Sunday, January 28, 2007

AMiA: A Backdoor Entrance for Women's 'Ordination'?

Changes In AMiA’s Structure Raise Concerns About Ordination Policy

Report/Analysis By Auburn Traycik
The Christian Challenge
January 23, 2007

Is the booming Anglican Mission in America effectively re-embracing its original policy of accepting women priests?Some may claim it is – and some distraught AMiA clergy certainly fear it is – following a change announced with little fanfare at the AMiA’s seventh annual Winter Conference, which opened with a Eucharist attended by some 1,600 persons January 17 and concluded January 20 in Jacksonville, Florida. The Anglican Mission, it seems, is now to be part of a larger international structure, overseen by a single AMiA bishop, that includes a second American wing that has female priests.

The AMiA is of course the U.S initiative backed by the Anglican Communion province of Rwanda, but not recognized by the U.S. Episcopal Church. It started controversially, with the surprise consecrations in 2000 of two Episcopal clerics, Dr. John Rodgers and Chuck Murphy, at the hands of Rwandan Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini and now-retired South East Asian Bishop Moses Tay (both of whom attended the Winter Conference). But now AMiA represents a significant and expanding piece of the Anglican realignment currently underway in response to deviations from historic faith and morals in some northern Anglican provinces. While the Anglican Mission began by accepting ordained women into its ranks, a careful and highly praised study undertaken by Bishop Rodgers led it to conclude in 2003 “that the most faithful response to the witness of Scripture and its teaching on headship would dictate that women be ordained only to the diaconate,” in the words of Bishop Murphy. “While recognizing that the Church is presently seeking further clarity in this matter through a period of discernment and `reception,’ the important concept of `headship’ proved to be the most critical issue for us as we developed our policy on the issue of women’s ordination.”

That determination brought AMiA significantly into line with historic Anglicanism and the wider Universal Church.Signs of an opposing trend actually began to emerge last year, however. In early 2006, AMiA’s overseer, Archbishop Kolini (whose province allows female clergy but has few of them) agreed that the Anglican Coalition in Canada (ACiC), comprised of some 20 faithful congregations and also accepting of women priests, should form a separate wing of AMiA. To that end, Kolini established on an ongoing basis what had been the temporary episcopal care of the Canadians by AMiA’s Bishop T.J. Johnston. At the time, Bishop Murphy, AMiA’s Chairman, denied that this represented a change in or violation of Anglican Mission policy. He said that all AMiA bishops are part of the Rwandan Church’s House of Bishops and “subject to the authority of Archbishop Kolini,” and added that Rwanda gave the ACiC “the same opportunity that AMiA had been given to express its preference on women’s ordination.” More to the point, Murphy noted that two viewpoints on women’s ordination are officially recognized by the Anglican Communion, of which AMiA claims to be a part, due to its link to Rwanda. To belong to that Communion “is to be in communion with those who are not of one mind on the issue of women’s ordination,” he said.

In this, he spotlighted the difficulties for some orthodox groups attempting to remain in the Communion, and one reason some extramural Anglicans have little interest in being brought back into it: the Communion as a whole no longer has a common view of holy orders or believes that the full interchangeability of ministers is necessary to true communion (as it is in other apostolic bodies); the Communion is content to say, officially, that women’s ordination is still being tested (in the aforementioned process of “reception”) and is therefore “provisional,” which is to say that the sacramental ministrations of ordained women might or might not be a valid and efficacious lifeline for the faithful, and might or might not be finally and fully accepted!It is a state of affairs that AMiA leaders had already accepted to a significant degree, but one that they now appear willing or under pressure from Rwanda to live with in a closer and more commingled way than might have been expected. In remarks to the gathering January 18, Bishop Murphy indicated that the AMiA is now to be put under the umbrella of the new, Rwandan-backed “Anglican Mission in the Americas ” alongside the ACiC, and a new entity, the Anglican Coalition in America (ACiA), which, unlike AMiA, will accept women priests. All three entities will be under Murphy as chairman of the super-structure and “in communion” with each other. Reportedly, the new American coalition was requested by Archbishop Kolini.

A “fact sheet” distributed by the new umbrella structure stated that:“In May 2005, Archbishop Kolini asked the Anglican Mission in America to seek a way to embrace all those priests and deacons, male and female, canonically resident in Rwanda, but living and ministering in the U.S. and Canada (now and in the future). The current structure of the Anglican Mission in the Americas, discussed and planned over the last 18 months, was created in response to Archbishop Kolini’s request and represents an expansion of our missionary outreach – a widening of Anglican Mission’s tent.“The Anglican Mission in the Americas embraces two countries (the U.S. and Canada) as well as two positions on the ordination of women,” the fact sheet continues. “ACiC and ACiA ordain women to the priesthood, as does the Province of Rwanda, while AMiA maintains its policy of ordaining women only to the diaconate. [The] Anglican Mission in the Americas provides a way to maintain the integrity of those with differing opinions and policies on women’s ordination.”“The three entities – ACiC, AMiA and ACiA – are equal, are in communion with one another and are under the authority of the Province of Rwanda through its missionary outreach – the Anglican Mission in the Americas.“Bishop Chuck Murphy serves as chairman of Anglican Mission in the Americas, and the National Mission Resource Center will assist and facilitate ministry for the ACiC, AMiA and ACiA.”

The issue of “integrity,” however, seemed to loom large in this matter from the viewpoint of those distressed by the change, who were said to include a number of AMiA clergy, though whether they would raise their concerns with their body’s leadership was not clear at this writing. (The AMiA has no diocesan or synodical governmental bodies but rather appears to operate by consultation among Rwandan and AMiA leaders.)One non-AMiA cleric willing to go on the record was the Rev. Dr. Peter Toon, President of the Prayer Book Society of the USA, who during the Winter Conference helped lead a standing-room-only workshop focusing on a new rendering of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer in contemporary language. Dr. Toon asserted that the new Anglican Mission in the Americas is “not a genuine fellowship”; there is going to be “impaired or broken communion” between parts of the AMiA and the new coalition sooner or later, he said. He thought the new configuration represented “a complete undermining of the doctrinal and practical position of the AMiA and will probably lead to doctrinal confusion and to schism in the long run.”

In a separate commentary, however, Dr. Toon specifically maintained that Rwanda went against the Communion’s doctrine of reception on women’s ordination by failing to appoint one or more bishops solely for the ACiA and ACiC, in order to maintain what the Communion recognizes as the “two integrities” on the ordination question.“The present policy as determined by Rwanda has one set of bishops…in the AMiA,” all of whom “are committed by oath, annually taken, to the doctrinal basis of AMiA,” Toon wrote. “This includes [a] commitment not to ordain or promote women as priests and means that they belong squarely within one integrity.”He added that: “It is impossible on principle for a bishop, who does not ordain women in one diocese or province or network, to cross over into another place and there act and speak as if the ministry of women priests is fine. That is, a bishop cannot as a man of principle belong to two integrities simultaneously. This mocks truth and sets aside the Anglican doctrine of reception.”

Toon contended that this conflict is not present in Rwanda, which has decided that women may be ordained, but in accordance with the doctrine of reception does not require a bishop who does not accept the innovation to ordain or license women within his jurisdiction. He noted that the “Mother” Church of England has also provided separately for orthodox parishes through its provincial episcopal visitors (“flying bishops”). “The aim here is to maintain two integrities while the process of reception is continuing,” Dr. Toon wrote.But for AMiA bishops, “who are committed to one integrity, that of maintaining historic catholic order” in the presbyterate and episcopate, “to move into another (which is what the ACiC and ACiA contain) and function there, as if they were also of that integrity, is clearly contrary to right reason and to good ecclesial practice. It is to conflate two integrities into one,” he stated.

“I suggest that to put matters right Rwanda should provide immediately a bishop who belongs to the new integrity” to minister to the ACiC and ACiA, Dr. Toon concluded. “And, as part of the pain of the modern Anglican situation, let it be understood that [that] bishop will not be able to minister within the AMiA, once he has ordained a woman as a priest.”Countering the idea that the creation of ACiA represents a significant change, however, new AMiA Communications Director Cynthia Brust noted that the Anglican Mission “was already under the authority of a province that ordains women.”Bishop Murphy also commented on the changes in question in a January 20 interview with David Virtue of VirtueOnline:

Mr. Virtue: You have had a corporate name change since last year. You now call yourself the Anglican Mission in the Americas, no longer simply the AMiA. Would you tell us what this is about and what it all means?

Bishop Murphy: The Province of the Episcopal Church of Rwanda has canonical letters from three different groups. From Canada we now have the Anglican Coalition in Canada. This was done to justify women’s ordination in that country. Then we formed the Anglican Coalition in America, where we believe the ordination of women should only be to the level of the diaconate (though he evidently means priesthood – Ed.). Thirdly, we still have the original Anglican Mission in America – the largest group of canonical letters – priests that do not accept the ordination of women to the priesthood.

Virtue: So you have not changed your fundamental position on women’s ordination?

Murphy: No, we have not. The charge from the Province of Rwanda was to create a structure that could embrace all three groups and maintain the integrity and conscience of each of the three groups. The AMiA consists of two nations, Canada and the U.S. and two positions on the appropriate biblical response with the women’s ordination question. Since we are in a province that has women’s ordination and since we are in a period of reception to discern the mind of Christ, our response is, being under authority, we created an umbrella with two countries and two positions while maintaining the integrity and conscience of both. I am the chairman of it all and Rwanda gives oversight. We remain under authority and in full communion with our Archbishop in Rwanda, even in our differences.

Virtue: Some of your priests I spoke with were quite upset, with several using words like “betrayal,” “backtracking,” “caving in,” “disaster” – to the point that they said it would have grave consequences [for] the church’s ability to grow and more. A number of your North American priests believe women’s ordination is a nose in the tent, a slippery slope to spiritual anarchy. How would you allay their fears? Are you concerned that it could ultimately divide you?

Murphy: The nose in the tent is that we are in the Province of Rwanda. This province believes in women’s ordination (and is growing as a church) and they have assured us that they respect our decision and our position with respect to women’s ordination to the diaconate only. I believe them. We are encompassing two nations and two positions. This is not a new development. We are giving leadership to all who are part of the Province of Rwanda. It is simply a new charge to give leadership to all the canonical letters.”

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Old and Ever New Dangers of Latitudinarianism

LATITUDINARIANISM. A term opprobriously applied in the 17th century to the outlook of a group of Anglican divines who, while continuing to conform with the Church of England, attached relatively little importance to matters of dogmatic truth, ecclesiastical organization, and liturgical practice. It found characteristic representatives in the 'Cambridge Platonists'. In general the sympathies of Latitudinarian divines lay with the Arminian theology. Their views did much to prepare the way for the religious temper of England in the 18th century (Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church).

In response to the development of multi-jurisdictional Anglicanism now underway in the USA as a result of the final death rattle of the The Episcopal Church, I offer a few thoughts at the beginning of this new year about what I perceive to be a real threat to the integrity and identity of orthodox Anglican catholicity. Full-blown Anglican Catholicism may indeed be the 'minority report' in the history of Anglicanism, at least since since the sixteenth century, but I would venture, in all honesty, to say we have the post-reformation Anglican formularies, the BCP liturgy and the great classic writers of Anglican pastoralia, theology, spirituality and asceticism on our side. History, I submit, will judge that we were right. When it comes to the fullest expression of that to which Anglicanism has always inherently tended, when it comes to what Anglicanism has always inclined towards liturgically and theologically, well, Anglican Catholicism, Prayer Book 'Mass and Office' Catholicism, is it. Take heart! - Anglican Catholicism is alive and well and will by God's grace continue to flourish where it is practised and taught.

A latitudinarian, a broad churchman, is one who believes that Anglicanism is an umbrella, a large copious institution which is capable of holding together dramatically different theologies and expressions of worship and belief so long as the lowest common denominator of discernible visible characteristics is maintained. What follows is my personal understanding of what broad churchmanship really is. It may be that I have completely misunderstood or mistranslated the broad position. But what I do summarise herein poses a terrible danger to us if it is allowed to take hold and to govern our policies. What I attempt to describe would no doubt be characterised by some as a straw man, a caricature. That may be, but this is how I see it as an Anglican Catholic. It is very hard for me to see it in any other light.

In the broad church milieu, so long as one simply maintains life in the Anglican flotilla, then one is as Anglican as one can get and no fuller expression of genuine catholicity is either necessary or desirable. Within this gaping spectrum any number of different, competing or even contradictory interpretations of Anglicanism are permissible and even encouraged. In its worst form, broad churchmanship is political opportunism and expediency. In its best, it is a generous application of the quintessential Anglican virtues of irenicism and civility and politeness. This is the classic broad church perspective, which is essentially atheological and institutional in nature. The danger involved: it is structure and symbolism over substance, organisation over organism, polity over faith and tradition, and it was the predominant political device in Church of England history from the 18th century forward. Broadness, unfortunately, has a long and influential history in Anglican affairs. 'Tepid centrist churchmanship,' to borrow a phrase, doesn't terribly mind Catholicism, the fullness of Apostolic and Patristic faith and practice, as long as it remains a harmless minority and stays out of the way and doesn't interfere with the machinery of church life and perceived temporal successes. But once Catholicism emerges as a theological and spiritual force, latitudinarianism is quick to persecute it as 'strange' 'eccentric' and most especially 'divisive,' 'a turn-off to prospective converts and members.' Our forebears in the Catholic Revival knew these epithets well and disproved them at every turn. From the broad point of view, the purpose of Anglicanism is to house the most diverse number of people possible within the most comprehensive body possible with as few tests of religious orthodoxy or orthopraxy as possible; issues of dogma and its corollary, liturgical expression, become adiaphora, things indifferent, when compared to the greater need to accommodate the widest section of people regardless of theology or faith. Accommodation is the supreme virtue of the latitudinarian cultus.

I believe this stream of Anglicanism can be Anglicanism at its weakest, its most insipid and lifeless and empty. Worse yet, Broad churchmanship is the Establishment mother of her insidious offspring, liberalism. Its antidote, its cure, is the fullness of the Catholic Faith as expressed in the Anglican law of prayer: lex orandi, lex credendi. We must begin to believe and practise the Faith precisely as we pray it. Otherwise, all we have done is to dress up and play Catholic, and that would be an exercise in sacrilege. As Gibbons once remarked, 'I see the vestments of a priest but hear the voice of a parson.' The outward and visible must begin to correspond and connect with the inward and spiritual or else we shall wind up a vacuous shell of orthodoxy at best or a gnostic sect at worst. In its reductio ad absurdum, the worst kind of broad churchmanship results in modernism, revisionism, the religion of the naturalist, the humanist and the secularist. Latitudinarianism, translated from a philosophical idea to a church-governing policy, resulted in the death of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion; those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Will we learn before it is too late?

The ultimate fruit of broad churchmanship is seen at this very moment in TEC and the Canterbury Communion: the elevation of reason (so-called) and personal experience, private judgement and interpretation of the Christian Faith, above the received and God-given authority of Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition in Holy Church. 'No prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God' (II Peter 1.20-21).

In short, one can say that the latitudinarian approach to matters Anglican is Rodney King theology: 'why can't we all just get along?' Such a religion is usually described by its partisans with a special buzz-word, the creedal formula above all creeds, comprehensiveness. As such, Anglican broad churchmanship seeks more to preserve a certain culture, a certain ethos of form, architecture, manners, a certain style, than to affirm or proclaim or witness or manifest a divinely revealed dogmatic esse and system of grace and truth given by Christ and the Apostles enshrined in the outward and visible signs of the Church's ordinances. We must learn to be true to our genuine selves. Prayer Book & Missal orthodoxy or Anglican Catholicism is also broad and comprehensive in the best possible sense, in that it allows a great deal of intellectual and spiritual freedom to explore the mysteries of the Gospel while maintaining the bond of communion with the Catholic Tradition via the Book of Common Prayer and the liturgical and spiritual patrimony inherited from the Church of England and especially located in the BCP, the Articles and the other Anglican formularies. The difference of Anglican Catholicism from latitudinarianism is that we allow the Church Fathers and the Tradition of the Undivided Church to interpret the standard formularies and liturgy of the English Church, whereas broad churchmanship uses the liturgy in its given form but has no definitive interpretation or theology at all. Anglican Catholics allow the Patristic Tradition to move and guide our teaching and worship to conform with the ancient and undivided Church, continually to restore and preserve for us the position of the Church of the First Millennium. For us, the Holy Fathers interpret the formularies and the formularies do not interpret the Fathers.

The Elizabethan Settlement as it once was, whether we like or not, is over, broken, and humpty-dumpty cannot be put back together again - if anyone questions this observation, all one need do is examine what is powerfully demonstrated by the ongoing disintegration of the Anglican Communion. I believe the challenge before us is simply this: we must either follow the natural and intended course of Anglicanism to the fullness of orthodox Catholic faith and practice or relinquish it to fall into the abyss. Archbishop Michael Ramsey writes that Anglicanism's vocation is ultimately to locate itself within the Great Church and the Great Tradition, even if that location means Anglicanism's distinctives must eventually disappear. I could not agree more. Old-style low church Episcopalians, a breed now mostly defunct, were liturgically-minded protestants, and they too had a kind of theology, a tradition, by which they interpreted the church's way of praying and living. Today, the new modern mega-church style evangelical Anglicans do the same with amazing vigour and commitment. The vacuum opened up by the rejection of the classical Caroline Tractarian Catholic Anglican position in the 1970's has now been filled, in the Global South at least, with a robust Calvinist-leaning evangelical protestantism. The lesson of the Global South - nature, and Church, abhor a vacuum; it is better to have a fully defined theology and praxis than to have none at all save a cultural relic.

Let us remain steadfast and resolute in our commitment to the Faith of our Fathers!

May 2024 Comprovincial Newsletter

The Comprovincial Newsletter for May 2024 -