A REC recollection on holy orders

After reading my last post, a clergyman with the REC wrote about what REC bishops told their people regarding what to expect from the task force on holy orders. He writes:

At an REC Diocese of Mid-America synod that occurred shortly after the ACNA holy orders committee was established, Bishop Roy Grote (diocesan bishop and REC presiding bishop at the time) stated that we all (in the REC) know what the correct answer to the issue is, and with Bishop Hicks (REC bishop) as the committee’s head, we could be pretty certain what the end result would be.

A year or two later, Bishop Grote again addressed this at a diocesan synod. He again stated that we all know what the end result will be. In 2016, at the REC Diocese of the Central States synod (just a few weeks before Bishop Grote died), he said again that we knew what the result of the committee’s work would be, but that the committee was only going to provide a report to the bishops, who would then have to make decisions.

From the beginning of this process, Bishop Grote indicated the purpose of the committee was to work through the issue and provide a recommendation to the bishops. He was very clear that a recommendation would be forthcoming, not a simple jumbled report that surveyed the spectrum of positions. This was also affirmed by Bishop Hicks, who was in attendance at one of the DMA synods when Bp. Grote spoke about it.

This is consistent with what several clergy have said over the years.

Bishop Iker on holy orders in 2014

One bone of contention among those in the ACNA who are opposed to women receiving holy orders is that many believe that their bishops promised them when ACNA was founded that the issue would be dealt with, presumably favorably, in time. In contrast, the pro-WO folks point to ACNA’s Constitution and Canons and say, “this was the deal from the beginning.” The pro-WO folks also ask where the evidence is that Archbishop Duncan or others ever intimated that WO was only a temporary measure? While I have heard second-hand accounts from the beginnings of ACNA that claim such assurances were floating around, I have not seen any written confirmation of this claim.

I recently came across this sermon from Bishop Jack Iker. He preached it on February 21, 2014, several years after the formation of ACNA, but it does indicate what his thinking was at that time, which was that when the task force reported back to the bishops, it would be decision time:

But on a more serious note, there are some serious tensions and differences that we must address in our future life together in ACNA. I will comment on them very briefly. The biggest one, of course, is the issue of the ordination of women to the priesthood. It is not sufficient to simply say: “Well, some bishops do it and some don’t.” I am pleased that Archbishop Duncan has appointed a Theological Task Force on Holy Orders, which is now addressing this issue that some have called “the elephant in the room.” A final report is expected in January 2016, and then it will be decision time. I would simply observe that anglo-catholics and the REC stand together here. Those who do not ordain women make up a majority of the College of Bishops, and we see the ordination of women presbyters as a departure from the witness of Holy Scripture and the apostolic practice of the ancient Church. Pray for God’s guidance as we seek to resolve this deeply divisive issue, in the interest of deepening our unity in Christ. (emphasis mine)

We can parse his words and say that “decision time” just meant the ball would be in the bishop’s court, but I think the thrust of his thought was that things would move in a certain direction. The frustration of Bishop Iker recently is understandable given that this was his understanding.

ACNA chooses unity over truth

After years of waiting, the bishops of ACNA met in another “conclave” this week and the result is a totally unsurprising and yet disastrous bunch of nothing:

…we continue to acknowledge that individual dioceses have constitutional authority to ordain women to the priesthood.

I continue to come back to the first post I wrote on this subject several years ago and a comment from the Titus One Nine blog which was 100% correct:

I would suspect that ACNA’s leadership knows exactly how the theological report (if fairly done) will come out.  Indeed, pretty much any minimally informed person will know how this report will come out:  there are good arguments pro and con, and there is no clear resolution.  Therefore, ACNA will continue its current practice as it is the best possible solution to a theologically incoherent problem.  In this way, the non-WO activists can be partially mollified, or at least, they can no longer complain about the lack of any theological study.  And at the same time, ACNA can continue on its current policy but on a stronger footing.

What ACNA is at its core can now be discerned fairly clearly: a set of theologically incompatible tribes that do not agree about a great many things, but value institutional unity over all. It possesses no common liturgy and no common theology.

Reading the Tea Leaves

I think we can see which way the wind is blowing based on this interview with Bishops Hicks:

If a bishop as respected as Bishop Hicks who is staunchly against women’s ordination thinks that it should not be forbidden in ACNA because “…how effective are we going to be as Province? I just don’t see that splitting over this issue is going to help us at all…” then we can conclude that there will not be the requisite votes in the College of Bishops to change the Constitution. Unity and expediency are trumping truth and WO is being categorized as adiaphora.

Comments on the Final Report

If you examine the history of women’s ordination (WO) in the Episcopal Church (TEC), you find a denomination tracking with the Sexual Revolution and feminism right along with the culture in the United States; see this post for a brief look at that reality. With that in mind, I did a search of the Final Report to see what it might say about such issues and found very little. Here are the results (excluding the bibliography) with the headings of the search terms:

feminism

Page 262:

It is easy to see how ECs (the pro-women’s ordination movement) have seen their expectations rise amidst these revolutionary changes. All the old physical and social constraints on women’s leadership have dropped away. The contrast between the Greco-Roman world of New Testament times and western women’s environment today could not be stronger. Women now have up to fifty years of post-childbearing life. Western societies all encourage women to aspire to careers in which their gifts and character determine their success, and in which their sex matters less and less. To recognize all this is not to accuse ECs of capitulating to Enlightenment libertarianism or of embracing the ideologies of radical feminism. But it is plain that women today (and their male advocates) regard Church leadership with assumptions formed in the modern western environment. Protestant Biblically-minded women will read Scripture from a perspective shaped in this world.

Page 281:

From the traditional side of the argument, the question might be
stated, if women’s ordination was not received from Christ, where then does it come from? Unanimously, traditionalists point to the surrounding culture. Kirk (in particular) recounts the importance of maintaining cultural relevance in the debates leading up to the ordination of women in the Church of England; he also goes deeper than most, tracing the lineage of
the case for women’s ordination, through feminism more generally, to Enlightenment principles which were originally articulated in explicit opposition to Christianity.

feminist

Page 278:

Moreover, traditionalists frequently hold that to be truly ‘Catholic,’ one’s position should be consistent with both past tradition and the wider Church in the apostolic succession, and thus that proponents of women’s ordination, by definition, cannot be Anglo- Catholic. This paper leaves that debate to one side. Rather, a range of perspectives will be presented, in order to give ‘the lay of the land’ in what might broadly be referred to as sacramentalist Anglican discussion of the ordination of women. The ‘land,’ as it lays, is admittedly broader than the boundaries of Anglo-Catholicism as it finds expression in the Anglican Church in North America. This is particularly the case with regards to feminist perspectives. To limit the discussion to what falls within these ecclesiastical borders, however, would be a dual disservice: it would, on the one hand, provide a truncated and imbalanced view of the discussion’s dynamics; on the other, it would deprive the reader of considering some of the most vigorous arguments against the traditionalist position.

sexual revolution

Page 85:

The sexual revolution in the 1960s likewise entailed a re-paganization of British morals, especially in the under-thirty generation. All this meant that if Evangelicals were to re-engage the culture around them, they would face a culture that was far more hostile than (say) the Evangelicals had encountered a century earlier

And that’s it! That’s all I came up with. I don’t believe it’s possible to have an honest debate about these issues without referring to the underlying philosophies behind the exegesis put forth by the various camps, but I’m not sure we have that type of analysis in this report.

ACNA Task Force on Holy Orders Final Report

At long last we laity can read The Holy Orders Task Force Final Report. In what was (I believe) my first post on this Task Force back in  2013, I quoted this comment from the Titus One Nine blog:

I would suspect that ACNA’s leadership knows exactly how the theological report (if fairly done) will come out.  Indeed, pretty much any minimally informed person will know how this report will come out:  there are good arguments pro and con, and there is no clear resolution.  Therefore, ACNA will continue its current practice as it is the best possible solution to a theologically incoherent problem.  In this way, the non-WO activists can be partially mollified, or at least, they can no longer complain about the lack of any theological study.  And at the same time, ACNA can continue on its current policy but on a stronger footing.

That comment has guided my thinking on this Task Force throughout and the Task Force has not disappointed.

Where things go now is impossible to predict. I have heard chatter that  the College of Bishops strongly leans toward ending women’s ordination and grandfathering in those already ordained. The pro-WO bishops would have the option of sub-jurisdictional status. However, such a move would require a two-thirds vote of the Provincial Assembly. I have no way of knowing if this is possible or not, particularly with the addition of the Diocese of South Carolina. Has anyone counted potential votes?  And what happens if the folks voting for the historical position lose the vote in the Provincial Assembly after the House of Bishops has voted in favor of the historical position?

Although the leadership of the denomination seems to think it wise for “discussion” to keep on going over this issue, leaving it perpetually unresolved is like not treating an open wound. In the end, what would be the harm in the two camps going their separate ways? Think of it as the Jeroboam Option.

ACNA Task Force on Holy Orders Update – January 2016

fca task force
FCA Theological Resource Group circa 2009

The latest meeting of the ACNA College of Bishops included a brief update on the Task Force on Holy Orders. As a reminder, we are now in Phase 3 of this Task Force’s work, and to date each phase has taken about a calendar year to complete.

Phase 1: Organization of the Task Force – complete

Phase 2: Hermeneutical Principles – complete

Phase 3: Ecclesiological Principles – in progress

Phase 4: Arguments for and against the Ordination of Women.

Phase 5: Final Report to the College of Bishops

The task force is behind schedule, at least according to their own report last year:

It is our hope that the completed report for Phase Three will be complete by the time of meeting of the College of Bishops in January 2016.

Here is what the bishops reported:

The Theological Task Force on Holy Orders is in phase three of their process.  In this phase, they are focusing on the manner in which ecclesiology relates to ordination and holy orders. The Task Force continues to identify those perspectives on ordination which lead to divergent understandings within our tradition about the nature of holy orders.

Three papers are in the process of composition, which will present the manner in which ecclesiology is understood from the three primary perspectives that comprise our Province: Anglo-Catholic, Charismatic, and Evangelical/Reformed. They anticipate that Phase Three will be complete by the next meeting of the bishops in June 2016.  A webpage is going to be developed early in the Spring of 2016 to provide the resources developed by the Task Force.

The Task Force communicates with and receives comments from something called The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) Theological Resource group. I have asked who is part of this group and have not heard an answer, although according to this post, the group consisted of these members in 2009:

Dr George Malek (South Africa), Canon Dr Kevin Donlon (USA), Revd Dr Charles Raven (UK), Revd Dr Roger Beckwith (UK), Revd Dr Mark Thompson (Australia), Revd Professor Stephen Noll (Uganda), Canon Dr Chris Sugden (UK), Canon Etienne Mbusa (Congo), Dr Ngozi Okeke (Nigeria), Revd Erin Clifford (UK), Rt Revd John Akao (Nigeria), Rt Revd Ikechi Nwachukwu Nwosu (Nigeria), Mrs Imsola Odunayia (Nigeria), Canon Arthur Middleton (UK).

As a reminder, the members of the Task Force on Holy Orders and their presumptive positions on women’s ordination are as follows:

Rt. Rev. David Hicks, REC Diocese of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic – Against
Rt. Rev. Kevin Allen, Diocese of Cascadia – For
Mrs. Katherine Atwood, Diocese of Ft. Worth – Unknown
The Rev. Dr. Leslie Fairfield, Diocese in New England, Trinity Seminary (Ret.) – For
The Rev. Canon Mary Hays, Diocese of Pittsburgh – For
The Rev. Tobias Karlowicz, Diocese of Quincy – Against
The Rt. Rev. Eric Menees, Diocese of San Joaquin – Against

The previous post on the Task Force is here.

ACNA Task Force on Holy Orders Update – June 2015

The latest “Report of the Theological Task Force on Holy Orders” is in, located here. I think the key takeaway is the following two sentences:

It remains to be seen whether or not the issue of women’s ordination can be resolved in any direction beyond the status quo, apart from making judgments about these divergent views, thereby further defining holy orders for the  whole church. The bishops and church will need to consider the tension between the values of liberty and unity in this regard.

To me, this sounds like the status quo is here to stay, which is what I have thought all along. The Task Force is going to punt this to the bishops, will report to the bishops who will also bring in GAFCON on the issue – the Task Force is supposed to report its findings out to something called the FCA International Theological Commission (ITC). 1)As an earlier report said: “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.”

The Task Force “hopes” to have a final report ready by January:

It is our hope that the completed report for Phase Three will be complete by the time of meeting of the College of Bishops in January 2016.

I expect another year or two of deliberations after that.

The previous post on this subject is here.

References   [ + ]

1. As an earlier report said: “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.”

Archbishop Beach on Ordination

Over at a certain site, Archbishop Beach is asked about women’s ordination:

VOL: On the issue of women’s ordination, I gather you are opposed to it. Therefore will you continue the “period of reception” we are now in or demand a moratorium or bring the issue up for discussion and voting in a future ACNA House of Bishops conference? 

ABP BEACH: Let me answer this from three different aspects. First, from the College of Bishops perspective, it would be wrong for me to usurp or undermine a process which all of us have agreed to follow. We have a study underway which has all voices a part of the discussion. When this study is completed, it will be presented to the GAFCON theological Committee for their input, and sent back to the College. At that time, the College will discuss, pray, and decide what is best for good order in the Church on this issue. Second, from a personal perspective, yes, you are correct – I do not ordain women to the priesthood. But I came into the ACNA knowing that other dioceses do ordain women. But now I am in a new position; I am the Archbishop of all the clergy in the church – including the women clergy. I will treat them with respect and honor, and I hope they will do the same with me – even though we are in different places on this issue. We are Christians, and people should be able to see how we love one another, even though we disagree on this issue. Third, this presenting issue is going to be with us for a while as the Anglican Communion and even our GAFCON brothers and sisters hold different positions.

ACNA: Theological Task Force on Holy Orders Will Not Find the Solution

The latest publicly viewable report from the Anglican Church in North America’s (ACNA) Task Force on Holy Orders says:

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.

This is a far cry from the hope of some that this Task Force will role back women’s ordination (WO) in ACNA. It is more in line with what I have thought all along, see here. Of course, it is possible that the next Archbishop (Sutton?) could use the Task Force in line with a push for ecumenical relations with Rome and the Orthodox as a reason to phase WO out over time. It would require a change to the Constitution of ACNA however, and that seems unlikely to me.