Thursday, May 20, 2010

Discombobulating ACNA

I have been a hearty supporter of the Anglican Church of North America, a coalition of Anglican churches disaffected if not disenfranchised from TEC and the progressive direction in which it has been marching, if not running from the centre ground of Anglican Communion life. From a distance it has seemed a reasonable ordering of North American Anglican/Episcopalian affairs if there were essentially three Anglican entities: the long-standing churches, the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church of the USA, and the new (with elements of older groups) Anglican Church of North America. Two broadly speaking liberal/progressive, and one, broadly speaking, conservative. While acknowledging that a rift driven apart by various bad speakings to each other, along with "see you in court" property litigations, would need some patching (if not greater healing), I have argued that the Anglican Communion should recognise all three Anglican churches in North America.

But now the landscape has shifted a little. The AMiA, one of the larger parts of ACNA, is moving to a partner rather than member status of ACNA, formally removing a significant chunk of parishes and attendance statistics from the ACNA resume. Following both reports and comments on Stand Firm and Texanglican, it appears that there always were going to be structural difficulties about the relationship (AMiA's connection with Rwanda is more Roman in episcopal structuration than Anglican; other ACNA entities' connections to their parent provinces is Anglican, not Roman).

I am going to be the last person to rush to judgement and say this weakens ACNA's case for inclusion in the Communion. But it is not rushing to judgement to say that this development does not strengthen the case!

What does interest me right now is how this development underlines the wisdom of the choice of the 'Communion Partner' dioceses and bishops to remain within TEC and fight for what they believe in, and for their right to continuing internal critique of the direction TEC is heading in, measured against deep desire to walk closely with Canterbury and the majority of the Communion's provinces. I presume that they have been realists: any show in town calling itself "church" is open to dissent, division, and disturbances, therefore, they seem to have concluded, better to remain with the church in which these characteristics are known, than to leave for the promise of unknown possibilities for improvement which nevertheless carry with them probability of a different set of emerging, if not predictable differences.

The challenge here, right now, is for Anglican conservatives in "mixed economy" provinces to reflect more deeply, and perhaps more intelligently (because of the lessons being taught us by others), on the best and most fruitful pathway to be faithful to what we believe and to bear witness to the truth of the gospel as we have received it through our Anglican heritage. Stay or go? Fight or flight? Old wineskins or new? Reject or renew? On any answer to such questions, and to any other questions pertaining to the situation, our calling is sure: contend for the faith, and be faithful to the Lord of the church.


Anonymous said...

Whilst I hope there is no significant schadenfreude or gloating over the start of the disintegration of ACNA, I think it may have been in order for you to have acknowledged that commenters here and elsewhere saw this as inevitable. Your own continued reacting against rather than dialoguing with those who point out motivational issues underlying divisions means that you continue to miss the impact of motivation on results.

אף אחד לא

Peter Carrell said...

Hmm. 'The start of the disintegration of ACNA'? Could be. But may not be. Yes, commenters here and elsewhere have seen this disintegration as inevitable. Those commenters have been to the left, the right, and in the centre! But they have not yet been proven right, so, agreed, no cause for schadenfreude just yet.

Kurt said...

I agree with אף אחד לא that this is the beginning of the disintegration of the ACNA; (stress on “beginning.”) As one of those commenters (here, and elsewhere) who has pointed out the clashing factions within the ACNA, let me reiterate: There is widespread disagreement in that denomination over the role of women in the ordained ministry. Women bishops are forbidden. Some leaders, including Archbishop Duncan, support women priests and deacons; most ANCAers appear not to. There is also strong disagreement over the place of the Articles of Religion in the new denomination. Some take a very Calvinist view of the Articles, while others generally ignore them as any kind of a modern Anglican statement of basic belief. There is growing controversy over their Prayer Book, which for some evangelicals follows too much TEC precedent, and is therefore “too Catholic.” There are also clashes over “Ritualism” in some ACNA circles and there are those who dislike and distrust Anglo Catholics (such as Bishop Iker). Smooth sailing is not on the horizon for this new denomination. I predict bigger storms are looming.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY