Anglican Church in North America: the propaganda initiative
ACNA (the Anglican Church in North America) today announced its new web site. It is a clean and pretty spiffy site indeed, with a nice parish locator, changing pictures on the lead sections, etc. Not much new news, however, save that Baroness Caroline Cox has been named honorary chair of the Anglican Relief and Development Fund.
So what's going on with the new improved ACNA web pages? Well, among other things, the repetitive use of the word province as a descriptor for ACNA.
It's all around. In the bio on the Archbishop, Robert Duncan, it ends with this note, "In December 2007, he was elected moderator of the Common Cause Partnership and on June 24, 2009 was invested as Archbishop of the Anglican Communion’s “39th Province.” Of course, that is patently false. He was not invested as Archbishop of a Province of the Anglican Communion, or a province of anything else.
Keen observers will note that one can now buy a genuine " ACNA Provincial Banner," from the ACNA store. Here it is to the right. Nifty, eh? Again, province of what?
Never fear, if you need to find out more you can reach ACNA at The Provincial Office for the Anglican Church in North America, located in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. Lionel Deimel, intrepid reporter on things having to do with ACNA and the Diocese of Pittsburgh, actually visited the office. He was underwhelmed. See his report HERE. Still, it is the provincial office. Got it?
There is a good bit on the web site about how ACNA is recognized by various provinces of the Anglican Communion. Let this be a sign unto us... ACNA is watching the numbers and waiting the day. Every use they can make of the word "province" without challenge makes them sound more and more a part of the Anglican Communion.
Paralleling this is the interesting "either / or" that has been spun around the words "Episcopal" and "Episcopalian" on the one hand and "Anglican" on the other. Baby Blue opines occasionally that it would be good if Episcopalians and Anglicans could work together. We sort of know what she means, but actually Episcopalians are Anglicans every bit as much as are Anglicans that used to be Episcopalians or those who never were Episcopalian but entered by another way. The attempt to separate out Episcopalians from Anglicans, with the former being naughty people who have lost their way and the latter orthodox to the core, is humbug. Still we know what BB means: it would be good if Anglicans could work together. Right.
Over on the ACNA website, however, the reading of the history is pretty straightforward: The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada "have increasingly accommodated and incorporated un-Biblical, un-Anglican practices and teaching."
The end of the history titled, "ACNA - Our Genesis" makes it clear that the GAFCON meeting is their entry point to legitimate "Anglican" status. (bold for emphasis)
"Then in June 2008, Anglican leaders from around the world gathered at the Global Anglican Future conference and, among other decisions, determined that the North American Anglican groups under their care and united in the Common Cause Partnership should form a united Anglican body and seek recognition as a province in the Anglican Communion.
Following significant formational work by the Common Cause Partners, these same Anglican leaders have now recognized the resulting ecclesial structure – the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) – as authentically Anglican and have commended formal recognition of ACNA to the other leaders in the Communion. During this period of transition, bishops within ACNA will retain membership in the House of Bishops of the province in which they were members prior to the formation of ACNA."
All of this plays nicely into the various tidbits of news in this new year in which the slide into the normality of thinking of ACNA as a province continues unabated. There is no question that ACNA is a church very much Anglican in origin and ethos, but that is a far cry from ACNA being Anglican in the way that Anglican Churches are part of the Anglican Communion.
For one thing, ACNA has a house of bishops made up almost entirely of bishops previously deposed by the churches who ordained them, bishops who were members of churches never part of the Anglican Communion, bishops ordained specifically for mission in areas wher episcopal oversight from existing Anglican bishops was already in place. That is, the episcopal leadership of ACNA is not itself a product of anything like "normal" Anglican ecclesiology. ACNA sees this as an extraordinary time, requiring extraordinary response, so this collection of deposed Episcopal and ACofC bishops, Reformed Episcopal Church bishops and a collection of "missionary" bishops is necessary.
For another, all bishops except those who are bishops and bishops ordained BY ACNA hold dual jurisdiction, recognizing that they do not have standing at the moment as ACNA bishops. If this is not un-Anglican, it certainly is extra-Anglican.
Nothing of course has been said about this by any of the instruments of unity. The ABC, the Primates, ACC, Lambeth ... nada. Fortunately there is at least eight years to go before a next Lambeth Conference (if there is to be one). Figuring out if these bishops could attend Lambeth as members of a Province in which they were not physically present or in which they did not have a ministerial jurisdiction would be a mess. By then it will perhaps be clearer just what is going on, but it is not clear now.
Well, here it is, ACNA and its publicists are working at the effort. If they say "ACNA is a Province" often enough, with banners and side-bars, etc, people will begin to say "The Province of the Anglican Church in North America." If they say "Anglican" vs "Episcopalian" often enough some of the more sloppy among us will think, "Ah ha! One must be one or the other, not both/ and." ACNA will make it clear that they are legitimate Anglicans, no matter that their episcopal ordering is without parallel in any other Anglican Church in the world.
They are working hard at the word games that will support their contentions. They will even convince some of the faithful, including people who think that churches not part of the Anglican Communion ought to be able to sign on to the Anglican Covenant and that somehow that might make them more and more like Anglican Communion Provinces.
The problem is, of course, that the word "province" is itself a bad idea. We are not members of "provinces" of some larger thing called The Anglican Communion (much less The Anglican Church) we are national and regional churches that are part of a fellowship of Churches called the Anglican Communion.
Let's keep on keeping on, but let's be watchful. ACNA leadership is working the language, and if they get it right the language will serve them well.