4/26/2016

Let this be a sign unto you...ACNA and the future of all things North American

The ACNA Diocese of Pittsburgh just held an election for Bishop. This Bishop will follow Bishop Robert Duncan, deposed bishop of The Episcopal Church, bishop of the ACNA Diocese of Pittsburgh, (not a member diocese of The Episcopal Church or any other province of the Anglican Communion), and first and now retired Archbishop of the Anglican Church of North America (not a member province of the Anglican Communion).  This new bishop will be the Bishop of just the ACNA Diocese of Pittsburgh. It will be a difficult job and we can, even across the divide between churches, wish him well.

As is reported in the Episcopal Cafe, The Lead,  the delegates to that convention came close to electing a person recently divorced. Bishop Duncan cautioned that election of a divorced person would be a source of considerable trouble for the College of Bishops who must consent to elections.  

He ought to know, having been a prime mover in forming the canons of ACNA in which top down decisions about suitability and unsuitability for office in the church are the norm.  The sanctity of marriage and its vows are of central importance to ACNA in its desire to see people transformed by obedience to God's "word written."  And there is no doubt that ACNA, at least from the top down, is all about the faith once delivered to the saints and God's word written.  That person engaged in sex outside the one marriage into which they entered is unsuitable for holy work. So, no divorced persons, no gay persons, no single persons not abstaining from sex is suitable as a candidate for office in the church. 

Well, let this be a sign unto you. The electors of the ACNA Diocese of Pittsburgh came close to electing an unsuitable person. Some (the header for the Lead article being an example) believe this may be the work of the Holy Spirit, working on ACNA as she will.  

I am not nearly so bold. I believe this is the people of ACNA, of the diocese that became the core of ACNA, reflecting the reality of life in North America. Divorce and remarriage are no longer signs of permanent brokenness or personal spiritual defect. It is appropriate to consider a candidate who has been divorced.

Now it may take time for the hierarchy of ACNA to get this, because the bishops in ACNA are not as easily informed by the laity - but the handwriting is on the wall, the signs are there.  In spite of all the muttering about truths once delivered of the saints and God's word written, the reality is that divorce is no longer a clear sign of unsuitability. 

Is divorce in the life of a candidate a matter that requires further question? Of course. But is no longer a clear sign of unsuitability.

In North America regular church citizens are not likely to appreciate being told what to do and who is suitable. As seems to have been true for all Anglican and Anglican-like bodies in North America, ACNA will have to come to terms with being IN North America.

Good luck with that.

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