Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Closer Look at the ACNA Lifeboat

Back in 2004, the attempt to create a new entity that would replace The Episcopal Church was made public. Even though the instigators of this plot have tried hard to bury the fact in lots of lofty ideas, the "issue" that rallied them was their fear of gay cooties. They longed for the "good old days", when men were men, and gays stayed in the closet where they belonged. The existence of lesbians in the Church was an afterthought for the most part, because, after all, they were just women. This was to be a church for manly men, and women who admired such men.

The audacity of TEC, expressed by being honest about the gay Christians in our pews and behind our altars, was more than they could stand. So, armed with five questionably interpreted bible verses, and a tradition that affirmed the closet, they launched their mission to re-create a "pure" church, designed by their own selective memory of the past.

The tactics outlined in the documents uncovered in 2004 included the use of offshore bishops, claiming property, and other acts of "guerrilla warfare" (their term, not mine). The fruit of many years of such ecclesiastical disobedience and blatant theft was the creation of an organization now known as the Anglican Church in North America.

ACNA now claims to have 28 Dioceses and 100,000 members. It is worth noting that they picked up at least two "partners" that had already established themselves; The Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Mission in America. The REC brought with them about 14,000 members in about 140 congregations organized into 7 dioceses. The AMiA added 9 dioceses to ACNA's list. So, when folks try to tell you that ACNA is made up of 100,000 disgruntled Episcopalians, you may want to point out to them that at least 16 of their 28 dioceses were created by those who have not been Episcopalians for a long time.

It is also worth noting that neither the REC or the AMiA are recognized by Canterbury as a being members of the Anglican Communion. The reasons why they are not recognized are substantial, and, to date, have not been resolved. By grafting in these two groups, ACNA's hopes of being recognized as a "replacement Province" at some future date are severely weakened.

I don't personally know anyone who has aligned themselves with ACNA. Well, as a Son of the House, actually I know quite a few of them. So let's put it this way; I am not on speaking terms with anyone aligned with ACNA. Having no access to inside information, I've been left to my own ponderings regarding how things are going within this strange hybrid consisting of Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic extremists, some of whom also fear girl cooties almost as much as gay ones. It has seemed to me that such a coalition formed out of convenience, led by leaders known for their effective "guerrilla warfare" tactics, was headed for more stormy weather.

But now, thanks to modern technology, I am no longer limited to my own ponderings. Examples suggesting that all is not well within ACNA are beginning to emerge. For instance, consider this sermon recently offered by the rector of St. Gregory's Episcopal Church in Mansfield, TX, part of the Diocese of Fort Worth that has claimed to have left the Episcopal Church and is now aligned with the Southern Cone. One would assume that this congregation would eventually transition right into ACNA. However, Fr. Whitfield has some concerns about such a transition. Here's part of his sermon:

...But, on the other hand, what about this new province? Haven’t all godly Anglicans come together out of faithfulness to God to form this new thing, this (so it’s called) “new communion for a new reformation”? It is being praised by many as being “orthodox” and “biblical.” The swelling tide of praise for this new province is a remarkable thing to behold. Now, I’m afraid I might upset some of you, and I’m sorry. But I’m bound by conscience to tell you this: from a theological standpoint, this new arrangement is quite possibly the most significant ecclesiastical mistake of my lifetime. The canons and constitution of this new province display the most subtle use of historically ignorant theological selectivity and a remarkably dated and bankrupt ecclesiology, all of which enshrines our own narrow prejudices and preferences. There is no belief in objective truth in these founding documents, even if we say it. There is only the confidence of conservatism which is itself just a form of liberalism in that “autonomy” is still worshipped above truth.

Of course, I have been saying this for months. I have been at pains appealing to my brethren, and for this I have found myself in a new lonely world. I have been called a “fool,” publicly. When I suggested that all of this makes it very hard for me to bring people to Jesus and into his church because of the scandal and arrogance of it all, it was suggested that my problem was simply that I wasn’t preaching the gospel—a wounding thing to say to a preacher. And what is perhaps the worst thing is that on several occasions, some of my brethren have come to me privately in agreement—but mind you, only privately. One rather significant brother of mine even told me that this new province wouldn’t last five years. He said, “Of course, it’s a disaster.” Nonetheless, he said, we must push this through. Now, I don’t understand this, and mine is a lonely confusion...
I can relate to some of Fr. Whitfield's struggle, even from my place on the other side of the theological spectrum. He said, "...all of this makes it very hard for me to bring people to Jesus and into his church because of the scandal and arrogance of it all..." I share that frustration as well. Maybe more about that another time.

If you want to review the constitution and canons of ACNA, and come to your own conclusion as to if they do indeed represent "historically ignorant theological selectivity and a remarkably dated and bankrupt ecclesiology," you can find them here.

To those considering jumping ship and sailing off in the ACNA lifeboat, I encourage you to take a closer look before making that leap. There appears to be a few holes in that hull as well. Most likely even more structural damage will be exposed as the scrutiny of this vessel intensifies.


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