8/06/2011

What the Boys of ACNA have learned: Do as I say, not as I do.

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)."

17 comments:

  1. The social-psychiatrist in me has to ask, What is the point of using the word 'boys' in this way?

    I see this frequently now.

    Is it something harking back to the playground/adolescence?

    I am no particular fan of ACNA. I can't imagine referring to the PB and the President of the HOD as 'girls.'

    You are a member of Executive Council and I'd have thought this was not the proper way to talk.

    But leaving that aside, what is the point in using this word?

    Franklin

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  2. Back in the day some TEC bishops, purists from Wantland to Iker and on and on, were opposed to ordaining women or not-closeted gay and lesbians. Problem was they had no way to avoid criticism and pressure from their colleagues. Especially when those colleagues chose to remind them that their ordination promises (that messy "doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church" stuff) required allegiance to the BCP with its own messy "respect the dignity of every human being stuff." Admittedly, some were ordained under another prayer book ordinal but they did decide to stay post 1979.
    Along comes ACNA and many of those who would otherwise by conscience (of a sort) be forced to resign their vows now have a place to exercise authority. But no messiness in this church. By so ordaining as they do ACNA has recouped the imagined past of a ritually pure class of persons headed by powerful gate-keeper bishops.
    None of this surprises, since purity is the watchword for all that moves ACNA.

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  3. I would guess that Father Mark is using "boys" in a similar context as one would when referring to the "boys of summer.' He is pointing out that they are all male, as it is doubtful that there will be females in the ACNA episcopacy.

    Mark is not usually disrespectful.

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  4. If the issue is gender, the appropriate word would be 'men' and not 'boys' -- just as the PB and President of HOD are 'women' and not 'girls.'

    You have not explained the use of the word 'boys' by the Executive Council member. I guess we just add this to 'sucks' as intentional put-down.

    Franklin

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  5. You have not explained the use of the word 'boys' by the Executive Council member.

    Yeah, as all can see, I did. You are free to not accept it, of course. You rarely except anything offered by others here. What does the social-psychiatrist in you tell you about that?

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  6. Just a procedural question: what about all those who were ordained in TEC before leaving for ACNA? Is this obedience stuff retroactive to them as well? Logic would seem to say so.

    I agree, the tradition of conscience seems to have been kicked out of the clubhouse.

    Jim

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  7. ["You rarely except anything offered by others here. What does the social-psychiatrist in you tell you about that?" You meant "accept", Dahveed. But other than that...Win!]

    a Person is of virtuous conduction

    "Conduction"? AC or DC? (We know it's not AC/DC! *LOL*)

    withstand and convince those who contradict it...to banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange Doctrine contrary to God's Word

    Is anyone else struck by the overwhelming DEFENSIVENESS in this language? Where's confidence-in-the-Lord? Gospel joy? No thanks.

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  8. Yes, Dr Fisher, you are correct. I can have both my grammar and spelling checked, but I have not come up with something to alert me to the wrong word in English. Especially if I have spelled it correctly.

    ; )

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  9. One of my favorite lines from the ordinal is on page 2:

    "This edition does not print language for either the Lord's Prayer or the Nicene Creed, as this language has not yet been decided upon by the College of Bishops."

    This raises many obvious questions but a less obvious one to me is, "If you haven't settled such basic and critical 'language' as the Nicean Creed and the Lord's Prayer, why are you ordaining folks?"

    Who would enter ministry in a church with such unsettled questions?

    It's also clear that lay, deacons and priests have little or no input.

    Andy

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  10. It tells me that people who use language like 'boys' are threatened and use diminishing terms.

    Grace and peace

    Franklin

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  11. There is an ecumenical sensitivity re: filioque. My hunch is that this is the issue re: Nicene Creed.

    (Canadian and Scottish branches of anglicanism have no filioque options in their modern service books).

    Franklin

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  12. Christopher (P.)6/8/11 6:41 PM

    JCF--the language is directly from the 1928 prayer book, and its absence in the 1979 book much lamented by the conservatives in my parish. Diligence, Horatius and the bridge, and all that.

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  13. Oh you [anonymous] boys give me a headache! Talk about straining at a gnat instead of addressing what Mark actually said. Good night, all.

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  14. Mark's pejorative is OK with me. ACNA's is not a mature or inclusive theology. He could have called them much worse. "Hypocrites" comes to mind.
    Seems to me another comment string - about the continued presumption, action and damage of ACNA's fun-damn-mentalism - could have been more fruitful.
    Can we go there?
    Dann

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  15. Yes, ChristopherP, I figured as much. [1928 retaining 1662, I suppose?]

    And my comment stands.

    I don't believe in inevitable progress. I do believe in learning from past mistakes.

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  16. Christopher (P.)7/8/11 6:56 AM

    JCF--yes, I looked it up, retaining 1662, and 1559, and 1552!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Please explain what being disposed means under acna.

    ReplyDelete

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