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Canterbury Anglicanism, GAFCON Anglicanism, and Scranton Anglicanism

Canterbury Anglicanism, GAFCON Anglicanism, and Scranton Anglicanism

By The Rev. Canon Robert Bader

September 24, 2018

In light of the upcoming dialogue between the Anglican Joint Synods jurisdictions and the Union of Scranton (Polish National Catholic Church and Nordic Catholic Church), as well as any future dialogue with other Anglicans, I offer this brief memo on our current situation and how we might present ourselves to others in ecumenical dialogue.

It is my contention that there are essentially three types of Anglicanism in the world today. I have chosen, for the purposes of this memo, to describe them as Canterbury Anglicanism, GAFCON Anglicanism, and Scranton Anglicanism. As a priest in what we call the Continuing Anglican movement, it may seem strange that I have not used that title to describe any of the types of Anglicanism. But this omission is a deliberate choice to provoke thought.

What I am calling Canterbury Anglicanism needs little explanation. It is the prevailing ideology in the Church of England, the Episcopal Church, other First World Anglican provinces, and some Third World Anglican provinces. Two of its most glaring innovations are the admission of women to Holy Orders and the blessing of same-sex unions. Many of its adherents maintain aspects of Evangelicalism or Catholicism, with the glaring exceptions noted. But it is fundamentally open to revisionism on any issue of faith and morals. I would contend that this form of Anglicanism is an heir of the Latitudinarian tradition in Anglican history and can truthfully be called "Continuing Anglicanism" or at least "continuing a long-held position within Anglicanism."

GAFCON Anglicanism is the ideology associated with the Global Anglican Future Conference, the 2008 meeting of bishops from mostly Third World Anglican provinces, which was instrumental in the creation of the currently named Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). Its adherents oppose current innovations in sexual morality. And many of its adherents oppose the ordination of women, although many do not. The GAFCON movement considers itself to be obedient to Holy Scripture and the 39 Articles of Religion. It does not consider itself to be bound by catholic consent, whether found in the first millennium consensus or in the current teaching of the major branches of the Eastern and Western churches. While most adherents of GAFCON Anglicanism are found in evangelical Anglican provinces (including ACNA), there are also adherents of this ideology in more liberal provinces of the Anglican Communion and even within the Continuing Church jurisdictions. I would contend that this form of Anglicanism is an heir of the Evangelical tradition in Anglican history and can truthfully be called "Continuing Anglicanism" or at least "continuing a long held position within Anglicanism."

Scranton Anglicanism is the neologism I have chosen to employ for what might also be called St. Louis Anglicanism. It is the ideology set forth in the Declaration of Scranton and the Affirmation of St Louis, both of which require us to maintain the faith and practice of the undivided Church. Beyond that, Scranton or St. Louis Anglicanism is what N.P. Williams described in Northern Catholicism: "Catholicism which is neither Roman nor Byzantine; which is non-Papal, but at the same time specifically Western in its outlook and temper." Adherents of this ideology can be found in provinces that have embraced Canterbury or GAFCON Anglicanism, but it is the defining ideology only of the Union of Scranton and of those Anglican jurisdictions that have adopted the Affirmation. I have contended that Canterbury and GAFCON Anglicanism are heirs respectively of the Latitudinarian and Evangelical traditions in Anglican history. Scranton or St Louis Anglicanism is an heir of the Anglo-Catholic tradition in Anglican history. All three types of Anglicanism can truthfully be called "Continuing Anglicanism" or at least "continuing a long held position within Anglicanism." It is just that one type is committed to the faith and practice of the undivided Church and the other two are not. It is also true that prior to the upheavals of the 1970s all three types of Anglicanism existed within the same structures. What they all had in common, through God's providence, was valid Holy Orders and thus valid Sacraments, despite their profound differences in faith and practice. Because of the ordination of women, this is no longer universally true in the Anglican Communion or in the ACNA. In that sense, we alone are Continuing Anglicans.

What is the future of ecumenism for what I have called Scranton or St Louis Anglicanism? I would suggest the following:
1. Entrance of the Anglican Joint Synods jurisdictions into the Union of Scranton and encouragement of like-minded Anglicans to do the same. This will continue the previous relationship between Anglicans and the PNCC before the upheavals of the 1970s. It will provide wider access to sacramental life for members of our respective churches and enable us to make a greater witness beyond ourselves.
2. Work for unity between the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the enlarged Union of Scranton. Progress in ecumenical dialogue had been made between the Eastern Orthodox and the PNCC (when the latter were members of the Union of Utrecht), and this could be built upon.
3. Recognition of the historic primacy of the Bishop of Rome as primus inter pares, set forth in the Declaration of Scranton. Nothing should realistically be expected to come of this recognition, but it is of ecclesiological importance to be maintained nonetheless. While this is not found in the Affirmation of St. Louis, it is certainly part of the Anglo-Catholic tradition.
4. Maintain friendly relations with GAFCON Anglicans, witnessing to the first millennium consensus and learning from them in areas where they are ministering more effectively. Three of the Anglican Joint Synods jurisdictions are currently in such a relationship with GAFCON Anglicans through our membership in the Federation of Anglican Churches in the Americas.

The Rev. Canon Robert Bader is the Assisting Priest at St. Barnabas, Dunwoody, GA in the Anglican Province of America

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