The history of the Continuum has been marked by on-and-off ecumenicism with “orthodox” parts of TEC, these being dioceses and parishes that have more or less suppressed women’s ordination. In the course of this ecumenicism two opinions emerge. The first opinion recognizes various degrees WO has been accepted, holding out a possibility that certain quarters of realignment Anglicanism might reverse ordinations into priesthood or even diaconate. The second is certain that wrong intent and compromise of sacramental integrity automatically nullifies every charism for Holy Orders, making extreme disassociation with respect to neo-Anglicanism necessary. Since the receding of FACA, the latter opinion has made headway among Continuing churches, justifying de facto policies of strict non-involvement (1). Non-involvement has direct bearing upon the future of North American Anglicanism, hindering what might be dubbed “solidarity” with faithful parts struggling in Lambeth.
The St. Louis Affirmation’s ecumenical strategy was relatively moderate. The 1977 Affirmation said, under Section V. Principles of Action, “The continuing Anglicans remain in full communion with the See of Canterbury and with all other faithful parts of the Anglican Communion, and should actively seek similar relations with all other Apostolic and Catholic Churches, provided that agreement in the essentials of Faith and Order first be reached.” While it is common knowledge that the See of Canterbury abandoned biblical and apostolic orthodoxy some time ago, less clear are those provinces, dioceses, and even parishes that are indeed “faithful”. The end of section III calls for “Episcopal, diocesan, and parochial” authorities to support the witness of the Affirmation, so one might conclude “dioceses, provinces, and parishes” constitute the “parts” spoken of. The term “faithful” would be these same jurisdictions– both parochial or provincial– that agree with principles set forth in Section I, namely, the unalterable precepts given by the Holy Scriptures, Creeds, Ecumenical Councils, the enumeration of Sacraments, and continuation of Holy Orders for proper faith and order. Section I explains clerical Orders as “consisting exclusively of men in accordance with Christ’s Will and Institution, and the universal practice of the Catholic Church”. This is the traditional Anglican litmus test for any kind of communion.
While more might be said regarding the actual history of male orders and their manner of gospel institution, the Continuing movement did not attend St. Louis with a single opinion on how to deal with “faithful parts”. Continuing churches existing before the St. Louis Congress (derived from the older AEC and earlier Mobile Congress) were mostly conservative-broad churchmen, catholic by reason of the 1928 prayer book, who were relatively optimistic about engaging “orthodox” Episcopalian and Lambeth members. After 1980, the pre-St. Louis churches quickly became the largest proportion of the Continuum whereupon a third of the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC) joined the AEC-AECNA’s ecumenical direction. A more salient example of this optimism was had at the Fairfield Symposium held in 1986. At Fairfield “orthodox” Lambeth bishops met with a number of continuing jurisdictions to discuss unity, the foremost being the old AEC and part of the ACC under Bishop Falk (p. 185, Bess). The split at Deerfield Beach was basically over this same question– how the narrowness of ACC C&C obstructs larger unity (p. 194-6). Between the two camps (anti- vs. pro-unity continuers) might be extra questions as to what entails the Affirmations charge to “repudiate” heterodox churches (e.g, does repudiation necessarily exclude kinds of engagement?), with broad or middle-of-the-road conservatives pointing out the St. Louis’s preface commends solidarity with loyal Anglicans inside Lambeth that “continue to confine ordination to the priesthood and the episcopate to males”. Curiously, the diaconate is not here mentioned, so perhaps even the St. Louis has a generous tone as to what might possibly be ‘orthodox’ or ‘steadfast’. Below is the entire preface, given as a reminder for readers:
“WE affirm that the Church of our fathers, sustained by the most Holy Trinity, lives yet, and that we, being moved by the Holy Spirit to walk only in that way, are determined to continue in the Catholic Faith, Apostolic Order, Orthodox Worship, and Evangelical Witness of the traditional Anglican Church, doing all things necessary for the continuance of the same. We are upheld and strengthened in this determination by the knowledge that many provinces and dioceses of the Anglican Communion have continued steadfast in the same Faith, Order, and Worship, and Witness, and that they continue to confine ordination to the priesthood and the episcopate to males. We rejoice in these facts and we affirm our solidarity with these provinces and dioceses.”
While the Affirmation clearly asserts male Holy Orders as essential to the regular ministry of the church, it arguably permits partial or sub-communion relations with “faithful parts”. Section V mentions “full-communion” but also “similar relations” (~not necessarily full-communion) which might imply engaging a notch or two below “sharing all things sacred”. Again, “solidarity”, as found in the preface above, is a somewhat open-ended term possibly carrying a range of ecumenical options neither requiring full-communion or absolute separation. A middle position between unionism and separatism is something present-day Continuing Anglicans increasingly lack, ignoring the potential of mediating or secondary organizations like FACA as well as the Ministry Partnership held by APA with ACNA. None of these fellowships entail full-communion yet both provide a means and structure for dialogue, influence, as well as cooperative benefits.
Perhaps part of the problem among Continuers is the absence of a theology for impaired communion. The PCK and ACC churches think the term is oxymoronic. But something of a starting point for that theology is found in Fifna’s “Agreed Statement on Communion”. Though FiFNA clergy were attendant to the 1977 Congress– known at the time as the Evangelical and Catholic Mission (ECM)– in 2002 FiF finally ratified the St. Louis Affirmation (whereupon TAC and ACA professed intercommunion with FiF). Unlike the clergy who were forced into the St. Louis Congress, ECM parishes benefited by having sympathetic Ordinaries, giving them a luxury to further pursue an inside strategy for opposing ECUSA. The Affirmation’s Preface is likely speaking of such groups– therefore commending those faithful “orthodox episcopalians”. The leadership of FiFNA (today, mostly Bishops from Quincy, San Joaquin, and Fort Worth) were also curiously patrons of Deerfield Beach, Bartonville, and the FACA conferences. So, there’s been a number of surprising connections with the Continuum to traditional episcopalians despite strict non-involvement interpretations of the St. Louis. Anyhow, FiFNA explains Impaired Communion:
“When the bishop of a diocese permits the teaching of clearly unscriptural error within his diocese, or teaches such himself, and when he fails to call to account fellow bishops who do this, he fails in his obligation to guard the faith, order, and unity of the Church. Sacramental communion rests upon the unity of the faithful in a common confession of the gospel of Christ and a common life in Christ by the Spirit. When elements contrary to that confession and life are introduced, tolerated, or ignored, whether by positive action or through negligence, sacramental communion is impaired. It is undoubtedly true, as taught in the Articles of Religion (XXVI) that the validity of sacraments does not depend on the worthiness of the ministers. However it is equally true that the continuance in sacred office of those who teach or live contrary to the Gospel creates serious dilemmas of conscience for the faithful. Either clearly or intuitively, they realize that the act of receiving communion from heterodox ministers at best signifies a belief (which they do not hold) that his errors are of no great consequence.
The Agreed Statement then concludes heterodoxy compels “a degree of separation”. With that separation often follows the flight of the faithful into dioceses having more orthodox bishops. However, the statement compares such flight to ecumenical efforts Anglicans have taken with other Protestants and Catholics: “Such a realignment inevitably involves a degree of separation, both for laity and for clergy… But the degree of separation, though in every sense necessary, need not be acrimonious. Ecumenical relations with many of the non-Anglican churches clearly show to the contrary.”
The history with non-Anglican relations leaves a rather large door open for degrees of separation. Not only does this weigh past relations with Eastern Orthodox whereupon the Romanian Orthodox allowed laity to partake in Holy Communion with Anglicans but also the not-so-obvious influence 19th-century Protestant Unity witnessed by the Muhlenberg Memorial and PECUSA National Cathedral. If such a term exists, “degrees of separation”, then surely “degrees of communion” likewise follow. In other words, neither solidarity nor separation are absolute, but perhaps they bracket-in a range of lesser relations. At this point, we might want to consider what Augustine said about individual communion as potentially applying to the orthodoxy or faithfulness of Anglican provinces and dioceses:
“Although God is entirely present to all creatures and dwells especially in believers, they do not entirely receive Him. According to differences in their ability to receive Him, some possess and receive more of Him and others less. But when it comes to Christ, our head, the Apostles says, ‘In Him dwells all the fullness of Deity bodily’ (Col. 2:9)”
Going a bit deeper theologically, we might ask if there exist degrees of righteousness as well as sin. Is all sin the same, etc? Or, “does one shoe fit all”? Is heaven hierarchical as on earth? It seems questions of economy or ‘degrees of communion’ can impact a wide number of theological areas, and to paint a stark black and white answer strips theology of making divine grades of distinction. John Meyendorff’s book Marriage: an Orthodox Perspective discusses penance in the early church. Evidently, there were grades of public satisfaction or discipline which were counted by distance from the altar. Moreover, even those under discipline were not expelled from the visible church. They were included or set apart by degrees at the doorway with the ‘weepers’, ‘hearers’ (those who listened to scripture but did not take the sacraments), and the ‘prostrators’ (those who took a prostrated position at certain parts of the service rather than sitting or standing):
“A more prolonged penance was required for married divorcees, i.e., seven years: ‘He who leaves the wife given him, and shall take another is guilty of adultery by the sentence of the Lord. And it has been decreed by our Fathers that they who are such must be “weepers” for a year, “hearers” for two years, “prostrators” for three years, and in the seventh year to stand with the faithful and thus be counted worthy of the Oblation (sixth ecumenical council c. 87)” p. 57
Thus, we can refer to medieval or even ancient canons to show degrees of Penance (or excommunication) have existed. If degrees of excommunication have been used, then aren’t there also degrees of communion? If we distinguish between minor and major excommunication (say, admonishment versus loss of table fellowship) , then what lies between are several stages of either separation or union. Could today’s Anglicans actually define their communion by such degrees? This might explain the rise of parallel jurisdictions that are increasingly becoming regular and de facto features in bodies like Lambeth and ACNA.
In his essay on Basic Polity, Fr. Louis Tarsitano also discussed various degrees of communion as they related to keeping the Great Commission. Curiously, Tarsitano mentions ‘willful’ as distinguished from ‘mistaken’ heresies. It should be noted that Forward in Faith catholics typically utilize a same distinction when speaking of their neo-evangelical counterparts, granting evangelicals the benefit of the doubt on female ordination in lieu of a full study, thus implying a kind of intellectual rather than moral error. It seems the willfulness of the transgression also measures the severity of separation (2). Bishop Iker has said,
“Christ’s Great Commission to the Apostles is in two parts, and neither part may be ignored (Matt. 28:19-20). First, the Apostles, and their successors in ministry and authority, are to make disciples of all nations. Second, they are to teach them to observe all things whatsoever Christ has commanded, with the accompanying promise that if they do so, Christ will remain present within the Church even until the end of the world.
Christian polity requires obedience to both elements of this commission, with the goal of remaining in communion with Jesus Christ. Any divergence from this commission and its terms causes a breach in that communion to a greater or lesser extent, and at the extremes of willful heresy and apostasy, such divergence breaks communion with Christ entirely.”
Perhaps these opinions give an arguable basis for graded communion? Graded communion has been a recent goal of the William Cantaur’s proposed Anglican Covenant. Whether or not the Covenant proposal is deaad, it describes a phenomena that is already happening from the ground up. The rise of tiered connections; mediated by manifold church societies, missionary districts, and parallel jurisdictions have allowed the orthodox to give answer to heresy without surrendering inter-relational structure. CANA’s website explains the notion of dual citizenship, calling non-geographic organization “intermediary”, “emergent”, and elsewhere “evolving”. Rowans has admitted, “The future of missionary and orthodox Anglicanism cannot be limited to our accustomed denominational boundaries, but will surely draw like minded believers into federations and alliances in the service of Christ”. The FiFNA canonist, Fr. Kevin Donlon, has described the non-symmetrial and informal alignments that are increasingly characteristic of pan-Anglicanism:
“While these mechanisms [instruments of communion, e.g., the Archbishop of Canterbury] operate at a global level, most Communion life, however, is found in the relationships between Anglicans at all levels of church life and work around the globe; dioceses linked with dioceses, parishes with parishes, people with people, all working to further God’s mission…When one considers the present state of Global Anglicanism the above image that is evoked of being linear and symmetrical order seems at the very least to be disingenuous and at worst a theological canard. Perhaps the reality is that despite our desire we are fragmented and non-symmetrical as life in the bubble illustrates.” (FiC: Sept. 2012, p. 18)
Parallel and dual citizenship has multiplied itself not only among realignment Anglicans, but they’ve been adopted by St. Louis churches long before GAFCON. For example, in the Continuum the three most prominent provinces (UEC, ACC, and PCK) have intercommunion between themselves despite difference in canons, overlapping ecclesiastical authority, as well as evangelical vs. ultra-catholic doctrine. Keep in mind the first parallel jurisdiction among continuers happened when Benning’s AECNA joined the ACC in 1984 as a non-geographic district, aka.,”diocese of St. Paul” (Bess, p. 183). It might be further argued that Bishop Morse obstinance vis-a-vis other Denver Bishops was because he wanted PCK to be a non-geographic district inside the ACC (ibid, p. 101). The UECNA not only has reduced its dioceses to three missionary districts (aka. missionary dioceses), but it also has an intercommunion pact with an obscure Canadian church, the Diocese of the Great Lakes, adding even greater complexity to Continuing relations.
Another curiosity might TAC’s 2002 agreement where the United Anglican Church and Holy Catholic Church-AR sought admission into TAC, raising the possibility of having three TAC provinces (counting ACA) inside the United States! Also, most Continuing jurisdictions allow their Archbishops the power to establish a ‘patrimony’, which itself is a non-geographic entity. An example of such is the ACA’s “Patrimony of the Primate” temporarily set up for Anglicans leaving ACA for Rome. However, in 2012 the patrimony was dissolved, leaving behind an independent anglo-Papist body– the ‘Diocese of the Holy Family’. Finally, a rump from ARJA– the diocese of Texas— appears to have recognized the benefit of having formal ministry partnership and presently has three such arrangements, notably with the AEC-US— a jurisdiction UECNA Bishop Robinson has wanted to affiliate with for some time.
Ministry Partnership is a term that has yet to be clearly defined, but it is a formal way of establishing missionary cooperation, enabling clerical relations that might eventually bear deeper intercommunion. FACA loosely connects its members to ACNA. In 2008, a segment of FACA (the APA’s former Diocese of the West and a PCK priest, Fr. Novak), entered ACNA, mostly through the cover of REC. Furthermore, ACNA members like Diocese of Fort Worth have suspended geographical boundaries to provide episcopal oversight for churches in Arkansas and Louisiana. The same phenomena is occurring inside TEC with some Communion Partners (principally South Carolina) offering themselves as Episcopal visitors (DEPO) for conservative minorities trapped in otherwise liberal dioceses (3).
While explaining the dual oversight under Bishop Donald Davies once shared with the Episcopal Missionary Church (EMC), Bishop Redmile described the intermediary status of the XnEC’s in the Anglican communion,
“The Christian Episcopal Churches are different from other “continuing” Anglican bodies and jurisdictions in that we were founded by the established Episcopal Church, were headed by licensed Episcopal Bishops and Clergy, and are still, in fact, part of the Anglican Communion in that we have never been ejected by the Communion, nor did we ever secede from the Communion. In fact, there has been a sort of unofficial recognition of our status in that we have been allowed to give pastoral oversight to the Church of England in the Cayman Islands without any censure from or protest by the Lord Bishop of London who has jurisdiction over them, and has had since their establishment by law in 1634. We have been ignored by the Communion, that is true, but we have never been repudiated or excommunicated by them…” p.2
Such interlocking ties constitute a web of mediation haphazardly weaving a post-Canterbury Anglicanism together. Though not ideal, this sort of “back-door” solidarity or emerging networks are slowly becoming dominant, and it might prove the hinge by which ‘traditional’ North American Anglicanism will tip the scales against innovation in places like the ACNA– allowing theological engagement without sacrificing sound episcopal oversight.
- Bess, Douglas. Divided We Stand: A History of the Continuing Anglican Movement, Apocryphile Press (2002).
1. [POST-SCRIPT] In two emails, dated November 22nd & 23rd, 2011, Haverland said the ACC’s views have altered since the retirement of archbishoprics of Lewis and Volker. Changed circumstances have allowed the ACC to once again move in a more ecumenical direction, but this is only with respect to continuing churches that have been well pollinated by the Chamber’s line, probably through Robert Mercer.
For more, see Section V notes