The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) recently issued a Communiqué from the College of Bishops, which among other things provided some news about the Task Force on Holy Orders:
The Holy Orders Task Force currently is working on Phase Three of its stated procedure. In this phase, the task force is focusing on the manner in which ecclesiology relates to ordination and holy orders. In 2014, the Task Force met on March 20-21 (Ft. Worth, TX), May 14-15 (Bedford, TX), September 25-26 (Pittsburgh, PA), and November 20-21 (Bedford, TX). With the help of several outside scholars, the task force has developed working documents to assist with its task.
As was the case with the previous phase, the task force found it helpful to identify and summarize what the formularies say about the particular issues related to this phase of work. This represents the commonly accepted foundation, which forms the basis for discussion. The task force also has been working to identify those perspectives on ordination which lead to divergent understandings within our tradition about the nature of ordination and holy orders. This includes, but is not limited to, women’s ordination. By examining the premises upon which varying perspectives are based, the bishops will be in a better position to discuss a way forward in resolving the concerns about how holy orders are understood and function in the life of the Province.
As a reminder, the Task Force said in the past:
The Task Force continues its work, following the Method of Procedure approved by the College of Bishops in January 2013. The study is being conducted in five phases, recognizing that a person’s underlying commitments to hermeneutical methods and a particular understanding of ecclesiology contribute to his or her eventual conclusions about who are appropriate candidates for ordination. The Council and Assembly are reminded of the Method of Procedure, as follows:
Phase 1: Organization of the Task Force
Phase 2: Hermeneutical Principles
Phase 3: Ecclesiological Principles
Phase 4: Arguments for and against the Ordination of Women.
Phase 5: Final Report to the College of Bishops
The first two phases have been completed, and a report on Hermeneutical Principles has been released to the church. The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) has been kept abreast of our work through communication with members of the FCA Theological Resource group, and we have welcomed their comment. The Phase Two report has been submitted to our ecumenical partners, and we anticipate that responses will be forthcoming from them.
The Task Force presently is working on Phase Three, which concerns the ecclesiological principles drawn from the formularies of the Province. We are exploring the nature of ordained ministry and the manner in which the ordained ministry relates to the rest of the Body of Christ. We are aiming to submit the Phase Three report to the College of Bishops by January 2015.
We remind the Council and Assembly that the Task Force is serving in an advisory capacity to the College of Bishops. It is not the purpose of the Task Force to find “the solution” to the ordination issues within the ACNA. The Task Force will provide the necessary scholarly work and advice needed for the College to make informed decisions about how the jurisdictions within the ACNA can move forward in their life together. Please continue to keep the Task Force in your prayers.
Given the minimal glimpses we have inside this process, we can discern that the Task Force has not yet entered Phase 4, where it discusses the central issue, the ordination of women. I expect we are two to three years from any “final” word, meaning that GAFCON / FCA has weighed in on whatever ACNA comes up with. ACNA seems to be frightened of what that outcome could be, and so it is working feverishly to build unity ahead of whatever ruling comes out, so that no one walks away when the ruling / decision / report is finally issued. The message is, “let’s stay together even if we disagree.”
Past posts on this subject:
Bishop Hicks’ interview covering the Task Force: