Formulating Orthodoxy: The Centrality of Canon Law for Common Prayer and Doctrine

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The general deviation from a standard does not justify ignoring a standard. Unfortunately, this is precisely what we find in the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) as laity and clergy alike wholly ignore or are ignorant of the Anglican formularies codified within the Constitution and Canons of the Province. Canon law is the fundamental source of authority for our formularies and statements of our faith. Failure to abide by these formularies and statements of doctrine and worship leads to deviations from the standard. Widespread ignorance of the governing documents of the Province does not render the formularies nonauthoritative. Instead, ignoring the authorities embedded in canon law renders one out of line with the canons and subject to potential disciplinary action. Contemporary Anglicanism has avoided the third mark of the church – “the right use of discipline”[1] and adopted a libertine “live and let live” ethos, resulting in unnecessary doctrinal confusion and ecclesial doublespeak.

As my seventh-grade science teacher emphasized, “Words have meaning.” Words govern multiple matters within our lives, such as interpreting contracts, Scripture, and doctrine. Redefining or ignoring the written word causes confusion and imperils the faith and the faithful. One letter (“i”) in a single word (“homoiousios”) made the difference to St. Athanasius and the orthodox fathers of the First Council of Nicaea, the difference between the catholic faith and Arian heresy. The decisions of the universally accepted ecumenical councils maintained the boundaries of orthodoxy through carefully formulated words. Since “words have meaning” and our Lord commands us to let our “yes” be “yes” and our “no” be “no,”[2] then it is crucial that our Province and the orthodox global Anglican movement be centered on the “literal and grammatical sense”[3] of our formularies.

This article’s purpose is to demonstrate why canon law is fundamental to defining orthodox Anglicanism and requires enforcement if Anglicanism is to have an identity. We will begin by exploring the meaning of canon law and how it defines the rule of faith. Next, we will explore a brief history of canon law and early church orders before the Reformation. This exploration will bring us to contemporary canon law at the provincial and diocesan level, using ACNA and the Jurisdiction of the Armed Forces and Chaplaincy (JAFC)[4] as examples. This article will explore the organization of the Anglican Communion and its ability, or inability, to enforce doctrinal statements within the GAFCON movement. Finally, we will acknowledge the role of canon law in defining ACNA’s formularies and thereby articulating North American Anglicanism.

Defining Authority

“Canon” comes from the Greek word for yardstick or measuring rod.[5] Therefore the Church uses the term “canon” to refer to Holy Scripture, for it is the ultimate and true measuring rod of our faith. Additionally, the Church refers to its own law as “canon.” Before we review the Church’s canon law, however, this fact leads us to another question: What is the Church? Where does authority derive from? Let us turn to the second part of the Homily of Whitsunday from the Second Book of Homilies:

The true Church is an universal congregation or fellowship of God’s faithful and elect people built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the head corner stone. And it hath always three notes or marks, whereby it is known; pure and sounds doctrine, the Sacraments ministered according to Christ’s holy institution, and the right use of ecclesiastical discipline. This description of the church is agreeable to both the scriptures and God and to the doctrine of the ancient fathers so none may find justly fault therewith.[6]

Anglicans concur that the Church is “one, holy, catholic, and Apostolic” as we confess in the Nicene Creed. During the Reformation, the Church of England further pinpointed that the means by which the church maintains its catholicity is preaching of the Word and delivering of the sacraments. But far too often Anglicanism has forgotten the third mark of the Church: ecclesiastical discipline. When a church neglects to apply the measuring rod, heterodoxy or heresy is preached; the sacraments are abused and not delivered; unlawful ministers are wrongly appointed or go without reprimand; scandals arise; and thus the standards are abandoned. The marks of the Church are lost, and it becomes questionable at best whether a particular church remains part of the one, holy, catholic, and Apostolic body of Jesus Christ.

Because the Church is tasked with maintaining the “faith once delivered,”[7] it must lay forth guardrails protecting and passing on Christ’s doctrines. When disputes arose in the early church, measuring rods as to orthodoxy and orthopraxy were made after bishops gathered in council, and we call these statements, canons. Canons are necessary to define doctrine, defend doctrine, and discipline deviants therefrom. Simply put, canons keep us within the bounds of orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Originally, canons flowed forth from the decisions of councils. For example, ecumenical councils and lesser synods would publish canons after convening.

Presently, we use the term “canon” for instruments more akin to bylaws, but nevertheless they reflect the doctrine and the discipline of the church. Arguably, some rubrics in the Book of Common Prayer are canons, since they prescribe doctrinal teaching and impose restrictions upon clergy and laity alike. Such are the “Black Rubric” within the 1662 Book of Common Prayer[8] and the requirements regarding excommunication.[9] Currently, when the bishops gather as the College of Bishops at the Provincial (ACNA) level – or at GAFCON when they have a gathering (typically every five years) – they issue “statements” instead of canons.[10] Although the church has at times changed its terminology or the manner in which it issues canons, canons and canonical statements reflect the doctrine and discipline of the church. When rightly crafted, canons are rooted in the Holy Scripture and catholic tradition. Therefore, they truly are a measuring rod, a yard stick, and a guide to each of us.

Purpose and Early History of Canon Law

Canon law reflects the authority bestowed to the Church. Beginning at Acts 15, the Council of Jerusalem demonstrates both ecclesial government in action and the way in which discipline is maintained. Over this council presided the Bishop of Jerusalem, St. James the Just. This structure predates the five Patriarchal sees, but eventually Jerusalem is recognized as one of the ancient patriarchal sees, in part for its early preeminence as demonstrated in Scripture. This first council determined an important dispute for the early church. What is to happen to Greek-speaking Gentiles when they become Christians? What must they do and abstain from doing? Must they become Jews first? Should they be circumcised and keep the food laws?

The Jerusalem council convene and arrived at a consensus after hearing testimony from St. Paul and St. Barnabas.[11] The prophet Amos is consulted and quoted specifically for direction.[12] After hearing St. Peter testify, the council came together and drafted a letter – a statement – declaring its consensus to the new Christians across the Gentile world.[13]

The Church creates canons through consensus. Notably, the Province and the JAFC both govern themselves in a conciliar manner. This process is not men gathering to make their opinions known and to vote their viewpoints. Instead, conciliar leadership is the coming together before God, seeking the Holy Spirit for movement, searching the Holy Scriptures, and fellowshipping as godly men to build a consensus as the Church – the true body of Christ here on earth. Christ has no vicar on earth; instead, He has His Body, the Church, which lives and breathes through the Holy Spirit. Such decision-making illustrates the power and apostolic authority to bind on earth – in other words, the keys of the kingdom of God.[14]

Moving forward in history, we witness many synods convening across the church. Each synod produced canons showing that the synod or council came to agreement out of one mind. Many heresies, such as Adoptionism,[15] Priscillianism,[16] and Apollinarianism,[17] are repudiated not just at the ecumenical councils, but first at local synods where specific heresies have reared their ugly heads in a particular region. Although known for their theological outcomes, all councils, including the ecumenical councils, express their theological decisions by promulgating canon law and occasionally a creed (or modification thereof). And these canons guide the church as to error versus the ancient Way, Truth, and Life.

Additionally, if one reviews the canons from the ecumenical councils, you will find there is more than adopting (or modifying) the text of the Nicene Creed, drafting a statement settling theological controversies, or enacting canons to ensure Apostolic teaching. One also finds canons dealing with specific situations. Many of the canons address items causing scandal in the Church – typically due to the outrageous actions of clergymen. Some of the canons would likely shock the average layman because of the activities that had to be restrained. These canons illustrate that the Church has always had to battle scandal and discipline errant clergy. Hence the need for canon law: to govern the Church. After all, canons disciplining immoral clergy are no less doctrinal, for our Lord Jesus taught His disciples how they should live.[18] Therefore, canon law reflects how Christians (especially the clergy) are called to minister, live, teach, and administer the sacraments. When necessary, the canons provide not only the measuring stick, but also the rod for ecclesiastical discipline.

Church Orders

The study of early church canon law leads one to a particular type of literature unique to the early church, “Church orders.” Church orders record the earliest church canons and practices. They illustrate how the church is organized, how the church is governed, how the church should or should not act, and what is allowed and not allowed. They can be considered a collection of canon law organized as a book of discipline. Typically, a church order will describe the roles of major and minor church offices, including the role of widows, virgins, readers, and subdeacons. It explains the proper order for certain ecclesial actions, including the liturgy, behavior, and the Church’s teaching on key doctrine. The earliest church order is the Didache, and within it we find each of these aspects of church orders.[19] A Syrian text, it dates to either the first or second century.[20] The Didache had a great influence upon later church orders, including the Apostolic Tradition and Apostolic Constitutions.

In order to demonstrate how church orders evolve over time, examine the Apostolic Tradition. It is a Syrian document that dates to the 4th Century AD. This work was incorporated centuries later into the Apostolic Constitutions. When one reviews the Apostolic Constitutions, you see the Church gathering canons it viewed as essential to keeping the Church on the right path.

The Apostolic Tradition – An Overview

The rediscovery of several church orders in the late 19th century spurred the 20th-century Liturgical Movement and Prayer Book revisions from the early to mid 20th century. Through the rediscovery of church orders, the Roman Catholic post-Vatican II developments led to the Novus Ordo liturgy in the mid-1960s and the Church of England’s adopting the Alternative Services Book in 1980.[21] Simultaneously, the study of church orders greatly impinged upon the drafting of the Episcopal 1979 Book of Common Prayer (BCP) and remains influential in the drafting of the ACNA 2019 BCP.[22]

When comparing the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the American 1928 BCP with the 2019 ACNA BCP, one notices that many services or items were removed during the Reformation. But after the Liturgical Movement, drawing from church orders such as the Apostolic Tradition, Prayer Book revision resulted in the restoration of pre-Reformation and ancient practices. To a certain extent, it is ad fontes – not going to the source for our salvation (Holy Scripture) but going to the source of early church worship by examining early church orders (canon law) and drawing the orthopraxy of common worship. A better term would be ressourcement, seeing as this liturgical reform movement is rooted in the larger nouvelle théologie school.

The Apostolic Tradition prescribes many practices – some foreign and some restored in recent prayer books. For example, catechumens originally were required to undergo extensive training and learning prior to their baptism and full reception into the Church. The time period required for their training varied throughout the history of the early church, but the earliest fathers record typically a week of training prior to Easter or even up to three years.[23] During the Easter vigil, the catechumens were baptized and received communion. This canonical emphasis on catechizing demonstrates that the elemental and fundamental beliefs of our faith were required before adult baptism and admission to Holy Communion. The canons required catechetical formation as the means of passing and preserving the faith once delivered.

Many aspects of the ancient rites and practices were received in Anglicanism; others were not retained. For example, a catechism was incorporated into the classic Prayer Books. The Apostolic Tradition provided a liturgical service admitting persons to the catechumenate. This practice was reinstated for Anglicans by virtue of the ACNA’s official Catechism, which has a similar service in Appendix 2. In the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the use of Holy Oil was omitted, only to return to the United States in the Episcopal Church’s 1928 Book of Common Prayer.[24] Additionally, the Apostolic Tradition forbade catechumens from professions that had pagan overtures or that were outright incompatible with Christianity, such as idol maker, gladiator, and sex trafficker. One church order even forbade actors on account of their ties to pagan sacrifices and dedications. Similarly, ACNA amended its canons to provide duties of laity.[25] Meanwhile, the Apostolic Tradition required fasting during one’s time in the catechumenate as well as a eucharistic fast. Fasting requirements were codified in Anglicanism by virtue of the Book of Common Prayer’s rubrics (more rigorous in the 1662 edition than in the ACNA 2019 edition,[26] but nevertheless prescribed). Additionally, the Apostolic Tradition established the canonical hours we know as the daily office, established taking Holy Communion to the sick, and prescribed eating in moderation – practices Anglicans retain thanks to the genius of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer in simplifying these canonical requirements into the common rule we know as the Book of Common Prayer.

Reformation Comes to England

As we advance in history, the Reformation arrives in the Church of England. Canon law was not untouched during the Reformation. Several reforms were made to the canon law to reflect the theological emphases of the English Reformation. Nevertheless, the reformation in England was based upon what is ancient and what is true. For example, in the two Books of Homilies, the English reformers frequently cite the ancient fathers. As the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion note, a church’s traditions and ceremonies that are not outright repugnant to the Holy Scriptures may be, and were, retained.[27]

In Apology for the Church of England, Bishop John Jewel cites the fathers and the councils, including the Council of Carthage (AD 365). The rulings (canons) of these councils are crucial in Bishop Jewel’s defense of the Church of England. In his work, Bishop Jewel cites this ancient council to demonstrate that the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, does not have universal jurisdiction. Since papal claims violated the canons of this council, Bishop Jewel demonstrates it was the Pope who had erred and not the Church of England, asserting, “The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England.”[28] Naturally, the question we must ask ourselves is, “Which councils do we follow?” Bishop Jewel relied upon the Council of Carthage, but which councils are accurate and reliable?

The councils the Church catholic receives as orthodox are those which base their findings – their canons – upon Holy Scripture. This criterion distinguishes robber synods and robber councils from orthodox gatherings. Canon Phil Ashey notes in his book Anglican Conciliarism, Anglicanism has a reformed doctrine of conciliarism that should not be confused with the late medieval theory championed by some Roman Catholics and ultimately subverted by papal supremacy.[29] The unique aspect of what Canon Phil Ashey terms “Anglican Conciliarism” rests not upon the authority of Holy Tradition but upon the Holy Scriptures – as interpreted and informed by tradition. Bishop Jewel and other English reformers note that, although we interpret Scriptures and are informed by how councils interpreted the Scriptures, a lawfully called council will add nothing apart from what the written word of God states as to how humanity is saved.[30]

The manner in which Anglicans receive and interpret councils is best expressed by the most renowned Anglican divine, Richard Hooker, when he states,

[A]nd therefore although ten thousand general councils would set down one and the same definitive sentence concerning any point of religion whatsoever, yet one demonstrative reason alleged, or one manifest testimony cited from the mouth of God himself to the contrary, could not choose but overweigh them all.[31]

When a council contradicts the Holy Scriptures, Anglicans reject the council as a robber synod. As St. John teaches, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”[32] Scripture is always the ultimate rule of faith.[33]

When a council’s teachings and canons do not contradict the Holy Scripture, then Anglicans receive a council’s teaching. This principle is canonically expressed within ACNA’s own governing documents.[34]

For example, when Bishop John Jewel is arguing over and against the Pope’s power and authority, he cites early church councils, including the Council of Carthage (AD 365),[35] to argue that the Church is a conciliar entity, gathered around her bishops, and that no single bishop is above all. In his argument, Bishop Jewel champions ancient councils and synods to rebuke heretics in a conciliar fashion, treating Holy Scripture as the final arbiter for questions of faith. Hence, Article XXI limits the authority to a lawfully called council adding nothing apart from what Scripture states regarding salvation. In other words, even a conciliar council unanimous in its decision may be nothing more than a robber synod if it contradicts or in substance goes beyond the Holy Scriptures.

Therefore, the Anglican formulation of conciliarism is not one of councils as the ultimate authority, but councils as authoritative so long as the councils are based upon Holy Scripture and interpreted in a catholic manner. This view of councils differs from that of the medieval Conciliarist movement, which held the authority of councils as exceeding that of the Pope, but also as the final arbiter for the faith. Unlike medieval Conciliarists, Anglicans maintain Scriptural supremacy over and above councils, which “may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God.”[36] Nevertheless, canon law is necessary and required to define the interpretation of doctrine.

The Reformed Canons of 1604

The original revision of English canon law was proposed initially during the English Reformation in the mid to late 16th century but failed approval by Parliament.[37] A further revision and reforming of the canon law was completed in 1604 and adopted by royal assent. These reformed canons served as the standard for the next three hundred fifty years in the Church of England.[38] The 1604 Canons were comprehensive, yet succinct. Additionally, in typical Anglican fashion it incorporated a number of reforms and proposals dating from the early Henrician reforms through Elizabeth I’s religious settlement.[39] The long service of these canons for over three hundred years serves as a model for contemporary Anglican canons.[40]

The 1604 Canons established and set the acceptable liturgical vestments, namely surplice, tippet, and cassock.[41] These vestments (choir dress) were the norm for the average parish, regardless of whether the service was the daily office or Holy Communion. The collegiate chapels and cathedrals, however, were expected to wear additional vestments as appropriate: academic hoods for the daily offices,[42] and copes.[43] These canons were in partial response to the earlier “Vestments Controversy;” giving them the force of ecclesial law empowered the Church to discipline wayward nonconforming ministers. In a similar vein, to the chagrin of Puritans, the canons defend using the ancient sign of the cross in the baptismal rite.[44]

Duties for clergy were laid out precisely and involved greater conformity than as of late. Holy-days and Sundays were required observances.[45] The Litany was required to be said or sung on every Wednesday and Friday and open to the laity to join at a regular hour.[46] The rectors and vicars were expected – by canon – to catechize every Sunday and Holy day prior to Evening Prayer.[47] This requirement ensured regular catechesis in the Christian faith, of children and adults alike.

The reformed 1604 Canons provided the orthopraxy of the orthodox faith. They unquestionably set forth that the Anglican faith is found in the Articles of Religion and Book of Common Prayer. To both of these formularies the clergy were required to subscribe obedience, and both were not subject to critique.[48] Fundamentally, it was impossible to become or remain a minister, much less “a Lecturer or Reader of Divinity,” without subscribing to the Articles of Religion and Book of Common Prayer. Furthermore, Anglican liturgical garments were expressly required, and doctrine had to conform to the formularies,[49] including the Book of Homilies.[50]

Sources of ACNA Canon Law

Therefore, noting the historical importance canon law plays in defining orthodoxy and orthopraxy, we turn to the ACNA’s canon law. It behooves orthodox clergymen and laity to review and know the Constitution and Canons of both the Province and their own dioceses. Canon law is profitable only when it reflects the authority of Holy Scripture. Both the ACNA and the JAFC’s Constitution and Canons rely upon the foundation of Holy Scripture and incorporate by reference documents containing the doctrine and authorized worship of the Province, such as the Fundamental Declarations. In turn, the Fundamental Declarations incorporate the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the ecumenical councils, the “To Be A Christian” catechism, Lambeth 1998, and the Jerusalem Declaration. Conveniently, many of these items belong within the 2019 ACNA BCP’s “Documentary Foundations,” and therefore are easy to refer to.[51]

An Overview of ACNA Canon Law

The ACNA Constitution and Canons concisely summarize their topical arrangement. The Constitution is organized into articles; the Canons, by titles. ACNA has limited or enumerated powers, like the American federal government. The analogy ultimately breaks down, but imagine the dioceses of ACNA as similar in stature and power to the American states, whose federal Constitution ensures that all powers not expressly enumerated to the federal government are reserved to the states. We see this in Article VIII, Section 1, which says, “The powers not delegated to the Province by this constitution nor prohibited by this Constitution to these dioceses or jurisdictions, are reserved to these dioceses or jurisdictions respectively.”[52] The ACNA is organized as a conciliar church, unlike the Episcopal Church, which, though originally constituted on a congregational basis with bishops, has centralized in the past fifty years into a metropolitan top-down structure.[53]

The most authoritative document (strictly in terms of canon law – not how we receive the faith once delivered) is the ACNA Constitution, and from thence authority flows to the ACNA Canons. In turn, the JAFC’s Constitution and Canons (and likewise all diocesan constitutions and canons) must not conflict with the ACNA Constitution and Canons. Likewise, the JAFC’s own Canons are trumped by the JAFC Constitution, should a conflict arise.

JAFC Sources of Canon Law

Just as the ACNA Constitution begins with a Fundamental Declarations, so too does the JAFC Constitution. Article I, Section 1, notably under the heading “Our Anglican Identity,” says the following:

The Jurisdiction hereby adopts, receives, and affirms the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) Statements and the Jerusalem Declaration issued June 29, 2008, we acknowledge the authority of Holy Scripture as containing all things necessary for salvation; we acknowledge the authority of the general councils of the undivided Church, in light of Holy Scripture; and we acknowledge the Book of Common Prayer as set forth by the Church of England in 1662, with the Ordinal, and Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, as the standard for Anglican doctrine and discipline, and with the Books preceding it, as the standard for the Anglican tradition of worship.

It would be prudent for all clergymen to read and re-read the documents that serve as ancient landmarks for our faith (Proverbs 23:10) and are incorporated by canon.[54] Notably, the JAFC’s Canons incorporate documents that are not referenced by the ACNA’s canons. For example, the ACNA College of Bishops’s statement on marriage “From the Beginning” is expressly stated as the teaching on holy matrimony. Every clergyman should be familiar with his own diocesan canons and any outside documents incorporated therein. Fundamentally, the Constitution and Canons of the ACNA, and of each diocese, provide the framework for ecclesial governance.

The ACNA Ecosystem[55]

The Provincial Assembly consists of 250–300 members representing the dioceses and youth according to the size of each diocese.[56] It meets once every five years at minimum, and is responsible for ratifying the changes to the ACNA Constitution and Canons which have been approved by the Provincial Council.[57]

The Provincial Council, in turn, is made up of 120–140 members, with four representatives per diocese, divided between clergy and laity equally.[58] The exception is the JAFC, which is entitled to only two delegates in the Provincial Council and Assembly, since it consists primarily of clergymen – with the notable exception of a handful of parishes, church plants, and commissioned lay chaplains.[59] The Provincial Council approves the ACNA budget, elects the Executive Committee membership, and passes amendments to the Provincial Constitution and Canons for the Assembly’s ratification.

The Executive Committee is made up of 12 members – half clergymen and half laymen – who prepare the budget approved by Provincial Council.[60] The Executive Committee oversees the administration of the Province between Provincial Council meetings and meets regularly throughout the year.

Finally, the Provincial College of Bishops meets twice a year and is composed of the bishops of the dioceses and jurisdictions belonging to the Province.[61] As overseers of the faith once delivered, they are bound by the Ordinal, specifically the ordination oath, to uphold, guard, and defend the orthodox worship and doctrine of the Province and to confront heresy and wrong doctrine. Hence, the College of Bishops makes statements, including its Statement on the Ordination of Women (September 8, 2017), which held that ordination of women to the priesthood “is a recent innovation to Apostolic Tradition and Catholic Order” and “there is insufficient scriptural warrant to accept women’s ordination to the priesthood as standard practice throughout the Province.”[62] Despite the clear wording and straightforward statement from the unanimous College of Bishops, the Provincial Constitution and Canons require amendment to formalize and clearly implement their statement.[63]

Typically, amending the ACNA Constitution and Canons requires a proposal from the Governance Task Force – usually prompted at the request of the College of Bishops. Any amendment would go through a process of public comment and revision by the Governance Task Force before it would be forwarded to the Provincial Council for consideration. Assuming the Provincial Council approved the amendment, it would finally need a two-thirds vote of the Provincial Assembly to amend the Constitution.[64]

Ecclesiastical Discipline within ACNA

The ACNA articulates twelve accusations on which clergy may be brought up on charges, namely:

  1. Apostasy from the Christian Faith;
  2. Heresy, false doctrine, or schism;
  3. Violation of ordination vows;
  4. Conduct giving just cause for scandal or offense, including the abuse of ecclesiastical power;
  5. A conviction by a court of competent jurisdiction for felony or other serious offenses;
  6. Sexual immorality;
  7. Acceptance of membership in a religious jurisdiction with purpose contrary to that of this Church;
  8. Violation of any provision of the Constitution of this Church;
  9. Disobedience, or willful contravention of the Canons of this Church or of the constitution or canons of the Diocese in which he holds office;
  10. Habitual neglect of the duties of his Office;
  11. Habitual neglect of public worship, and the Holy Communion, according to the order and use of this Church;
  12. Willful refusal to follow a lawful Godly Admonition.

Ecclesiastical courts exist precisely to enforce good order, right doctrine, and authorized worship – in other words, our Anglican identity. The existence of these canonical charges and ecclesiastical courts to enforce them should remind us of the high calling and tremendous burden on clergy, and why we must always be guarded to ensure our “yes is yes and no is no,”[65] since “every idle word”[66] or false doctrine will require an accounting before our Lord when the books are open on the great and fearful day of the Lord. St. James unquestionably warns us, “we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”[67]

ACNA Ecclesial Courts

Each diocese, including the JAFC, has a trial court for canonical violations committed by clergy. Notably, when a Bishop is charged with a violation, proper jurisdiction is the ACNA Court for the Trial of a Bishop.[68] The Province has several different ecclesiastical courts with varying levels of limited jurisdiction and limited avenues for appellate review. The ACNA Court of Extraordinary Jurisdiction reviews matters referred by a bishop overseeing clergy canonically attached to other Anglican provinces or dioceses who have waived jurisdiction in favor of this body.[69] When a diocese does not have an ecclesiastical trial court, this court may hear the case if the accused clergyman consents. Finally, the ACNA Provincial Tribunal is the court of appeal for all clergy convictions at their respective diocesan or jurisdiction trial court.[70] It is also the court of original jurisdiction for questions regarding the interpretation of the ACNA Constitution and Canons, interdiocesan disputes, or the question of whether an Archbishop or Bishop is properly determined as incapacitated; it also may provide nonbinding advisory opinions to the College of Bishops, Provincial Council, or Provincial Assembly.

Therefore, the ACNA (and its member dioceses) is organized to address canonical violations. Specialized courts were created to handle a variety of potential issues. Their existences are crucial to ensuring that the third mark of the church, namely ecclesial discipline, exists when a minister denies the doctrines enshrined in the Fundamental Declarations.

The Anglican Communion – Disorganized Unity?

We have advanced through the organization and governing documents of the ACNA and JAFC – but what of the Anglican Communion? The Anglican Communion is a loosely organized confederacy of provinces currently bound together by the so-called “Instruments of Communion.” These instruments include (1) the Archbishop of Canterbury, (who is not “The Anglican Pope” but is a first among equals more akin to the Patriarch of Constantinople in the Eastern Orthodox Churches); (2) the Lambeth Conference, which, first held in 1867 in England and attended by some American clergy, has been held approximately every ten years with exceptions due to world war and the recent controversies over homosexual ordination and marriage; (3) the Anglican Consultative Council, established in 1971 by resolution of the 1968 Lambeth Conference; and (4) the Primates’ Meeting, created in 1979 by Archbishop Donald Coggan, who was then the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Of these four instruments, the Lambeth Conference is probably the best known besides the Archbishop of Canterbury. Resolution 1.10 from the 1998 Lambeth Conference is perhaps the most famous decision from these gatherings, because it was the violation of this resolution, first by the Episcopal Church and later by other provinces, that spurred the formation of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA). Outside of Anglicanism, the next most famous resolution from Lambeth is the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral (1888 Lambeth Resolution 11), which reflects the Anglican Communion’s starting point for reunion with other Christian bodies:

  1. The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as “containing all things necessary to salvation,” and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.
  2. The Apostles’ Creed, as the baptismal symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.
  3. The two sacraments ordained by Christ himself – Baptism and the Supper of the Lord – ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s words of institution, and of the elements ordained by him.
  4. The historic episcopate, 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.

Regrettably, many of the Anglican provinces have walked away from one or more of these points over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries. The Anglican Communion has drifted from near-reunion with the Eastern Orthodox churches[71] to being stranded and isolated internally, one national church from one another, as it engages in the struggle to proclaim the gospel – clearly, accurately, and coherently to our fellow Anglicans and to the ends of the earth.

Each of the instruments of communion, save the Archbishop of Canterbury, was created after Anglican provinces had been established outside the Church of England, due to American independence and the expansion of the British Empire. Essentially, the creation of these instruments of communion was after the fact, and therefore it will take an effort from the Anglican provinces to create a formal structure that empowers ecclesial discipline across provincial lines.[72]

As Canon Phil Ashey notes in Anglican Conciliarism, the key component missing in these instruments of communion is authority. None of the instruments are authoritative, and therefore conciliarism does not exist within the Anglican Communion. None of these four instruments of communion can be held accountable when it fails to abide by or enforce agreements – such as 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10. Even when the Primates’ Meeting sanctioned the Episcopal Church in 2016 from representing the Anglican Communion in ecumenical functions for three years,[73] a mere nine months later the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, was representing the Communion as part of a delegation of Anglican primates to the Vatican – along with the Archbishop of Canterbury.[74] The failure to carry out legislative discipline undoes the actions and authority of the Primates’ Meeting, and demonstrates the inability of the Anglican Communion to constitute an actual communion.

The Future of Communion

The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) is a conciliar movement regularly meeting since the first Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem in 2008. It is a movement of provinces within the Anglican Communion striving toward greater unity and ecclesial discipline based upon the 2008 Jerusalem Declaration. The current structure of GAFCON includes a Council of Primates and a Chairman, served by a Secretariat and staff. Several chapters of the FCA have been planted mostly in Western nations where the national province has been hostile toward faithfully following Holy Scripture. It is reasonable to assume that many of these chapters will blossom into provinces of their own as many Anglican provinces follow the unfaithfulness of the Episcopal Church that led to the creation and recognition of ACNA as the orthodox Anglican province by the FCA and by numerous other Anglican provinces.

Ultimately, future unity – a true unity and community that results in communion – requires canonical boundaries. After all, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”[75] In order to create crossprovincial mechanisms to ensure that orthodoxy and orthopraxy are maintained, an agreed set of international canons will have to be drafted. Until then, there is no measuring rod to enforce discipline within GAFCON provinces. This lack has recently been illustrated by GAFCON’s inability to discipline member provinces who violated an agreed moratorium on ordaining women to the episcopate.[76] The fact that the GAFCON Task Force on Women in the Episcopate’s Interim Report recommended that only men be consecrated “as bishops until and unless a strong consensus to change emerges after prayer, consultation and continued study of Scripture among the GAFCON fellowship”[77] should give pause to ACNA (and other orthodox jurisdictions), which canonically prohibits women bishops[78] and has held that there is neither evidence for women presbyters in the catholic tradition nor scriptural support for the practice to be normative.[79] The language chosen in the Interim Report summary, however, implies that women bishops are possible, once an undefined “strong” consensus emerges through consultation (indaba?) and “continued study of Scripture” (which is clear on the issue)[80] and notably without consulting “the classic Anglican Ordinal” nor “the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church,” which the Jerusalem Declaration names as underpinning “our Anglican identity.”[81]

The inability to facilitate true unity through ecclesial discipline has led to the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans (GSFA) to call a June 2024 meeting to discuss and likely adopt its proposed Covenantal Structure[82] to govern the majority of Anglicans in the Anglican Communion. This Covenantal Structure, if adopted, will provide for the first time the ability to discipline erring provinces within the Anglican Communion. The present draft begins with its own set of Fundamental Declarations, citing “the Holy Scriptures, and […] such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Council of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular, such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer (1662), and The Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, annexed to The Book of Common Prayer, and commonly known as the Ordinal.”[83] Those provinces assenting to this new framework “subscribe to a common discipline in matters of faith and order, respecting the resolutions of the Assembly of the GSFA in Section 3.”[84] Interestingly, instead of creating an extraprovincial court overseeing the GSFA Anglican Communion, it delegates disciplinary authority to a general GSFA Assembly in Section 3.2.2. Such disciplinary actions are referred to the GSFA’s Board, Primates Council, and Council of Bishops.[85] The success of such a disciplinary system shall be tested, assuming it is adopted, as several GSFA provinces already ordain women not only as priests but as bishops, in contravention of the very formularies confessed within the Covenantal Structure’s Fundamental Declaration.

Anglican Identity

Earlier, we briefly mentioned the ACNA Fundamental Declarations when examining the source of ACNA’s Canons and governmental structure. It is important to review their content to acknowledge the standard for Anglicanism in North America, and for Anglicans worldwide.

The ACNA Fundamental Declarations outline that orthodox Anglican faith is first rooted in Holy Scripture,[86] the dominical sacraments,[87] episcopal governance;[88] the three catholic creeds (Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian),[89] and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and 1662 Ordinal “as a standard for Anglican doctrine and discipline, and, with the Books which preceded it, as the standard for the Anglican tradition of worship.”[90] The Declaration cites the Articles of Religion[91] and ecumenical councils as having authority regarding the beliefs of our Province.[92]

The organization of the Fundamental Declarations is reflective of Anglican theology (including the Thirty-Nine Articles) by beginning with catholic Christianity and then leading into Anglican distinctives. The first four points outlined in the Fundamental Declarations closely mirror the content and order of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral – Anglican’s right hand of friendship and reunion to the non-Anglican churches across the globe. The fifth point is unique as it lays claim to the seven ecumenical councils, qualifying that the latter three councils are accepted insofar as they agree with Holy Scripture and clarifying the Christology of the first four councils.[93] This affirmation of seven ecumenical councils is a nod towards the Eastern Orthodox (although the Oriental Orthodox and Roman Catholics would disagree on this numbering). The last two points of the ACNA Fundamental Declarations are the unique Anglican formularies: the classic Prayer Book, Ordinal, and Articles of Religion.

Points 6 and 7 are crucial for crafting what is uniquely Anglican in our identity. The prior five points are not uniquely Anglican or partisan (save Point 5’s numbering of the ecumenical councils). Point 6 anchors the 1662 BCP and Ordinal as one of the standards for “Anglican doctrine and discipline,” thereby giving canonical weight to the teachings reflected in the 1662 BCP and its discipline.[94] Furthermore, the Ordinal also is considered a standard, which is important within the debate over women’s ordination. Additionally, all BCPs preceding the 1662 are equally elevated as the standard for the Anglican tradition of worship” (emphasis mine). This wording is important, because any worship that is not reflective of the classic Books of Common Prayer is simply not Anglican. Likewise, the Thirty-Nine Articles as originally adopted (not the American 1801 revision) are expressed as “the Anglican response to certain doctrinal issues controverted at that time” – a pastoral manner of acknowledging that the Roman Church has changed its position on issues over time. Further, the Articles of Religion have not expired past their due date, but are upheld “as expressing fundamental principles of authentic Anglican belief.” Therefore, the three classic formularies of Anglicanism are canonically upheld as the critical litmus test for Anglican identity.[95]

The Fundamental Declaration’s cited documents and decisions regarding the catholic faith and Anglican way are incorporated by reference, and are therefore authoritative within the ACNA and its dioceses. Redefining doctrine or worshiping contrary to these standards places one outside the authority of the Church, and beyond the bounds of Anglican identity and practices. Furthermore, in two instances the ACNA Canons cites other documents as authoritative. First, the ACNA Catechism (“To Be a Christian”) is cited in ACNA Title II, Canon 7, Section 1 as defining and upholding a defense of our doctrine of marriage. Next, the Lambeth Conference of 1998 (which includes the resolutions adopted) and finally the Jerusalem Declaration are both cited and given authority by virtue of Title II, Canon 8, Section 2.

It is therefore imperative that the clergy obtain, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest not merely the Constitution and Canons, but more importantly the documents upon which they anchor themselves upon, and which are cited within canon law. For it is the canons and the documents they reference that are authoritative governing the doctrine and worship of the ACNA. If a diocese (or a parish) authorizes liturgical innovations or dispenses with the authorized Prayer Books, then it has acted beyond the boundaries of Anglican norm. The mere fact that a diocese or parish claims the label “Anglican” does not warrant its doctrine or liturgical practices as being in fact Anglican. This understanding reflects what the organizing delegates creating the ACNA intended by adopting the Constitution and Canons in Assembly in 2009. The concluding paragraphs of the Fundamental Declarations say,

In all these things, the Anglican Church in North America is determined by the help of God to hold and maintain, as the Anglican Way has received them, the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ and to transmit the same, unimpaired, to our posterity.[96]

This last paragraph is the crux of how ACNA defines “the Anglican Way.” The first reference to “all these things” is referencing the seven points defined in Article I. Together, these sources and points of teaching comprise, delineate, and define what it means to walk “the Anglican Way.” Deviation means departing from the path of “the Anglican Way” – not redefining what it means to be Anglican through deficient practices and beliefs. Every ordinand in the ACNA makes an oath and declaration before God and His Church to “solemnly engage to conform to the Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of Christ as this Church has received them.”[97] Ignorance or outright defiance of the ACNA Constitution’s Fundamental Declarations places an Anglican subject to discipline.[98]

The question is, will ACNA enforce its own landmarks and ancient boundaries? Will GAFCON adopt canons that allow for enforcement of the Jerusalem Declaration? Shall the GFSA reform the Anglican Communion with the ability to discipline erring provinces and do so when any province does err? Or will the third mark of a true church continue to be ignored by orthodox Anglicans to their own peril, and Anglicanism as an identifiable Christian tradition dissipate?

Conclusion

In the meantime, we are each called to uphold the canons we are bound by – ACNA and diocesan. They are rooted in the historic faith once delivered, and we should always weigh our canons according to their faithfulness to the faith reflected in the Holy Scriptures. Where contradiction exists, our faithfulness remains to the Word of God and compels us to amend any deficiencies in our canons to reflect the reformed catholic faith – just as we are called to amend our own lives in accordance with Holy Scripture and are bound in our worship by the Prayer Book. But when a Constitution, Canon, or Council’s statement clearly states the position of the Holy Scriptures, then it behooves clergy and laity alike to stand firm and call erring members to repent, reform, and conform to the faith once delivered. May we be ever disciplined and discipled by the rule, the measuring rod, the canon of our great high priest and bishop, the Lord Jesus Christ. To Him we owe our obedience, our faithfulness, our salvation.

Notes

  1. The Homily for Whitsunday, Two Books of Homilies, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1859), p. 462 (available at: https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Two_Books_of_Homilies_Appointed_to_b/O58UAAAAQAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&bsq=discipline).
  2. Matthew 5:37; James 5:12.
  3. The King’s Declaration Prefixed to the Articles of Religion (1628); see also, The Fundamental Declarations of the Province, Point 7, The Book of Common Prayer (2019) (“We receive the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1571, taken in their literal and grammatical sense …”) (emphasis added).
  4. I am canonically resident in the JAFC and served as its first chancellor.
  5. E.P. Barrows, Formation and History of the Hebrew Canon, Companion to the Bible, (New York: American Tract Society, 1867) (available at: https://www.google.com/books/edition/Companion_to_the_Bible/KUlHAQAAMAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&printsec=frontcover)
  6. Id. (emphasis mine).
  7. Jude 3.
  8. “Whereas it is ordained in this Office for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper, that the Communicants should receive the same kneeling; (which order is well meant, for a signification of our humble and grateful acknowledgment of the benefits of Christ therein given to all worthy Receivers, and for the avoiding of such profanation and disorder in the holy Communion, as might otherwise ensue;) yet, lest the same kneeling should by any persons, either out of ignorance and infirmity, or out of malice and obstinacy, be misconstrued and depraved: It is hereby declared, That thereby no adoration is intended, or ought to be done, either unto the Sacramental Bread or Wine there bodily received, or unto any Corporal Presence of Christ’s natural Flesh and Blood. For the Sacramental Bread and Wine remain still in their very natural substances, and therefore may not be adored; (for that were Idolatry, to be abhorred of all faithful Christians;) and the natural Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ are in Heaven, and not here; it being against the truth of Christ’s natural Body to be at one time in more places than one.”
  9. Additional Directions, Concerning Discipline at Holy Communion, 2019 ACNA Book of Common Prayer, p. 143, (Huntington Beach: Anglican Liturgy Press, 2019).
  10. For example, ACNA College of Bishops, Sexuality and Identity: A Pastoral Statement from the College of Bishops, Jan. 2021, (available at: https://anglicanchurch.net/sexuality-and-identity-a-pastoral-statement-from-the-college-of-bishops/); GAFCON, Letter to the Churches – Gafcon Assembly 2018, Jun. 22, 2018 (https://www.gafcon.org/news/letter-to-the-churches-gafcon-assembly-2018).
  11. Acts 15:12.
  12. Acts 15:16-17.
  13. Acts 15:23-29.
  14. Matthew 18:18-20.
  15. Synod of Antioch, AD 268.
  16. A Gnostic heresy condemned by the Synod of Zaragoza, AD 380.
  17. Synod of Alexandria, AD 362.
  18. Matthew 5.
  19. Didache, (available at: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-lightfoot.html).
  20. A collection of sources discussing the dating of the Didache is available at the Early Christian Writings webpage (available at: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/didache.html).
  21. Liturgical revision came to the Church of England after the proposed 1928 revisions to the Book of Common Prayer were rejected by Parliament. Since the Church of England cannot revise the 1662 Book of Common Prayer without a legal act of Parliament and the Royal Assent, the Church of England instead adopted an “Alternative Service Book” and has revised this book over the past forty years to get around revising the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Although the 1662 Prayer Book is legally the official liturgy, parishes using the Prayer Book are a rarity in England as the majority of parishes craft their own service from the myriad of options provided by Common Worship.
  22. See Preface, 2019 ACNA BCP, p. 1, (Huntington Beach: Anglican Liturgy Press, 2019).
  23. Philip Schaff, The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. II: Basilica – Chambers, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1952) p. 450, (available at: https://www.ccel.org/s/schaff/encyc/encyc02/htm/iv.vi.clxxxiv.htm) (After two [or three] years, he may ask for baptism;”).
  24. 1928 Book of Common Prayer, The Order for the Visitation of the Sick, Unction of the Sick, (available at: http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/1928/Visitation_Sick.htm)
  25. ACNA Canons, Title I, Canon 10, Section 2, available at: https://anglicanchurch.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/CURRENT-C-and-C-2019.pdf.
  26. Compare Tables and Rules, 1662 BCP (noting over a hundred days as fasting) with Days of Discipline, Denial, and Special Fasts, 2019 BCP, p. 689 (Limiting the number of days greatly and not requiring but merely suggesting they are “encouraged as days of fasting.”).
  27. Article XX, Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.
  28. Article XXVII, Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.
  29. Cn. Phil Ashey, Anglican Conciliarism, The Church Meeting to Decide Together, (Newport Beach: Anglican House Media 2017).
  30. Article XXI, Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.
  31. Richard Hooker, Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Book 2, Ch. VII. 5, (Glasgow: George Routledge and Sons, 1888) (available at: https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Laws_of_Ecclesiastical_Polity/OBlbuD57RecC?hl=en&gbpv=1 at p. 158).
  32. 1 John 4:1 ESV.
  33. Articles VI; XX; XXI, Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.
  34. ACNA Fundamental Declarations, ACNA Constitution, Article I.5 (“Concerning the seven Councils of the undivided Church, we affirm the teaching of the first four Councils and the Christological clarifications of the fifth, sixth and seventh Councils, in so far as they are agreeable to the Holy Scriptures.”) (emphasis mine). However, regarding ecumenical councils, the ACNA has an interesting situation as to what constitutes valid and proper canon law as within the seven ecumenical councils there are disputed canons. Specifically, at the Sixth Ecumenical Council we have a dispute as to whether the Council in Trullo (Quinisext Council) is part of the Sixth Ecumenical Council. The Eastern Orthodox Church accepts Trullo/Quinisext as part of the Sixth Ecumenical Council while the Western Church does not. One presumes that if the Quinisext Council is viewed as providing a “Christological clarification” then it would be accepted by ACNA pursuant to the language in its Fundamental Declarations.
  35. Bp. John Jewel, The Apology of the Church of England, Ch. 2, (available at: https://www.anglican.net/works/john-jewel-apology-answer-defence-church-of-england/ and also available on Google Books).
  36. Article XXI, Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.
  37. Dr. Torrance Kirby, Lay Supremacy: Reform of the canon law of England from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I (1529-1571), Reformation and Renaissance Review, 8:3 (2008), p. 349-370 (available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237692352_Reform_of_the_canon_law_of_England_from_Henry_VIII_to_Elizabeth_I_1529-1571).
  38. Id. at 365.
  39. Id.
  40. A copy of the 1604 Canons are available online at: https://www.anglican.net/doctrines/1604-canon-law/
  41. Id. at Canons LVIII; LXXIV.
  42. Id. at Canons XXV; LVIII.
  43. Id. at Canon XXIV.
  44. Id. at Canon XXX.
  45. Id. at Canons XIII; LXIV.
  46. Id. at Canon XV.
  47. Id. at Canon LIX. Interestingly, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer required this catechesis to occur during Evening Prayer and not before, pursuant to rubric. (“[A]fter the second Lesson at Evening Prayer, openly in the Church instruct and examine so many Children of his Parish sent unto him, as he shall think convenient, in some part of this Catechism.” Catechism, 1662 Book of Common Prayer.
  48. Id. at Canons XXXVI; XXXVII.
  49. Id. at Canon LI.
  50. Id. at Canons XLIX.
  51. 2019 ACNA BCP at p. 766. (Note this section uses the term “Foundation,” implying this is where the church is built upon and not that these documents serve some sort of historic interest, as the term “Historic Documents” implies in the 1979 BCP).
  52. This language is a near mirror image of Amendment 10 to the U.S. Constitution, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
  53. The creation of the Episcopal Church historically was a bottom-up process due to the lack of a bishop in the American colonies until after the Revolution. This empowered the local parishes in a far greater manner than in other Anglican provinces. It was only by changing canon law that TEC became more centralized in power, for example the passing of the Dennis Canon, which is key to the property disputes between former TEC parishes and their former dioceses and TEC. Cn. Ashey has a deeper analysis of these differences in his book, Anglican Conciliarism.
  54. Therefore, I drafted a six-month reading plan through our Anglican formularies, as received through the ACNA. It is available at The North American Anglican in PDF form in the article, “Bodybuilding in Exile,” about mid-way through the article at: https://northamanglican.com/bodybuilding-in-exile/. If you wish to bypass the article and go directly to the “ACNA Formularies Reading Plan,” it is available at: https://northamanglican.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/ACNA-Formularies-Reading-Plan.pdf. Each of the books within this reading plan are available for free online and are hyperlinked within the PDF.
  55. See a concise one-page graphic of this structure at https://anglicanchurch.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Structure-ACNA.pdf.
  56. ACNA Constitution, Article VI.
  57. Id.
  58. ACNA Constitution, Article VII.
  59. ACNA Canon I.11.9.
  60. Id. at Canon I.4.
  61. Id. at Canon I.1.
  62. College of Bishops Statement on the Ordination of Women, Sept. 8, 2017, (available at: https://anglicanchurch.net/college-of-bishops-statement-on-the-ordination-of-women/).
  63. The ACNA Constitution protects the ability of individual dioceses to ordain women to the priesthood pursuant to Article VIII, Section 2. This was acknowledged, without citation, in the College of Bishops’ Statement on the Ordination of Women. Naturally, the question percolates, if the College acknowledges the practice is substandard in light of Holy Scripture and a departure and innovation to “Apostolic Tradition and Catholic Order,” then is not the practice in violation of Article I of the Fundamental Declarations, which anchors our faith on the Holy Scriptures in Point 1 as “the final authority and unchangeable standard for Christian faith and life” and the ancient tradition and “historic faith of the undivided church” confessed in Point 4? Although there is equivocating within the College of Bishops’ Statement as to differing hermeneutics of interpreting the Scriptures, ACNA has adopted the Jerusalem Statement, which states in Point 2 the Scriptures are to be “taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading.” The church has never held women could be ordained presbyters and the practice only emerged in the mid-20th Century. Therefore, based upon the College of Bishops’ Statement, women’s ordination would be contrary to “being a part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ” and contradicts ACNA’s constitutional statement that “We seek to be and remain in full communion with [those Anglicans] that hold and maintain the Historic Faith, Doctrine, Sacraments and Discipline of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.” This inconsistency could be brought before the Provincial Tribunal if it is not solved legislatively by a constitutional amendment.
  64. ACNA Constitution, Article XV.2; ACNA Canons I.1.1; V.1.
  65. Matthew 5:37 ESV.
  66. Matthew 12:36 ESV.
  67. James 3:1 ESV.
  68. ACNA Canon IV.5.2.
  69. ACNA Canon IV.5.3.
  70. ACNA Canon IV.5.4.
  71. Several Eastern Orthodox churches recognized Anglican orders, including the Patriarch of Constantinople in 1922. See Encyclical on Anglican Orders from the Oecumenical Patriarch to the Presidents of the Particular Eastern Orthodox Churches, 1922, available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20020125091106/http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~ucgbmxd/patriarc.htm.Intercommunion even existed between several Eastern Orthodox bishops for a time. Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of New Hampshire (1910). Journal of the Proceedings of the One Hundred and Ninth Annual Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of New Hampshire, p. 411. Concord, New Hampshire: The Rumford Press. Reunion appeared imminent in the 1970’s until the Episcopal Church ordained the first women priests, which terminated discussions of reunion and transformed the ecumenical talks into a dialogue regarding theology versus corporate reunion.
  72. Notably, such an effort is in work and at the time of writing a meeting is convening in June 2024 by the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans (GFSA) to adopt a covenant to govern Anglican provinces willingly to sign on. GSFA Covenantal Structure, (available at: https://www.thegsfa.org/coventantal-structure).
  73. Matthew Davies, Majority of primates call for temporary Episcopal Church sanctions, Episcopal News Service, Jan. 14, 2016, (available at: https://www.episcopalnewsservice.org/2016/01/14/majority-of-primates-call-for-temporary-episcopal-church-sanctions/).
  74. Matthew Davies, On the brink of unity? Episcopal News Service, Oct. 6, 2016, (available at: https://www.episcopalnewsservice.org/2016/10/06/on-the-brink-of-unity/).
  75. Amos 3:3 KJV.
  76. George Conger, GAFCON responds to South Sudan consecration of woman bishop, Anglican Ink, Feb. 8, 2018, (available at: https://anglican.ink/2018/02/08/gafcon-responds-to-south-sudan-consecration-of-woman-bishop/) (GAFCON merely excused Archbishop Deng Bul’s action by stating he “had not been present when the moratorium was agreed). Three years later, Kenya did the same without any response from GAFCON. See George Conger, Woman bishop appointed in Kenya, Anglican Ink, Jan. 12, 2021, (available at: https://anglican.ink/2021/01/12/women-bishop-appointed-in-kenya/).
  77. GAFCON Task Force on Women in the Episcopate – Report to Primates, Summary, GAFCON, June 14, 2019, (available at: https://www.gafcon.org/resources/task-force-on-women-in-the-episcopate-interim-report-2019).
  78. ACNA Canon III.8.3.7.
  79. College of Bishops Statement on the Ordination of Women, Sept. 8, 2017, (available at: https://anglicanchurch.net/college-of-bishops-statement-on-the-ordination-of-women/) (“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.”).
  80. Holy Scripture is especially clear considering GAFCON stated in the Jerusalem Declaration, Point 2, that the Scriptures should be “taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading.”
  81. However, the classic Ordinal is referenced in the full Interim report.
  82. Supra, at n. 72.
  83. Id., at Section 1.1(a). Notably, Section 1.4 cites from the First Book of Homilies, thereby elevating their authority canonically across those provinces adopting the proposed Covenantal Structure.
  84. Id., at Section 2.1.5.
  85. Id., at Sections 3.3.3(l), (n); 3.7.2.
  86. ACNA Constitution, Article I.1.
  87. Id. at Article I.2.
  88. Id. at Article I.3
  89. Id. at Article I.4.
  90. Id. at Article I.6.
  91. Id. at Article I.7.
  92. Id. at Article I.5. However, the ACNA adds the fifth, sixth, and seventh councils as binding so far as they clarify Christological matters, but the Jerusalem Declaration at point 4 only upholds “the four Ecumenical Councils.”
  93. The Book of Homilies cite to each of the first six councils but the seventh is vehemently opposed and rejected by the longest homily in the collection.
  94. See, Ven. Andrew Brashier, The Rule of ’62, The North American Anglican, April 16, 2024, (available at: https://northamanglican.com/the-rule-of-62/).
  95. Doubtless, some extremities of Anglo-Catholicism will balk at giving authority to either the 1662 BCP or the Thirty-Nine Articles, but since Canon II.8.2 grants the Jerusalem Declaration authority within ACNA, its language is worth noting as well: “We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today” and “We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expressing of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture.”
  96. Id. at Article I (next to last paragraph) (emphasis mine).
  97. ACNA Canons III.3.2; III.4.3; III.8.5.
  98. Clergy can be brought on a charge of “Violation of any provision of the Constitution of this Church.” ACNA Canon IV.2.8.

 


Rev. Andrew Brashier

Rev. Andrew Brashier serves as the Rector of Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd in Pelham, Alabama, and is the Archdeacon overseeing the Parish and Missions Deanery in the Jurisdiction of the Armed Forces and Chaplaincy. He writes regularly about ministry, family worship, daily prayer, book reviews, family oratories and the impact they can have in reigniting Anglicanism, and the occasional poem at www.thruamirrordarkly.wordpress.com. He recently republished Bishop John Jewel's Treatises on the Holy Scriptures and Sacraments (https://a.co/d/ikWCXG4). The second edition of his first book, A Faith for Generations, is now available at Amazon (https://a.co/d/3iVgwdJ) and focuses on family devotions and private prayer in the Anglican tradition.


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