"The Preachers chiefly shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe and believe, but that which is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, and that which the Catholick Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that Doctrine." A proposed canon of Elizabeth I, 1571

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Location: Bedford, Texas, United States

I am a presbyter in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas (Anglican Church in North America). I serve as Chaplain at St. Vincent's School and as a canon of St. Vincent's Cathedral Church in Bedford, Texas. In addition to my parish duties and teaching Religion classes in the school I am also the Middle School Social Studies teacher.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Of Orthodox Anglicans Still On-Board the Sinking TEC Ship

Sarah Hey at Stand Firm has published an essay for those traditionalists still inside TEC who are looking for a "third way" between departure for ACNA and working with the ACI and the Communion Partners to reform TEC from the inside. These folks have determined to remain inside TEC and not leave, yet they have given up strategizing to reform the national church.

They also recognize the following facts to be true. They:

-- have recognized for some years now that the Instruments of Unity have failed and will not provide relief or establish any sort of common order ever
-- wish to "engage in strategic, thoughtful action within TEC," not to "reform TEC" but to work within various local contexts for numerous possible goals and outcomes
-- have no interest in "patient and enduring witness" only without massive differentiation and strategic action
-- wish to be differentiated from the national structures of TEC in a more significant and apparent and compelling and communicative way than simply affirming the three Windsor moratoria
-- do not believe that an "Anglican Covenant" based on the corrupt Joint Standing Committee and zero spelled-out consequences will be at all effective in reigning in future chaos and division
-- do not believe that the Instruments of Communion are "the effective means of ordering the common life of the Communion" -- they are not effective and they do not order anything at all, much less "common life of the Communion"
-- recognize that the current Archbishop of Canterbury will not do what he needs to do in order to solve the chaos and disorder that is in the Anglican Communion -- this necessarily means that action must take place within TEC and among traditional Episcopalians to differentiate and "bring about desired future states" through other arenas and channels.

RWF resumes: I’m afraid I still don’t quite understand precisely what the goals of this "third way" are. If they are primarily interested in defending their local parish/diocese and preserving it's orthodoxy, that is admirable but surely ultimately doomed to failure. Their next bishop is going to have to get consents from the increasingly radicalized majority of TEC before he can be consecrated. I doubt he will be as solid as the present incumbent, in any case. And the bishop who follows after him will surely be even more “moderate.” Sooner or later, these orthodox “stayers” cannot endure.

To me it’s like TEC is a large, ocean-going vessel that has developed a massive breach beneath the waterline. Water is pouring in. It is becoming increasingly clear to most of those traditionalist Anglicans on-board that the hole cannot be repaired, though a dwindling number of hands are still furiously trying to do so (ACI/CP and those still striving to reform TEC from the inside). A significant part of the passengers and crew are convinced repair is impossible and have abandoned ship (ACNA). They are still alongside the sinking vessel and are pleading for their shipmates to jump into the lifeboat with them before it’s too late. Finally, there is a third group (those traditionalist “stayers” of whom Sarah speaks) who are steadfast in their determination to insure that their particular cabin stays free of the rising waters but who no longer believe repair of the ship is possible (I assume this since they are not actively working to reform TEC nationally from the inside any longer). They have barricaded themselves in an interior room and sealed the watertight doors. Due to their constant, valiant efforts at plugging leaks no water can get into their room, but as the ship as a whole passes under the waves they will surely perish along with everyone else still on-board. It is only a matter a time, unless they make a run for the deck and jump—and soon.

I truly don’t mean this to be harsh. I just don’t see a long-term survivability inside TEC for those who recognize that internal reform of TEC is impossible and that neither any of the Instruments of Unity nor the Covenant can retrieve the situation. No matter how orthodox their parish or diocese is today, they are at most two future bishops away from disaster as long as the majority of TEC must approve of their future episcopal elections. Remember Neuhouse's Law: "once orthodoxy becomes optional sooner or later it will be proscribed." Sixteen years ago it was still just barely possible for a bishop-elect who stood for the all-male priesthood to receive a majority of consents and be consecrated (i.e., Jack Leo Iker). No one can possibly imagine such a candidate would ever be approved today. In the same way, it is just possible a candidate who opposed ordaining non-celibate homosexuals and blessing same-sex unions could be approved today. I cannot believe this will be true in a decade.


Blogger Tregonsee said...

I am relieved that I am not the only one who is perplexed. It sounds as if their only goal, given their own restrictions, is to speak up and make certain that priests and vestries are not successful in hiding the reality from the pew potatoes. Been there, done that.

9:08 AM  
Blogger Robin_G_Jordan said...

"A significant part of the passengers and crew are convinced repair is impossible and have abandoned ship (ACNA). They are still alongside the sinking vessel and are pleading for their shipmates to jump into the lifeboat with them before it’s too late."

A lifeboat which I may add has only room for some folks and not others. Those already in the water, unless they are the right folks, are left in the water.

The ACNA would like to see itself as a rescuer and to be seen as a rescuer but the rescue it extends is only to a particular group of orthodox North American Anglicans, those who can embrace its views on the historic episcopate, Anglican formularies, ecclesiastical governance, the laity, and other key issues.

11:17 AM  
Blogger Julian said...

Those still on the "boat" can always jump ship when they feel the time is right, and until then, they will be doing what they feel they need to do. So I may be stretching your analogy here, but why bother "pleading" with them to jump? What do you mean by "too late?" Are you concerned that they will slowly slide down the slippery slope? I'm more concerned about the effect constant "barricading" can have on a community.

Maybe we need to focus on getting our own ship seaworthy. If the situation is bad on the TEC ship, those who are still on it will eventually make their own decisions. But we won't be much of an option if we're shipping water ourselves.

1:09 PM  
Blogger texanglican said...

Well said, Julian!

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose I am one of those people being talked about as I am still in TEC.
More of us will drift away, others will stay in TEC, and some will swim the Tiber or some other ancient stream.
I suppose I am just here re-enforcing that we're out there and that we, in my opinion, need two things:
1) Prayer for discernment and our walk with Christ.
2) Continue to remember we are out there, in TEC, and that not all Episcopalians are of the same variety.

8:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Jordan-

Why are you so insistent on painting Anglo-Catholics as boogeymen? Your disdain comes across in every one of your posts....and yes, I follow your blog regularly.

BigTex AC

1:13 PM  
Blogger texanglican said...

I think Mr. Jordan's insistence that the Constitution of ACNA favors Anglo-Catholics unduly is remarkable, since here in the diocese of Fort Worth I know a significant number of priests who are deeply skeptical about ACNA. In fact, I know of some hard-line Anglo-Catholics who seem to feel that ACNA as little more than an Evangelical racket!

For these staunch Anglo-Catholics, for example, the Fundamental Declaration's recognition of only the "Christological clarifications" of the fifth, sixth, and seventh ecumenical Councils "insofar as they are agreeable with Holy Scripture" is totally unacceptable. "How dare those Evangelicals put those caveats on the decisions of an Ecumenical Council of the Church!," these AC's object. "Insofar as they are agreeable with Scripture"? Why, that's unheard of. The presumption of these Evangelicals is astonishing! Etc.

And Mr. Jordan needs to understand that there is real fear on the part of some Anglo-Catholics that they will be outnumbered in ACNA by activist Evangelicals, which explains why the Fundamental Declaration's remarks on the Articles of Religion had to be nuanced beyond the words of the Jerusalem Declaration. These AC's fear that there may one day be some disciplinary enforcement of the 39 Articles to crack down on devotional practices they have long held very dear, like Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament (See art. XXV--"The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them.") To not put the 39 Articles in historical context and allow a strictly 'literal, grammatical reading' (e.g., Christ didn't ORDER us to carry the Sacrament about ["not by his ordinance"}, but He didn't forbid us from doing it either!) is to risk the possibility that Sydney or J.C. Ryle-type Evangelicals could one day move against the Catholic wing of ACNA in the future. Many Anglo-Catholics have a sense that they are a minority party inside ACNA whose rights need to be protected.

IMHO, if both the ultra-Reformed and the hard-line Anglo-Papalists find the Fundamental Declaration troubling, it might be setting just the right tone for mainstream traditionalist Anglicans of all sorts!

3:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep...judges feel the same way. If both litigants leave the courtroom feeling pissed off then it must have been a good ruling;)

BigTex AC

4:45 PM  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

Perhaps those barricading themselves in their cabins are gambling that the water is only about 10' deep, and the sinking ship will eventually settle on the bottom, with a few bits poking above the surface. Then they'll be able to survive in a thing that, well, isn't really much of a ship anymore, but it's stable and familiar, and as long as they're vigilant and keep whacking the rats as they try to sneak in through cracks and crevices, they'll be able to keep on doing what they've always done. They won't get anywhere, of course, since the ship will never rise again from the bottom.

8:57 PM  
Blogger Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"I just don’t see a long-term survivability inside TEC for those who recognize that internal reform of TEC is impossible and that neither any of the Instruments of Unity nor the Covenant can retrieve the situation."

I'm also unclear about the ecclesiastical perspective of these "Third Wayers". It seems like they are de facto behaving like congregationalists instead of believing that TEc is a hierarchical, episcopate church.

5:40 PM  
Blogger 1662 BCP said...

I recall someone once saying to me that "you catch more flies with sugar than with vinegar." It seems that far too much of the "Anglican" airwaves are taken-up with amateur polemicists on both sides of the equations. Does anyone of them really think that they are attracting others to adopt their positions, really? I've wondered about the number of those in the ranks of the ordained who seem to burn-up the hours of the day by squabbling online like so many old hens. There's hardly a one of them I would spend the time listening to in the pulpit that it would take to lick a postage stamp. The average people haven't a clue who Rowan Williams or Katherine Jefferts-Schorri or Bob Duncan is; but when they see the animosity and childish behavior of the many arm-chair theologians, pontificating from the comfort of their keyboards, they must wonder what any of this has to do with salvation. If one postulates that the clergy ought to inspire, then they had best stop behaving so immaturely.

10:25 AM  
Blogger texanglican said...

Sorry, 1662 BCP, but I'm afraid I must beg to differ with you (though I fear that as a trained attorney I go beyond being a mere "amateur polemicist" to being a professional one!).

I do agree with you that the average parishioner doesn't have a clue who the Archbishop of Canterbury or KJS or ++Duncan or what is going on in international Anglicanism. But IMHO that is precisely the problem. So many of our lay people, whose hearts love Jesus and who want very much to live sanctified lives, focus their attention simply on their local parish. That local focus has, however, allowed the levers of power in TEC to be seized over the last forty years by a theological far Left. The Leftist leadership has been foisting its agenda off on TEC as a whole for decades, and GenCon09 has shown us that its power is now completely unchecked.

I write this blog, in part, in hopes that it will inform just such well-meaning but poorly-informed laity about the dire state of things. They need to know the truth if Anglicanism in North America is to have any future beyond that of a Unitarian-Universalist sect in fancy vestments. I try to keep my comments here within the bounds of good tastes and not engage in ad hominem attacks (I, for one, thought the tone of my post above was quite measured--in contrast with a good deal that may be read on the web!). But I am convinced that the message about the apostasy of the national Episcopal church must be deseminated. If my remarks on this blog would cause you to dismiss my sermons on Sunday morning, I am truly sorry to hear that. But it is a message that must be conveyed. The blogosphere seems the best venue for me to do it.

God bless.

7:46 AM  
Blogger Robin_G_Jordan said...


Such notions as evangelicals may someday proscribe Anglo-Catholics in the AC-NA or prohibit Anglo-Catholics' particular forms of eucharistic devotions is a bugaboo. Anglo-Catholics who perpetuate these ideas are engaging in fear mongering and manipulation.

Anglo-Catholics benefit from the AC-NA fundamental declarations more than any theological group in the AC-NA. The AC-NA fundamental declarations not only exclude those you label as "ultra-Reformed," they also exclude those who hold to the moderate Reformed theology of the Thirty-Nine Articles and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal attached to the 1662 Prayer Book. They belie the statements that we hear from Bob Duncan and other AC-NA leaders that the AC-NA, unlike TEC, is "truly evangelical, truly catholic, and truly pentecostal." How can the AC-NA be "truly evangelical," if it rejects traditional evangelical Anglicanism and its historical view of the historical episcopate, the Articles, the Prayer Book, and the Ordinal.

If you have been reading my articles, then you know that I advocate genuine comprehensiveness in the AC-NA. I would substitute the following declarations for the seven declarations in Article I of the AC-NA Constitution.

1. The Anglican Church in North America is a voluntary association of autonomous and self-governing dioceses within the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, worshiping the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, united under one Divine Head, and dedicated to the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ and the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

2. We hold the Christian faith as professed by the Church of Christ from primitive times and in particular as set forth in the Catholic Creeds and the Anglican Formularies, that is, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons issued by the Church of England in 1662.

3. We receives all the Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as being the Word of God written and the supreme and final authority in all matters of faith and life of the Church, given by the inspiration of God and containing all things necessary for salvation.

4. We maintain inviolate these orders of ministers in Christ’s Church--Bishops, Priests, or Presbyters, and Deacons—which offices have been known from the apostles’ time and have always been regarded as worthy of great honor.

5. We are determined by the help of God to uphold and preserve the Doctrine, Sacraments, and Discipline of Christ as the Lord has commanded in his Holy Word, and as the Church of England has received and set forth in its Formularies; and to transmit the same unimpaired to our posterity.

6. We seek to be and desire to continue in full communion with all Anglican Churches, Dioceses, and Provinces holding the historic Christian faith and maintaining the aforesaid Doctrine, Sacraments, and Discipline of Christ.

As you can see, they contain no reference to the ecumenical Councils at all. Such a reference is unnecessary, and its exclusion allows Anglo-Catholics to hold to all the teachings of the first seven Councils of the undivided Church and evangelicals and charismatics to hold to whatever teachings of whatever Councils that they recognize. It also contains no reference to the historic episcopate nor does it prescribe any particular interpretation of the historic episcopate. It leaves the later to the theological groupings themselves. It recognizes that for Anglicans that the Christian faith is especially articulated in the Catholic creeds and the Anglican formularies but leaves to the theological groupings themselves to decide the extent to which that faith is articulated in the formularies. It does not prescribe a particular way of interpreting the Articles.

I also advocate replacing the doctrinally partisan language of the canons with theologically-neutral language. (continued below)

11:17 AM  
Blogger Robin_G_Jordan said...

For now the AC-NA enjoys the support of evangelicals outside of North America, including those whose brother evangelicals in North America you would exclude from the AC-NA. How long will the AC-NA enjoy their support once they catch on to the fact you and others like yourself do not want to make room for traditional evangelical Anglicanism in the AC-NA?

11:18 AM  
Blogger texanglican said...

Mr. Jordan, I truly don't understand why the conscience of any "traditional" evangelical would prevent them from signing onto what the ACNA's fundamental declarations say about the seven ecumenical councils. The constitution says, "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."

That final caveat, "in so far as they are agreeable to the Holy Scriptures" gives any interpreter the latitude to reject anything the holdings of those Councils that they believe are not "agreeable to the Holy Scriptures." A pure, hard-line Sola Scriptura adherent can surely sign onto such a statement, since it endorsement of the Councils has been rendered all but meaningless by the caveat! If I think the use of images in Church violate the Ten Commandments (e.g., staunch Calvinists), then I simply red pen out the offensive canons of the Iconodule Councils as "not agreeable to Scripture."

I suspect the author of this caveat would appeal to the last clause of Article XXI for support:
""General Councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of Princes. And when they be gathered together, (forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and Word of God,) they may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God. Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of holy Scripture."

The ACNA declaration that it "affirms the teachings" of the Councils was surely meant to please Anglo-Catholics. The caveat about this being done only "in so far as they are agreeable to the Holy Scriptures" was meant to insure the most traditional of Sola Scriptura evangelicals would never have to endorse a teaching of the Councils they could not in good conscience affirm (even though this pro-evangelical caveat makes the initial affirmation little more than window dressing!). Standard ACNA "comprehensiveness," as far as I can see!

8:53 AM  
Blogger Robin_G_Jordan said...


You were right in putting the word comprehensiveness in quotation marks since the ACNA is not really comprehensive, and falls far short of permitting a wide range of orthodox theological viewpoints within the limits of its fundamental declarations. Standard ACNA "comprehensiveness" is no comprehensiveness at all.

The Common Cause/Anglican Communion Network Round Table was responsible for the theological statement that is embedded in an adapted form in Article I. It is highly debatable whether a desire for genuine principled comprehensiveness motivated the Round Table. The statement is a hogdepodge of phrases taken from a variety of sources. The qualifier,
"in so far as they are agreeable to the Holy Scriptures" is taken from Canon A5 of the Church of England:

"The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy
Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils 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, and the Ordinal."

The Common Cause Theological Statement was unusually in that it included a position on the first seven Councils of the undivided Church. This can be seen from a comparison of fundamental declarations or the equivalent of provinces of the Anglican Communion.

The declarations laid out in the theological statement, as Stephen Noll has drawn to our attention, are not "descriptive normative" as the points of the Jerusalem Declaration. They are "prescriptive normative" The first says this is what we believe; the second says this is what you must believe. The provisions of the canons reinforce the prescriptive nature of the declarations.

Note that Canon A5 is also descriptive. The fifth declaration in the Common Cause Theological Statement, however, is prescriptive.

In a basic set of fundamental declarations for an Anglican church the fifth declaration is unnecessary. There is no real need for it. The real issue is not whether evangelicals can or cannot accept the declaration--an issue raised to distract attention away from the real issue--but that declaration does need to be in Article I in the first place.

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