Calling for full communion within the Anglican Church in North America

Resolution from the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth (ACNA) calling for full communion within the Anglican Church in North America

I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3)

At the formation of the Anglican Church in North America in 2009, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth recognized the need for the highest degree of communion among Anglicans in North America, and pledged to work toward that goal through provisional membership in that new province (see addendum). The clergy and people of the Diocese of Fort Worth together with her bishop believe the time has come for full communion within the Anglican Church in North America. We believe that this goal can be realized through the bishops implementing a moratorium on the ordination of women to the priesthood until such time as the college of bishops can come to a common mind on the theology of the practice. We believe that the beginning of a new archepiscopal term affords an opportunity to build consensus toward the goal of full communion within the province.

At the formation of the province in 2009, the reality of the ordination of women in parts of the province (with some dioceses not recognizing the orders of female clergy in other dioceses) meant that full communion was not possible. Full communion necessitates the interchangeability of clergy and sacraments from bishop to bishop and diocese to diocese. Without the mutual recognition of orders, there can be no communicatio in sacris.

In the Chicago-Lambeth Quatrilateral, which established a basis for entering into ecumenical dialogue with other Christian communions, certain “inherent parts of this sacred deposit” of faith and practice were established describing minimum criteria of what constitutes a church at the most fundamental level. Number 3 is “The two Sacraments,–Baptism and the Supper of the Lord,– ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s words of institution and of the elements ordained by Him.”

We recognize that baptism is a sacrament that can be administered by a layperson. But the consecration of the Holy Eucharist requires a validly ordained priest. The practical problem of the ordination of women is that we have some churches and altars where this sacrament of the Supper of the Lord is not recognized as true and valid throughout the province, bringing up the question: Can we even consider ourselves a church, by definition, as long as this is the case?

These are salvific rites, as noted in the provincial catechism, To Be a Christian. “123. What sacraments were ordained by Christ? The two sacraments ordained by Christ that are ‘generally necessary to salvation’ (1662 Catechism) are Baptism and Holy Communion (also called the Lord’s Supper or the Holy Eucharist). These are sometimes called ‘sacraments of the Gospel.'”

As this committee stated in our resolution of December 19, 2023, we restate today:

We affirm that these are first order issues in the Church, affecting the validity of sacraments and the grace that is (or is not) bestowed in such rituals …. The Church never has, does not now, nor ever will have the authority to change any doctrine whatsoever. These are truths revealed from heaven. As mother and teacher of the faithful, the Church’s only role is to define, explain, and proclaim doctrines as divine revelation from God. And she should always seek to conform her pastoral practice to the truth of doctrine.

At the formation of the province, a Task Force on Holy Orders was established that completed a five-year study of the issue of the ordination of women in 2017, followed by consideration by the college of bishops. As a result of that meeting, the bishops noted in their statement:

“Having gratefully received and thoroughly considered the five-year study by the Theological Task Force on Holy Orders, we acknowledge that there are differing principles of ecclesiology and hermeneutics that are acceptable within Anglicanism that may lead to divergent conclusions regarding women’s ordination to the priesthood. However, we also acknowledge that this practice is a recent innovation to Apostolic Tradition and Catholic Order. We agree that there is insufficient scriptural warrant to accept women’s ordination to the priesthood as standard practice throughout the Province. However, we continue to acknowledge that individual dioceses have constitutional authority to ordain women to the priesthood.”

With the bishops across the province, we strongly affirm the role of women in ministry and leadership throughout Church history, and we celebrate the key ministry and leadership roles of women throughout our diocese, parishes, and congregations. This is essential to our mission, witness, life together, vocational practice, and strategic planning for the future. But innovations in faith and order impair the communion God willed for us in Christ.

With the bishops not coming to a consensus, the status of impaired communion as a province remained the status quo. As Bishop Jack Iker noted in his address to the 2017 annual diocesan convention:

“We are in a state of impaired communion because of this issue. The Task Force concluded that ‘both sides cannot be right.’ … it is no longer possible to have ‘business as usual’ in the College of Bishops due to the refusal of those who are in favor of women priests to at least adopt a moratorium on this divisive practice, for the sake of unity.”

We recognize that a common mind and heart on this issue of the ordination of women will take more time and will take inner conversion as we seek more clearly the mind of Christ. We also recognize that the call to full communion and the call to be the church in her fullest sense within our province rests heavily upon us.

Therefore, we call upon the college of bishops, under the leadership of the next archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, to agree to a moratorium on the practice of the ordination of women in order to facilitate full communion throughout the province as we come to a common mind on the issue.

Adopted unanimously on 4 June, 2024.

 

 

 

 

The Rev’d Timothy M. Matkin,
President of the Standing Committee

 

Addendum
Resolution of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, submitted to and adopted by the 27th annual convention of the diocese in 2009:

WHEREAS, this Diocese continues to desire to maintain the highest degree of communion possible with other Anglicans in North America and throughout the world,

AND WHEREAS, this Diocese recognizes that certain theological differences exist among the constituent membership of the newly constituted Anglican Church in North America, as well as in the wider Anglican Communion,

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, meeting in its 27th Annual Convention, does hereby commit to continued participation in the development of the Anglican Church in North America, acceding to the Constitution and Canons thereof during this process,

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this Diocese maintains its status as a member diocese in the Province of the Southern Cone while the formal process of recognition of this new province continues in the Anglican Communion.

~

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'Calling for full communion within the Anglican Church in North America' have 14 comments

  1. June 6, 2024 @ 1:38 pm Marissa Burt

    I am glad the bishops who support women’s ordination have not adopted a moratorium. Imagine believing something to be in alignment with Scripture and beneficial for the church and then to refuse to ordain women, simply due to pressure from other bishops. Or imagine the outcry if bishops who ordain women calling for every diocese adopt a practice of ordaining women until the province reaches unity. People calling for a moratorium seem unwilling to see that it comes at the expense of women and the dioceses who believe they can be duly ordained to the priesthood. It also seems short-sighted given the widespread practice of ordaining women to the priesthood in GAFCON. Is the ACNA unable to be in communion with those provinces as well?

    Reply

    • June 6, 2024 @ 1:54 pm Columba Silouan

      This all seems to be, in part, political wrangling before the choice of the next Primate of the ACNA.

      Things, therefore, are unlikely to change at all, as with most political processes.

      Now if there were a truly spiritual process, maybe there would be some hope of resolution.

      Even the Southern Baptist Convention is attempting to rein in Women as head pastors of congregations.

      Question at hand: What is more meet / better? To allow for the possibility of Full Communion with the Anglican G3 and better relationships with Eastern Orthodoxy, Coptic Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism than exist currently, or continue with a dubious practice?

      God may and probably does extend His Mercy and Grace in this matter, but why presume on His mercy if doubt remains on the practice of WO?

      When in doubt, throw it out.

      Create an alternative situation, where women can be PAID PARISH STAFF MEMBERS with the title of DEACONESS without sacramental ordination. That will be securing EQUAL RIGHTS and EQUAL OPPORTUNITY without trespassing unnecessarily.

      Why is this so hard? Reign in selfish ambition for the sake of the churches. There is no place for it.

      Reply

      • June 6, 2024 @ 2:45 pm Marissa Burt

        Women have long served and ministered and pastored and preached without the title or the pay. Many do across most conservative denominations. The question is not about selfishness; if it was, the same argument could be made for those who desire their theological beliefs to be accommodated.

        I believe the Body of Christ will not come to maturity (cf Eph 4) without every member operating in full giftedness, including women. The church has never been able to afford sidelining members, and presuming that ordained women should be *thrown out* due to doubts born from hermeneutical approaches *upon which faithful Christians disagree* is an unsatisfactory conclusion. It also presents a distorted perspective of the God who created and commissioned women and an inadequate anthropology of men in Holy Orders – as though they, too, don’t fall short in a myriad of ways. All of us, in that sense, presume on the unending Mercy of God.

        I contend that the Body of Christ remains impoverished when sidelining women. Lip-service can be given to respect for different “roles” a la complementarianism, but when women are perceived as somehow *by their very essence* invalidating the Eucharist or being indispensable in the mission of the church, the whole body suffers. Why is this so hard? I don’t know. I ask myself the same thing when I read statements like this that despair over women colaboring alongside men. Because of Romans 14 and out of a desire for charity, I am glad to be in a province that makes space for both, but I will never understand it.

        Reply

        • June 6, 2024 @ 11:49 pm Tom

          Marissa, respectfully, you should find a denomination that better fits you – one that is not part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, which cannot upend 2,000 years of maintaining the apostolic deposit of male orders. The UMC, TEC, ELCA, and many others would welcome your views, which in time (if the trajectory of others is any reliable indicator), almost assuredly will germinate into heretical denials of other historic planks of Christian Orthodoxy such as the authority and infallibility of the Scriptures, Jesus as the only Way to salvation, the Virgin Birth, and so on. Your bishop and rector have failed you by not teaching you the Catholic faith, and in turn, by not requiring your submission to it (or facilitating your expulsion from it for disobeying the Scriptures and sowing discord on the Internet among the Faithful, which is literally heresy/schism).

          Reply

        • June 14, 2024 @ 2:14 am Rev. Carter Smith-Stepper

          Marissa, please stay in the Anglican Church, and don’t listen to dismissive appeals of men who would push you out to suit their own theological views. Maybe one day we will all agree that tradition is good, but never final, and that the reasons for refusing to ordain women are theologically weak. Until then, I’m happy women such as yourself are here and know that many of us support you.

          Reply

          • June 14, 2024 @ 6:40 am Tom

            Rev. Carter,

            I suppose Paul and the other apostles, as well as the God the Holy Spirit who inspired their writings and action, were dismissive and blinded from the truth by their own theological views. It sure is a shame that God Himself got it wrong, especially when the great Rev. Carter appeared on the scene during the late 20th century to fix what the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church had fumbled for 2,000 years. ‘Tis the month for “pride”, indeed, it seems.

            Tradition, with a capital T, is more than good: it is the Apostolic Deposit of the Church handed down by the Apostles through the Episcopate. If anyone – especially clergy – cannot accept that, then such a person de facto rejects Orthodox Anglicanism particularly, as well as Catholic Christianity generally; as such, it would be best for such a person to depart and avail oneself of a progressive “church” more amenable to novel and apostate viewpoints.

            1 Timothy 3:15b “the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”

    • June 6, 2024 @ 5:43 pm Petros

      It is not actually widespread when you consider the largest province is Nigeria (18 million) which does allow for it. Also the provinces that allow for it have diocese that don’t allow for it. This unscriptural practice is a novelty of the last 50 years. A
      Moratorium is the right thing to do. The women that hurt over this need to submit their conscience to scripture. This is not about their feelings but about obedience to God

      Reply

      • June 6, 2024 @ 5:47 pm Petros

        Meant to say that Nigeria “does not “ allow for it in my previous post. Typo mistake

        Reply

      • June 6, 2024 @ 8:06 pm Marissa Burt

        To my knowledge Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Central Africa, Rwanda and South Sudan all ordain women to the priesthood and GAFCON Primates seem content for this to be a secondary issue: https://www.gafcon.org/news/press-release-from-the-general-secretary-gafcon-primates-meeting-in-nairobi-kenya

        A moratorium ignores the canonical processes in place, ignores the constitution and basically asks bishops (some of whom robustly believe women can and should be ordained to the priesthood) to together agree to not ordain women. Seems to be the least satisfactory option.

        I’m also curious. What makes you think women who are ordained have not submitted their conscience to Scripture? The idea that women – many of us whom have been wrestling with our presence and role in the church since our conversions – have not given serious, prayerful thought to this is astonishing.

        Reply

      • June 7, 2024 @ 5:03 am Greg

        Some estimates put Anglican numbers in Nigeria at approaching 25 million.

        Reply

  2. June 6, 2024 @ 4:06 pm PWH

    Others here do not even seem to have read the letter above. It points out that this is a first-order issue, BECAUSE some dioceses perceive women clergy to be de facto invalidly ordained and thus unable to offer a validly consecrated Eucharist — which is perceived, by many, to be a sacrament conveying salvific grace.

    With those dioceses existing side-by-side in the ACNA with dioceses who think it is proper to go ahead with the ordination of women, there is, as the letter points out, no possibility of full intercommunion. That is a situation which has existed since 2009, but which would seem to require that something be done to resolve it. Letting things continue as they are, with valid concerns not being addressed, is not a solution, but a cop-out.

    And yes, this issue would, it seems to me, produce a state of impaired communion between those provinces in GAFCON which practice the ordination of women (and the consecration of female bishops) and those which do not. Again, ignoring the issue and hoping it will go away is not a solution.

    Reply

    • June 6, 2024 @ 8:13 pm Marissa Burt

      I understand some people perceive it to be a first order issue. The reality in the ACNA (and GAFCON) is that others don’t. Consider this statement from the GAFCON Primates on this: https://www.gafcon.org/news/press-release-from-the-general-secretary-gafcon-primates-meeting-in-nairobi-kenya

      There is a way to attempt to change the current dual integrities stance, but it involves changing the constitution via vote, something that I don’t think will/can happen given the current demographic makeup of the dioceses. Given all of that, a moratorium seems to be a way to bypass those processes and the reality of the tensions of the province to force a ban on women’s ordination. This seems like the least satisfactory approach to effect change, not least because of the precedent it sets for attempts to creatively bypass canonical procedures

      Reply

  3. June 8, 2024 @ 2:34 pm Mack

    If I understand correctly, it takes something like a 2/3rds consensus to officially end the ordination of women in the ACNA, which is apparently unattainable. But given that the women who accept ordination are directly violating the scriptures, each one ought to be subject to removal on that grounds alone, provided men with conviction control the church court that removes them all.

    Reply

  4. June 15, 2024 @ 12:34 pm Ralph Webb

    For some who speak of women’s ordination as a 20th-century innovation, recall that the Nazarene, Wesleyan, and perhaps other holiness denominations have had women pastors since the early-to-mid 1800s. With Nazarenes, women were pastors from the time of the denomination’s start. It’s interesting that some of the spiritual heirs of John Wesley, an Anglican, have been the most comfortable with women’s ordination, and they remain very much theologically conservative (proving that a redefinition of marriage and weakening on Christian anthropology issues are not inevitable results of women’s ordination).

    But let’s not just look to other denominations. Wesley himself evidently was the first Anglican (or at least first Anglican evangelical) to authorize/license a woman (Sarah Crosby) to preach in 1761, and in the 1770s expanded that practice to license women as a general practice (assuming that they met certain qualifications).

    I think one lesson from this on our Anglican end is that our orthodox spiritualities will largely determine how we react to women’s ordination. Beyond the historic stance taken on the Anglo-Catholic end, more recently the strong push to prohibit women’s ordination seems largely to come from clergy who have come to the ACNA from other Reformed backgrounds/churches. Those who are more on the Wesleyan end might not have such qualms.

    And it is that orthodox theological diversity that is our great strength as Anglicans, and which arguably is the greatest gift we have to offer the body of Christ as a whole. Furthermore, the ACNA was founded to accommodate all of these orthodox positions. Let us not go against the original intentions for the ACNA, nor cause a splintering of Anglicans by jettisoning our necessary dual integrities. Such a splintering would not be good for the ACNA, the Church as a whole, or the world.

    Reply


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