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.


A short note on the title "One Body, One Faith," and marriage.

On February 15, the House of Bishops of the Church of England brought a report with the long and labor intensive title,  Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations to the General Synod.  It can be found HERE.
The Synod declined to receive the report because the three houses (Bishops, Clergy, Laity) could not agree on doing so.

Near the beginning of the statement the bishops quote Paul in Galatians, 

"Close to the heart of the mystery of human existence is the way that identity and relationship are inseparable from one another. For Christians, it is being in Christ that secures our true identity and transforms all our human relationships. As St Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me...”(Galatians 2:19 ff)."

The bishops statement that, "it is being in Christ that secures our true identity and transforms all our human relationships" sets the basis for its case that the church's teaching on marriage should remain unchanged, but it ought to find new ways to remain in pastoral relationship with people in varying sorts of committed relationships other than marriage.  

The report strongly supports the notion that Christians constitute "one body" and that that body - Christians and certainly Anglican Christians - throughout the world and overwhelmingly hold to the same doctrine, that marriage pertains to the relationship between one man and one woman, for life. 

The bishop's report is essentially a rehash of the position taken at Lambeth 1998, but with some additional effort to fill out the ways in which the Church of England might better affirm what is good and true and beautiful in same-sex relationships. 

For many of us the Bishops report was a disaster for the future of common cause between the Church of England and The Episcopal Church. 

Fortunately because of the clergy vote the resolution to take note of the Bishops teaching failed.

Several groups in England brought this report down and have cause to continue the struggle and not loose hope. Across the pond I hope we too will take heart. England is not at rest on the matter, and the Spirit is still at work.

The defeat of the acceptance of the report was the work of new group, formed of two major groups working for full inclusion of LBGT persons in the Church - Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement and Changing Attitudes UK.  The group uses the title "One Body One Faith." You can read about the new name HERE.

But in that title the notion the Bishops put forth remains: There is one body, and one faith. In this they are not arguing with the bishops that there is one body, but rather with the form that one body takes. And they are not arguing that there is one faith, but rather with the form that faith takes.

I think both the Bishops and their worthy opponents are mistaken in the belief that Paul's writings assume a unity of either body or faith in the realms that constitute "this world."

The classic source for this notion of "One Body, One Faith," is Paul's remarks in Ephesians: "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." (Ephesians 4:3-6)  "One Body, One Faith" compresses Paul's full remarks, just as the Bishops notion that in the present moment the One Body is that of Christ compresses this world and that which is to come.

The claim that in Christ we are one body and one Spirit, and that we were called in one hope, in "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" is the well established source for the notion, perhaps doctrine, that there is a unity between our identity as Christians and our transformation as part of the "new creation" in Christ.

The problem with this however, is that we are not, quite empirically, One.  Christians are many because our cultures, times, societies, languages, and even our beliefs do indeed differ. We are not of one mind on very many things having to do with the faith. In this world "One" is far from certain.

The "One" is real, but its reality is not about the churches as they are on the anvil of history, but about the church as a spiritual entity. "There is one body, and one spirit," is a phrase that connects us to the transforming character of our engagement with Christ. It is not a connection that holds much weight in the world of social commerce.

Here there are customs of marriage (between one man and one woman) that are decidedly unrelated to the One body that is Christ, and which lack any reference to the One Spirit which is that same Christ working in us. There are so many as to make it unnecessary to list them.

The unity between the one body, and the One Spirit, and indeed the great affirmation of "one hope of our calling: one Lord, one faith, one baptism" is real, but it is a spiritual reality. 

It is easy to see how "One body, one faith" could be a rallying cry for those working for inclusion. But for that to work it must be shown that somehow the "one body" and the "one faith" are indeed - here and now - capable of inclusion such that all who profess the faith are in fact part of the one body.

Marriage is not such a spiritual reality, by virtue of its place in many cultures and languages.  It is a reality in the world of social commerce and social intercourse.

I believe we are wrong to put the rules and expectations concerning marriage on the level of doctrine, raising it to the circle of those concerns considered central to the notion of "One faith."  The churches (plural) rules concerning marriage are not a touchstone of unity and indeed cannot be, since marriage is not a Christian institution, but rather a community institution. It is time to stop thinking of correct marriage laws as central to the one faith.

Perhaps it is time for the Bishops and for the inclusive movement to stop talking about same-sex marriage as a doctrinal matter or something pertaining to the unity (or not) of the church.  Rather they might accept the beginning point that regarding marriage there is not one body, but many, and the unity of faith is on a different level than unity of agreement concerning marriage. 

The thirty-nine articles mention marriage only in reference to priests being able to marry. (Article 32) and Matrimony only once (in Article 25) where it is noted that marriage is not a Gospel sacrament. Perhaps we ought to take the 39 Articles at face value on this one. The Articles of Religion say nothing about the definition of marriage as a central doctrine of the church. Because it isn't. 


Revisiting Article III of the Episcopal Church Constitution... bishops for Foreign Lands.

We ought, as often as possible consecrate bishops for foreign lands, rather than consecrate Episcopal Church bishops for overseas dioceses, that is dioceses not part of the territories of The United States. It is time to be less imperial and international in our reach.

A.    The Constitution of THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH includes the following possibility:

“Bishops may be consecrated for foreign lands upon due application therefrom, with the approbation of a majority of the Bishops of this Church entitled to vote in the House of Bishops, certified to the Presiding Bishop; under such conditions as may be prescribed by Canons of the General Convention. Bishops so consecrated shall not be eligible to the office of Diocesan or of Bishop Coadjutor of any Diocese in the United States or be entitled to vote in the House of Bishops, nor shall they perform any act of the episcopal office in any Diocese or Missionary Diocese of this Church, unless requested so to do by the Ecclesiastical Authority
thereof. If a Bishop so consecrated shall be subsequently duly elected as a Bishop of a Missionary Diocese of this Church, such election shall then confer all the rights and privileges given in the Canon to such Bishops.”

This Article has been rarely been used. White and Dykman note the following use of what was Canon 10 and later Article III of the Constitution (the text above):  Haiti, in 1874, Mexico in 1879, Brazil 1899, and in 1948 consecration of bishops for the Philippine Independent Church.  Recently there has been the attempt to remove this article from the Constitution as being no longer relevant.

B.    “In the United States of America”

One of the early reasons for this canon / article was the notion that “The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America” was by intention the Episcopal / Anglican Church for the whole nation, for all places where the government of the United States of America held sway.  Churches established by PECUSA outside the territory of the United States could be formed as missionary dioceses and have some representation in the General Convention, but the forward planning and object was the establishment of national Episcopal churches in the various “foreign lands.”

In recent years, there has been some confusion of this division – between foreign and domestic – and we have talked of The Episcopal Church as being a church that includes 16 (or so) nations. We have talked of TEC as an international church. That move, from seeing the work as distinctly domestic or foreign to seeing the work as international echoes the increasingly international character of many businesses.  This move has been seen by some who find conspiracy under every rock as an effort by TEC to see itself as an international “Church” in the same way that the last two Archbishops of Canterbury erroneously slip into talking about the Anglican Communion as a church.  The error in that instance is confusing a communion of churches for a single entity. It is an error of old empire builders. Just so the conspiracy folk see TEC building empire, or at least international corporation.

C.     Reclaiming Foreign and Domestic mission.

It is time to address this confusion by reclaiming one part of the missionary vision of The Episcopal Church, namely to take our part as a national church in the development and strengthening of cognate bodies – churches like (but not the same as) ours in foreign lands.

It is time to insist again that TEC is a legitimate expression of Anglicanism in the United States of America and that as an Anglican church it has every hope that like-minded believers in other counties, in “foreign parts,” will be raised up and encouraged to form their own Anglican churches, autonomous and related to all the rest of the Anglican churches by bonds of affection and not by bondage to some international cartel or curia. 

It is time to encourage overseas dioceses of TEC to move to greater self-governance, greater self-sufficiency, greater self-propagation.  We need once again to hold up the vision of these churches in “foreign parts” taking their place at the table of Anglican Communion fellowship as independent national episcopal churches.

D.    Article III of the Constitution is a basis for establishing a new / old relationship between TEC and dioceses in foreign lands.

As an example: The Episcopal Church of Haiti has requested TEC permission to hold an election of a bishop coadjutor.  As it stands that bishop will be part of the TEC House of Bishops and the diocese will be a diocese in union with the General Convention, in other words Haiti will remain as a diocese of TEC.  

Any progress towards establishing the Episcopal Church of Haiti as an autonomous church in Haiti would involve getting permission from General Convention to withdraw from that union, and as a parallel action, the Bishop getting permission to leave the House of Bishops.  At the same time, if the church of Haiti were to become an autonomous province in the Anglican Communion, the Church of Haiti would have to establish to the satisfaction of the Anglican Consultative Council that it consisted of four (or perhaps three) dioceses and with sufficient resources.  If the Church of Haiti wanted to it could ask for “extra-provincial” status, with a concordat with an existing province which would place this diocese in relation to the rest of the Communion.

Having a TEC bishop is an expensive proposition: The bishop is expected to go to General Convention, to House of Bishop’s meetings, to have a salary and benefits based on a US standards, and to exercise ministry under the specific requirements of TEC Canon law which reflects the “local” requirements of church life in the United States of America.

If the coadjutor bishop of Haiti were elected as a bishop for foreign lands it would signal the intention that the Episcopal Church of Haiti was an emerging separate entity in the Anglican Communion seeking its connection to the whole by either moving to autonomy as a province of its own, or to union with other dioceses in a regional province of national churches. On a temporary basis connection with TEC could be continued with a concordat under which a panel of several TEC bishops would act as a council of advice to the bishop of Haiti, assuring the bishop of continued connection to at least this part of the Communion.

Freed from the constraints of responsibilities to the House of Bishops and the General Convention, and the expectations of the TEC episcopate, the church in Haiti could establish an episcopal presence that, as the Lambeth Quadrilateral proposes, was “locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the unity of His Church.”  The episcopate, ordered locally, might exhibit such “servant leadership” as would make it possible for the Church in Haiti to ordain several bishops and establish several dioceses, thus moving it further towards being a self-sustaining church.

The canons of the Church in Haiti could also be ordered in ways that were appropriate to its location and, at the same time, through the concordat, aligned in substance to canons of TEC.

E.     What goes around, comes around.

Something very like this was the basis on which the Church in Haiti, already in place as the Orthodox Apostolic Church of Haiti, was first connected to TEC.  The consecration of James Theodore Holly as a bishop for foreign lands in 1874 was accompanied by a concordat, a bishops advisory group, and the establishment of canons for the governance of the church in Haiti. When in 1912 the church of Haiti asked to join TEC as a missionary diocese it lost the right to name its own bishop, became part of TEC and over the years has become a “regular” diocese of this church.  But it began precisely by using the canon on consecration bishops for foreign lands.

Perhaps it is time again to make use of Article III and consecrate the next bishop of Haiti as “a bishop for foreign lands.”  In doing so we would counter the unfortunate assumption that TEC ought to be an “international church,” with whatever imperial or internationalist corporate assumptions “international church” language brings.   Too, we might learn from the experience in Haiti something more about alternative ways to understand the role and function of the bishop in the church.


Anglican Communion News Service plays loose with the facts, lacky of the managers.

(slightly revised from its first posting).

In the land of “alternative facts” there are many players. If it were not so I would have told you.  A little example from Anglican Land, confirming once again that we are all indeed too human.

The Primates of the Anglican Communion were invited to a gathering in January of last year. The event was billed as a gathering, not a “Primates Meeting,” but some formal “meeting” matters were taken up. Among them was a censure of the Episcopal Church for its actions at the 2015 General Convention where it moved ahead with institutional permission and services for blessing same sex marriages.  Those sanctions, punishments, or censures were inacted. They required “that for a period of three years The Episcopal Church no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.”

After that gathering there was a meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council. “On April 19, at the conclusion of the Anglican Consultative Council, an internal body of the Anglican Communion, the delegates from The Episcopal Church wrote in “A Letter from Lusaka”:“We want to assure you that we participated fully in this meeting and that we were warmly welcomed and included by other ACC members.” (from American Anglican Council, HERE)

"According to the Anglican Communion Office, Bishop of Connecticut, Ian Douglas proposed or seconded several resolutions for ACC-16. These include but are not limited to resolutions on: Anglican inter-faith engagement, Ensuring both continuity and turnover of the leadership of the Anglican Consultative Council, An Anglican Congress." (From the American Anglican Council article.) 

It was widely understood that the ACC did not concur with the punishments dictated by the Primates Gathering/ Meeting of January, and felt that the Primates had no business telling the ACC how it should conduct its business.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, apparently unperturbed, opined that “Given that my report, referred to in the resolution, incorporated the Communiqué and was very explicit on consequences; the resolution clearly supports and accepts all the Primates’ Meeting conclusions. No member of the Episcopal Church stood for office in the ACC or Standing Committee. The consequences of the Primates meeting have been fully implemented.”

But there is disagreement, yes?  The Archbishop said, “the consequences of the Primates meeting have been fully implemented.” The TEC delegation says, "not so much." They maintain that they took part in polity and doctrine conversations and voted on the resolutions that resulted from them.

Now we leap forward to this past week, when the ACNS (The Anglican Communion News Service) ran anarticle on the Archbishop’s invitation to the Primates to another gathering in October. Near the close of the article it states, “The 2016 Primates’ gathering drew worldwide attention. It concluded with a communiqué which set out consequences for the US-based Episcopal Church (TEC) following its decision to change its canon on marriage. As a result, members of TEC have stepped down from IASCUFO – the Inter-Anglican Standing Committee on Unity, Faith and Order – and also from the IRAD ecumenical dialogue. Members of TEC participated in ACC-16 in Lusaka, but none took part in formal votes on issues of doctrine and polity – another stipulation of the Primates’ communiqué. In fact, all matters of doctrine and polity were agreed by consensus so no formal vote was necessary.” (My underlining.)

The first version of the ACNS article ended “none took part in formal votes on issues of doctrine and polity – another stipulation of the Primate’s communique.”  The TEC deputation took issue with this, maintaining, as they had earlier, that they were integral to the discussions and voted. Episcopal Café has posted their clear position. They write:

Statement from the Episcopal Church’s members of the
Anglican Consultative Council

As the Episcopal Church’s members of the Anglican Consultative Council, we were dismayed to read in today’s Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS) an article that claims we did not vote on matters of doctrine or polity at the most recent meeting of the ACC, known as ACC-16, held in Lusaka, Zambia in April 2016. This report is wrong.

Each of us attended the entire ACC-16 meeting and voted on every resolution that came before the body, including a number that concerned the doctrine and polity of the Anglican Communion. As the duly elected ACC members of a province of the Anglican Communion, this was our responsibility and we fulfilled it.

It could be inferred from today’s ACNS story that we did not fulfill our voting responsibilities at ACC-16 to comply with a communique issued by the primates of the Anglican Communion in January 2016.  The communique sought to impose consequences on the Episcopal Church for its adoption of marriage equality at our 2015 General Convention. Such an inference would be incorrect.

At the beginning of ACC-16, the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion issued a statement saying that it had “considered the Communiqué from the Primates and affirmed the relational links between the Instruments of Communion in which each Instrument, including the Anglican Consultative Council, forms its own views and has its own responsibilities.” After ACC-16 had concluded, six outgoing members of the Standing Committee released a letter reasserting that “ACC16 neither endorsed nor affirmed the consequences contained in the Primates’ Communiqué.”

As members of the Anglican Consultative Council, we thank God for the time we have spent with sisters and brothers in Christ from across the globe, and for the breadth and diversity of our global Anglican family. We are firmly committed to the Episcopal Church’s full participation in the Anglican Communion, and we hope that, in the future, our participation will be reported accurately by the Anglican Communion News Service.

Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine
Ian T. Douglas
Gay Clark Jennings”

ACNS has responded by adding the following sentence to their report: “In fact, all matters of doctrine and polity were agreed by consensus so no formal vote was necessary.” They note it as an update, not a correction. They write,"This article was updated on 2 February to make clear that no formal votes were held on issues of doctrine and polity at ACC-16. None was necessary because all such matters were agreed by consensus."

This is, of course, a bamboozle response. It does not address the fact that TEC members took part in discussions of doctrine and polity issues. It does not address the position of the TEC members that they indeed voted on every resolution that came before the ACC. And, of course, it does not address the reality that consensus is as well a way of voting.

It would appear that ACNS wants to paint a picture in which TEC is obedient to, and called to be obedient to, the stipulations of the Primates Meeting / Gathering, and that the wheels of Anglican Communion censure grind exceedingly fine.  But the facts are otherwise. 

TEC members were obedient to their call to serve as members of the Anglican Consultative Council, whose work is not bound by restrictions imposed from outside. In this I believe TEC members did precisely the right thing as responsible members of a council with its own charter of responsibilities.

In this particular case ACNS is a partisan propaganda office, painting a picture to suit the needs of its masters.

ACNS has done good service at various times in the past. But in this ACNS is playing loose with the facts.

There are additional problems of dissonance between the stipulations of the Primates Meeting / Gathering and the reality on the ground. These too will play forward and return to plague the managers.

Regarding content of the proposed meeting, the article states that, “The January 2016 meeting (of the Primates) also called for the setting up of a Task Group to explore differences and seek ways to restore relationship and rebuild trust. The Task Group, which draws members from across the Anglican Communion, subsequently met in September last year and is due to meet again during 2017.”  Presumably their findings will be part of that meeting.  Interestingly, one comment on the article has pointed out that this Task Group must surely be an Anglican Communion body that will discuss matters of polity and doctrine. One would expect that no member of TEC could be part of that Task Group, and yet Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has been appointed to serve on the Task Group.

How is the Presiding Bishop’s inclusion in the Task Group to be reconciled with the stipulations of the Primates Meeting / Gathering of 2016? We shall see. Perhaps “exploring differences” will avoid speaking to issues of polity and doctrine. Perhaps its exploration will be so tame as to lead readers to conclude that their report is drivel.  Who knows.

It will all be revealed.  But not necessarily in ACNS.