Tuesday, February 09, 2010

General Synod to Debate ACNA Motion

The motion and background paper can be found here. The wording of the motion is as follows:

That this Synod express the desire that the Church of England be in communion with the Anglican Church in North America
The numerous inaccuracies found in the background paper are addressed by Simon Sarmiento here.

The House of Bishops has offered an amendment:

That this Synod:

(a) recognise and affirm the desire of those who have formed the Anglican Church in North America to remain within the Anglican family;

(b) acknowledge that this aspiration, in respect both of relations with the Church of England and membership of the Anglican Communion, raises issues which the relevant authorities of each need to explore further; and

(c) invite the Archbishops to report further to the Synod in 2011.
If you want some background as to what this is all about, I recommend Jim Naughton's Follow the Money. We have also had numerous discussions about this group, known by different names over the years (AAC, Network, and now ACNA...same group, different labels). One summary post from 2005 is a good starting point for understanding this ongoing saga: A Closer Look at the Attempted Coup.

One of the most revealing documents from 2003 is the Chapman letter, which describes the plans of a small group of extremists within the Episcopal Church to ignore canon law and utilize "offshore bishops" to create a new Anglican presence in North America, with the intent of replacing the existing Episcopal Church. The Via Media groups offered the most concise explanation of the Chapman letter:

The letter speaks for itself. Property, not piety is keeping dissident parishes in the Episcopal Church. In the longer term, the AAC expects to use foreign intervention to trump American law and the Episcopal Church Constitution and Canons. Its leaders are assuring dissident parishes that the Anglican primates, a consultative body with no governing authority or standing in the United States, will ride to the rescue of Network parishes, negotiate property settlements and transfer the assets of 2.3-million-member church to a group representing perhaps a tenth of that body. The Chapman letter reveals the AAC's "realignment" for what it really is -- the overthrow of the Episcopal Church by extra-legal means.
And so here we are in 2010, with this long promised new Anglican body seeking recognition by the Church of England. They are depicted in the "background paper" as a poor, persecuted group of orthodox Anglicans seeking refuge from the evil beast known as TEC. Such a characterization would almost be humorous, except most likely some uninformed members of the Church of England might actually accept such a bizarre misrepresentation.

The presenting issue has been the role of our GLBT members within the Church. In some parts of the Anglican Communion, this debate continues. It is often masked by the extremists in the US as the claim that they are defending "the authority of scripture." The reality is that there are a number of divergent views on exactly what scripture has to say, if anything, on this matter. Personally, I've grown weary of such debates, but, if some of you are new to the argument, I recommend this resource, which briefly addresses the various verses from scripture that some consider relevant from both a conservative and a liberal point of view. As you can see, to claim the bible is "clear" on this matter is an extreme position.

Because TEC has moved towards the inclusion of all the baptized in the life of the Church, the movement to replace it with a "purified" Anglican presence in North America was launched. A popular tactic of this extremist group has been to align themselves with a foreign bishop (usually from Rwanda, Uganda, Nigeria or the Southern Cone), and then announce that they were no longer a part of the "apostate" Episcopal Church. Backed by their foreign bishop, many of these groups also claimed ownership of all assets, including their physical plant, contrary to canon law. These brazen border crossings by foreign bishops are, in my estimation, acts of larceny, and should be treated as such. But, apparently, calling a thief a thief is not the Anglican way. So, we have taken these...ummm..."misguided" congregations to court to attempt to regain those assets that have been wrongly acquired by these pillagers in purple. And now we have a few dioceses that have also decided that they cannot tolerate gay cooties in their church. Imagine that.

To get an even clearer view of this extremist group, consider this post by Scott Gunn; Tales from ACNA-Land: "Church Militant" Gets New Meaning, in which he notes this group's violent tendencies, summed up in his closing statement:

...So make no mistake. These people are out for blood. I wish I could say in confidence that this is just a figure of speech.
For those members of the Church of England who might be considering supporting this schismatic group of extremists, you may want to consider Battle for Britain by Tobias Haller:

...What would be done in the Church of England if a bishop from the convocation of Canterbury were to announce one day that he no longer considered himself to be under the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury and had transferred his allegiance to the Archbishop of Tanzania, but intended to remain in his present location and exercise episcopal functions as a representative of his new archbishop...
Do make sure you read the whole thing.

There are other matters that members of the Church of England might want to consider as well. For instance, do keep in mind that ACNA is a melting pot of various groups that have claimed to be Anglican at one time or another. Some of them have not been in communion with Canterbury for some time. The Reformed Episcopal Church, of which ACNA proudly claims as contributing 130 congregations, has been out of communion with Canterbury for over a century. For those of a more Anglo-Catholic inclination, this would seem to me to be reason to at least pause to consider their holy orders, among other things. The REC is basically quite similar to the ELCA in regards to its relationship to the Anglican Communion. The long dialogue we had with the Lutherans before entering into full communion would suggest that some similar process might be necessary with the members of the REC before grafting them into the Anglican Communion.

No doubt this motion being considered by General Synod is simply another step in the overall plan of the extremists. If they are not recognized this time, at least they will get their cause placed in the limelight once again, and so will move a little closer, by small, incremental steps, towards their goal of becoming the replacement Anglican presence in North America.

But, of course. such limelight also allows their more unpleasant characteristics to come under closer scrutiny as well. May the members of the Church of England consider the full picture of this group before making any hasty decisions.


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