Icons and Anglicanism

In light of the recent appearance of Metropolitan Jonah at the ACNA Assembly, it may be worth re-posting this paper, "Images in the Church of England." One of the primary ideas recovered during the Reformation was to reject idolatry, something that is often ignored today. The paper quotes John Donne, who wrote:

God, we see, was the first that made images, and he was the first that forbade them. He made them for imitation; He forbade in danger of adoration. For – qualis dementiae est id colere, quod melius est – what a drowsiness, what a laziness, what a cowardliness of the soul is it, to worship that which does but represent a better thing than itself. Worship belongs to the best. Know thou thy distance and thy period, how far to go and where to stop. Dishonor not God by an image in worshiping it, and yet benefit thyself in following it. There is no more danger out of a picture than out of a history, if thou intend no more in either than example.

Further, Archbishop Wake wrote:

Were the benefits of images never so great, yet you know this is neither that which we dispute with you, nor for which they are set up in your churches. Your Trent Synod expressly defines that due veneration is to be paid to them. Your catechism says that they are to be had not only for instruction but for worship. And this is the point in controversy betwixt us. We retain pictures, and sometimes even images too in our churches for ornament, and (if there be such uses to be made of them) for all the other benefits you have now been mentioning. Only we deny that any service is to be paid to them; or any solemn prayers to be made at their consecration, for any divine virtues, or indeed for any virtues at all, to proceed from them.

This is the historic position of the Anglican Communion: images are good, but they are not to be "venerated" or prayed to / through. In light of I John 5.21, the leadership of ACNA should reconsider rushing into dialog with the Orthodox. We can be co-belligerents on issues of morality in our nation, but we must not unite with them in areas where the Reformation reclaimed Scriptural truths.

“A Scandal in the Body of Christ”

The Anglican TV interview with Archbishop Duncan that was released over the weekend was very revealing. Some of the salient points that jumped out at me are summarized below:

[1] Duncan recalled the 2010 separation of AMiA and ACNA and noted that AMiA claimed back then this separation was necessary because “the bishops of Rwanda required it, the canons demanded it, that the Anglican Mission could only be in one Province,” and so the AM moved from jurisdictional participation to Mission Partner status. These claims about why AMiA needed to separate were false (Archbishop Duncan didn’t say that, he implied it. I am saying it).

[2] Archbishop Duncan implied that the move to the Congo came as a shock even to the AM bishops. He said (my paraphrase) that the “statement from the Chairman about Congo came as a great surprise to almost everyone. Every indication, at least in terms of what leaders were saying, is that they were going to return to life and to relationship in North America.” So, Murphy may have acted without getting the prior consent of his bishops – what a shock right? Do you think the congregations and clergy were consulted prior to that announcement?

The Archbishop said, “…until very recent days we believed that the Anglican Mission was trying to come back into relationship with the ACNA, but the move to Congo and the things that have surrounded it, and indeed the bishops who have spoken to some of our bishops who have been AM bishops make it clear that really the AM is moving somewhat erratically and again is disintegrating further…further fracturing as the move to Congo is not widely applauded here in North America.”

[3] The Archbishop gave us a glimpse inside the South Africa meeting between the Rwandan bishops and the Pawleys Island folks. He said that “the result of those two meetings was I think some further pain in which the Anglican Mission in the Johannesburg meeting asked, and actually used the words, it’s time for a divorce. Rwanda has in a sense agreed to set the Anglican Mission free, but still, all of this is a great unhappiness even a scandal in the Body of Christ.”

[4] Duncan confirmed what I think was clear from reading between the lines of his December letter, namely, that any resolution with ACNA depended on Chairman Murphy moving on (something which probably doomed this from the start). He said, “The second issue, that the letter spoke about was the need for a change in leadership. we think that the AMiA really, for these last two years has been going in a direction that is not a direction that God can bless, again, if the vision He’s given is true, it’s a matter of being together here, not separated here. And so, how was the Mission going to take itself in a new direction and that probably meant, as that letter suggested, meant some new leadership.”

[5] The Archbishop also emphasized that a Mission Society cannot also be a jurisdiction, the AM needed to chose one or the other. He said, “in that letter we talked about jurisdiction, and any church body that has bishops and clergy and congregations and ordinations, that’s a jurisdiction, you can call it anything you want, you can call it a Missionary Society if you want, but that’s not classically what it is. Classically, its a jurisdiction.”

Of course, that flies in the face of everything that the AM has been trying to do for the past year. Archbishop Duncan speculated that “we could very soon be in a position where the Anglican Mission is not in any Province….it will look much more like a Continuing Church than as part of the Anglican Family.”

Congratulations to Anglican TV for this very enlightening interview and to Archbishop Duncan for his candor.

Bishops on the Move

The news about the AMiA defections is out there, so I won’t repeat it. You can see an interesting source letter here, which reads in part:

The Rt. Rev. John E. Miller III of Melbourne, Florida, one of the bishops who consecrated me, has therefore requested to be received into this diocese. This is a temporary pastoral measure both for Bishop Miller and his parishes until the larger situation in AMiA is sorted out. He is a very committed, capable bishop and pastor, known and loved by many here in Florida.

I wanted to let you know that I will therefore be accepting Bishop Miller as an Assisting Bishop here as soon as I receive final confirmation of his transfer from the archbishop of Rwanda. Please read Bishop Miller’s and my announcement below.

“Assisting Bishop” is the role proposed by Archbishop Duncan and others, and is used in the recent understanding that has been created between AMiA and ACNA to help during this time of transition for AMiA. An assisting bishop is someone called to a particular and often temporary task, in this case to oversee Anglican Mission parishes in transition. It is not the same as an “Assistant Bishop,” which is a bishop whose appointment requires the consent of Synod. An assistant bishop would be a member of our ACNA College of Bishops, while an assisting bishop would not. We are planning no remuneration for Bishop Miller from our current diocesan funding at this point.

It is not possible to be sure of how long this arrangement will last. The understanding assumes six months.

Bishop Miller and the more than twenty congregations which have been under his care have been through a difficult season. Most but not all of these parishes are within our diocesan territory. I want you to open your hearts to them as we walk this path to care for them. Please keep them all in your prayers.

I know this is messy, and raises many questions. I am responding to a pastoral need with the encouragement of our archbishop. At this moment we are only receiving Bishop Miller. If any of his congregations or clergy wish to join us in our diocese, they may apply and be admitted according to our usual processes. They all have to make affiliation decisions in the next six months.

ACNA and the LCMS

Today, ACNA released a document called “Anglican Church in North America and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Dialogue—Report on the Discussions (2010-2012).” It is encouraging to see that the LCMS is holding ACNA’s feet to the fire on women’s ordination:

Disagreement exists among Anglicans about the propriety of ordaining women to the pastoral (presbyteral) office, while the LCMS opposes this practice.

LCMS/LCC representatives have discerned agreement with the majority in ACNA in regards to this issue. Although presbyteral ordination for women occurs in ACNA, a majority of ACNA bishops reserve presbyteral ordination only for men.

This “majority” position needs to become the only position within ACNA.

The Dude Abides

As I mentioned last month, Bishop Todd Hunter is slated to be a speaker at the ACNA assembly. That was before AMiA removed itself to the Congo, a Province that has been more in communion with Rowan Williams than Robert Duncan. You might think that Hunter’s participation in disobedience to Rwanda and flight from GAFCON would make him an unlikely speaker at the Assembly, but ACNA now has a story up that very much confirms that he will be there.

Bishop Hunter has hopped from place to place, having worked as National Director of the Association of Vineyard Churches from 1998 until 2001, then from 01-04 he was the Director of Allelon, an emergent movement that seems to have vanished, from 04 to 08 he was the National Director of Alpha USA, from 08 to 10 he headed a non-profit called Society for Kingdom Living. He was then brought in from being a non-Anglican to being ordained and consecrated as a bishop by Chuck Murphy in 2010.

Hunter brings an unorthodox view of women’s ordination to the AMiA (and thus fits right in):

It’s not about ordaining a particular gender or an issue of social justice for me – ordination is not a ‘right’ for anyone. While I recognize and celebrate the differences between genders, I want to raise up human beings gifted and called to Kingdom ministry…I guess you can say I’m an egalitarian of the complementary sort.

I am excited about the potential for women to be part of our church planting movement on the west coast and am already seeing fruit of such ministry in C4SO. This is all about facilitating a missional commitment.

A close eye is going to have to be kept on ACNA to see where it goes on women’s ordination and a host of other issues. Is it going to be TEC without the gay stuff, or is it going to be something better? That story remains to be written.

Leaving AMiA

In one example of what are and will be many, Church of the Redeemer is leaving AMiA:

After months of prayer, research and discussion your Elders believe that our future lies in an orthodox, unified Anglican province on this continent.  Therefore, we have decided to bring our association with the AMiA to a close. We want to express our gratitude for the leadership and oversight that the AMiA provided as we formed Church of the Redeemer, and in particular our bishops – T.J. Johnston and Todd Hunter.

We are sad to lose some of the connections we had in the AMiA.  However, we look forward to the day in which AMiA congregations are all part of one larger Anglican Church again.

Todd Hunter at the ACNA Assembly

Bishop Todd Hunter of the AMiA is a featured speaker at ACNA’s Assembly 2012. Why? Although canonically resident in Rwanda, he left PEAR along with Chuck Murphy. Archbishop Duncan said of these folks, “They are now former Anglicans, that’s what they have to grapple with.” [1]

So why would Archbishop Duncan turn around and invite Todd Hunter to teach at the high point of ACNA’s life together? Possibly, it signals that AMiA is on the way to being folded into ACNA. Or, perhaps it means that Todd is a candidate for the Vicar (Provincial Director) for Anglican 1000? Either way, it sends a confusing message when paired with what Archbishop Duncan has previously said.

 

From Nairobi to Johannesburg

The new communique from GAFCON on reconciliation between AMiA and PEAR is probably the end of the road for this chapter of the saga. This latest communique does not seem to agree with many points from the earlier Nairobi communique, for instance:

  • AMiA agreed that they remain canonically under the Church of Rwanda and accept the doctrine of forgiveness.
  • AMiA agreed to continue to work with the Church of Rwanda and that other plans for restructuring will be put on hold for six [6] months to allow time for healing and for other fruitful discussions.

The latest communique says instead that “we have done the best within our human efforts to fulfill the recommendations of the Nairobi Meeting”. I haven’t seen AMiA putting their plans on hold for six months, so I interpret this to mean that Rwanda is graciously allowing them to go their way.

This again points to a problem for Anglicanism that is at least as old as Bishop Pike and his heresy trial, if not much older, and that is that there is a real failure of church discipline. Renegades can get away with pretty much whatever they want, and that is not in accord with what we see in the Scriptures. Although GAFCON is a new development, it is in for a lot of trouble if it maintains the laissez-faire approach to church discipline that it inherited from Canterbury.

It remains to be seen where theAM ends up, and I’m sure that will take more time to sort itself out.

 

Thoughts on the PEAR Communiqué

The two options presented to the Rwandan churches are a narrowing of the three envisioned options presented at Moving Forward Together, and they make more sense. They boil down to (1) joining ACNA outright, or (2) existing in a close relationship with ACNA on the same pattern that CANA has.

The Missionary District of Rwanda allows for a relationship with Rwanda that honors PEAR for its contribution to keeping orthodox Anglicanism alive in the USA during the last decade. It also means that clergy to clergy and congregation to congregation relationships can be maintained. It also means that these Rwandan congregations in America can work hand in glove with their local ACNA counterparts. This is how CANA is functioning on the ground in Northern Virginia. Truro and the Falls Church seem to see themselves as more a part of ACNA now, with CANA being a secondary affiliation, and this is how it should be. A future Missionary Bishop or two (lets hope its not more than that) can sit in the ACNA College of Bishops and in Rwanda at the same time (cf. Bp Dobbs and Minns).

The Missionary District means that the narrative of Africa re-evangelizing America is not lost. Both Nigeria and Rwanda continue to send missionaries to us (in a sense). This important narrative was threatened to be lost with the Pawleys Island “Missionary Society” concept.

The Jerusalem Declaration is central to the Missionary District, and this is a good thing. A definitively classical Anglican position is outlined for this District. This is a move back towards what most of us thought the AMiA was about given the Solemn Declaration. The other bullet points are clear distinctions against what AMiA had become, such as:

  • Collegiality in place of a Chairman calling the shots.
  • A “passion for transparency” in place of the ongoing drama over the finances of AMiA.
  • Unity with ACNA, in place of rivalry and the pulling away that occurred in 2010. This breach began to be healed very publicly by Bishops Barnum and Duncan in Raleigh. This Communiqué uses the analogy of a marriage and becoming one over time, and that is a wonderful picture of what should happen. A decade from now, these recent struggles may be lost in the fog of the past as thousands of new parishes flourish in the United States.

The canons of Rwanda are being revised with the recognition that they currently do not reflect the faith and practice of PEAR. The travesty authored by Kevin Donlon will be undone, and this is a great thing for the future of GAFCON. A real disaster was averted.

Also, the Missionary District asks for “conciliar episcopal oversight” from Rwanda. This is a clear difference from the language of “reverse colonialism” and Egypt used by both Bishop Murphy and former Archbishop Kolini.

Anyone who wants to simply move to ACNA, CANA or the REC can do so with Rwanda’s blessing. This isn’t a power grab. The existing, interim structure will go out of business soon and churches will be back on track to disciple the nations. God has wrought wonderful things out of a tough situation.