Thursday, May 31, 2007

Father Jones on the New Anglican Communion

A group of orthodox Bishops will meet this September in Pittsburgh to dicuss formation of an alternative Anglican Province in the United States. As usual, Father Greg Jones has some insightful analysis:

It has just been announced that a group of traditionalist bishops will convene in late September. The group calls itself Common Cause -- and is comprised of the Anglican Communion Network (ACN - whose bishops are still in the Episcopal Church), the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA - formerly 'Anglican Mission in America'), the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), the Anglican Province of America (APA), and the Reformed Episcopal Church. There are others too

The September 25-28 meeting will be held in Pittsburgh, presumably under the leadership of the Bishop of Pittsburgh, Bob Duncan -- Moderator of the ACN. Bishop Duncan appears to be unveiling the project he's been quietly working on in the past few months. Based on the various turns of event in recent months, and his few statements, it looks like the process of realignment in Anglicanism is well under way -- and Bishop Duncan is still very involved in it. It looks like the Common Cause Partnership is exploring how it can gather, unite, and form the long-awaited alternative Anglican province in North America. If the numerous convocations, missionary fellowships and small independent denominations in this coalition do manage to coalesce into a single entity -- this would be a new direction for traditionalist separatist Anglicans. Historically, the separatist bodies have been disunited from each other, and have fractured internally often. However, if somehow the Common Cause do form an 'Anglican Union in North America' as they seem to be proposing to do -- it would be a good thing for them.

. . .

It looks rather obvious that the separatists have concluded that the Windsor Process is complete -- and it has not served their goals. They have obviously concluded that the Episcopal Church will not be 'removed' or 'disciplined' by the Anglican Communion -- and so they are moving on to plan 'B'. This plan 'B' is the creation of a new ecclesiastical province -- which almost certainly will be the North American expression of not of worldwide Anglicanism -- but of worldwide Traditionalist Anglicanism.

The odd thing is that this group will be overwhelmingly dominated by evangelicals of the Richard Turnbull definition, whose defining doctrinal marks are still based on three calvinist slogans: sola scriptura, substitutionary atonement, certainty of hell for those who do not profess Christ. I say this is odd not because I'm surprised that the conservative evangelicals are dominant, but because they are going to be dominant in an organization which will still uphold the 1662 Prayer Book, 39 Articles, and a powerful episcopate. Historically, conservative evangelicals in the Anglican tradition have had lots and lots of problems with those three foundational elements of Anglicanism -- for they have a pronounced 'catholic' bent to them.

When the neo-classical Anglican Communion of Akinola, Minns and others have squeezed out the broad-church, latitudinarian, progressive catholics and other more 'modern' forms of Anglicanism -- it is hard to see how they won't return to the kinds of fights which bitterly divided the reformed/calvinist and high-church/catholic Anglicans between the 16th-19th centuries.

Indeed - based on comments and postings regularly made at Stand Firm -- the calvinist/evangelical Anglican party is indeed dominant in the realignment movement. I just don't see how they will tolerate the anglo-catholic traditionalists anymore then they ever did before -- or vice versa. It may be the great wish of Bishop Bob Duncan that the high-church conservatives and the low-church conservatives will get along, and form a viable, and visibly unified body. However, as much as that may be his wish, I am extremely doubtful that they will pull it off. Because, if history is any measure, those willing to break up churches and start new ones -- often take that tendency with them in their new ventures. And, the calvinist/evangelical Anglican separatists have a long history of looking down on the beliefs held dear by the anglo-catholic Anglican separatists.

I imagine what we'll see -- if this new Communion forms and goes forth -- over time -- is a new Protestant denomination that looks more evangelical and calvinist and increasingly less catholic or -- frankly -- Anglican. I think there will be some very exciting new ministries which will arise -- and some will be ones I will want to learn from. But, my hunch is, it will look more like the conservative Presbyterian Church in America or Missouri Synod Lutherans than the Anglicanism most of us have known for a long time. That's not meant to be pejorative -- after all the PCA and Missouri Synod have done some awesome work for the Lord. In particular, I think the PCA has produced some of the most innovative and effective gospel ministries going -- like Redeemer in New York City.


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