A Survey of ACNA Doctrinal Statements and Their Theological Leanings: The Constitution.” Anglicans Ablaze. 25 Apr 2015. http://anglicansablaze.blogspot.com/2015/04/a-survey-of-acna-doctrinal-statements.html. Accessed 27 Apr 2015.
In Article I the constitution of the Anglican Church in North America identifies seven elements that it maintains comprise the doctrinal foundation of Anglicanism—what defines core Anglican identity. The third, sixth, and seventh of the elements identified in the article clearly represent partisan doctrinal positions. This was drawn to the attention of the Common Cause Partnership’s Governance Task Force when the proposed constitution was first made public for examination and comment for a very brief period before its adoption and ratification. The reaction of the Governance Task Force was to deny their partisan character.
CANA Bishop Martyn Mimms also raised the issue of the partisan character of these positions at the Provisional Provincial Council meeting at which the draft constitution was adopted. The Anglo-Catholic members of the Council would block any major changes to Article I, showing that they had a vested interest in the particular wording of the article.
We examined Article I.3 in my previous article, “The Anglican Church in North America—a Church for All Conservative North American Anglicans?” The position articulated in this clause of the article, in the words of the late Peter Toon, “excludes most Anglicans worldwide today and excludes the millions of evangelical Anglicans who have been faithful Anglicans over the generations!”
Article I.6 recognizes the 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer and the 1661 edition of the Ordinal as “a standard for Anglican doctrine and discipline.” Article I.6 infers that other standards exist. The two historic formularies are just one of a number of standards. This included standards based upon what John Henry Newman and the Tractarians maintained is the “Catholic faith” and which they constructed out of “extracts from the Fathers and the Caroline Divines.” It also includes standards drawn from Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox teaching. Article I.6 effectively waters down these two formularies as a part of the doctrinal foundation of Anglicanism—of what defines core Anglican identity.
This view of the two historic formularies is particularly congenial to Anglo-Catholics. As Anglo-Catholic ACNA Bishop of Forth Worth Jack Iker in a sermon preached at the Synod Eucharist of the annual gathering of the REC Diocese of Mid-America on February 21, 2014 put it, “we [a reference to Anglo-Catholics] rather like the 1549 Prayer Book as the standard.”
Article I.6 does not preclude the ACNA from making not only the partially-reformed 1549 Prayer Book its standard but also the pre-Reformation medieval service books such as the Sarum Missal from which the various Anglican missals are derived. These manuals enable Anglo-Catholic clergy to transform the Anglican Communion Service into a facsimile of the Roman Mass.
In its recognition of the Prayer Book and the Ordinal as “the standard for the Anglican tradition of worship” Article I.6 adds this qualification “with the Books which preceded it.” Article I.6 does not identify which books. Keith Aker, a presbyter with the REC Diocese of the West, in the Book of Common Prayer 2011 takes the position that the books in question include the pre-Reformation service books as does the ACNA Liturgy and Common Prayer Task Force in Texts for Common Prayer (2013).
The inescapable conclusion is that Article I.6 is neither theological nor liturgical neutral. It favors the development of a liturgy that is Anglo-Catholic in its doctrine and its liturgical practices.
Anglo-Catholics would hail the inclusion of the phrase, “taken in their literal and grammatical sense,” in Article I.7 as an endorsement of John Henry Newman and the Tractarians’ reinterpretation of the Thirty-Nine Articles in a Rome-ward direction, disconnected from their original historic context and the original intent of their framers. In Tract 90 Newman contended that the reference in the Royal Declaration of Charles I to only “the literal and grammatical sense” freed interpreters of the Articles from considering "the known opinions of the framers" in interpreting them.
The phrase “expressing the Anglican response to certain doctrinal issues controverted at that time” in Article I.7 infers that doctrinal issues referred to in that phrase are no longer of concern to the Anglican Church, a view taken by liberals as well as Anglo-Catholics. Since the sixteenth century the Anglican Church in their estimation has moved on and come to a different understanding on these doctrinal issues. For example, the Anglican Church no longer recognizes only two sacraments. The Anglican Church no longer insists that a vital faith is necessary to receive any benefit from the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. The Articles, in other words, are a relic of the past and are not relevant or authoritative for today’s Anglicans.
The phrase “expressing fundamental principles of authentic Anglican belief” leaves to the interpreter to decide what such fundamental principles that the Articles express, permitting the interpreter not only to selectively chose from the Articles what he considers genuinely Anglican—in other words, consistent with his own particular reconstruction of Anglicanism, but also to give his own spin to what he cherry-picked from the Articles. Instead of the Articles determining what is Anglican, the interpreter determines for himself what is in the Articles is Anglican. This completely sabotages the functions for which their framers intended the Articles to serve.
The view of the Thirty-Nine Articles expressed in Article I.7, while it may be congenial to Anglo-Catholics and liberals, is far from agreeable to conservative Evangelicals and other Anglicans who take the Articles seriously as Anglicanism’ confession of faith, comprising with the Book of Common Prayer in its 1662 edition and the Ordinal in its 1661 edition, the long-recognized doctrinal standard of Anglicanism. (The Book of Homilies is also a part of this standard, recognized in the Articles themselves as containing “Godly and wholesome doctrine” and expounding in more depth and detail the doctrine of the Articles.) It is not a view of the Articles that is compatible with that of the Jerusalem Declaration which upholds the Articles “as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s word and is authoritative for Anglicans today.” There is no equivocation in the acceptance of the authority of the Articles in the Jerusalem Declaration as there is in Article I.7.
The other doctrinal statements that the Anglican Church has produced to date show conclusively that the ACNA does not accept the Articles’ authority but treats them as something with which it can do whatever it pleases or which it can ignore altogether. In this regard the ACNA is no better than the Episcopal Church from which it broke away.
The view of the Thirty-Nine Articles expressed in Article I.7 is decidedly not theologically-neutral. It favors both Anglo-Catholic and liberal views of the Articles.
The partisan character of the ACNA constitution is not limited to Article I. It is also evident in Article X.1, which describes the College of Bishops as serving “a visible sign and expression of the Unity of the Church,” echoing themes found in Letters to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion (1992).
Article XIII in permitting dioceses to maintain a claim of ownership over the property of churches in the diocese points to Anglo-Catholic view of the nature of the diocese and of the churches forming the diocese and to an underlying Anglo-Catholic ecclesiology of the Church.