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ACNA Vote by Church of England Synod is Wedge into Greater Anglican Acceptance

ACNA Vote by Church of England Synod is Wedge into Greater Anglican Acceptance

News Analysis

By David W. Virtue in London

On any rating, the overwhelming affirmation by the Synod of the Church of England to recognize the fledging Anglican Church of North America province is a small but significant step, a wedge under the door of both the Church of England and the World Wide Anglican Communion.

The final vote, which was not apparent in the debate, as many of us listening believed it would be a squeaker with a win for the rejectionists, was stunning. The numbers speak for themselves. The final vote was 309 in favor, 69 against and 17 recorded abstentions. The only other stunning victory for orthodoxy was the passage of the '98 Lambeth Resolution 1:10 where the vote was 529 to 70.

The final draft of the resolution recognized several factors now made public and unadorned for all to see.

First of all, the resolution said orthodox Episcopalians are indeed being persecuted by revisionists; however much TEC leaders whine that the brokenness is caused by those leaving, the resolution says otherwise.

Secondly, the resolution said that these faithful orthodox Anglicans want to remain in the Anglican family and not become outsiders. In fact, it did more than that. It was a wedge that will, in time, lead to a full chair at the Anglican Communion table. Of course, the resolution has to go through various hoops including the two archbishops, more councils of the church and the Anglican Consultative Council where it will be rejected as the ACC receives the majority of its funding from The Episcopal Church.

It is an inevitability, in the Anglican process that indicates AC-NA will not be denied in the long term as they are fully backed by the GAFCON primates and many other orthodox groups. Time is on their side. Archbishop Robert Duncan has only to wait, grow AC-NA (they are working on a project to expand AC-NA by 1000 churches), and gently push the boundaries. The Church of England archbishops have till 2011 to come up with a decision.

Ecclesiastical politicos will argue that the delaying tactics of thought, prayer and discussion will kill it. Not a chance. Delay is the worst that can happen.

The debate itself was the picture of British good manners. The British are hyper verbal (by American standards) and love the sport of debate. Lorna Ashworth made her low-keyed pitch for her resolution arguing forcefully that she was not anti TEC or the ACoC, but simply wanted to recognize ACNA. Her resolution found itself amended by Bishop Michael Hill of the Diocese of Bristol and a member of the leftist Anglican Consultative Council. He argued that while the amendment leaned towards issues of human sexuality, the real issue is about the process of reception with groups like ACNA.

The passing of the motion hasn't resolved all the issues, he added. "It leaves the doors open but makes it clear that the church has to deal with these matters with due process and not in an ad hoc way."

The original motion, submitted by Lorna Ashworth of Chichester, called on synod to "express the desire that the Church of England be in communion with the Anglican Church in North America." It was defeated, but she was not unhappy with the final outcome. Other amendments were put up, but failed.

One of her choice lines was this: "The provinces to which ACNA members once belonged have strayed from the fundamental core teaching of the Anglican church. They have either rejected the uniqueness of Christ, or they have questioned it; the same with Christ's virgin birth, and his physical, literal death and resurrection, as providing the only means of salvation for those outside the Kingdom of God. Scripture is not seen as the authoritative Word of God to His people, and the biblical standard of marriage not upheld."

Things got a little testy when the Rev. Johannes Arens of the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds said that Ashworth's paper "makes accusations about a province that is not present. We should not meddle in internal politics of another Anglican church. It is particularly unfair to do this without any formal representation of that province."

The Rev. Canon Simon Butler, a priest in the Diocese of Southwark, tried to derail the whole debate when he rose to move an end to the debate and accusing the Synod of breaking the 9th Commandment and bearing false witness against their brothers and sisters. This prompted a woman delegate to rise saying that she was only going to talk about the Anglican Church of Canada, but now she was going to have to defend herself for telling lies.

A moment that was lost on the media came when Ms Ashworth publicly praised Anglican theologian Dr. J. I. Packer. She said she had learned from him as a godly minister whose books had been read by millions. Rowan looked distinctly embarrassed by the reference to Packer as the octogenarian theologian had called on him to resign for his failed leadership of the communion.

The Rev. Brian Lewis of Chelmsford asked synod to think of those in the Episcopal Church "who feel hurt by those who have betrayed [them] and left. There are many people in this church who think about leaving. I think about it a lot, but I stay. It's painful, difficult and spiritually quite destructive, but I stay. There are Episcopalians who for very different reasons find it difficult to stay, but they stay ... your primary responsibility [is] to those of us who stay."

The Rev. Tim Dakin, general secretary of the Church Mission Society, said that synod "should proclaim it is in communion with all faithful Anglicans. The way we relate to those who are different from us reveals the sort of world we want. This is the challenge at the heart of the modern missionary movement. It is out of this messy process that something holy might come."

The Venerable Normon Russell, archdeacon of Berkshire in the Diocese of Oxford, expressed his support for ACNA, saying that he attended ACNA's inaugural meeting in Bedford, Texas, as an observer. "I really wanted to see what was going on. My few days there were a time of spiritual renewal," he said, noting that there is spiritual renewal in the Episcopal Church, Anglican Church of Canada and ACNA, depending on the individual's interpretation.

When it was all over, orthodox Anglicans from the US and Canada were clearly pleased even though they would have preferred the Ashworth resolution. But as one noted, "Half a loaf is better than none."

The Rev. Colin Coward, director of Changing Attitude, a U.K.-based LGBT advocacy group, said that Hill's amendment "kicks ACNA's desire for recognition into the long grass. But it did commit to something that is generous in recognizing their desires, but understanding that more needs to be done."

American Anglican Council President David Anderson told ENS that he was pleased with the outcome, even though he and other ACNA members had hoped for Ashworth's motion to be carried. The AAC is a founding member of ACNA. Anderson, a former TEC priest, is now a bishop with CANA, the Nigerian branch of Anglicanism in North America.

Within minutes of the vote, ACNA Archbishop Robert Duncan issued the following statement: "We are deeply thankful that we were given the opportunity to tell the Synod about our church, and our vision for reaching North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ. This chance to speak directly to our Anglican family was very rewarding. We look forward to working with the friends we made and reaching out to others in the years ahead." Bishop Donald Harvey, who, with Mrs. Cynthia Brust, Dr. Michael Howell, and the Rev. Dr. Tory Baucum, represented the Anglican Church in North America in preparation for the Synod vote.

There was no public smacking of TEC or its leader Katharine Jefferts Schori, just a gracious affirmation of the status of ACNA in the Church of England. Clearly it is a vindication of Duncan's own rite of passage from despised TEC Bishop of Pittsburgh, deposed without trial by Jefferts Schori, into the freedom and leadership of 100,000 Anglicans in some 800 congregations in 28 dioceses. It has been a long hard road, but it is one from which he can surely feel vindicated. The church's stated mission is to reach North America with the Transforming Love of Jesus Christ.

The Rev. Canon Charles K. Robertson, canon to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, told ENS following the debate that "we in the Episcopal Church do not interfere in the decision-making of other provinces in our Anglican Communion.

"We do, however, restate our ongoing commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ and to the Five Marks of Mission as a member of the Anglican Communion. We also reiterate our concern with the decisions that have been made, and the one-sided image that is put forward by those who have chosen to depart from the Episcopal Church. We continue our concern with the foreign provinces which have consistently, and with impunity, actively interfered in the affairs of the Episcopal Church, even to the point of exiling faithful members of this church from their historic places of worship."

CANA bishop Martyn Minns echoed similar words, "This is a significant step forward for the ACNA and for all orthodox Anglicans in the U.S. We are grateful to the General Synod for recognizing the home that has been created for those Anglicans who wish to remain a part of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Both ACNA and CANA have provided that home at a crucial time in the life of the church. Today's affirmation from the General Synod is a welcome response to that need."

You can hear and read the following speeches at these links. I am grateful to Anglican Mainstream for providing VOL with them.

Press Conference:

Audio Debate:

Lorna Ashworth's Opening Speech

Lorna Ashworth's Opening speech on Video
http://www.blip.tv/file/3202714 AC-NA website http://anglicanchurch.net/

TEC Episcopal News Service Report


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