"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.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Very Positive Developments in the ACNA!

The Living Church has a report on the recently concluded ACNA annual meeting. It reports a number of encouraging bits of news (italicized emphasis added by me).

Officials of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), which launched a year ago as an alternative to the Episcopal Church, are reporting significant progress in their efforts to share Eucharist with other churches and to do evangelism alongside messianic Jews.

In a report delivered at the ACNA’s annual meeting in Amesbury, Mass., on June 9, ecumenism task force chairman Ray Sutton listed a series of recent milestones that show how the ACNA is forging connections outside mainline Protestantism.

Dialogues with the Orthodox Church in America have reportedly knocked down one of the centuries-old barriers that have kept Anglican and Orthodox Christians from sharing Eucharist. The big concession: when sharing Eucharist, the ACNA would confess that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and not add the phrase and the Son, as Western Christians traditionally do in a formulation called the Filioque.

RWF: When I appeared before the Commission on Ministry to receive final approval to be ordained a priest the chairman asked me if I believed everything in the Nicene Creed. (It is good that they ask that question around here multiple times during the ordination process!) I told him I believed every single word of it with all my heart. But, I added, if the price of unity was the Orthodox Churches was our jettisoning the Filioque clause I would do it in a heartbeat as the West really had no business adding it unilaterally in the first place. So I consider this a great step in the right direction. May God hasten their efforts!

What’s more, the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod has lined up four meetings with ACNA representatives at seminaries later this year as the two denominations explore potential for Eucharistic sharing.

RWF: After I came to know Christ our Savior in my twenty-third year among the first works of theology I read were Luther's three great essays of 1521. Brother Martin's thought has deeply marked my own. (I will wager that I am the only clergyman in the diocese of Fort Worth who has taken a four-week "Footsteps of Luther" study tour in Germany.) I would be absolutely delighted if this dialogue with the Missouri Synod bore fruit.

The ACNA is also inviting 17 messianic Jewish groups to a September summit to explore “how we can do ministry together,” Sutton said.

“We could get their congregations together with our congregations to fellowship, to pray and to seek ways that we be able to evangelize together among Jews and Gentiles,” said Sutton, rector of the Church of the Holy Communion in Dallas. “I think it will be a powerful witness for Jew and Gentile to stand together and proclaim Christ to our constituencies. It’s what happened in the New Testament.”

RWF: Interesting. May many people of all backgrounds coming to saving faith through this initiative.

Sutton’s report, which delegates received with rousing applause, comes as former Episcopal congregations now affiliated with the ACNA seek to establish a distinct, non-Episcopal identity. In addition to building bridges with other Christian communities, the ACNA aspires to define itself as a dynamic movement by planting 1,000 new churches within its first five years.

The ACNA is growing, albeit not as fast as some would like. Archbishop Robert Duncan, in his state-of-the-church address to about 100 delegates and bishops from across North America, noted that the church has swelled from 703 congregations a year ago to 811 now.

RWF: And now the bombshell:

Prospects for further growth, Sutton said, include welcoming as many as 150 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregations that are considering a move to the ACNA.

RWF: WOW! I wonder how this affects plans for the North American Lutheran Church.

The theologically conservative ACNA continues to tread in controversial waters as it carves a niche. Evangelizing Jews, for example, would put the ACNA at odds with most mainstream Jewish groups, which oppose the practice as an affront to Jewish identity. Also, whether to ordain women to the priesthood remains “an issue that divides us,” Duncan acknowledged in his address. Women’s ordination was on the agenda for panel discussion at the June 10-11 College of Bishops meeting, which was closed to lay delegates and press.

For now, the ACNA shows little appetite for internal conflict. Content to tolerate diversity of practice on women’s ordination, delegates to the Provincial Council avoided the issue and characterized their movement as more about unification, rather than fragmentation, within Anglicanism.

“We’re coming together, not splitting apart,” said the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, founding missionary bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, a mission of the Province of Nigeria. “The Reformed Episcopal Church is now here after having been apart for 130 years. So we’re actually seeing the reversal of the fragmentation thing.”

Preserving certain strong relationships within the Anglican Communion proved to be a priority at All Saints Anglican Church, Amesbury, as the ACNA marked its first anniversary. The Rev. Lynne L. Ashmead, a deacon and the ACNA’s registrar, cautioned that dioceses need to follow specific record-keeping protocol in conformity with Communion-wide standards. Delegates likewise signaled deference to the Province of Rwanda when they affirmed the Anglican Mission in the Americas as a “ministry partner” that would remain under Rwandan jurisdiction rather than the ACNA’s.


Blogger Connie said...

This is amazing news. Thanks for posting this, Father.

10:03 PM  
Blogger Father Lee Nelson, SSC said...

One of the things TLC missed is that the College of Bishops adopted a measure to appoint a missionary bishop for the Lakota Sioux Nation in South Dakota. This after TEC pulled all of their resources out and issued quit-claims for their buildings on the reservations.

12:41 AM  
Blogger Thomas said...

Wait, communion with the Missouri Synod?

I'm all for dialog; the question is how one defines ecumenical progress. It was Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie who said that "our vocation as Anglicans is to put ourselves out of business." As Pope Benedict himself has stressed recently, the end-goal of ecumenical dialog must always be the reunification of Protestant bodies (or unification of non-Christian bodies) with the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church which subsists in those particular churches in communion with the See of Peter.

To share Holy Communion with a Lutheran body would imply communion where none exists. At least, that is the case if Anglicanism has retained the traditional Christian doctrine of the Real Presence--not to mention the traditional Christian doctrines of Justification, Sanctification, Revelation, etc.

Of course it hasn't retained those doctrines entirely. Anglican belief and practice are incredibly varied, both historically and geographically, as are the belief and practice of the different bodies that make up the ACNA. That being said, I thought that at least here in the Diocese of Fort Worth we had held onto these fundamental tenets of the Christian Faith.

2:11 AM  
Blogger Texanglican (R.W. Foster+) said...

Thomas, Lutherans have a robust understanding of the Real Presence. They have talked of it in terms of Consubstantiation rather than Transubstantiation, but then Anglicans have never insisted on RC-style transubstantiation as the standard for Real Presence.

If you want to get technical, there may be a few things to debate with Lutherans based upon Article XXVIII of the Articles of Religion, but none of that obligates us to transubstantiation.

Art. XXVIII Of the Lord's Supper.

The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another, but rather it is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ's death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ.

Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.

The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper, is Faith.

The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.

7:20 AM  
Blogger Acolyte4236 said...

With the Orthodox, I think this is a rather overblown. At at least one of the Lambeth meetings, Anglicans moved to jettison the Filioque or at least render it optional. That is a step in the right direction, but it is hardly sufficient. It is a token. Rome itself notes that its inclusion in the Creed is not necessary and allows a number of Uniate bodies to recite the Creed without it, while still fully teaching the heterodoxy. What would be required is for Anglicans to reject the theology of the Filioque and all of its consequences. Refraining from saying it in the presence of the Orthodox while it is said and taught in other contexts isn’t substantial movement. Moreover, they would also have to reject women’s ordination as well as a good many things in the Homilies and the Articles outright and embrace the 7th council. I seriously doubt a more Calvinistic minded person like Sutton will be keen on rejecting Sola Fide, not to mention aspects of Augustinianism for example. Just ask Bp Jonah if WO is heresy in Orthodoxy or not. Guess what he will say? It’s a heresy.

More to the point, for full communion with the Orthodox, let us be clear and make no mistake. That will not take place until Anglicans become Orthodox since the Orthodox Church does not take itself to be a denomination, but the one and only true Church that Christ and his apostles established, full stop. Canonically, Orthodox are prohibited with praying with schismatics such as Lutherans, Presbyterians, Anglicans and Catholics.

2:04 PM  
Blogger Randy Foster said...

Acolyte, your final line about the Orthodox not being allowed to pray with other Christian groups is simply inaccurate. They have closed communion, that is true. But prayer is another matter. At a major Midwestern University I know well the traditionalists Anglicans in the student body were rountinely invited to join the OCF for Vespers, and back in the early 2000s we even had official joint-prayers services between the OCF and the TEC campus ministry (at least the traditionalists around who still participated int TEC campus ministry). In fact, the choir mistress of the local OCF congregation at that school is an ACNA member! She can't receive commmunion with the Orthodox, but otherwise she is fully treated as a sister in Christ today!

2:23 PM  
Blogger Acolyte4236 said...

Randy Foster,

I can’t see how your data functions as counter evidence to church law. It is anecdotal at best. Please note that I stated “canonically” and I can’t see how what you offered amounts to church canons. Putting forth examples of people violating canon law isn’t proof that the Church doesn’t canonically prohibit such things.

Invitations to Orthodox services are one thing. Open participation in the form of prayer is quite another. I hardly think that what an OCF does trumps canons of General councils of the Church. I’d suggest looking at relations with the Novationists for historical data.

7:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, the some Missouri Synod types have a view of the Real Presence--in a receptionist sort of way. BUT--and this is a big "but"--they do not have the apostolic succession. If you don't have a valid priesthood, do you truly have the Real Presence?

Just asking

10:42 AM  
Blogger John (Ad Orientem) said...

I think I would have to characterize any hope of communion between the ACNA and the Orthodox Church as bordering on fantasy. I could go on and itemize all of the reasons but I would still be typing come Christmas (on the Orthodox calendar). The unhappy fact is that from an Orthodox perspective the ACNA is flatly Heretical and it will take a lot more than dropping a word from the Creed to cure that.

+Met. Jonah provided a list of non-negotiable issues that will need to be corrected for any serious discussion of communion to proceed. And most of them are things the ACNA is not prepared to address. The bottom line is if you want to be in communion with the Orthodox Church, you need to become Orthodox. There is no way around that and the ACNA is not interested in that.


8:52 PM  

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