Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Does ACNA look upside-down to you?
The recent change of AMiA to the status of a "ministry partner" for the Anglican Church of North America got me thinking. The one major problem with ACNA, of course, is that it was formed in impaired communion. That is, a quarter of the dioceses (6 of 28 was the last data I could find; it might be out of date) ordain women as priests which means that the orders of clergy are not recognized and interchangeable across the church. The was the same situation we left behind in the Episcopal Church (though the ratio was reversed). ACNA was formed out of ex-Episcopal Church groups making common cause. Which makes sense. But what finally was put together doesn't make as much sense. It looks a little upside-down to me.
Archbishop Mark Haverland of the Anglican Catholic Church put it better in a letter to Bishop Duncan at the Inaugural Assembly of ACNA, declining an invitation to attend. He wrote:
". . . Already now at the beginning of your enterprise, your dioceses and bishops are only in a state of impaired communion with each other. Some of your bishops do not recognize the validity of the priestly ministry of a significant body of clergy in other dioceses. Such divisions and problems at the beginning will not resolve themselves in time, but rather will grow. Ambiguity, or local option, or silence cannot undo the damage of essential disagreement concerning Holy Orders and authority in the Church.
In summary, then, we see in the ACNA the fundamental alterations in traditional Anglican faith, worship, order, and practice that led to the formation of our own Continuing Church in 1978. We would be glad to establish conversations with your ecclesial body in hopes that you may, having freed yourselves of the Episcopal Church, continue further on the same path by decisively breaking from a corrupt Anglican Communion and by returning to the central tradition of Christendom in all matters, including the male character of Holy Orders, the evil of abortion, and the indissolubility of sacramental marriage. We recommend to your prayerful attention the Affirmation of Saint Louis, which we firmly believe provides a sound basis for a renewed and fulfilled Anglicanism on our continent."
Now back to the "ministry partner" thing. It seems to me that the way this whole thing should go together is for ALL the ex-Episcopal Church groups who continue the orthodox practice regarding Holy Orders to form the Anglican Church in North America (ironically, the original name of the continuing Anglicans in the 1970s). This would include those who are in ACNA now as well as the Anglican Catholic Church, Anglican Province of Christ the King, Anglican Province of America, etc.
Then the ex-Episcopal Church groups which ordain women (like the Diocese of Pittsburgh, the Canadian Network, etc.) could be "ministry partners" of the ACNA. Also, I don't see why Communion Partner dioceses of the Episcopal Church could not become ACNA "ministry partners." We have already seen "dual citizenship" work in ACNA and there could (should) be no depositions of bishops and clergy because those dioceses would not actually be joining anything. It could perhaps be compared to the companion diocese relationships that exist now.
Sounds great, doesn't it? Looks more right-side up, doesn't it? Maybe that's why it will not likely come to pass. The continuum churches have a lousy track record of working together. And one of the major differences between the common cause partnership and the continuum has been the attitude toward the Anglican Communion, with the former striving to be a part of it and the latter having given up on it. Of course, it's looking more and more like there may not really be an Anglican Communion to be a part of much longer.
Also, I don't know if the Affirmation of St. Louis might be an obstacle by deeming post-1970 ECUSA orders invalid. However, I believe there is an intercommunion agreement between the FIF/NA diocese, the dioceses of the FIF/NA bishops and at least some elements of the continuum, like the Diocese of the Holy Cross. I'm not sure. Maybe the Federation of Anglican Churches in the Americas (FACA) is a start. There are a number of issues that need sorting out. But then, maybe if the people stood up and demanded, we could see the impossible become a reality. What say you?
Update: Apparently FACA already is a "ministry partner" as the AMiA has become. In his address to the ACNA assembly, meeting now at All Saints' Cathedral in Amesbury, MA, Archbishop Duncan stated: "We are 811 congregations at Amesbury, not yet including all the congregations of the Federation of Anglican Churches in the Americas (a Ministry Partner) that are now requesting inclusion in our church data base and online Church Finder."
The members of FACA are: The Anglican Church in America (ACA), The Anglican Mission in America (AMIA), The Anglican Province of America (APA), The Diocese of the Holy Cross (HDC), Episcopal Missionary Church (EMC), The Reformed Episcopal Church (REC). It is said to represent nearly 600 congregations in North America and the patron is Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone of the Americas.
Perhaps the Anglican Catholic Church and the Anglican Province of Christ the King will become members of FACA. And as time goes by, we can sort out exactly who ought to be a full provincial member and who ought to be a "ministry partner" to allow for the highest degree of communion and cooperation for the work of the gospel that is possible.