ACNA'09: ACNA Canons Ratified
By Michael Heidt
Special to Virtueonline
The Assembly reconvened after lunch at 1:30 p.m. to ratify the Canons of the Anglican Church in North America, in the second and final business session of the House. Initially Chaired by The Ven. Charlie Masters, National Director of the Anglican Network in Canada, the Canons were brought before the delegates.
Running to a mere thirty-two pages, as opposed to TEC's one hundred and seventy, ACNA's Canons have been kept deliberately minimalist, reflecting concern that the new Province not be burdened by unnecessary legalism.
The same spirit was evident at the meeting, with the House deciding to ratify the Canons by acclamation. This is exactly what happened. Titles One through Five were all ratified with, at most, slight amendment. Readers can follow their complete text at: http://acnaassembly.org/index2.php/acna/page/34
Several points are worthy of note; in keeping with the tenor of the Assembly and the proposed ethos of the Province, the Canons clearly state in Title 1, Canon 2, Section 1, that, "the chief work of the Assembly shall be strengthening the mission of the Church as defined in Article III of the Constitution." In other words, the chief purpose of the Provincial Assembly is to "present Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit," and to facilitate that apostolic work. It's reassuring to see that this new ecclesial grouping conceives of its legislative body in terms of Gospel oriented witness, instead of adopting the secular, or business models seemingly favored in some parts of the Communion.
The role of the laity in this mission is also emphasized in Title 1, Canon 10, Sections 1 and 2. This is deliberate,; according to Mr. Ron Speers, member of ACNA's Governance Task Force, "We're calling the laity out of passivity into ministry." Hence the ten points in Section 2 of the 10th Canon, which outline the duties of every member of the Church. These duties include "worthy" reception of the Sacrament of Holy Communion "as often as possible", tithing as the minimum norm, practicing "daily forgiveness" and observing "the feasts and fasts of the Church set forth in the Anglican formularies." Likewise, "To worship God, the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit." All this in is a stunning contradistinction to TEC paradigm, which notoriously was unable to affirm the Nicene Creed at its last General Convention.
Title II goes on to affirm traditional Church teaching on the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Canon 7, Section 1, states that this "is in its nature a union permanent and lifelong of one man and one woman." Canon 8 of the same Title continues the theme. Dealing with "Standards of Sexual Morality and Ethics", Section 2 upholds Lambeth '98's Resolution 1:10, "...this Church upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage." And, just in case anyone was tempted otherwise, ACNA "cannot legitimize or bless same sex unions or ordain persons who engage in homosexual behavior. Sexual intercourse should take place only between a man and a woman who are married to each other." There you have it, not even the faintest hint of fudge, Anglican or otherwise, and a clear blast against the pansexual agenda, but perhaps this was to be expected; Section 3 may be breaking new ground. It syllogises: "God, and not man, is the creator of human life. The unjustified taking of life is sinful. Therefore, all members and clergy are called to promote and respect the sanctity of every human life from conception to natural death." There may not be a clearer, canonical statement against abortion and the culture of death in the Anglican Communion - certainly not in the West.
Title III affirms the threefold ministry of Bishop, priest and deacon, outlining qualities and requirements for ordination, with Canon 8 describing the "criteria for the Episcopate." These must have a zeal for souls, demonstrate the fruit of the Holy Spirit, be held in good esteem, demonstrate leadership ability and, "be a male Presbyter at least 35 years old." So, while the ordination of women to the Deaconate and Presbyterate is accepted, consecration to the Episcopate is not. This was passed without debate. Titles IV and V spoke to Ecclesiastical Discipline and the Enactment, Amendment, and Repeal of Canons. These, too, were ratified unanimously. With that, Archbishop-elect Duncan of Pittsburgh announced, "My dear brothers and sisters, the work of the Assembly is done." And so it was, at least with regards to ACNA's Constitution and Canons, at 3.25 p.m. in the gymnasium of St. Vincent's Episcopal School, in the Diocese of Fort Worth.
Is the "work" in question perfect? Doubtless not; some, for example might argue that the Canons fail to adequately address issues of Holy Order, namely the ordination of women. Mr. Michael Howell, Director of Forward in Faith North America commented, "They're good, but by no means complete with regards our understanding of Catholic Faith and Order but... they're a good starting point." That, as Archbishop-elect Duncan told the Assembly at the opening Mass, is where ACNA is: the "end of the beginning" has been reached and a new creation has come into being, complete with ratified Constitution and Canons.
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