Friday, 26 March 2010

Fulcrum: their challenge to Canterbury and the challenge they must face

Those of us who have watched (and experienced) the opposition of the open evangelical group Fulcrum to many of the conservative attempts to address the problems within the Anglican Communion over the past several years must greet with charity and relief the announcement from the Fulcrum leadership published yesterday in the Church of England Newspaper.
We may feel it has taken them a long time to wake up to what some of us regarded as the obvious. However, their statement not only finally recognizes the intractable problems within TEC but forcefully challenges the Archbishop of Canterbury in a manner entirely similar to conservative pronouncements from which they have distanced themselves in the past.
In response to the consent of the bishops and Standing Committees of TEC to the election of Mary Glasspool as bishop suffragan in the diocese of Los Angeles, the statement is clear that any claims of an adherence to the ‘letter’ of past agreements is now impossible:
We are now indisputably in a radically new situation. TEC as a body has determinedly, perhaps irrevocably, chosen autonomy over “communion with autonomy and accountability”.
There are three other important recognitions. The first is that
... this is not simply a matter of disagreement about biblical interpretation and sexual ethics although these are central and important. It is now very clearly also a fundamental matter of truth-telling and trust.
Their understanding, in other words, is that TEC’s version of truth-telling is not the same as that understood in the rest of the communion, and that therefore TEC as a body cannot be trusted. This is a major and significant conclusion.
Secondly, they recognize a problem within TEC with “their understanding of how the Spirit leads them.” This has been evident for a long time to those with ‘ears to hear’. But acknowledging the problem must demand from Fulcrum a clear identification as to where authority does lie. We have here a ‘clash of spiritualities’, and yet the open evangelical movement as a whole is undoubtedly vulnerable to just the approach that TEC has adopted. How the Spirit leads the Church is, and always has been, a critical question for Christians, and it is one on which Fulcrum could now usefully speak with clarity to its own constituency.
The third recognition is that members of TEC must now act against the overall polity of TEC and be supported in this by Anglicanism worldwide:
The only hope now is for TEC dioceses to reject TEC’s path by committing to the covenant and for such commitment to be recognised by the Communion.
But this raises the question of recognizing ACNA — something which Fulcrum and it’s associates have seemingly been hitherto reluctant to do. (Canon Simon Butler, who has posted articles and comments on the Fulcrum website, vigorously opposed the original motion in General Synod to support ACNA, although he voted for the final motion.) Will Fulcrum, then, follow the logic of its own conclusion and now respond more positively to those who have already stepped away from TEC? If, as the statement asserts, the Communion “must now proceed in its common life without TEC”, will it be encouraged to do so with ACNA?
Most importantly, however, the statement calls for action from the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is not assumed that TEC will take itself into the wilderness. Instead,
The nature of the Communion’s structures at present is such that effecting this distancing will require clear and decisive action by the Archbishop of Canterbury. At the very least he needs to make clear that bishops participating in the May consecration in Los Angeles will thereby exclude themselves from being invited by him to participate in the Instruments or to represent the Communion in any form.
And the statement is absolutely clear about the implications of any failure to act:
 Unless he does this all that the Instruments have repeatedly said in relation to TEC’s conduct will be undermined. The sickness of TEC’s inability to say what it means and mean what it says to the rest of the Communion will then have infected the Instruments and will surely destroy the Communion.
Understandably, the statement is at pains to recognize Rowan Williams’s past efforts. Yet it is remarkably frank in the call it now makes upon him:
Many ... both within the Church of England and the wider Communion (particularly in the Global South which meets next month) have been patient and sought to work with him by supporting the Windsor and covenant processes. They need now to make clear that unless he gives a clear lead then all that he and others have worked for since the Windsor Report and all that is promised by the covenant is at risk because of the new situation in which TEC has placed us.
When news of consents to the election of Mary Glasspool first broke, Fulcrum issued the briefest of responses which ended with the words, “Actions have consequences.”
That same phrase is used in their new statement, one of the consequences they identify being that “TEC as a body has revealed it is incapable of signing the Anglican covenant.” We must be truly grateful that the strong smell of coffee has finally wafted its way to the nostrils of the Fulcrum Leadership Team. We must now ask whether — and indeed how — they will reposition themselves in relation to the leadership of GAFCON, FCA, etc, who have for years been saying the same things, for entirely similar reasons, if not always in a manner of which Fulcrum would approve.
We must also observe that inaction has consequences. If what the Fulcrum Leadership Team has demanded now fails to materialize, will they take things further, and if so, how?
John P Richardson
26 March 2010
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  1. Thanks for this John. Even as a declared OE (though now beginning to warm to the phraseology of "evangelical software running on catholic hardware" in deference to our bishop elect) and fan of Fulcrum, I think this reaction that you welcome was always going to happen, because to be open is not the same as not to be conservative, it's just some of the things we are conservative about differ.

    I also think it was bound to happen because I am perhaps an untypical fulcrumite in being less confident than some about the declared intentions of TEC.

    You ask whether and how Fulcrum will reposition themselves with regard to Gafcon etc. In reality, I suspect a realignment is unlikely, but then it is OK to agree and be distinct. We don't have to "realign" to work together.

  2. RE: "The third recognition is that members of TEC must now act against the overall polity of TEC and be supported in this by Anglicanism worldwide:
    "The only hope now is for TEC dioceses to reject TEC’s path by committing to the covenant and for such commitment to be recognised by the Communion."
    But this raises the question of recognizing ACNA — something which Fulcrum and it’s associates have seemingly been hitherto reluctant to do."

    Sorry but I disagree. I don't think there is a connection between calling out dioceses in TEC to "act against the overall polity of TEC and be supported in this by Anglicanism worldwide" and ACNA, which is not in TEC and is a separate entity with its own set of problems and challenges and goals.

    The two sets of conservative Anglicans -- conservatives in TEC and ACNA conservatives -- are and have been on very different tracks and with different values and goals, and should be dealt with separately.

    I understand if you can't post this, as I have not given my full name -- but I comfort myself that *you* will have read it anyway.

    The US

  3. John,

    I am running a series of articles, "Authority, Mission, and the Anglican Church in North America, on my own blog, Anglicans Ablaze, examining different aspects of the ACNA. These articles shed more light on that organization and its "problems and challenges and goals" for Anglicans not only in North America but also outside Canada and the United States.

    I agree with Sarah that conservative Anglicans remaining in TEC should be dealt with seperately from those in the ACNA. They are as she points out "on very different tracks and with different values and goals."

    I also think that conservative evangelicals outside North America should scrutinize the ACNA more closely before they recommend unqualified support of the ACNA to other evangelicals. As they will see from this article series and from my past articles, the ACNA, while eskewing the radical liberalism of TEC, is not that far removed theologically from TEC. The doctrinal positions that it takes on a number of key issues including episcopacy, the sacraments, and apostolic succession owe more to the Oxford movement, liberal catholicism, and the Convergence/Ancient Future faith movement than they do to the English Reformation and classical Anglicanism. The Thirty-Nine Articles is largely viewed as a relic of the past and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the 1661 Ordinal annexed to it as one of several prayer books and ordinals that North American Anglicans regard as authoritative in matters of doctrine and worship.

    The Fundamental Declarations of the ACNA are a far cry from Canon A5 of the Church of England. They have different language and emphases to say the least from the Jerusalem Declaration. The definition of Anglican orthodoxy articulated in the Fundamental Declarations makes room for the beliefs of Anglo-Catholics, charismatics, and evangelicals who sit loose to the distinctives of traditional evangelical Anglicanism but not for the beliefs of conservative evangelicals. The latter is regarded in certain quarters of the ACNA as too intolerant of the views of these other groups. The ACNA offers no "safe haven" to conservative evangelicals except those willing to compromise their principles.

    Robin G. Jordan
    Murray, Kentucky USA

  4. I believe Robin Jordan has a very narrow read of Anglican History. Anyone who wishes to freeze the church in a moment in time denies the ongoing reformation "catholic church always reforming itself" that many reformed Christians seem so committed to. J.I. Packer, a good puritan leaning evangelical within the ACNA who is respected by those Robin refers to as "conservative evangelicals" uses a quadrilateral of his own to describe the four key markers of Anglicanism. Catholic, Creedal, Canonical, and Comprehensive.

    The English reformation took over one hundred years to accomplish and saw extremes on sides both catholic and protestant. This narrow read of Anglican history and identity breaks two of these markers laid out by Packer. Is it too much to ask for an Anglicanism that is consistent with the ancient Christian witness of the undivided and One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church? If the answer to this is yes, may I suggest Presbyterianism.

    Jeff Wilson
    Vancouver BC, Canada

  5. "which Fulcrum and it’s associates "
    John, I think you will find that you should be using "it's" without the apostrophe. (hahaha)
    Blessings, Rachel

  6. "Blessings, Rachel"

    You missed the apostrophe in "Blessing's".

  7. Jeff,

    As you must know, J. I Packer has in recent years taken some positions that have led conservative evangelicals to question his credentials as a conservative evangelical. The fact Packer has chosen to throw in his lot with the ACNA does not mean that the ACNA is theologically acceptable to all conservative evangelicals. As I noted in my first post, the doctrinal positions that the ACNA constitution and canons takes on a number of key issues including episcopacy, the sacraments, and apostolic succession owe more to the Oxford movement, liberal catholicism, and the Convergence/Ancient Future movement than they do to the English Reformation and classical Anglicanism. I would also add that they also reflect the influence of the Roman Catholic Church. In a number of places the ACNA canons have been adapted from the canons of the Anglican Church of Rwanda. The Rwandan canons have, in turn, been adapted from the canons of the Roman Catholic Church. Did you know that the Rwandan canons teach that Christ is "substantially" in the Eucharist and through the ministry of the priest offers himself again to God the Father? They teach both the doctrine of transubstantiation and the sacrifice of the Mass. At the same time the Rwandan canons assert that there are no differences between the doctrine of the Thirty-Nine Articles and the doctrine of the Rwandan Church.

    Continued below.

    Robin G. Jordan,
    Murra.Kentucky USA

  8. Through its adaptation of the Rwandan canons the Governance Task Force and the Provincial Council have introduced Roman Catholic doctrine into the ACNA canons. For example, Canon III.8.2 describes the ministry of bishops. It maintains that bishops “are successors to the apostles through the gift of the Holy Spirit who is given to them.” The description of the ministry of bishops in Canon III.8.2 is adapted from a similar description in Canon III.23.1.1 of the Rwandan canons. The latter, in turn, is adapted from a description of the ministry of bishops in Canon 375 §1 of the canons of the Roman Catholic Church:

    By divine institution, Bishops succeed the Apostles through the Holy Spirit who is given to them. They are constituted Pastors in the Church, to be the teachers of doctrine, the priests of sacred worship and the ministers of governance.

    All three descriptions contain a variation of the statement that bishops “are the successors of the apostles through the grace of the Holy Spirit given to them.” However it is worded, this statement is a reference to the Catholic doctrine of tactual succession.

    The criteria for the episcopate in the ACNA canons is an adaptation of the Rwandan canon's adaptation of the Roman Catholic canons. The minimum age requirement for an ACNA is 35 years of age which is the age requirement for a Rwandan missionary bishop and a Roman Catholic bishop.

    The second method for the selection of bishops in the ACNA canons, commended to all dioceses and established as the norm for newly formed diocese, is adapted from the Rwandan canons and the proposed canons of the Anglican Missionary Province of North America--an Anglican Mission in America proposal for a North American province. All three variants of this method of episcopal selection embody a principle used in the Roman Catholic Church in the selection of bishops. A higher authority--the College of Bishops in the case of ACNA, the House of Bishops in case of the Rwandan Church, and the Supreme Pontiff in case of the Roman Cathlic Church--selects the new bishop from a list of candiates recommended by various church groups and officials at the diocesan or provincial level. Even the number of candidates that a diocese may nominate--2 or 3, was influenced by the Roman Catholic canons. 3 is the number of candidates for auxiliary bishop that a diocesan bishop can recommend to the Apostolic See.

    Whenever conservative evangelicals draw attention to the theological drift of the ACNA, the typical response from persons like yourself is that they should explore presbyterianism. The truth of the matter is that the former Canadian Anglicans and Episcoplians who make up a large segment of the ACNA are so far from Biblical Anglicanism in their theological views one is led to question how the GAFCON Primates could recognize the ACNA as "authentically Anglican." On the other hand, the same Primates also issued a statement in which they stated that the Pope's offer to Anglicans "reflects the same commitment to the historic apostolic faith...that we proclaimed in the Jerusalem Declaration...." The Church Society Council subsequently took the GAFCON Primates for making such an assrtion.I reiterate what I said in my first post: conservative evangelicals should closely scrutinize the ACNA and its doctrine and practices before recommending the unqualified support of the ACNA to other evangelicals

    Robin G. Jordan
    Mrray, Kentucky USA