3/04/2017

Anglican Church in North America and the (departed) Diocese of South Carolina

This one requires some close attention.  Here goes:

ACNA, The Anglican Church in North America, claims to unite "112,000 Anglicans in nearly 1,000 congregations across the United States, Canada, and Mexico into a single Church. On April 16, 2009 it was recognized as a province of the global Anglican Communion, by the Primates of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans."

The numbers are not in dispute, at least as far as I know. However, the description of these 112,000 persons as "Anglicans" is in dispute. 

Until ACNA began to emerge as a religious group, "Anglican" was mostly used to refer to members of churches that were part of the Anglican Communion as determined by inclusion in the roster of Anglican Povinces, by the Anglican Consultative Council. That in turn relied upon the list of such bodies recognized by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York as churches in communion with the Church of England that are part of the Anglican Communion.  

So members of the Reformed Episcopal Church (now part of ACNA) were not Anglican, but rather churches with Anglican roots or background. They are churches not in communion with Canterbury, and not part of the Anglican Communion.  So a fair number of the 112,000 worthies in ACNA did not come from Anglican Churches. 

And ACNA is on shaky grounds to say that it is a province of the global Anglican Communion on the basis of recognition by the primates of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.  

The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans may be a global group, but 'Global" is not part of the organizations name. "The Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans" as used in the ACNA writeup on their web pages is a stretch. There is no such GFCA. There is only "The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans."  More importantly recognition by the Primates of the FCA does not make ACNA "a province of the global Anglican Communion."  The "Anglican Communion" has not recognized ACNA as a Province, and recognition by the Primates of FCA does not make it so.

Still, given all that, ACNA has grown and taken on its own life. It is not, in the sense that "Anglican" has been used until recently, "Anglican." It is not part of the global Anglican Communion. It is recognized as a province by a large number of Anglican Communion provinces, many of whom no longer worry much about communion with Canterbury.  ACNA is a church, and is likely to become a bit stronger in the coming days.

A large part of the Diocese of South Carolina left The Episcopal Church and has been working on the issue of where to find its wider church connection. I refer to that diocese as "The departed Diocese of South Carolina," not because it died, but because it left The Episcopal Church or its clergy and bishop were deposed from TEC.  

A report in the Post and Currier  yesterday indicated that the departed Diocese of South Carolina is to decide whether or not to join ACNA next week.  If it does ACNA will probably be able to claim it is now a church of 120,000 souls and over 1000 congregations.  Taking on the departed Diocese of South Carolina would be a real gain for ACNA. 

I think the departed Diocese of South Carolina needs to be careful about this one. ACNA misrepresents itself in several ways.

ACNA lists among its goals, "The Province (ACNA) will seek to represent orthodox North American Anglicans in the
councils of the Anglican Communion."

That goal is carefully written: ACNA  "will seek to represent orthodox North American Anglicans in the councils of the Anglican Communion.That goal does not suggest that only orthodox "North American Anglicans" are Anglicans or part of the councils of the Anglican Communion. But the goal is that ACNA be the representative of such orthodox Anglicans.

Of course that goal is only a stepping stone towards the real goal of ACNA, which is to be THE representative of the Anglican community in North America, replacing the Anglican Church of Canada, The Anglican Church of Mexico and The Episcopal Church as such representatives. The turning point in this move is the world "orthodox."  If ACNA can maintain that it is "orthodox" and TEC, ACoM and ACoC are not orthodox, and convince the Anglican Consultative Council and or the Archbishop of Canterbury of that fact, then replacement of these churches by ACNA is a possibility. 

But for now ACNA seems content to contend that they are the representative of "orthodox North American Anglicans." Apparently that is part of the appeal they make to the departed Diocese of South Carolina.

The thing is, this is mostly a smoke screen of slippery language. ACNA some how takes on the use of "orthodox", "province" and its place in "the global Anglican Communion," without much foundation. 

ACNA is not "orthodox Anglican," not if Anglican means what it meant twenty years ago.
ACNA is not a "province" of anything, but it calls itself a province.
ACNA is not "a province of the global Anglican Communion."

It is a real church, and a worthy one. There is no need to dump on a church that has pulled together a wide range of people who came from are were attracted to the Anglican "way" as they understand it from at least part of their experience of The Episcopal Church or other churches in the Anglican Communion. But ACNA is not, at present, the representative of orthodox Anglicanism in North America, not a province, and certainly not a province of the Anglican Communion.

The departed Diocese of South Carolina, if it chooses to do so next week, will be joining other disaffected, disinherited
 or distanced Anglicans in a new thing, not part of the Anglican Communion and not a province of anything more global that has anything to do with the Anglican Communion as currently constituted.  It may wish to change all that, but until it does it is falsely advertising itself.

Let's be clear: ACNA misrepresents itself. The departed Diocese of South Carolina might do well to take considerable care in aligning itself with ACNA. Misrepresentation is a hard place from which to develop a lasting marriage.


2 comments:

Katie Sherrod said...

Mark,
One not-so-small quibble. The Diocese of South Carolina did not leave The Episcopal Church. Individuals can leave TEC, dioceses cannot. These folks left TEC and called themselves the Diocese of South Carolina, forming themselves into a group recognized by ACNA. The diocese recognized by General Convention remains the only legit diocese. This is complicated, I know, because a judge let them keep the name for now, making the only legit diocese call itself The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. Still doesn't change basic statement -- individuals can leave. Dioceses can't. You can put your boots in the oven but that still don't make 'em biscuits. Just because they say this is so doesn't make it so.
Katie Sherrod
Fort Worth

Bishop Terry Brown said...

One complication is that what you call the "(departed) Diocese of South Carolina" is pursuing legal action in the courts to prove that it is the true Episcopal Church, hence retains the right to the property, seal, assets, etc., of the TEC Diocese of South Carolina. They maintain that it is the rest of TEC that has departed from them and that the provisional diocese in communion with the Presiding Bishop and the rest of TEC is bogus and not TEC at all. Thus they have previously refused to join ACNA as this would compromise their position. It will be interesting to see what they do. (Bishop) Terry Brown