The Strange Case of ACNA Military Chaplains

The Anglican Church in North America is packing in the Chaplains - Military Chaplains, that is. They come from various parts of the spectrum of Christian belief.  George Conger reports that 
"The number of ACNA chaplains has almost doubled over the past year Bishop Jones told The Church of England Newspaper, with many coming from other Protestant denominations.  “For many” of the new chaplains, the Anglican option for ministry in the United States was blocked because “the only option for them was the Episcopal Church."

Two items to note here:  The Bishop Jones in question is Derek Jones, whose ordination as bishop is odd indeed.  He joined ACNA in 2010. Read Conger on him HERE. The protestant chaplains wanted "the Anglican option" but somehow were blocked from doing so in the past because "the only option for them was the Episcopal Church."  Now, just out of curiosity, just why were they not able to do so through TEC? Perhaps the next paragraph tells us:

 "With the creation of the ACNA “these chaplains realized an orthodox option was now available and began making applications,” he noted, adding that the “training and education” of the those from outside the Anglican tradition takes from six months to a year."

So, had they gone into TEC the process would have taken longer. They would have had to, say, join a congregation, be approved by bishop and standing committee for ordination, undergone training and education that might well have taken more than a year. Had they gone through TEC the process of changing denomination and becoming Anglican would have taken longer, if they were accepted at all. These already existing chaplains were simply brought into ACNA, and is six to twelve months ordained as Anglican chaplains. 

This is a great way to increase ACNA's clergy rolls while not having to spend much on their training and not having to spend a dime on their support (it all coming from the military). 

Then there are some who come from TEC. Supposedly there are many more, but ACNA suggests caution:

"A number of chaplains have also come from the Episcopal Church he said, and “there are many chaplains with the Episcopal Church who have inquired about transferring, but we have encouraged them to hang tight” for now.

The reception process for Episcopal priests depends on the individual’s circumstances, Bishop Jones said, and is based on their “home diocese, current maturity within rank, grade, and seniority structures, and the chaplain’s ability to ‘weather the storm’ should they become identified as wanting to move to an orthodox communion.”

What is this about?  Perhaps it is the fear that should it be known that Chaplain X was thinking about leaving TEC for ACNA they might be deposed, which at the very least looks odd on a resume and or application. Or perhaps it has something to do with the oddities of Church pensions. Who knows. But all of this is odd indeed.

Ah, but then Conger reports, 

"He (Bishop Jones) added that he had advised a number of Episcopal clergy “to be patient so that they may remain supportive of their bishop, many of whom are under the crosshairs [of the national church hierarchy]” for their traditionalist views."

So that is it: the supposed problem is that the chaplains who want to cross over might be in trouble, and more some of their bishops are "under the corsshairs ... for their traditionalist views."

The wonders of paranoia are amazing to watch. Bishop Jones has amazingly poor Anglican credentials. He is training clergy to be Anglican Chaplains, a process that seems to take only six months to a year to complete. He came in out of a church called the "Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches," not exactly a church with a solid grounding in Anglican polity or theology. 

This is a mess. ACNA could have done better. It doesn't need to jack up its clergy numbers. It for sure doesn't need Bishop Jones. And the paranoid notion that there are traditionalist bishops who are in the cross hairs of TEC who would be made to suffer if their clergy chaplains went over to ACNA is just a little strange.


  1. So, I think, is the thought that there are more traditionalist chaplains who are in the crosshairs.

    However, there is one distinct difficulty. To function in the Armed Forces, a chaplain must have ecclesiastical endorsement. Ecclesiastical endorsement requires being in good standing in the denomination, and goes beyond that to state that the chaplain has specific vocation for military chaplaincy (or other specialized ministry. Healthcare chaplaincy and pastoral counseling also require ecclesiastical endorsement.)

    ACNA is a recognized endorsing body (as are, apparently, a number of other groups that exist in distinction from, if not in outright opposition to, the Episcopal Church. However, when a chaplain changes traditions, he or she has to have the new endorsement in hand before relinquishing the old. If there were a gap - if the chaplain had a period having publicly relinquished one endorsement before completing the new - the chaplain could lose his position with the military.

    Now, that's not particularly an Episcopal/Anglican issue. I'm sure over the years other chaplains have made other decisions. However, in any case to function a chaplain must have ecclesiastical endorsement to function. Obviously, leaving the Episcopal Church would certainly result in withdrawal of endorsement (regardless of the character of the chaplain). So, until the prospective chaplain was ready to function fully as with ACNA endorsement, he or she would have to remain in the Episcopal Church until the necessary changes had been made.

  2. "It doesn't need to jack up its clergy numbers."

    There you (and I) go again, Mark, thinking like an Episcopalian. *We* don't need to "jack up our numbers" (numbers are what they are: nothing less and nothing more).

    For ACNA (and its "orthodox" mindset), numbers are the Be All and End All. Numbers are how you proclaim your Godliness, your orthodoxy.

    ...and they're appealing (esp. across the Pond) to those who think the same way: "Of course, ACNA is a going/growing enterprise: just look at our numbers! Whereas TEC is wasting away unto nothingness in a generation or two at most!"

    It's all very silly---this relying human entreneurship/marketing, instead of the living God-in-Christ---but it's the way they think.

  3. Our tax dollars at work-they are not only paid by the military but so are their benefits-and their retirements, too, if they stay long enough.

  4. from danieljtb

    Dear Rev. Canon Mark
    Greetings I am retired from ministry and church. I am TEC and keep up to date on the goingons in Anglicanland. I seldom ever post: I have posted a couple of times at Madpriest's place and at Rev. liz's Telling Secrets.

    I send this to you as a post; although preferring that it not get posted on you site as it is somewhat off topic....
    this is more of a personal shoutout
    concerning CEEC (communion of evangelical episcopal churches), as you mentioned them in relation to the "Bp Jones and ACNA" activities.

    I have nothing to say concerning Jones and ACNA and I won't comment on the standing of CEEC's "anglican polity and theology" other than to say that their roots stem from celtic and india anglicanism. But the proof of the pudding rests, for me, in their dealing here in the US and elsewhere with First Nations peoples.

    As you have spent time with natives at Dine, i am sure you are aware of the problems that first nations people have when churches demonize their ways and traditions. You are
    also probably aware of the importance of true contextual
    ministry approaches, and that conservative churches are generally opposed to such ways .

    CEEC, though offically conservative in some ways, has been quite
    visionary and stellar in this regard.

    I was honored, about 11 years ago, to spend a few years in fellowship and ministry with CEEC natives; including a Tligit priest soon to be bishop, and the then presiding
    bishop/archbishop of the CEEC

    During my time with them, they accepted me and let me join in
    counsel and ministry, even though i was a white guy and TEC.

    Through actions with their PB and house of bishops, we were able to create their first native diocese and a new native bishop...this led to the creation of more native diocese and church plantings in both north and central america.

    All of these first nation ministries are true first nations and true Jesus...not white guy conservative, evangelical church in any way. Pretty dare inclusive and anglican. And the CEEC does not try to control the process nor outcomes, but rather see themselves as protectors in the background, of First Nations Apostalic

    I am as proud of CEEC in their prophetic vision, as i am in
    TEC in their prophetic vision.

    Two very different Episcopal denominations, but both manifesting true gospel to the outcast
    and oppressed.
    thank you for listening
    the Lord be with you

  5. Hello Mark,

    Episcopalians of all people should know that saying something is "odd" is kind of meaningless and says nothing about the value of something.

    A lot of things are odd. Much of the Bible is odd, that doesn't make it less true or good.

    I am proudly a member of an ACNA church. We are rapidly growing and are alive in faith. We need more clergy because we are planting more churches, because we oddly believe that growth is good, and offering people a church home in the Anglican tradition and a "mere christianity" theology is a good thing. Also, more clergy means we can offer more to the poor, the needy, and the heartbroken. That is stuff churches do. Odd indeed!

    ACNA is a reality, and will be a growing reality. Lawsuits or blog postings cannot change that reality. We are here, we are queer, get used to it.

    Peace brother Mark!


  6. Dan
    I can't address allegatios of padding numbers of clergy but the professed disdain for numbers is rather telling. God may not care about numbers but every number is another soul and God sure does care about souls. (Credit the late Lee Buck for teaching me that)

  7. Also, more clergy means we can offer more to the poor, the needy, and the heartbroken. That is stuff churches do. Odd indeed!

    That is the work of the clergy? That is actually the work of all Christians by reason of their baptism. ACNA does not need clergy to carry on those ministries. If ACNA is failing in those ministries then it could well be a mindset concentrating on the wrong folks to carry it out.

  8. David,

    More clergy = more planted churches = more people to work in concert to help the poor, needy and heartbroken.

    It's that simple my friend. ACNA is far from failing in those ministries. Just more churches = wider delivery of those ministries.


  9. "Hack" a Freudian slip, or what?

  10. I don't think he is saying ACNA laity can offer no ministry to the poor, the needy and the heartbroken.

    ACNA laity are involved in all manner of ministry, as are TEC laity. However, whether you're ACNA or TEC, there are some ministries (particularly the sacramental ministries) that only clergy can offer.

  11. Jack...the "odd" here was the ordination of Bishop Jones. That was a polite way of saying "the questionable" ordination of Bishop Jones.

    As to ACNA being alive in the faith and growing, I agree that it is and it is. I have commented before on the fact that although I think ACNA wrongheaded in its beginning and its assessment of The Episcopal Church, I admire the fact that it pledges itself to new church plants, growth and reaching the unchurched of North America.

    The increase in military chaplains however is another matter.

    Yes, of course, ACNA is a reality, perhaps it is a growing one. The sooner it finds its identification as something other than a reactionary community -reacting against the supposed excesses of TEC - the better.

    You write, "we are here, we are queer, get used to it." Whatever do you mean?

    Jack...do I know you elsewhere than on this bloggy thingy?

  12. David Bena, whose consecration as suffragan bishop of Albany is unquestionably valid in Anglican eyes, would surely offer more appropriate oversight than Jones. In addition, Bishop Bena, who, as a Marine bombadier-navigator (the guy responsible for reaching the assigned target and, I gather, for dropping the load) flew more than 250 bombing missions during the Vietnam business, has extensive military experience.

  13. We are here, we are queer, get used to it.

    Your "queer" =/= "loving someone of the same sex" (Just to be clear).

    Funny, you appropriate our slogan---could you carry our cross? (Ask David Kato, or any of the unknown millions of anti-LGBT violence). When you ever put down the crucifier's hammer, let us know...

  14. Crucifier's hammer? -- are you calling the personal friend of Kato a crucifier? Someone he bailed out of prison? Someone who shared his living space? It is not clear what that has to do with a blog commentator who was not involved in the least. Unless everything is metaphor, or fantasy...let's come back down to earth. Kurt

  15. I think JCF meant that anonymous should look at the hammer he's holding in his own hand right now.

  16. Given his military experience, Bishop Bena would no doubt have been an excellent choice as the ACNA's suffragan for chaplaincies. However, if he served in Vietnam, he's probably getting close to retirement age, and may not have been interested in the position.

    The George Conger article focuses on questions about the validity and/or regularity of Bishop Jones' orders. This should be an important issue for the ACNA, but I'm not sure why people in TEC would care one way or the other.

    The Conger article says nothing about Bishop Jones' experience and qualifications as a chaplain, but according to his biography, he has both military and chaplaincy experience, so except for questions about his orders, his choice as the ACNA's suffragan for chaplaincies doesn't seem that strange.

    Mark, you said in a comment: "The sooner it finds its identification as something other than a reactionary community -reacting against the supposed excesses of TEC - the better."

    Your mileage may vary, as they say, but I think that's starting to happen already more than you may realize. It's certainly the case in my parish (and diocese, as far as I can tell) where about the only time TEC is even mentioned is in connection to the property lawsuits. And even then, it's not something we dwell on. Instead, we try to focus on "doing the work the Lord has called for us to do." I suspect that the same is true of our TEC brothers and sisters. Those whose only knowledge of TEC or the ACNA are the various blogs may have a distorted picture of what either church is about.

  17. I personally know of three former TEC priests who strongly pursued or who are now military chaplains in the ACNA. For individuals called to be priests and who have traditional beliefs, military chaplaincy provides a way to continue to serve God and to get a pay check. The priests I know all have young children. And some priests just aren't cut out to be church planters.

    Because the doors are either closed into TEC (my personal experience) or repulsive because of TEC's direction (they just can't in good conscience continue in TEC), military chaplaincy has had quite a surge as a viable way to keep serving God. I suspect many of these men (and the fewer women) will find their way into the pastorate later in life and will take over ACNA churches that others have planted, pastoring rather than planting being more their call. The ACNA is celebrating an absolutley unplanned and surprising surge in ministry, once again due to TEC's driving off the cliff into their new religion.

  18. One thought that occurs to me: the armed services have had a very hard time maintaining enough chaplains from liturgical traditions. To some extent that's ameliorated by a shift in the personnel broadly so that there are more Christians in the services from evangelical traditions than from liturgical traditions. On the other hand, it's been exacerbated by the shortage of Roman priests. My guess is that all clergy from bodies with connections to the Anglican tradition (including ACNA, the Charismatic Episcopal Church [which did not begin in separating from the Episcopal Church], and several others that endorse for military chaplaincy) would be considered "liturgical" for the purposes of the services. For the purposes of the services, that would be valuable.


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.