twisted or ignored to support slavery by those with evil intent. It did not need a modern liberal mindset to appreciate that fact.

    Those who deny the truth of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as THE way to eternal life; or redefine our human nature, or redefine God’s nature to exclude his wrath at sin; or redefine what constitutes sin, or deny Christ’s full divinity, or his sinless perfection, or his bodily resurrection do indeed have a low view of Scripture, since all of these truths are plainly revealed in Scripture. (Let him who has ears/eyes to hear/see let him hear/see). PECUSA's own PB obviously has a low view of Scripture, shown by her own words. Why was +Jefferts-Schori elected to be a bishop and then PB if her doctrine of revelation, humanity, sin and salvation was not acceptable to a substantial majority of people within PECUSA, which confirms my assertion of the low view of Scripture held by the liberal majority within PECUSA.

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  13. christopher+10/1/08 9:46 AM

    brian f said:

    "Scripture specifically prohibits slavery in unambiguous language, which can only be twisted or ignored to support slavery by those with evil intent. It did not need a modern liberal mindset to appreciate that fact."

    Really? Since you assert that the Scriptures specifically and clearly prohibit slavery, would you care to cite the specific biblical texts in which this prohibition is articulated?

    It seems your ostensible "high view" of the Holy Scriptures might be distracting you from the reality of the Holy Scriptures, which is complex and in need of community - ecclesial - interpretation. Take, for example, the decidedly biblical admonition for slaves to obey their masters (Ephesians 6:5-9).

    On the issue of women's ordination, it seems to have become very easy for some to say there is no definitive biblical statement on women's ordination, which makes diversity acceptable now. How times change! If this were so, why would some - like the Episcopal Dioceses of Fort Worth and San Joaquin - be so fervently opposed to women's ordination? Do they simply fail to understand the real meaning and intent of the Holy Scriptures as well as you do, brian f?

    Generally speaking, those who plead plain sense of the Holy Scriptures are highly - highly - selective in their application of the Bible (for whatever reason) as, for example, those who once argued - apparently convincingly for many - that the Bible clearly condoned slavery, based on selected texts. The danger of this selectivity, of course, is that it is a human - not a divine - impulse. And, in the end, giving in to this impulse, whether on slavery or any other issue affecting our sisters and brothers, reflects the lowest view of the Holy Scriptures - and of God in Christ - humanly possible.

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  14. Christopher - I would have thought that passages in Lev 25 are pretty clear on prohibiting slavery, and where slavery was already existant, in providing a regular opportunity for the redemption and free release of people from slavery. Again, though I want to emphasize that neither slavery or women, nor the presence of Christ in the sacrament are the points of departure in theology that are causing parishes and dioceses to leave PECUSA and to coalesce in a newly forming Anglican entity.

    I notice that you have declined to engage with me on the other far more substantial issues I've raised about our theological differences to do with the person and work of our Lord Jesus, which are the real cause of division in the church, and are my more substantial evidence for liberals having a low view of Scripture, rather than focusing on what is really a more minor issue.

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  15. Brian F., when you talk about Leviticus 25 prohibiting slavery, I presume you're referring to verses 44-46? "44 "Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. 45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. 46 You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly." (Emphasis added, internal quotation marks omitted.)

    Then there's Ex. 21.20-21: "If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, 21 but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property." (Emphasis added, internal quotation marks omitted.)

    Anyone who claims the Bible prohibited slavery has some explaining to do.

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  16. christopher+11/1/08 11:20 AM

    brian f.,

    Everything that needs to be said about the "person and work" of our Lord and Savior is said in the Creeds of orthodox Christianity, which are prayed and professed worldwide in all - repeat all - provinces of the Anglican Communion. I do not believe there is any point in belaboring this issue, because you seem to believe that this is not true. Fine - you do not believe that those who profess the Creeds believe them. I can't help you with that, nor can anyone else really.

    You and I do not have any disagreement on the Creeds themselves, however, and why you would assume that we do baffles me. We share a common faith and tradition as long as you believe the Creeds, particularly the Nicene Creed, to be "the sufficient statement of the Christian faith," as expressed in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. That, of course, is the traditional Anglican understanding, at least for the past century or so since we Anglicans defined the standard terms for church unity. If you do not agree, fine.

    I am nonetheless very happy to see that you believe Christology to be a "far more substantial" issue than current debates about sexual ethics. Agreed 100 percent. So let's move ahead in our other discussions within the Anglican Communion knowing that we agree on the essentials of the faith. (Except that, yes, I know that, for whatever reason, you strongly believe a rejection of same-sex identity, acts and relations to be an "essential" of the Christian faith. Fine. I disagree for all of the reasons above. I would never wish to break our communion because we disagree on this, though.)

    As far as your views on the Bible's acceptance of slavery, I am simply afraid you are not reading or studying the Holy Scriptures very carefully, not least for the reasons explained above by dctoedt. I do not mean that in any mean-spirited way - please believe me on that - but you seem so very certain when you say that you think it would have been quite clear that Lev. 25 prohibits slavery. The Bible regulates slavery to some extent, as you seem to realize, but by no means whatsoever does it prohibit slavery, as you claimed when you said above, "Scripture specifically prohibits slavery in unambiguous language..."

    You inability to see this seems that much more problematic when you claim to have the only possible interpretation in other matters of biblical ethics.

    Amidst our disagreement on such matters, brian f, allow me to say how wonderful I think it is that we - all of us - are able to discuss differences and commonalities across great distances in this forum. The Anglican Communion needs much more of this kind of grass-roots, "get to know each other" dialogue. May God bless you and those you love.

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  17. Brian, since you claim that scripture prohibits slavery when that is manifestly not the case, I can only assume that you have a low view of scripture.

    And of course your claim that scripture's disdain for homosexuality is unambiguous is likewise a curious departure from the facts.

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  18. dctoedt, Malcolm - you give prime examples of how people have twisted the plain meaning of Scripture, or extracted only certain portions of Scripture to suit their own evil desires, as slave traders have done in the past. How anyone can consider God does not prohibit slavery when we have Lev 25:39 - you shall not make your brother serve as a slave; the command to love your neighbour as yourself from the Old Testament (Lev 19:18) and reiterated by Jesus in the New Testament, which is surely incompatible with slavery; and Jesus' expansive definition of who our neighbour is, when all put together clearly constitutes an unambiguous prohibition against slavery.

    Now in our times we have people twisting Scripture to say what they want it to mean contrary to God's will in the area of human sexuality - both homosexuality, and heterosexual marriage and divorce. The key texts against homosexual activity are quite clear and comprehensive of any kind of same sex activity; whether between men and boys, male temple prostitutes, bisexual men, or between two men in a long term faithful loving relationship (which were known of in those days btw). There are no exclusion clauses for particular kinds of homosexual relationships despite what the revisionists try to claim. Where is the ambiguity Malcolm, where are the exlusion clauses?

    But even worse, the revisionists say that Jesus was not referring to everyone when he said that noone comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6), thus denying the evangelism imperative to all people (Matt 28:19-20), and denying countless millions the opportunity for salvation (Acts4:12). That seems to demonstrate a fairly low opinion of Scripture to me.

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