ARCHBISHOPS ROWAN WILLIAMS of Canterbury and John Sentamu of York have suggested that the Church of England and the Anglican Communion ought to be in “an open-ended engagement” with the newly-formed Anglican Church in North America.
The “Province-in-formation,” as it sometimes refers to itself, unites some 100,000 Anglicans in nearly 1,000 congregations across North America. It was formally recognized by the GAFCON Primates – leaders of Anglican Churches representing 70 percent of the active Anglicans globally – in April, 2009. But now it would like recognition by the whole Anglican Communion.
ACNA is made up of groups that have left the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, as well as some that have never been members of those two provinces. It includes entities such as the Reformed Episcopal Church, formed in 1873, and the Anglican Mission in the Americas, founded in 2000 by Rwandan Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini and Moses Tay, the now-retired primate of the province of South East Asia.
ACNA is generally welcoming the report which was signed by the Church of England’s two senior Archbishops and delivered to the Feb. 6th-9th sessions of its General Synod.
The report states that clergy within ACNA are viewed in exactly the same way as Anglican clergy from Communion provinces outside the CofE and are equally “interchangeable” in terms of their ministry. It also notes that ACNA as an institution is in an ongoing process of “open-ended engagement” with the institutions within the Anglican Communion.
The report was initiated in 2010 by a General Synod private member’s motion which recognized and affirmed the “desire of those who have formed the Anglican Church in North America to remain within the Anglican family.”
On the video news magazine Anglican Unscripted long-time Anglican journalists Kevin Kallsen and the Rev. George Conger speculated that this Church of England Report, had it come out a year earlier, would have changed the outcome of the Supreme Court of Canada case which awarded ANiC church properties in the Vancouver area to the Anglican Church of Canada. In their view, it places ACNA on an equal footing with the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.
Archbishop Bob Duncan, head of ACNA, said, in part, “We are encouraged by the desire of the Church of England to continue to embrace the Anglican Church in North America and remain in solidarity with us as we proclaim the Gospel message…. We are gratified that we are already in a relationship of full communion with many Anglican Provinces and look forward to expanding that circle….” TAP
Analysis by Phil Ashley
The Rev. Canon Phil Ashley, CEO of the American Anglican Council, said the report had “less clarity” than he would have liked but that on balance, it was “positive for ACNA.” He wrote:
1. ACNA as an institution was not rejected, as The Episcopal Church (TEC)…no doubt desired. Our Anglican bona fides will be subject to review and discussion while the wounds remain fresh from the realignment here in North America. The Archbishops state that the concept of membership in the Anglican Communion is not straightforward (Paragraph 8). Within that declaration, they discuss the role of both the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) and the assent of two-thirds of the Primates of the Churches already listed in the current schedule of membership as providing a basis for membership. But in contrast to previous statements by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Secretary of the Anglican Communion, there is no insistence here upon ACNA submitting an application to the Council or following its ‘schedule’ as necessary steps for recognition. I believe this is a significant concession between the lines to those who have challenged the purported authority of the Council to make such decisions, especially in light of actual precedent where it was recognition by the Primates that gave membership within the Communion.
2. Given the likely wish of TEC to have ACNA rejected, I believe it is a back-handed compliment to the development of ACNA as an Anglican Church within the Communion that the Archbishops found it necessary to allay TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada’s fears by reaffirming their communion with TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada.
3. With respect to the question about the interchangeability of Holy Orders between ACNA and the Church of England, Paragraphs 11 and 21 make clear that the ministers of ACNA stand in exactly the same place in relation to the CofE as other clergy in the Communion.
Ashley concluded: “Of course, this leaves many questions unanswered. If ACNA clergy seek to be licensed in the Church of England under the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure of 1967, how will their applications be received? Will they be received and recognized? Or will they be delayed and put off like the clergy validly ordained in the Anglican Church of Kenya for the Anglican Mission in England, who are still waiting? We will be watching carefully to see how evenhandedly the Archbishops proceed, in keeping with the report.” TAP
–American Anglican Council