LAMBETH: Traditionalist TEC Bishop Holds Little Hope for Reform of Anglican Communion
VirtueOnline Interviews the Rt. Rev. Keith Ackerman, Bishop of Quincy and President of Forward in Faith North America
By David W. Virtue in Canterbury
On the eve of the decennial Lambeth Conference, VirtueOnline spoke with the Anglo-Catholic Bishop of Quincy, the Rt. Rev. Keith Ackerman in Canterbury to gauge his reaction and opinion as to what has been taking place in The Episcopal Church, the Church of England and what, if anything he expects to see will come from this Conference of some 600 bishops. Bishop Ackerman is also president of Forward in Faith, North America.
VOL: How many bishops are left in The Episcopal Church that refuses to ordain women to the priesthood?
Ackerman: Just two, Bishop Jack Iker of Ft. Worth and me.
VOL: Bishop John-David Schofield has left TEC and it would appear that both the dioceses of Ft. Worth and Quincy are a vote away from leaving. Is this inevitable?
Ackerman: It is probably inevitable.
VOL: Last week The Church of England synod voted to ordain women bishops with no provision for its traditionalist wing to continue to have a place at the table without seriously compromising themselves. In your opinion what is their future?
Ackerman: The C of E has always been 20 to 30 years behind the United States, and we are already witnessing within England a similar phenomenon that has resulted in continuing churches formally or informally applying to Rome moving to Eastern Orthodoxy and or attempting to create a separate province. My hope is that the phenomenal division and hemorrhaging that has taken place in TEC will be an example that the English will look at very carefully as they consider their future.
VOL: As many as 1300 Anglo-Catholic priests in the Church of England are preparing to flee to Rome, many more will wait out another vote sometime in the future in the hope that some sort of provision will be made for them. Some Anglo-Catholic leaders have asked for a Third Province. In your opinion do Anglo-Catholics in the CofE have a prayer of surviving or is their trajectory the same as that of Anglo-Catholics in the Episcopal Church?
Ackerman: The major difference is that the CofE had until this Synod made provision for those who maintain the historic faith. In so doing they greatly exceeded the Episcopal Church in terms of being inclusive, that is, Anglo-Catholics were part of the inclusive church. Now that the TEC has become an exclusive church where only those of a particular theological position can be in positions of leadership, the CofE must decide how she will accommodate the hemorrhaging. If the CofE is at a type of crossroads it will either exclude that wing which helped to revitalize Anglicanism in the 19th Century or it will treat that wing as if it is a group of recalcitrant churchmen, the same way in which TEC has treated its traditional Anglo-Catholic wing.
VOL: In the eventuality that the Diocese of Quincy pulls out do you anticipate a battle royal with the national church over your properties?
Ackerman: The TEC has become a fundamentalist church and has determined that the written word of Canon Law is THE primary articulation of faith. Therefore I would be surprised if TEC would not take action against anyone or anything that does not comply with their new agenda.
VOL: Do you have any holdout parishes in your diocese that will oppose leaving TEC?
Ackerman: There are people in the diocese who are concerned about realignment largely because they fear litigation. There are fewer people who are actually happy with the direction of TEC
VOL: If when you as a diocese vote to leave The Episcopal Church are your expectations that you will win in the courts as strong as those 11 parishes in the Diocese of Virginia who seem to be winning in their efforts to hold onto their properties?
Ackerman: I have put my total faith and confidence in my chancellor and Standing Committee to handle such questions. I will continue in my primary role as a bishop in being the chief pastor, chief theologian and chief defender of the Faith that has been entrusted to me through apostolic succession.
VOL: In your opinion will an orthodox North American province be the salvation of Anglicanism in North America?
Ackerman: I believe that Anglicanism has not only made a major contribution in the past but will continue to make a major contribution in Christianity. The question will be how that will be maintained in the U.S. Oppressive behavior tends to force people to go underground, and oppressive ecclesiastical behavior often times produces more fervency among the faithful. We are too sophisticated in the U.S. to effect physical martyrdom but Canon Law is at least producing individuals who are willing to speak up in spite of the persecution.
VOL: We are now in Canterbury at the decennial gathering of Anglican bishops called by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams. What are your hopes and expectations for the Lambeth conference? Will anything come out of this gathering of 600 bishops that offers hope for orthodox Anglicans in North America or the wider Anglican Communion?
Ackerman: The ecclesiology that we have traditionally embraced indicates that Anglicanism is defined by its relationships with the See of Canterbury. From an historical perspective both Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy have seen the significance of our ecclesiological structure. Unfortunately the ways in which we have articulated authority have become confused, muddled, and tested. T
he elasticity of our relationship interdependent way has been tested to the limits. This conference will require a very honest analysis of what it means to be a communion and what it means to function under authority.
Cardinal Kasper has asked the right question: Are we Protestant or are we Catholic? If we degenerate into numerous national church denominations that gather every 10 years to sing ‘kumbaya’ then we will in fact have opted for the former.
If we leave this conference having determined that the greater good is to be orthodox, accountable and biblically based then we will have affirmed the latter. We are not witnessing nearly the potential unraveling of numerous provinces in communion with one another, but rather we may be participating in the demise of the third largest Christian communion in the world.
VOL: Many leading Anglicans now believe that Dr. Rowan Williams has lost the plot. He doesn’t seem to understand the depth of feeling and antipathy by evangelicals worldwide towards sexual idolatry, the appointment of women bishops and so much more. Would that be your assessment?
Ackerman: My assessment is that the archbishop who is a brilliant man is well aware of the conflict in which we and he are engaged. Unfortunately the pressures that are placed upon him are personified by individuals who make numerous threats. I cannot even imagine how one person who does not have many layers of consistent support can easily lead such a communion. The ability for him to select his overarching staff and committees is somewhat inhibited and he is daily faced with pressures from disparate voices all of whom seem to think they know what is best for him.
The fragility of the realities of Scripture, tradition and reason and the four instruments of unity have been tested in such a way that the ABC is now a bit like the boy sticking in his finger in the dike. The question is which hole needs to be plugged first, not are there many holes in the dike. It is terrible to be in a position where in the final analysis one realizes no matter how diligently they tried they could please no one. If ever there is a greater need for clarity and tenacity on the part of leadership it is now.
VOL: The loudest and noisiest of bishops are liberal and revisionist from North America and the British Isles, yet they represent only 4% numerically of the Anglican Communion. Interestingly enough some 75% of the Communion was represented at GAFCON. What does this say about the Anglican Communion?
Ackerman: I believe that there are several realities. First of all the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) had a significant number of priests, deacons and lay people present. The overwhelming population therefore in these extraordinarily large provinces is among the lay people.
The outcry from the laity is much greater than one can imagine when they are faced with revisionist plans that are inconsistent with the prevailing teachings of classical Anglicanism. It would be much more honest for those who have departed from traditional Anglicanism to merely state that that was their plan and they will continue to allow the culture to define the faith.
There is the reality that traditional Anglicans are standing in the way of the liberal agenda and our absence or departure would make it much easier for the revisionists to accomplish their goals. I have no anger towards the revisionists who have radically changed the church into which I was born.
I am amazed by how many of the leaders who are revising the faith were not born into this church. I would therefore say that this is not a hostile takeover but is in fact a takeover. My two remaining concerns would be firstly; the vast majority of Anglicans would not know what the Vincentian Canon is and they honestly do believe, secondly, the new unofficial form of debate which now places the burden of proof on those who seek merely to maintain the truth as it was entrusted to previous generations.
A subtle hint is to be found in the way in which we refer to the church. Revisionists generally refer to the church as “it” while traditionalists refer to the church as “she.” One is an institution that through democratic means can be changed at will and the other is the Body of Christ who is our Mother.
VOL: In your opinion can Rowan Williams hold it together?
Ackerman: I am absolutely convinced that Rowan Williams cannot hold it together but I am convinced that the ABC in complete submission to Jesus Christ the Great High Priest can.
VOL: For Anglo-Catholics the lightning rod issue is Women’s Ordination. Can this be handled in a pastoral way? If there is a North American Anglican Province can Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals agree to disagree and live together?
Ackerman: The Eames Commission made it clear that we are in a period of reception. Mary Tanner of the Eames Commission has reinforced that position regularly. When revisionists determine that the period of reception is over they are functioning on an individualistic level without regard to the Holy Spirit led realities of creative ambiguities.
The major divide between some Anglo-Catholics and some Evangelicals is over the matter of ontology verses function. What is not present in the catholic and evangelical debate is the matter of sociological concerns of human rights or discrimination. For Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals there are great opportunities to work together on theological and biblical interpretation differences. For those who predetermine outcomes by means of pseudo-sociological models there is no process.
VOL. Dr. J. I. Packer believes this a pastoral rather than an ontological issue. Do you agree with that?
Ackerman: I disagree that it is simply a pastoral rather than ontological issue. I see a significant relationship between the sacrament to holy orders and the sacrament of marriage. In terms of root metaphors and holy tradition the priest not only takes the place of Christ at the altar but is in immediate relationship with Holy Mother church, thus we recognize complementarity. In the case of marriage we see one man and one woman and therefore we see once again the reality of complementarity. The interchangeability of sex in these sacraments undermines the traditional perspective articulated in the Book of Genesis regarding creation and procreation.
VOL: Many now believe that we have Anglican leaders who are Christian in name only but are not true believers. Is that too harsh a judgment?
Ackerman: The Bible says by their fruits ye shall know them. Today the question would be what do we mean by Christian? I would once again go back to the Baptismal Covenant. The essence of the Baptismal Covenant is not to be found in the vesicles and responses that follow the Apostles Creed. The essence is to be found in The Apostles Creed.
The Baptismal Covenant is our response and affirmation to the faith once delivered to the saints. If one is unwilling to recognize the world, the flesh and the Devil, then in good conscience they cannot support the Apostles Creed which creedally articulates these renunciations. I therefore think that if I were to gather a large number of people and ask them if they were Christians they would say ‘yes’ but a number of clarifying questions would undoubtedly reduce the number of those who would claim to be orthodox Christians.
VOL: In the end will you go to Rome or will you remain an Anglican?
Ackerman: I believe that Anglicanism has made a great contribution to the Christian Faith and from my perspective that contribution did not begin in the 16th Century but rather has been a contribution that even precedes St. Augustine’s arrival in England. I subscribe to the concept of Christian Unity as articulated by our Lord and I fervently pray for the reunion of the church of the East and of the West. I cannot speak about reunion with Rome without considering the necessity of reunion with Constantinople. My great and abiding affection for both Rome and Constantinople will continue.
VOL: Thank you Bishop Ackerman.
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