Thursday 4 December 2008

Splits, Divisions and Acquisitions

A key part of the new ACNA (Anglican Church of North America) is that the parishes own the property (and are fundamental agents of mission). Whether this is to impress the law or not, or to be consistent with ongoing legal battles or not, isn't clear, but it is a longer term basis for the shrinkage of this new ideological Church.

A sense of dissatisfaction with the new Church means there is an easy way to loosen the coherence of the Church. There may well be bishops but if parishes can simply vote and walk, then in time some will over a particular dispute.

A second weakness is its wholehearted adoption of the Thirty-nine Articles, and repeated so within the adoption of the Jerusalem Declaration. This is surely not possible by the Anglo-Catholics within the new body (as in Forward in Faith - North America, as a founding entity), for whom mental gymnastics are necessary. Ordaining women is left to decentralisation, but one wonders if high office ordained women will upset these Anglo-Catholics nevertheless.

It will have a Provincial Council to accept in new dioceses, clusters and networks, and in a sense a Church like this either attempts to grow or it starts to die. If it stays as it is, then that is it, a marginal gathering only partially recognised by disgruntled Anglicans, and always subject to elements breaking off.

So there will be a Provisional Council and a Provisional Assembly to elect it every five years (and won't be tricameral, or anything like that), and there will be a College of Bishops to elect others. Robert Duncan will have a maximum of ten years - the Moderator will be Archbishop initially. There must be some potential drift if they wait until the summer of 2009 to elect the first Archbishop.

One question of this group's maturity is whether it can exist without attacking The Episcopal church. This will be difficult, because it will seek to recruit from The Episcopal Church the remaining disgruntled. There is also the effect, via GAFCON and the Jerusalem Declaration, on other existing provinces and breakaways elsewhere that will be a means of recognition. Prior to any breakaways happening elsewhere there will be fracturing and divided loyalties.

Such divided loyalties are likely to be contained within part of the Evangelical grouping unless there is more widespread recognition of this breakaway. Such recognition takes years: the Secretary General consulting about its constitution, two thirds of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council, keeping the Archbishop of Canterbury informed. If broader recognition is attempted, then other Anglicans will be forced into their own divided loyalties in not recognising the breakaway, and identifying themselves as in opposition. Best then if the new group is left to itself and what supporters exist at present.

1 comment:

Fr Craig said...

fyi, notwithstanding the still to be appealed Virginia ruling, which will be overturned, American courts will eventually all support the hierarchical structures of TEC and the schismatics will lose the buildings. Sadly, it will take time and lots of money. (I'm a former lawyer)