Somewhere in the headwaters of The Episcopal Church (TEC) or the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) there needs to be some attention paid to the fact that the American Anglican Council (AAC) is churning away at the process to declare that the Anglican Church in North America is a province of the Anglican Communion, and that TEC and ACoC are not. There needs to be a response from on high. Something more than a news article.
Until then, let this be a start.
The AAC is playing a dirty game of ecclesiastical politics with hostile takeover in mind.
The American Anglican Council is the mouthpiece for the gang that believes The Episcopal Church has lost its bearings and taken up heresy. From AAC's standpoint TEC's primary heresy is that TEC does not convey the Gospel "once delivered of the saints." The outward and visible signs of its heresy is seen in ordaining women, particularly to the episcopate, and considering sexual orientation no longer a barrier to full inclusion in the ministries of the church. The inward and spiritual depravity (to hear them tell it) is that TEC is not bible based.
The AAC has mounted a long term campaign to dislodge TEC from its place in the Anglican Communion and replace it with The Anglican Church in North America. This week, in an website article, it has admitted to a "10 year process" by which it is moving to hijack TEC's place in the Communion.
For a long time now ACNA has contended that it is indeed part of the Anglican Communion because it is recognized by a number of the largest national churches in the Communion.The churches that recognize ACNA are Sudan, South Sudan (I assume), Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Congo, Rwanda, South America, Southeast Asia, West Africa, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. This is the list of the Primates of the Global South group. They represent 14 out of 39 provinces.
It is about half way to the goal of gaining approval by 2/3rds the Primates of the Communion. That approval is what ACC believes is needed for inclusion in the Anglican Communion.
The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion has contended that, no, ACNA is not part of the Anglican Communion and that the process is not about garnering more and more votes from Provinces that would reject TEC or the Anglican Church of Canada for the ACNA. From the Anglican Communion News Service -
"The Secretary General, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, has stressed that the Anglican Church of North America is not a province of the Anglican Communion. Speaking to ACNS as he delivered his report to the Standing Committee, Archbishop Josiah said he wanted to correct any suggestion that ACNA was the 39th province of the Communion rather than Sudan, which was inaugurated in July.
“It is simply not true to say that ACNA is part of the Anglican Communion,” he said. “To be part of the Communion a province needs to be in communion with the See of Canterbury and to be a member of the Instruments of the Communion. ACNA is not in communion with the See of Canterbury – and has not sought membership of the Instruments.
“There is a long-standing process by which a province is adopted as a province of the Communion. It was a great joy for me to see Sudan go through this process and it was a privilege to be in Khartoum in July to see it become the 39th member of the Communion. ACNA has not gone through this process.
“ACNA is a church in ecumenical relationship with many of our provinces,” he went on. “But that is also true of many churches, including the Methodist, Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.”
The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey, President and CEO of the American Anglican Council, has just written this in response to the Secretary General:
"The Anglican Church in North America is already in a 10-year process of recognition by the Primates, who have the jurisdiction to extend such recognition. The ACC (Anglican Consultative Council) may offer advice if requested. They have not been requested by the Primates recognizing The Anglican Church in North America to do so."
So we now have in print the "plan." The idea is this: to get more and more of the Primates to recognize ACNA as a province, arguing in process that those Primates represent the majority of the worlds Anglicans, until finally 2/3 of the Primates recognize ACNA rather that TEC (and the Anglican Church of Canada) as the Province of the Anglican Communion in North America. As far as the American Anglican Council is concerned, that is sufficient for ACNA to become a province of the Anglican Communion.
Ashey argues that communion with Canterbury is not essential for a province to be part of the Anglican Communion, nor is recognition by the Anglican Consultative Council. In his read, recognition by 2/3 of the Primates would constitute the basis for inclusion of ACNA. Of course that would be accompanied by those Primates also declaring impaired or perhaps non-existent communion status with TEC.
On its web pages ACNA states, "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." Of course recognition by these 14 Primates does not make ACNA a province of the global Anglican Communion. Perhaps it makes ACNA a province of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Churches, but nothing more.
To be clear: The Anglican Communion is NOT the Global Fellowship of Confessing Churches. Being a province (whatever that means) in the latter does not make a church a province in the former.
The Anglican Communion is not a church. It is "a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces, and regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer."(from the Preamble to the Constitution of TEC, wording from the resolution from the 1930 Lambeth Conference.)
The Anglican Communion is "a fellowship." Nothing about TEC or any member church being part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church is compromised by either being or not being part of the Anglican Communion. It is a fellowship of churches willing to share experiences, best practices, mission engagement, and common understandings concerning worship and church order.
Still, membership in the Anglican Communion means a great deal in the highly divided and broken world of christian churches. It is a sign of catholicity even as catholicity eludes every effort to bind ourselves into a universal church. The Church Catholic is a goal. It is not a reality.
Still, even with that falling short, the Anglican Communion is about finding ways to be united in the work of the Gospel. It is a pearl of considerable price, and worth it.
Ashey believes the Anglican Communion is joined by being voted in by 2/3rds majority of the Primates, and arguably that those same Primates could effectively "vote out" an offending Province (TEC) by the same process. So the way in is to have more and more of the Provinces choose ACNA rather than TEC. This "10 year process of recognition" doesn't petition the ACC or even the Primates for inclusion as a province. It works at getting Provinces to abandon their relationship to an existing province and choose ACNA instead. It is a process of inclusion by poisoning the well so that a province TEC is excluded and ACNA takes its place.
The AAC would have us believe that the vote of the Primates is all that matters, and that the invitation by the Archbishop of Canterbury to attend Lambeth, or communion with the Church of England by way of his See, or inclusion in the Anglican Consultative Council are all secondary to the decision by the Primates, one at a time, to choose ACNA rather than TEC as the jurisdiction of the Anglican Communion in North America.
This is all a rather complex smoke and mirrors attempt to legitimize the attempt by ACNA to do a hostile takeover of the positions held by TEC and the ACoC as provinces of the Anglican Communion.
That's a form of robbery. In Episcopal-land headwaters it might be useful to remember the Gospel and act accordingly:
"But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into." (Matt 24:43)
It is time for watchers to awake.