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.

 

 

Archbishop Wabukala’s Address, Part II

Archbishop Wabukala uses the “alones” in his definition of salvation, “Set against this dark backdrop, the gospel of grace alone through faith alone shines in all its glory.” It would be hard to imagine a more thoroughly Protestant statement then what Wabukala has offered. He goes on to praise the confessionalism of African missionaries versus the moralism that took over in England:

For many of us the writings of John Stott and J.I. Packer simply were normal Anglicanism and too many of us assumed that the rest of the Communion thought the same way! 

I must point out that the Keswick origins of the East African Revival involve a good deal of Semi-Pelagiansim and that element of theology is not missing from the current GAFCON churches. Having said that, Stott and Packer are in a completely different orbit and referencing them is encouraging to me.
Wabukala maintains his focus on sexual ethics when he says:

The root cause of our problems is that strand of Western Anglicanism which has never been able to shake off the moralistic tendencies of the seventeenth century. It has too often chosen to justify its existence by various forms of moralism, but the indifference to doctrine which goes with this mindset means that it has a persistent tendency to adopt the morality of the prevailing secular culture — and it is ironic that bishops who are called to be guardians of the faith are often the leaders and catalysts in this process.  

But it is here that I must fault him for not going far enough. Sexual ethics are not the only ethics the Bible talks about, and while he is correct on those matters, he does not mention the approval of murderers like Uhuru Kenyatta and Paul Kagame that Romans 1:32 says we are not to give. Many GAFCON bishops have said not a word against the murderous wickedness of their national, but have said a great deal about homosexuality. Unless this is corrected, GAFCON will lack credibility in its notional re-evangelization of the West.
Another unfortunate aspect of Wabukala’s presentation is his identification of women’s ordination as a second order issue:

Following the spirit of the Articles, we respect diversity on secondary matters and the GAFCON movement models this in the variety of traditions it embraces and the recognition of principled difference about the role of women in church leadership. However, on those matters which touch the central message of the Church’s mission we need to also follow the spirit of the Articles, reinforcing the great positives of the gospel by stating the necessary negatives, especially in an intellectual environment dominated by post modernist relativism where it is assumed that truth claims are merely preferences. 

Women’s ordination has not been a secondary matter at all. It has indeed been the leading edge of the attack on Scriptural authority from at least the 1960’s on in the West. As Patrick Reardon said:

I trust it will not be a matter of indifference to Torrance that our opposition to women’s ordination springs from a deeply held conviction that the practice itself is a grave act of disobedience and a first, but firm, step toward apostasy. In fact, this was the assessment explicitly asserted by C. S. Lewis several decades ago in a passage that is well known. Lewis argued that ordaining the male sex to minister at the Eucharist has to do with the “correct appearance” (“orthodoxy” in Greek), the proper iconography. Change that appearance, alter that icon, he reasoned, and in due time you are worshipping a different god. That is precisely what we are witnessing today in congregations that were still Christian back when C. S. Lewis spoke his mind. 

I see the matter to be every bit as serious as that tiny but notorious fourth-century iota that Athanasius would have died to keep out of the Creed. The adoption of female ordination is regarded by some of us as an implicit but definite challenge to the lordship of Christ and the finality of his word… 

As with many things related to GAFCON, we have a mixed bag. Wabukala’s helpful re-centering of doctrine on the Articles of Religion gives way to a capitulation on Biblical principles of ordination and a failure to confront the oppressive regimes of several GAFCON nations. 

GAFCON Bits and Bobs

I read a couple interesting reports from GAFCON today. The first is from this blog, which says:

1-My own Anglican tradition, Anglo-Catholicism, isn’t a major player at GAFCON. The Anglican Church of Nigeria is High Church, and conservative with the Prayer Book, but Evangelical Anglicanism seems to be almost universal. Indeed, there was a small workshop on reconciling Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics on Monday, a fact to which much surprise was expressed by some delegates.
2- There is no agreed position on Women in Orders. Kenya ordains women. Nigeria does not. North America is still discerning this. Those of you who know me know my position.
3-Part of the East African Revival was holiness of life, particularly among clergy. One of the disciplines that clergy in this part of the world observe is complete abstinence from smoking and alcohol. Some of our delegations have observed this. Some have not.

There are three interesting take aways from that post:
[1] I think that in the USA the same balance of “evangelical” to “Anglo-Catholic” (broadly construed) numbers are true, and yet it seems like the majority of ACNA leaders are Anglo-Catholic. In other words, the leadership does not reflect the composition of the churches. That’s just my opinion, I certainly can’t prove it. On the global (GAFCON) level, this seems to not be the case.
[2] I really want to see who makes up the GAFCON commission that will be reviewing ACNA’s report on Holy Orders. This will become a vital subject next year.
[3] The East African Revival is certainly being talked up at GAFCON, but this gentlemen points out its positions on alcohol use which are indicative of its origins in the Keswick movement and Pietism. This is not a good template for Christendom. Also, the East African Revival did not stop the genocide in Rwanda, one of the most “Christian” countries on earth, at least on paper.
The second report comes from here, it was written by a female priest named Shari Hobby and says in part:

Highlight of the day for me was the clergy women’s dinner. Over 40 of us attended from  Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Madagascar, province of the Indian Ocean, US, and I’m forgetting someone!…I sat beside a woman from Uganda who pastors 10 congregations, walking between 4 and 10 miles to get to them from her home.  Amazing group of women, many of whom pastor churches while working in other professional jobs.  I am humbled and amazed in what they are experiencing for the sake of the gospel….Good time connecting with a woman priest and Canon from Rwanda who solely leads 5 services in 4 different languages every Sunday.

Anyone who thinks GAFCON will decisively resolve the issue of women’s ordination had better think again.