The Archbishop-designate speaks on proposed ACNA Constitution and Canons

Over on United-Anglicans, Archbishop designate / to be Robert Duncan has posted some comments on the Anglican Church in North America Constitution and Canons. As ACNA moves towards its foundational synod meeting as ACNA it is of some importance to pay attention to what is happening there. Whatever our feelings about ACNA (and I have very strong feelings against their move to claim to be the "real" Anglicans) the process they are engaged in tells us something about the places in The Episcopal Church's organizational life that they find most susceptible to criticism.

There are a variety of small rumblings out there that point to the possibility that hesitations are mounting about the proposed Constitution and Canons. I have written previously about some of these HERE. These concerns are not necessarily bad news for ACNA or good news for TEC. We ought to assume that in forming a new church entity out of many different church and para-church groups there will be considerable friction. That is as expected. And making the argument for the Constitution and Canons is precisely the job of the leadership that produced the CandC of ACNA. It would be very disturbing to find no objections, no hesitancy.

Of secondary interest is the email that went out today from the organizers of the synod that there are only a few days for registration left and there is still room. From the email, "Hundreds of Anglicans have already made arrangements to join us in Bedford for this historic moment. There is still time to be among them," said Brad Root, chief operating officer of the Anglican Church in North America." It feels as if they are having to drum up business.

The commentary by Moderator Duncan includes several interesting items:

"The charge to the Governance Task Force was to provide a strong skeleton around which a living Church could be built. I believe the GTF, whose work was greatly strengthened by contributions from all the members of the Common Cause Leadership Council in meetings in December and April, has given us a very good starting place to be assessed as a characteristically Anglican Province."

The ACNA C&C are as they are in order to "be assessed as a characteristically Anglican Province." By whom? One might think by the Anglican Consultative Council, but ACNA has realized that that is not going to happen soon, if ever, and the feeling seems to be that that would be OK as a further proof of the defunct character of the existing "Instruments of Communion" and the "Lambeth Anglican Communion." The assessment is first by the Primates of the Global South Steering Committee, or more exactly the GAFCON Primates. This group of seven or eight Primates have excluded from their ranks Primates from the Global South that are not of their persuasion, believing that they alone are the remnant of true Anglicanism. This group of Primates have bought on to the idea that a new Anglicanism is on the rise and they are its leaders. The Common Cause Partnership leadership met with the Global South Steering Committee and pledged to get their act together, and it is thus the assessment is sought from them.

The Moderator then states,

"The skeleton allows a place for sub-provincial jurisdictions like the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Mission in the Americas. The same provision allows for the distinctives of culture, history and law that separate the United States and Canada, even providing a way that Canadians might be drawn together as a proto-Province within our larger Province. It gives far more place to the laity of the Church – half the Executive Committee, half the Provincial Council and likely two-thirds of the Provincial Assembly (once voting youth delegates are factored in) – and bishops don’t own the property. Giving is a free exercise, the tithe is upheld, force is not a way forward."

These are assurances - REC and AMiA don't give up internal jurisdictional life, they become "sub-provincial." We might think of them as "domestic provinces." Then there are the proto-Province possibilities in Canada, another sort of domestic province.

The assurance that laity are given "far more place" in governance does not mention the group against which this is judged, but one might suppose it is TEC. It does not particularly persuade since laity (and indeed non-bishop clergy) do not participate in the election of the Archbishop.

The final assurances here are that the tithe is upheld as the "norm" but giving is free. There seems to have been some question as to how the tithe norm might be upheld.

Moderator Duncan then turns to what he calls "under stress regress." He writes,

One further comment: “under stress regress.” We are specifically trying to re-constitute a Church whose chief concern is the mission, rather than governance. The notion of a Provincial Assembly focused on mission rather than governance is among our deepest hopes. Very specifically, we do not want to repeat the General Convention (USA) or General Synod (Canada) experience. This is where the notion of “ratification” at Assembly derives. Our vision is for fairly straightforward up or down votes on articles and canons. If the Provincial Council has discerned it rightly, and we have significant consensus, a matter is ratified. If not, the matter is sent back to Provincial Council for more work. Most things, if not easily agreeable, can wait another year or two.

Constitution and Canons are not meant to be exciting, only a framework. What is exciting is the rebirth of the biblical, missionary and united Anglicanism in North America for which so many have prayed for so long and that the proposed constitution and canons represent. This is a new Province. It is not a new Church. Our hope is that the Anglican Church in North America is the re-constitution of a faithful (that is, biblical, missionary and united) Church in Anglican form."

He is making the plea that those who will ratify the Constitution and Canons not be tempted by the sort of governance where big legislative assemblies are used to produce the decisions.
Instead the notion is that the Provincial Council ( sort of like Executive Council + a bit) do the legislating and that the Provincial Assembly (sort of like a General Convention) be given over to mission development / discernment/ training, etc. It would ratify or not the decisions of Provincial Council, but not work at perfecting what was given them.

Oddly, I think this is an interesting suggestion. It remains to be seen if participants in the ACNA Synod feel they have had sufficient governance by this method. The intriguing bit of this idea has to do with using the general assembly - Convention, synod, etc - as a primary context for doing mission strategy, sharing etc.

That happens at General Convention in the events that sometimes frustrate those who are bent on being legislative and doing work. Considerable time is spent at each General Convention on bible study, worship, hearings where people can speak their mind, committee meetings where anyone can give testimony, special programs and offerings. In the middle of all that GC also does legislation. I share some of the Moderator's concerns that the GC "package" often gives short change to both legislation work and missionary conversation. But I am not sure the solution is to break the two, with the Council doing mostly one and the Assembly doing mostly the other.

I am not sure limiting the Assembly's work to voting something up or down and not changing it will meet the needs of a fairly feisty group.

That is finally what the Moderator is getting at: The Constitution and Canons are being presented for ratification. It remains to be seen if the assembly is willing to have that be an up or down vote, rather than a debate to perfect, followed by a vote. It would serve the leadership well, of course, to make it an up or down vote, for the press is on. If the assembled ACNA voters were hesitant about this or that part of the Constitution and Canons they still might vote the thing in because the alternative would be almost unthinkable - that ACNA not be formed and have to wait another day. ACNA does not have another day, they may not have even this day. So the Moderator seems to be encouraging the voters to do it now - say yes to the Constitution and Canons, and make changes later. Of course the Assembly will not make those changes, the Provincial Council will. But that's another story.

Note also the Moderators' final comment. He writes, "This is a new Province. It is not a new Church. Our hope is that the Anglican Church in North America is the re-constitution of a faithful (that is, biblical, missionary and united) Church in Anglican form." The Moderator and the leadership of ACNA want it both ways. They are constituting "The Anglican Church in North America," a church that has its distinct constitution, canons, etc. On the other hand "it is not a new church," rather it is envisioned to be the "faithful Church in Anglican form" in North America. ACNA does not believe, apparently, that the Anglican communion is made up of churches, but rather that the Province of this or that is only part of a real church - the Anglican Church. ACNA and its leadership is mounting confusion on confusion. They are increasingly neither intelligible in Anglican terms nor logical.

There are those who read Preludium who ask just why I think it interesting or important to even mention what ACNA is about in its formation. I believe we must pay some attention for two reasons: (i) ACNA claims they are "real" Anglicans and that TEC is lost. They want to be the Anglicans as opposed to those awful Episcopalians. I very much agree with Lionel Deimel's essay in which he says we should correct every instance where the differences are in the media describes as the differences between "Anglican" and "Episcopal" as if they were somehow incompatible. (ii) The thoughts, prayers, concerns and strategies of those we consider our adversaries often have important things to say to us and there are good ideas in there to be harvested and used for the good of the church. There are ways for us to improve - I certainly hope there are - and if those who oppose us have some of those ideas we we will be better for it.

The fact that the Moderator has worked up a defense of the proposition that the C&C be ratified without any (or many) changes, and the notice that there are still places at the table, along with other hesitations all point to possible glitches in the smooth processing of the C&C. If they are not passed there will be no Archbishop, since the designation only comes with the C&C itself. But as the Moderator wrote, "Most things, if not easily agreeable, can wait another year or two."

We shall see.


  1. dr.primrose8/6/09 8:40 PM

    One things that jumped out at me was Duncan's comment that "Most things, if not easily agreeable, can wait another year or two." I thought that comment was a bit ironic after the insistance from that part of the church that TEC had to be thrown out of the Anglican Communion NOW, that the Covenant must be adopted NOW, etc., etc., etc.

  2. Mark,

    By force they must have a very "light" general governance structure-- They do not have any other choice! The REC and MiA will not give up their keeps. And the egos involved in the other "judicatures" don't leave much room for anyone else!

    Australia has a somewhat similar arrangement (NO "general canons", I believe) and Canada, which has about the same number of members as we do, has a more streamlined and "lighter" structure. The Southern Cone also makes very clear that the Dioceses send representatives to the Provincial Synod. And one of the reasons of having representatives, rather than deputies, has roots no so much in theology, but in their socio-political context.

    I wonder if TEC's polity of having deputies (rather than representatives) has not resulted in a very top-heavy and at times -- and I hope you will grant this -- almost unwieldy structure. Despite all the brouhaha about the GC and "815", the fact is that it is the Exec Council (a relatively small group of people with their own vision and interests [agenda], and not much accountability) who runs the Church, and to a large extent, sets up the game for the GC.
    So, who's wagging the dog?

    I know that making major changes to the polity of TEC has as many chances as turning the US into a parliamentarian system. TEC's power centers are well entrenched and comfy.

    Nevertheless, I believe it would help the Church (a.k.a. people in the pew, and not the usual suspects!) not to dismiss off hand what is going on elsewhere, nor taking ourselves too seriously!


  3. TECUSA can stamp its feet.....if the GS Primates recognise ACNA as Anglican, it will be recognised..... TECUSA's objections would matter more if more AMericans were in TECUSA churches on a Sunday (but at 0.7m, even the CofE does better and in a country with a fifth of the population). Pls do not kid yourselves that tiny provinces can veto who is part of the Anglican church....tecusa does not have that power because it has failed to reach many Americans

  4. Observer...I am posting what you submitted today, but the level of your ignorance re "the Anglican church," and The Episcopal Church is astounding. You have once again used up your time here. Get your own blog.

  5. As Dr Primrose says, Duncan's comment that "most things, if not easily agreeable, can wait another year or two" is pretty odd in light of the relentless determination of the secessionist movement to break away from TEC.

    Equally interesting are the numerous pleas for tolerance, understanding and accommodation between the potential ACNA member groups, that we are currently reading on "reasserter" blogs.

  6. My friend Robin Jordan ( Anglicans Ablaze has done an extensive and very critical analysis of the new C & C for this so-called 'province.' While Robin and I disagree on a lot of things (ok, most things) I think he has pretty much nailed the 'light governance' claim to the wall.

    I am not surprised they have space available. It is really, really hard to build unity on a negative. Seeing a way forward when already some have announced they are in 'impaired communion' with the presumed 'arch bishop' is a bit difficult.

    If all they wanted was a going concern that is sort of related by ties to a primate to the Anglican world, all they had to do was join AMiA. It is linked to the Rwandan church, at least as evangelical as any of them, and a going concern.

    It is hard to see how that gets a particular set of leaders new titles. AMiA does not have an archbishop's gig open.

    This is not about God; it is about position and power. And that is precisely why it will fail. Sad! Our conservative sisters and brothers will be misled by this bunch and then wander off into sects, other places and for many, never again be in communion with us. All this so a few men can have fancy lace outfits. Sad indeed.

    (I have my own blog ;-) )
    Jim's Thoughts

  7. The only rule, in the end, that all these people will be able to agree on is the one that says "No poofters!"

    I agree with Jim's comment that it is almost impossible to build something positive on a negative.

  8. Anglicanism itself is built on a negative - the denial of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. If it is not possible to build upon a negative, then the demise of Anglicanism is a foregone conclusion.

  9. George, much of the writings of the time indeed emphasized the negative regarding Rome and the motivating factor was the King of England's desire for an heir, however, in reality, it was the positive regarding the independence and autocephaly of the various national churches of the British Isles and soon other nations upon which Anglicanism is founded.


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.