1/08/2010

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.

20 comments:

  1. In case anyone wants to do the "both/and" thing, here is a good way of proclaiming it (shameless self-promotion alert):

    http://www.cafepress.com/episcoware/3383310

    I put this together a couple of years ago. Seems appropriate.

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  2. Thanks, Mark, for this post. I was surprised to see the new site today. I didn’t have time to investigate and am happy to have the perspective you have provided.

    What you did not mention is that the location of the site has changed. The home page used to be found at http://anglicanchurch-na.org/. If you go to that location now, you are redirected to the new site at http://anglicanchurch.net/. Through elimination of the “-na” in the URL, we are, I suspect, supposed to assume that we have reached the Web site of the Anglican Church.

    By the way, the site has been totally reorganized, so old URLs for particular pages will no longer find their targets. I was able to re-locate some material on the site, but I have no way of knowing if all significant stories and documents from the old site have found their way to the new.

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  3. The thought strikes me, Mark, that (with all the obvious sticky points of negotiation being being acknowledged, including the need for certain objectionable statements being withdrawn, etc), an Anglican Communion which could embrace TEC and ACNA could be an Anglican Communion holding together. Member churches not wanting TEC expelled could be happy. Member churches wanting ACNA recognised could be happy.

    The crucial point would be whether TEC and ACNA and ACCan could agree to co-exist on the same continent - I fully understand that that might be harder to achieve than bipartisan support for a health care bill! But what if it could be achieved?

    One odd point to all this is that (as far as I can tell) TEC, ACNA, and ACCan all want to belong to the Anglican Communion. Though none would make that an absolute commitment, it would be interesting to work with that desire to see how it might affect a willingness to dialogue at a table of negotiation.

    I find it hard to see how a Communion without TEC or a Communion without ACNA holds together. Perhaps a fragmented Communion is the best we can do. But, perhaps we can do better!

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  4. All I can say is that the website of the local ACNA/AMiA outcropping is so Calvinist in its theology that I have a hard time finding what is 'Anglican' about them other than they claim to be.

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  5. Certain trolls have posted here many times how top heavy TEC is with so many bishops compared to other Anglican Communion provinces. They will probably not say much more along those lines. This seems to be one of ACNA's biggest projects, to accumulate more and more bishops. One of the news items on the new website news ticker is that the ACNA diocese in Canada recently consecrated new bishops and now has four bishops for less than 50 parishes.

    I wonder how the troll from New Zealand would feel were the shoe on the other foot. It is not beyond memory's recall when the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia was censored for their initiative in creative church organization and polity. What if "concerned" provinces had sent "missionary bishops" to NZ to begin an orthodox province, the Anglican Episcopal Church of Zealandia. Then that church began sucking parishes and dioceses away and encouraging them to steal church property as they seceded. I do not think it would feel so good if that "orthodox" province were now vying for entrance into the Anglican Communion, especially if their stated aim from the beginning was to replace, not stand alongside, but to replace the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

    Troll at home Peter, you add nothing original to the conversations here. You are just a broken record of the same trolling we hear from all the others. You just come with a different accent.

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  6. This is in no way surprising, to me at least.

    Considering that honesty has never been a hallmark of Bishop Duncan's self-serving propaganda machine, it should come as no surprise that the ACNA website would be any different.

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  7. Good point David. In the same vein, I wonder how those controlling the Diocese of Sydney (which has been outspoken in its support of ACNA) would feel if the significant number of Anglicans living under their regime announced they were splitting on the grounds of Sydney's persistent departures from orthodoxy (eg. lay presidency, complementarian theology of the Trinity, border-crossing, Amyraldian pseudo-Calvinism, liturgical anarchy, crass misogyny, etc)?

    Naturally the departing Anglicans would insist on taking their share of Sydney's greatly diminished assets (does crass financial incompetency also qualify as a departure from orthodoxy?) as they left to establish a more authentically biblical "province" - would ACNA's defenders then remain as Congregationalist in their understanding of parish title?

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  8. Caminante, read the Thirty-Nine Articles, widely acknowledged to be "moderately Calvinist." They are the original statement of faith of the Church of England, written very early in Queen Elizabeth's reign. They were to be affirmed by clergy at their ordination for centuries. They may be ignored or sneered at in these days, but how can you say that someone who does believe them is not an Anglican?

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  9. Gently, Dahveed. We may not agree with Peter, but he's always civil (unlike some others in past posts).

    One wonders, of course, whether we would manage an area church (I don't want to use the work "province," and in this case it's more than national or even regional) in North America of "multiple tikanga, following Aotearoa/New Zealand/Polynesia's model. I fear that at this point there's too much animosity and bitterness to even consider such a structure. We Episcopalians have been falsely accused of apostasy too many times. However, I wonder how the multiple tikanga model will work over time at home, since one tikanga can basically veto the other two (I think I have that right).

    This is certainly anomalous, although I don't want to say too much about the deposed formerly Episcopal bishops. Some we've deposed for cause, and with some we've said we were simply acknowledging their withdrawals without affecting character. However, it is certain that for some time they have wanted the patrimony of Canterbury. For many of us now there's a mess of pottage on the table. I'm just not sure the pottage comes instead of or with the patrimony.

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  10. I take it 'troll' is not a term of approbation :)

    I think that if the Anglican Communion breaks up (or, if you like, breaks up more than currently) it will have damaging repercussions on the life of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia. We are affected by developments away from these islands - virtually every Anglican controversy in North America and the UK is well reported here.

    Conversely, if the Communion holds together it will because some happier situation is reached in respect of Episcoapl and Anglican life on the North American continent. What's a conservative Anglican committed to the Communion to do? Lurk solely on Virtue, Stand Firm and T19? Or try to better appreciate the width of theology and ecclesiology in TEC by reading, studying, and inwardly digesting the likes of Preludium? I have chosen the latter course, and from time to time feel emboldened to comment. I may not have perfectly fulfilled my agenda in doing so, but I hope the agenda is both transparent and not beyond the sympathies of other Preludium readers: to seek the unity of as large an Anglican Communion as possible. (I acknowledge that my belief that the Covenant is crucial to that future unity is probably beyond the sympathies of many Preludium readers.)

    It is quite true that my church, ACANZP, has episcopal arrangements via its tikanga life which are anomalous and have been questioned. My personal plea to my church is that we might one day return to episcopal normality, in line with the theology of unity envisaged in Ephesians; my plea to the wider Communion is that we might have some time and space to work out this current stage of our life together as a multi-cultural church trying to undo the damage of colonialism.

    What if the Anglican Episcopal Church of Zealandia was established by outside Anglican interests? My first thought would be that my church had failed in some way to be properly Anglican in its breadth and inclusiveness.

    Re Sydney: I have no idea what Sydney would do if certain non-Jensenist parishes 'left' the Diocese. But I do know that the Diocesan authorities there have been helpful regarding our pastoral work among Maori in Sydney - loaning us the use of buildings, permitting our Maori bishops to make flying visits to Sydney to maintain episcopal oversight of Maori.

    As for analogies for how ACNA and TEC might co-exist on the same continent: the better one might be in Europe where I understand that two different dioceses operate over the same territory. Our three tikanga are united under one General Synod; even I can see that ACNA and TEC being united under one Grand Convention is unrealistic!

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  11. Hiram, do you really think I have not read the 39 Articles? Please.

    The 39 Articles are not something that clergy in The Episcopal Church swear allegiance to. They are historical, responding to the heresies at the time at which they were written. To have the 39 articles trump the Nicene and Apostles' Creeds is absurd.

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  12. With great respect Cam, Hiram (who should have known you would have read the 39 Articles) was not suggesting that they should trump the Nicene and Apostles Creeds as if life were some sort of a card game. He was suggesting only that those who believe the doctrines of the 39 articles have some claim to be Anglican. While they may have been relegated by TEC to be merely historical, they are written into the constitutions of some provinces including my own Australia.

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  13. I'm sorry Peter, but I can't believe you're not being a trifle disingenuous in saying "I have no idea what Sydney would do if certain non-Jensenist parishes 'left' the Diocese." I think you've got a very good idea of the sort of response the Jensenists would make, and if I'm mistaken in this suspicion I'll happily put you in touch with people in your own diocese who can enlighten you.

    And yes, while Sydney has shown respect and courtesy to visiting Maori Bishops, it's noted that you don't mention that same respect hasn't been shown to your own Bishop. Nor will it be; as a woman your Bishop is recognized by Sydney as only as a Deacon, and not permitted to preside - nor to carry out any other aspect of her office. Most Sydney parishes would not even permit her to preach, nor would the more prominent Jensenist parishes allow her to read the Bible aloud in the presence of any adult males.

    With extremists such as these fueling the division it's obvious the tripartite NZ model is not a global option: dialogue between tikanga is predicated upon each party recognizing the others’ equality in the sight of God. By contrast most of those departing the Communion - whether via ACNA or Sydney's own "Evangelical Bible-believing Church Plants" - don't consider those whom they reject as having any validity whatsoever. To a favorite expression of the Jensensists in the days before the internet made their proclamations readily available to a broader audience, non-evangelical/conservative Anglicans are seen as at best "sub-Christian". By virtue of their gender, theology, doctrine of scripture, or sexuality, entering into any relationship with such people is to be "unequally yoked" and thus anathema.

    Hence the Sydney cabal's silence on the subject of the Covenant - they don't want it because they don't want to be bound into a closer relationship with those whose practices they see as "unchristian" - a group into which they would include your own Bishop of Christchurch, along with all who support her. Nor does it seem realistic to assume Duncan's followers would be any more genuine in their covenant commitment to those whom they clearly despise, such as, for example, the Bishop of New Hampshire.

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  14. Caminente, I was not saying that the Thirty-Nine Articles trump the Apostles and Nicene Creeds. I was responding to your allegation that it was impossible to be both an Anglican and a Calvinist by pointing out that the Articles were themselves an expression of Reformed thought.

    Some of the Articles, particularly a few at the end, are very much addressed to particular concerns of the time - but the Articles set forth the core of the Christian faith as expressed in Scripture. They are not nearly as detailed as the Belgic Confession or some other confessions of the Reformation, but they express the core content of the Christian faith, and repudiate some of the deformations that had grown up in the Church of Rome.

    The Articles were adopted by the American church in 1801. Exactly what that meant is not clear - but whatever the GC intended, it was NOT a repudiation of the doctrines expressed in the Articles.

    So, if I, a Calvinist, ordained by an Episcopal bishop, am not an Anglican, then what am I?

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  15. Caminante: I don't think anyone is suggesting that the 39 Articles trump the creeds. While neither clergy nor laity in TEC (or in the ACNA, for that matter) are required to subscribe to them, I don't think we can say that those who do are somehow "un-Anglican." And to the extent that the Articles are "moderately Calvinist," it's possible to be both Calvinist and Anglican.

    Peter: I don't see any hope in the immediate future for TEC and ACNA to work together (except possibly on the very local level). There's too much bad blood, and we're talking about two groups that are claiming exclusive rights to the Anglican "franchise" in the U.S. with no willingness on either side to share.

    Dah-Veed: Isn't up to Mark Harris to decide whether another poster is a troll who should be asked to stay away from this blog?

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  16. Hi Alcibiades, Thanks for your well-made points. Yes, there are many concerns which I share with you about Sydney Diocese and its attitudes to otherwise fine Anglicans within it and outside of it.

    Hi Paul Powers, I acknowledge that there is 'bad blood' between ACNA and TEC. That is sad. It would be a pity to find that, when all was said and done, there was no hope at all for reconciliation within, say, our lifetimes.

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  17. Hi, Peter: I guess whether there's likely to be a reconciliation during our lifetimes depends on how old we are. :-). I hope so too, but I think it's going to take time for both sides to realize that 1) there are more important things in this life than being recognized as "the" (or even as "a") U.S. province of the AC, 2) a group that is willing to walk away from the disputed properties may be better off than one that insists on fighting over every square inch of dirt, and 3) this quarrel is distracting both groups from the of proclaiming the gospel to the world.

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  18. “We may not agree with Peter, but he's always civil (unlike some others in past posts).”--Marshall Scott

    Quite true. I’ve always found him to be a gentleman. Like our Aussie friend Obadiah (John S.), he can disagree with someone without becoming disagreeable.

    Kurt Hill
    Brooklyn USA

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  19. Please be careful that in your opposition to the ACNA that you don't end up making this Church and the Anglican Communion out to be something that looks not much like what it actually is. I suspect that if the ACNA (and/or their ilk) did not refer to itself as a "province" that you would not be so quick to assert that the Anglican Communion does not have "provinces" - or perhaps that the Episcopal Church is not the "Anglican Province" in the U.S.A.

    While I certainly do not support the ACNA in its attempt to illegitimately claim to be the "39th Province" of the Anglican Communion, I also cannot deny that I came to the Episcopal Church because it is the Anglican Church/Province in the U.S. territory. Anglican spirituality is what drew me and holds me, not the institutional, organizational structure of a denomination.

    My experience and research suggests that in the aggregate most younger people (and probably new younger parishioners) care far more about the spiritual "form" rather than the institutional organization. This is one reason why I think younger people will be willing to have both organizational entities co-exist in the same territory and all be called Anglican. If both organizations insist on years of battling one another, both will lose. Does that make sense?

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  20. The Anglican Church, because it has no confession or catechism, relies on precious few documents to define itself. The most important of these is the 39 Articles of Religion. (The Bible is of course the most important in defining general Christian not particular church.) The Articles clearly lay out what it means to be Anglican...or so they are taken to be. To Caminante I would have to say that the Articles themselves are very Calvinistic in nature, but more reserved in the expression of it than are our Presbyterian brothers. The real issue is not whether the ACNA is to Calvinistic to be Anglican, but whether the rest of the Communion is Calvinistic enough.

    Can you claim to be something that your founding documents disagree with? I would say no, you make the claim falsely. If Rome says that you must believe in transubstantiation, but you do not...are you Roman? No, the church makes you anathema. I contend it is like this with any group, that if you reject the defining characteristics of the group, you are not a part of it.

    I am not trying to make trouble here, but I find it very upsetting when people claim to be something that they patently cannot be; because they do not hold the required beliefs of the group.

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