The Anglican Church in North America has just published an Ordinal to be used in ACNA ordinations. Now one might ask, why does that concern anyone outside ACNA? Indeed, ACNA is its own church and can do what it wants, I suppose. Still, any Ordinal that supposes to ordain bishops, priests and deacons for the whole church universal has some effect on the rest of us. And to be honest, we can all learn from one another, even from those who consider those of us in The Episcopal Church to have wandered off into heresy and the foggy lands of new and strange doctrines.
We might ask if there are things to be learned from such an Ordinal and filed away against the day of our revision of the Prayer Book services? We might also ask, for example, would a priest ordained in ACNA have to be re-ordained in The Episcopal Church or not? Would he or she have to be if ordained by one of the bishops we deposed? And so on.
There are some nice touches in these services, a wondrous linguistic oddity and a special (and somewhat cynical) learning.
Nice touches: Prayers / admonishments to accompany the vesting and anointing of the new deacon, priest or bishop. A little over the top liturgically, (keep those Maniples handy, the Anglo-Catholics will rise again). but there it is.
The linguistic oddity is the word "conduction" as in "And the Bishop, knowing either by himself, or by sufficient testimony, that a Person is of virtuous conduction, and without crime, after examination and trial, finding them sufficiently instructed in the Holy Scripture, and otherwise educated as the Canons require, may, in the presence of the Church, admit them as a Deacon, or admit a Deacon as a Priest, in such manner and form as follows." Why wouldn't "conduct" work here? Seems a bit of frippery.
Now for the special learning.
Back in the old days, Mr. Duncan was ordained with the following swear:
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, I, N.N., chosen bishop of the Church in N., solemnly declare that I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church."
When he was ordained deacon and priest he did the same only the wind up for the pitch began with a question "Will you be loyal to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them? And will you, in accordance with the canons of this Church, obey your bishop and all other ministers who may have authority over you and your work?" to which the candidate was to respond, "I am willing and ready to do so; and I solemnly declare that...."
At the same time as candidate for priest he was required to answer the question, "Will you respect and be guided by the pastoral direction and leadership of your bishop?" by saying "I will," and as deacon the question, "Will you be guided by the pastoral direction and leadership of your bishop?" by saying "I will.
The boys of ACNA (all bishops are boys in ACNA-land) wanted to make it very very clear that what was going on was an oath of conformity and an oath of obedience. So for both deacons and priests this is what candidates are to do and say:
"The Bishop shall then require the Ordinands to take the Oath of Conformity saying
The Canons require that no one may be ordained a Deacon in the Church until such person has subscribed without reservation to the Oath of Conformity. It is also required that each Ordinand subscribe without reservation to the Oath of Canonical Obedience. In the presence of this
congregation, I now charge you to make your solemn declaration of these oaths.
Each Ordinand then declares separately
I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and therefore I hold myself bound to conform my life and ministry thereto, and do solemnly engage to conform to the Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of Christ as this Church has received them.
Each Ordinand then declares the following Oath of Canonical Obedience as well, saying
I, N.N., do swear by almighty God that I will pay true and canonical obedience in all things lawful and honest to the Bishop of ____________, and his successors: So help me God."
No leeway for less than absolute conformity and obedience here. "I hold myself bound to conform my life and ministry thereto..." and "engage to conform to the Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of Christ as this Church has received them." The oath of conformity seems more stringent than the oath taken in The Episcopal Church, but the question as to what counts as binding oneself to "conform my life and ministry thereto" is still a bit squishy. Still, it is called straightforwardly an "oath of conformity."
It is the second oath that is the winner. Here the oath of obedience is to the Bishop of a diocese or "episcopal unit" , to him and "his successors." The oath of canonical obedience is not to the canons or to one's bishop where canonically resident, but to a specific bishop, "by title," and to his successors.
Ho Ho Ho....the boys learned the hard way the value of "Do as I say, not as I do." Some of them may have romped around the less straightforward questions of The Episcopal Church ordination services and believed that conscience trumps obedience (which it does), so that they were not under obedience to ecclesiastical authority in The Episcopal Church, as concerns their exercise of priestly ministry (but they were).
But now that the shoe is on the other foot, they are not about to allow that in ACNA. No more of that nonsense. In ACNA the oath of obedience is not vaguely to the constitution and canons and the pastoral leadership of your bishop, but to "the bishop of _______and his successors."
And about bishops, ACNA is for the oath of conformity as per priests and deacons, but no oath of obedience. Fair enough. Neither does TEC. And, to their credit, the phrase "the power of your princely Spirit" is not in the ACNA prayer.
In The Episcopal Church the examination includes these phrases, "You are called to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church..." and "Will you guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church?"
The Anglican Church in North America ordinal asks,
"Will you then faithfully study the Holy Scriptures, and call upon God by prayer for the true understanding of the same; so that you may be able by them to teach and exhort with wholesome Doctrine, and to withstand and convince those who contradict it." and
"Are you ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange Doctrine contrary to God's Word; and both privately and publicly to call upon others and encourage them to do the same?"
One could argue that guarding the faith, etc, is much like "exhorting wholesome Doctrine, and to withstand and convince those who contradict it," and like the effort to "drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange Doctrine contrary to God's Word." But it sure has a different feel.
Most interestingly, TEC Bishops are specifically asked "Will you share with your fellow bishops in the government of the whole Church?" ACNA Bishops are not.
So what do we have here? Well, the boys from ACNA have learned from their own practice that obedience needs to be really clear - deacons and priests are obedient to a specific bishop of jurisdiction and his successors. So if, say, you are deposed as a priest in ACNA and you are at all obedient to your oaths, you accept deposition at the hand of your bishop and there it is. If you don't accept such deposition then you are violating your oath of canonical obedience. Obviously some in ACNA leadership did not practice what they teach now when they were in Episcopal-land, but they know better now.
As for bishops in ACNA, they are not identified in ordination as bishops of (or out of) a particular diocese or setting. They are a bit more "free range." They don't make a swear to share in common governance. That I presume is part of their canonical responsibility as part of the college of bishops.
An interesting additional note: The ACNA rubrics for the ordination of a priest or deacon state, "the Bishop, knowing either by himself, or by sufficient testimony, that a Person is of virtuous conduction, and without crime, after examination and trial, finding them sufficiently instructed in the Holy Scripture, and otherwise educated as the Canons require, may, in the presence of the Church, admit them as a Deacon, or admit a Deacon as a Priest, in such manner and form as follows..."
The service does have presenters who are asked to certify that a candidate is canonically and otherwise qualified. So what gives here? The directions make it possible for the bishop to proceed without reference to other testimonials, but the service provides for them.
The TEC directions for the ordination of a Priest states that at least two presbyters must be present. The ACNA ordinal makes no such requirement, although it later assumes that presbyters are present for the laying on of hands.
All in all an interesting bit of work, this Ordinal, some of it praiseworthy. None of this "Princely powers" business, bishops being a bit free to ordain at will, or the will of the Spirit, bishops not straightforwardly committed to the governance of the whole church or precisely ordained by location.
And yet, in its having a specific oath of Canonical obedience the ordinal makes it clear that no foggy mutterings about conscience making deposition null and void. If you are sworn to canonical obedience it means, Bubba, that you take being deposed as you would take any other lawful action of your bishop.You obey. Of course you could run away from the whole thing and live in the land of denial, but as far as the Church was concerned you would now be living in the land of disobedience.
Yes indeed, the boys of ACNA have learned:"Do as I say, not as I do (or did)."