Does the Episcopal Church share the faith and order as generally held by the Angican Communion churches?

As reported by George Conger, Canon Kenneth Kearon, the General Secretary of the Anglican Communion, believes that - by virtue of being Episcopalian, members of The Episcopal Church do not share the faith and order of the church as generally held by Anglican Communion Churches. For this reason they were bounced from formal membership in ecumenical dialogues.

Here is what George Conger wrote:

"On June 7, 2010 ACC general secretary the Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon announced that he had written to the American participants, including Dr. Petersen “informing them that their membership of these [ecumenical] dialogues has been discontinued.”

Speaking to the press during the Canadian General Synod in Halifax last year, Canon Kearon explained that: “If they don’t share the faith and order, then they shouldn’t represent the Communion on faith and order questions.”

The Americans had been stood down as “at the very minimum to be honouring to our ecumenical partners so that they know who they are in conversation with,” Canon Kearon said.

The subsequent appointment of an American priest and a Canadian bishop whose diocese had formally instituted gay blessings to the ARCIC team was permitted, the ACC explained as the Canadian national church had not endorsed gay blessings, and the American priest—through still canonically resident in the Diocese of Chicago—was teaching in the UK.

The reappointment of one of the dismissed Americans to the ALIC, with the same role in the dialogue as before but with the new title of “consultant” further diminished the credibility and integrity of the ACC staff, one Global South leader told CEN."

The whole article can be read HERE.

"Faith and Order" is not simply a set of three words bandied about for fun. "Faith and Order" has its references back to a movement, one begun in the latter part of the 19th and beginning part of the 20th century. The World Council of Churches describes the focus of this work as follows:

"The desire to heal or prevent Christian division is as old as Christian division itself, which, as the New Testament testifies, dates to the very origins of Christianity. Yet in the modern ecumenical movement of the past century, the attempts to heal have quite broadly taken two complementary forms, which might be characterized as "discussing together" and "doing together." In any human division, whether on the level of a family, a friendship or an institution, reunion needs to be a combination of discussing -- what happened to bring about the division, what is it that really divides us, what can be done to bring us together, and doing -- beginning already to act in some way together and build, or rebuild, some kind of common life.

The movements which arose at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, movements which spawned the modern ecumenical movement, reflected these forms. The doing was represented by the Life and Work Movement, while the discussing was the task of the Faith and Order Movement. One needs to emphasize once again that these two areas of activity and their concerns were always seen as complementary: the discussing is about what Christians do and what they are, and the doing involves a great deal of cooperative discussion!" (See the discussion HERE.)

"Faith and Order" is then primarily a hoped for unity in faith and order, not a realized hope. The movement is towards unity, not descriptive of unity. So when Canon Kearon stated, "“If they don’t share the faith and order, then they shouldn’t represent the Communion on faith and order questions” he misspoke. What he meant was "If they (The Episcopal Church) don't share the same faith and order perspectives as do all or most Anglicans, they shouldn't represent the Communion perspective in faith and order questions."

Is it the fact that The Episcopal Church does not share the same faith and order perspectives with other Anglican Churches?  What precisely constitutes a matter of faith and order so central as to divide member churches of the Anglican Communion into two camps - those who believe one way and those who believe another - and lead the good Canon Kearon to proclaim that people in group A do into hold the same perspectives on faith and order as people in group B and therefore should be excluded from ecumenical conversations?

I gather almost all Anglicans, in The Episcopal Church and everywhere else, maintain the elements of the Lambeth Quadrilateral to be central: Scripture, Creeds, Sacraments, and Episcopal oversight, are all there. 

How we understand the morality that is informed by Scripture is an issue, but that we believe morality is so informed is not. How individuals in the various churches of the Communion come to understand creedal doctrine is a matter of some controversy, but the fact is, we all say the creeds regularly, and with good heart. We pretty much take the sacraments of baptism and Eucharist in the most ecumenically well attested way. We vary considerably in our understanding of the episcopate as it works its way in our various contexts. But still, over all, we are much more in unity of faith and order than one might expect from a loosely gathered community of churches that we call the Anglican Communion.

So the differences that would lead Canon Kearon to say that we "don’t share the faith and order"?  

Well, The Episcopal Church has been further than some on the route of believing that Christians can divorce and later remarry, that women can be in Holy Orders, that children not yet confirmed can receive Communion, that women can be bishops (oops...that's simply one of the Holy Order things, but you can't tell it by talking to some folk), that blessing relationships other than heterosexual marriage is OK, and that gay and lesbian persons in committed relationships can be ordained, and of course ordained bishops. 

Of course it turns out that not all Episcopalians hold these views, but over the years the Church in General Convention has affirmed all of the above. The question is, are these differences about "faith and order" as concerns basic Christian doctrine and common life, or are these differences that arise and require us to remember that "new occasions teach new duties"? 

New occasions do not arise for all at the same time. Even the great dividers in Christendom were insights that have been more freely incorporated across barriers of ages as time goes by. No, "faith and order" is a not a matter of Anglican Churches, as a collective, having a set "faith and order" and then taking that set of positions to other Churches who have other faiths and other orders. "Faith and Order" are about our hope for the future, not about the separations of the moment.

In this moment in the Anglican Communion there are divisions of opinion within each Church and among the Churches in terms of polity and practice, moral interpretation and teaching. Yet across the world people are constantly called to engage Scripture, proclaim a Trinitarian faith, live sacramentally, and be guided by guardians of that faith into healthy and life giving communities. 

Canon Kearon misspoke. Members of The Episcopal Church were not booted from ecumenical conversations because they don't share "faith and order" with other Anglicans. They were booted because they don't share the same sense of the implications of faith and order that other Anglicans might have. But of course that is true for members of other Anglican churches serving on committees. There is no guarantee that a member of an ecumenical conversation who came from, say, Kenya, would be more pure and undefiled than some one from the US.

As to the matter of particular bishops, clergy or laity who speak outside the norm, no church is without such members who have what influence they have and having exercised that influence move on. 

AnglicansDownUnder has raised the question of some remarks by Bishop Gene Robinson as an example in support of just why an Anglican Covenant is a good idea.  It appears that Bishop Robinson said, " “I know Jesus to be the son of God,” he told a group of about 50 people, “but what a small, limited God we would have if that was the only manifestation."

ADU goes on to say, (and I quote at length because the argument is interesting) 

" Now this is a media reported statement not a theological essay or paper, so I am not going to declare this to be evidence of heresy. But, on the face of it, here is an Anglican bishop making a christological statement which, putting it diplomatically, falls below the Nicene and Chalcedonian par.

The least we could expect of Anglican bishops around the world is that, different and diverse though they may wish to be on human sexuality, whether Hooker meant this or that re Scripture, reason and tradition, and what robes should be worn on which occasion, they all subscribe to the common ecumenical creeds.

The statement above is not unique as a sign that not all Anglican bishops are completely convinced of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the only begotten Son of the Father in whom the fullness of God dwells.

One reason for agreeing to the Covenant is that we recognise all the way around the Anglican globe that some common belief is needed for our communion as a Communion to have concrete meaning.

The Covenant may or may not have implications for +Gene in other respects (as some fervantly wish the Covenant to do or not to do). But I hope the Covenant, when established, would lead
over the course of time to a weeding out  from the life of our Communion, bishops who fall short of theological faithfulness to the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. (For clarity: church law is way too complicated to try to weed out current bishops on doctrinal grounds;, by 'weeding out' I mean that in the fullness of time Anglican dioceses guided and inspired by Covenanted Anglicanism will elect bishops adhering fully to orthodox, creedal Christianity)."

Oddly, I agree with 
“I know Jesus to be the son of God but what a small, limited God we would have if that was the only manifestation."  Manifestation (I presume) means "manifestation of God."  I presume Jacob's dream involved a sufficiently manifested presence of God to where he knew that God was in that place.  Manifestation of God means, I suppose still small voices and the Son of Man appearing in the fiery furnace, etc.  Maybe "manifestation of God" could also mean God's appearance in people outside the Jewish / Christian confines all together.

But that does not mean that one's christology is defunct, or that saying the creed is with fingers crossed, or that one is outside the "faith and order" of the Anglican Communion. What it does mean is that the Bishop is stretching the edges of the listener's mind.

To use Bishop Robinson's remark as a reason for supporting the Anglican Covenant is very odd.  I fail to see how he could be called to account by such a Covenant (neither does Carrell).  

I do agree that if there were a Covenant and we all were guided in a more general sense by it, over the years it would become part of the "background noise" against which we would judge the worthiness of candidates for holy orders.  But we already have most of that background in place. All the "elements" of the Covenant "belief" sections are already part of the DNA of The Episcopal Church - our prayer book firmly attests to those elements of the Covenant that derive from the Lambeth Quadrilateral. We are profoundly ordered in baptismal and Eucharistic theology. We understand ourselves to be part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. We are committed to Scripture. 

All that the Covenant can do that we don't already do, is provide some Churches of the Anglican Communion the grounds for excluding other Churches of the Anglican Communion from common ecumenical and communion wide tasks - being on committees, being represented at various Anglican Communion wide meetings, etc, and encourage a form of shunning.

I believe we need to view the Anglican Communion as a peculiar form of ecumenical life. The divisions concerning commonly held expectations about faith and order are no less to be expected within the Anglican Communion than without. 

For the General Secretary to suggest that The Episcopal Church does not share the "faith and order" of the rest of the Communion is absurd.  "Faith and Order" is the unity we seek well beyond the domain of the Anglican Communion. Within the Communion what we need to hold is a common set of core faith and order values out of which our practices will, in context, develop. Those will be quite different from time to time and place to place.  We will have to learn to live with disagreements. The Anglican Covenant will not help us much in this.


  1. Outstanding post, Mark.

    I often find what Fr Carell says to be bordering on heretical...

    ...yet I don't want him "weeded out."

    What I see of ConEv religion, is spindly, dried-out, starving, nearly-dead. It may look like a lifeless (though w/ a viciously invasive seedpod!) weed...

    ...but perhaps they just haven't been properly, y'know, nurtured? As Jesus said of the fruitless figtree, maybe they just need lots and lots of nurture (w/ Tender Loving Care). Lots of fertilizer.

    So, Peter (if you're here): what I say may sound to you like bullsh*t . . . but I really apply it to you lovingly, for your own (eternal, needless to say) Good! ;-)

    No weeding by me. Just my stinky love. <3

  2. What a relief, JCF, only bordering on heretical. I feel like I have had a narrow escape :)

    I don't know, Mark, whether on 'faith and order' TEC falls short as Kearon imputed, but if he ever gave me a call and a flight ticket to investigate, I would want to ask about communion-without-baptism: why does it happen? why is it tolerated? does it betoken something about difference in faith and order?

  3. I'm not sure the church that these days most vigorously "weeds' its clergy and laity and enforces doctrinal conformity with an iron hand is much of a role model.

    Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia resigned yesterday as Archbishop after a second grand jury report accused church authorities of knowingly placing 37 priests accused of child molesting in positions of access to children.

    There's something to be said for ecclesiastical transparency and accountability, and I think the world has much bigger and more urgent problems than who marries whom.

  4. So Communion without baptism - not an approved practice of TEC, BTW - never occurs down-under, Fr Carrell? Approved would-be communicants are ear-chipped like pets, perhaps, and scanned at the communion rail? Maybe the old Scottish practice of issuing communion tokens suffices?

    But how about the theoretically-approved and evolving, far-closer-to-home for you, position of the archdiocese of Sydney on lay administration - a far greater breach of faith and order than the administration of the validly consecrated elements to the unbaptized? Investigating that would mean a far cheaper flight for you.

  5. Fone, sort out both problems (communion of non-baptized and lay presidency). That is precisely what it means to have a 'faith and order.'

    TEC has also introduced 'disorder' in respect of marriage. It intends to do this and is proud of it. It belongs to a 'prophetic' self-identity. So why complain about a standard? TEC wants to break this -- it is a taboo, old fashioned, out of touch, etc.


  6. Why does the Communion qua Communion engage in ecumenical talks at all? Given the extreme diversity within the Communion—even within individual churches—any ecumenical agreements will either be so general as to be meaningless or specific enough as to be unacceptable to at least to some Anglican Communion churches.

    Ecumenical talks should be conducted only between individual churches.

  7. There are indeed serious concerns about 'faith and order' in the Diocese of Sydney re diaconal presidency (which I believe occurs) and lay presidency (which I believe is one archiepiscopal signature away from occurring). In my vision for a renewed faith and order in the Anglican Communion, all irregularities would be sorted out.

    Yes, communion-without-baptism does take place in my own church. It should not happen, but it does. As far as I can tell it is not a widespread practice, nor a publicly discussed practice in which the discussion favours it happening. It could be helpful to us if Kenneth Kearon publicly challenged us on this and any other faith and order matter in which we are out of line with the Communion.

  8. One of the first signs of the fallout from 'disorder' is refusal to fund projects not shared by all. Even in the rather 'lock-step' Diocese of CT, the staff has been cut by 27% we read.

    It is also difficult to decipher the long speech from +Sauls re: spiritual 'ill-health' in 815 and his desire to improve things. One wonders whose toes he will soon be stepping on.


  9. Response appreciated, Fr Carrell.

  10. As I see the issue there is plenty of room for raising questions and even challenging official positions on a number of issues just so long as male heterosexual privilege isn't challenged. Communion without baptism happens elsewhere. There is plenty of spirited discussion about the unique nature of Jesus the Christ in a mult-faith environment. The interpretation of the Creeds is a matter of debate. All these go on in many churches of the Communion without official statements about these churches not sharing in the faith and order of the Communion. But challenge male heterosexual privilege?

  11. And we care about what Canon Kearon says because . . . .?

    I'm sorry. I think we've given boyz like Kearon and Conger way too much air time already.

    Time to turn off the mic.

  12. “The Americans had been stood down as ‘at the very minimum to be honouring to our ecumenical partners so that they know who they are in conversation with,’ Canon Kearon said.”

    This is supremely ironic. If the Communion qua Communion is in conversation with “ecumenical partners,” those partners are in conversation with the entire communion. Removing Episcopalians isn’t clarifying anything. It is hiding the diversity of the Communion. The only way to clarify that “ecumenical partners” are dealing with the group Canon Kearon wants to represent the Communion is to eject The Episcopal Church from the Communion. Anything else is deceptive and disingenuous.


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.