Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Anglican Church in North America

by Greg Jones

If you read a newspaper this morning, you probably saw that yesterday a group of folks have formed a new Christian denomination calling itself The Anglican Church in North America. It is claimed that the new entity has some 100,000 members in North America, and will seek to be recognized as an official province of the Anglican Communion. Certainly, The Anglican Church in North America will soon receive recognition from the giant Anglican Churches in Nigeria, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda (with many millions of members each), as well as from the miniscule Church of the Southern Cone, (with a few thousand members in the Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.)

It is less clear what other Anglican recognition the new group will receive. To be considered a province of the Anglican Communion, it would take two-thirds of the Anglican primates to assent, along with that of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the approval of the Anglican Consultative Council. Most doubt that such would be forthcoming. I frankly don't think it will.

What I think is more likely is that some of these large African provinces, in conjunction with their very small North American and South American partners, will become an alternative branch of Anglicanism altogether. The leaders of this new branch boycotted the Lambeth Conference last summer, held an alternative gathering in Jerusalem, and have already made numerous statements questioning the legitimacy the Lambeth Conference, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Anglican Consultative Council - the three oldest instruments of unity in the Anglican Communion. They have prepared for, and are poised to declare themselves the authentic expression of Anglicanism on Earth, and are doing so largely by challenging the faithfulness to God of the Episcopal Church, and any who do not accept their demands. They have already said that they are going to move forward with or without the assent of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference or the Anglican Consultative Council. Nigerian Bishop Martyn Minns said as much in today's New York Times.
Yes, I'm afraid that we are witnessing the division of the Anglican Communion, plain and simple. However, it won't be neat or tidy, or liberal vs. conservative. Indeed, it is not merely the division of the Anglican Communion, but the division of the conservative movement within the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion. What was once a much broader coalition of traditionalists, has become smaller with this new action. Notably, the strongest conservative dioceses have all chosen to remain within the Episcopal Church, namely Central Florida, Southwest Florida, South Carolina and Dallas. Likewise, strong theologically conservative provinces around the globe continue to regard the Episcopal Church as a sister province, with whom disagreements are to be voiced and dealt with by conversation not separation.

But, life goes on. I remain committed to a vision of the Church in which we are bound up in baptism in Christ Jesus, and whether we agree with each other or not on a host of issues, if we call Him Lord, we are one. Moreover, while I don't believe in a perfect church, I do believe in a perfect Lord God, and following Him in discipleship and mission is my number one priority. I also happen to believe that our parish, our diocese, our Episcopal Church, and our Archbishop of Canterbury are also committed to One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism. To me that's all I need to stay united, and why I believe those who break communion and fellowship are misguided in so doing. Nonetheless, we have many neighbors in our city and world who belong to other denominations - many of which broke away from the Church of England or Episcopal Church at some point in the past four centuries or so. Our call is to reach out in Christly love to them just as to those in the world which know Him not.


Martial Artist said...

Father Jones,

You stated [emphasis mine] that you "also happen to believe that our parish, our diocese, our Episcopal Church, and our Archbishop of Canterbury are also committed to One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism. To me that's all I need to stay united, and why I believe those who break communion and fellowship are misguided in so doing." This leaves unanswered our Lord's requirement of us to be good and faithful stewards of the bounty which he bestows on us.

Despite the repeated statements by the Presiding Bishop and some of her spokespeople about there being room in The Episcopal Church for those on various sides of the issues that we might agree are controversial, there are, with very few exceptions (and those due solely to the courage and faithfulness of individual diocesan bishops like +Lillibridge), no mechanisms generally established by which an Episcopalian may simultaneously support his or her parish and diocese without providing support, both verbal and material, to causes which the parishioner holds in good conscience to be unscriptural, immoral, or evil. Except for the rare diocesan exceptions, a portion of one's tithe to the parish automatically goes to the Diocese, and a portion of that to the offices of the Episcopal Church, which latter, publicly and officially lends its support (again both verbal and material) to such efforts. These include (at a minimum, morally questionable) the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), the funding of lawsuits, and the blatant and public making of untruthful statements by the Presiding Bishop. From your words, it seems fairly obvious that the biblically informed moral qualms of your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who are Episcopalians are of little, if any, concern to you.

Blessings and regards,

The Anglican Scotist said...

Martial Artist,

It sounds like you are confusing the content of the Gospel with the moral response that the Gospel requires. The Gospel is essential, and forms the core around which we should agree: e.g. Jesus is Lord and Savior.

We can agree on the Gospel's content and disagree about the moral response required--that is what happens when people try to think through the implications of their commitments to basic principles like those of the Gospel.

How do you handle that kind of disagreement? Running away from people who think otherwise about the moral response required is not alays the best option. Wanting to run away is an infantile response.

Instead, grow up and recognize the point of Niebuhr's Moral Man, Immoral Society: no institution with mere humans in it here below is free from damning sin. Second, stand up like an adult and make your case. If you are in the right, truth will be on your side, and truth will eventually prove persuasive.

Martial Artist said...

Anglican Scotist,

I would beg to differ with your assessment. The specific complaint to which I referred was the tyrannical position adopted by the majority of Bishops in the HoB of The Episcopal Church. Departing communion because one is being compelled to participate in supporting sinful behavior against one's conscience can hardly be referred to as "running away," whether from the standpoint of accuracy, fairness, or inclusiveness.

If it were, as you attempt to characterize it, a simple matter of disagreeing with "people who think otherwise about the moral response required," there would be no need for either side to coerce the other. To be very specific, if it were not the organization itself engaging in evil, but only those of its members participating in those particular forms of sinfulness, I would have felt no need to depart TEC or my parish. Unfortunately, it appears to be a hallmark of those who consider themselves, correctly in my estimation, progressives that they superciliously assume that their own position is so morally and/or intellectually superior to the position of others that the latter must surely fall in line, never so much as entertaining the idea that they may be the ones who have got it wrong.

Because I was not accorded the same respect for my conscience which I would, and gladly and routinely do, accord to others, but was instead compelled, against both my wishes and my conscience, to contribute to causes which I deem to be evil, I opted to behave like a responsible adult and, albeit reluctantly, withdraw from my parish, diocese and TEC. It would have been dishonest, nay, childishly petulant, of me to claim to remain a member of the parish while declining to offer it material support on the basis that contributing would have entailed submitting to the compelled support that most TEC dioceses require. One is either a part of the community and participates in its support, or, if one is not able for reasons of conscience to support it then a man (or woman) who has any integrity departs that community. Thus, I departed.

Perhaps, rather than tendering a condescending rejoinder to my comment, (referring to your repeated implication that I am engaging in infantile behavior) you ought to consider taking your own advice and grow up sufficiently to learn to read and comprehend English. I don't believe that the basis of my objection, which was also the basis of my departure from TEC, as referred to in my initial comment was somehow less than clear to any reasonably literate speaker of English.

Furthermore, the absence of charitable disagreement within TEC that is represented in the apparent necessity to compel material support for morally ambiguous, or worse, causes is, in fact a clear abrogation on the part of that body of the final clause of the final vow in the Baptismal Rite from the 1979 BCP, to wit, "…and respect the dignity of every human being." Fewer things are more disrespectful than compelling or duping another human being to provide support for a practice to which they are opposed.

Blessings and regards,
Martial Artist

Bryan Owen said...

"Our call is to reach out in love, and in Christ, to them as to a world which knows Him not."

Greg, this sounds like you're equating those who have left The Episcopal Church with the world that doesn't know Christ, and that we who remain in The Episcopal Church should reach out to those who have left for that reason - because they don't know Christ.

Is that what you mean to say? said...

Bryan, sorry if unclear. I meant to say, "reach out in love, to those who do not yet know Christ, just as to those who do, but who have left TEC."

liturgy said...

The parallel Anglican Communion you predict has arrived: