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Church of England views ACNA orders as valid

By Donald Allister

 WHEN CLERGY of one denomination wish to serve in another, there usually has to be some agreement between the two church bodies to recognize each other’s clergy or holy orders. This is particularly true at an international level. Up until this February clergy, whether bishops, priests or deacons, serving in the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) were not recognized and accepted officially by the Church of England as having valid orders. Such clergy would have to be ordained again, this time in the Church of England, if they wished to minister within it.     

This February the Archbishops of Canterbury and York recognised the orders of ACNA under the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967. The Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) is part of ACNA so its holy orders would be recognized as well.

This follows work undertaken by the Church of England’s Faith and Order Commission in consultation with the Council for Christian Unity both (a) to clarify the general criteria by which the Church of England recognises the ministry of those whose orders are of churches within the historic episcopate and with whom the Church of England is not in communion, and (b) to consider whether the orders of ACNA meet these criteria.

The Commission recommended that ACNA’s holy orders should be recognized as valid and this was communicated to the two Archbishops, whose responsibility it is to make the decision in such cases. The Archbishops accepted the Commission’s advice, and formally recognized ACNA’s orders.

When someone who was originally ordained in ACNA or any other church whose orders are recognised under the Measure wishes to minister in the Church of England, the first questions to be considered are those related to whether the person concerned is suitable for ministry in the Church of England and if so, whether any further training is necessary. Where those questions are resolved satisfactorily, the Archbishop of the relevant Province can decide to give the minister permission to officiate in the Church of England without being ordained in the Church of England, either permanently or for a specified period.

Other churches whose orders the Church of England recognises although it is not in communion with them are the Roman Catholic Church, the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa (formerly known as the Church of England in South Africa), and the Free Church of England.

These churches are distinct from those with which the Church of England is in communion, which include all churches of the Anglican Communion.

Some observers think this may be the first step in recognizing ACNA as a full member of the Anglican Communion. Many Global South primates already fully recognize ACNA and have, instead, impaired relations with The Episcopal Church (in the United States) and the Anglican Church of Canada. This move also makes the likelihood greater that ACNA bishops will be invited to Lambeth in 2018.   TAP

–Anglican Ink with files from Sue Careless


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