Catholic International

Bubble Map

In the 2012  Forward in Christ October issue (vol. 5, #2, p. 18), Fr. Kevin Donlon mapped various relationships and interconnections among both Canterbury-aligned and extra mural Anglican churches, lamenting increasing fragmentation and fission.  Yet, Fr. Donlon believes disintegration can be reversed by “the shadow web” of often-conflicting and mutable “spheres of activity” within the Anglican Communion. Among the ecclesiastical bubbles (map to the left) inclined to cooperate, Donlon seems to think anglo-catholics might forge a New Oxford Movement to steadily reverse women’s ordination and other egalitarian disorders by the “fullness of catholic teaching”. As a consequence, liberal Evangelicals may soon find themselves on the defense against the mustering of Tradition for the reading of Scripture.   

While the ordination of women runs amok in Lambeth, the Jerusalem Declaration (FCA) is fast becoming the rally point for Anglican Communion conservatives. Collaboration between evangelicals and catholics was prefigured in America at the US Anglican Congress back in 2002 when Duncan’s AAC jointly celebrated Eucharist with catholic bishops from both FiFNA and APA. That event was credited for the making of  Kingdom Norms — a new sentiment of cooperation among neo-evangelicals and catholics. The Jerusalem Declaration (as well as the ACNA’s Fundamental Principles) avoids issues typically divisive between these two camps. Yet, a path for correct hermeneutic has been opened. 

St. Louis v. Jerusalem:
In this respect, the Jerusalem Declaration has a certain resonance with the St. Louis Affirmation. Both documents set holy scripture, ancient doctors, and councils as reliable standards for ‘faithful Anglicans’. However, the Affirmation predictably gives greater leeway to tradition. Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Declaration is emphatic about the finality of scripture.  With GAFCON’s greater wooing of catholics, a comparison is perhaps due as the latter might undergo something of a change. Starting at the preamble, the Jerusalem Declaration states,

“We, together with many other faithful Anglicans throughout the world, believe the doctrinal foundation of Anglicanism, which defines our core identity as Anglicans, is expressed in these words: The doctrine of the Church is grounded in the Holy Scriptures and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures.  In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.”

Such a concise definition for orthodox Anglicanism is rare. Where the Elizabethan Settlement is easily equated with Catholicism, a confidence about English standards exudes the document. However, the English Settlement indeed restates the Creeds as well as the doctrine accepted by the first five centuries of antiquity. This is typically compacted into the well-known formula of ‘three creeds, four councils’. The Declaration’s official commentary, Being Faithfulbriefly describes the origin of creeds and councils as respective of scripture,

“In the early Church, a ‘rule of faith’ was identified, a core of Christian belief which distinguished orthodox, catholic believers from heretics. Individual beliefs and readings of Scripture could be tested against this foundation. Over time, and with the assistance of the Ecumenical Councils we have mentioned, this rule came to take a formal shape in the three historic Creeds…p. 33”

Furthermore, the three Creeds, and presumably the Councils from which they proceed, although welcoming of deeper confirmation, are closed to alteration. The commentary goes on to admit,

“However, these Creeds are not the possession of any one group. They are expressions of the faith of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. For this reason no individual or group is at liberty to change the theology they express. They continue to be authoritative declarations of the Christian faith, and we are bound to acknowledge their relevance and submit to their authority.” p. 34

The St. Louis Affirmation naturally takes a stronger acclamation for Tradition by reason of positing seven sacraments and councils. Under the section of “The Incompetence of Church Bodies to Alter Truth”, the Affirmation says:

“We disclaim any right or competence to suppress, alter, or amend any of the ancient Ecumenical Creeds and definitions of faith, to set aside or depart form Holy Scripture, or to alter or deviate from the essential pre-requisites of any Sacrament.”

Notice the Affirmation actually says little about the precise range of Tradition other than enumerating ‘seven’ Councils and an equal number of sacraments. With respect to scripture, the Affirmation reads much like the Jerusalem Declaration. Nonetheless, exactly how all seven sacraments are efficacious and objective deserves thoughtful discussion, so even the Affirmation might be admitted to have  “unresolved tensions” or issues of “reception”. In fact, catholics might hold a similar position against the Jerusalem Declaration accusing it of treating Tradition superficially. Yet, the Affirmation and the Jerusalem Declaration both cast doubt on the validity of fist-millennium councils. The Affirmation accepts seven councils but only in so far as they lack error:

“The received Tradition of the Church and its preachings as set forth by ‘the ancient catholic bishops and doctors,’ and especially as defined by the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church, to the exclusion of all errors, ancient and modern.

The Affirmation does not specify what ‘errors’ are characteristic of past general councils, so the last clause has been left to various interpretations. This isn’t this is essentially any different from GAFCON’s equivocation. The ACNA’s Fundamental Principles are comparatively optimistic about the number of councils but with an accompanying qualification:

“Concerning the seven Councils of the undivided Church, we affirm the teaching of the first four Councils and the Christological clarifications of the fifth, sixth, and seventh Councils, in so far as they are agreeable to scripture“.

Also significant, the ACNA’s theological statement ends with a quote from Archbishop Fischer describing the ‘Anglican Way’, reminding orthodox Anglicans their ‘right’ hermeneutic. It is an important reminder, even compass, for Anglican futures:

‘In all these things, the Anglican Church in North America is determined by the help of God to hold and maintain as the Anglican Way has received them the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ. “The Anglican Communion,” Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher wrote, “has no peculiar thought, practice, creed or confession of its own. It has only the Catholic Faith of the ancient Catholic Church, as preserved in the Catholic Creeds and maintained in the Catholic and Apostolic constitution of Christ’s Church from the beginning.” It may licitly teach as necessary for salvation nothing but what is read in the Holy Scriptures as God’s Word written or may be proved thereby. It therefore embraces and affirms such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the Scriptures, and thus to be counted apostolic. The Church has no authority to innovate: it is obliged continually, and particularly in times of renewal or reformation, to return to “the faith once delivered to the saints.”’

Biblical Perspicuity:
But, overall, the Jerusalem statement tends to diminish the role of Tradition, flirting at times with a naked sola scriptura. The Declaration’s official commentary seems too quick to scuttle tradition if scripture appears to say otherwise:

p.122, “Scripture stands alone, above both the tradition of the churches and the carefully reasoned arguments of the human mind. The Christian tradition is not to be despised or treated lightly, but it is always reformable on the basis of biblical teaching…Precisely because ‘many false prophets have gone into the world’, all proposals need to be tested by the Scriptures. Testing even the words of the apostles by the teaching of the Scriptures is commended in the New Testament (Acts 17:11)”

Sadly, Anglicans ought to know how easily “plain” biblical proofs can undermine apostolic teaching regarding matters like bishops, fixed prayer, or male holy orders. An example of such is N.T. Wright’s recent scriptural ‘exegesis’ for women bishops in the Church of England. The evangelical-Anglican, Dr. John Stott,  came to similar questionable conclusions, interpreting the ‘headship principle’ to allow ordained women to lower leadership positions given male supervision. Hence, women can be priests given the rector and bishop remain male.

Bishop David N. Samuel (Church of England, Continuing) described an ironic situation at Canterbury’s 1992 synod where women priests were first approved,

Many who took part in the debate and announced themselves as evangelicals took this line. “I do not think,” said one evangelical lady, “that Scripture forbids the ordination of women…neither side can be certain what ‘head’  means. We must let the circumstances decide.” (Journal of the CofEC, 1995)

Wright and Stott’s exegesis is materially similar to modern Wesleyans who pride themselves upon Biblical interpretation. The editor of Good News magazine (a conservative Methodist publication), Rob Renfroe recently confessed the difficulty of yielding definitive answers on certain civil rights issues like abolitionism, homosexuality, or feminism:

“We do not agree with the approach of taking one passage of Scripture as a filter by which to evaluate all the rest of Scripture. Instead, it is best to take each passage in its own historical and theological context. However, even using this approach does not necessarily yield a definitive answer on this [slavery] question”  ( ‘A Matter of Interpretation, May 2013 issue, p. 25)

Perhaps there are two views of perspicuity at play between Evangelicals and Catholics? Evangelicals tend to mix critical with older grammatical-historical methods, resulting in an hermeneutic that is overconfident about the reading of scripture, especially on social issues. Meanwhile, Catholics tend to fall back on allegorical methods which need historical commentary or ‘holy tradition’ to reign in otherwise metaphorical creativity. It is interesting how approaches or philosophies about perspicuity impact ecumenicism, and Catholics tend to give evangelicals leeway, alloting evangelical progressivism to naivety or shoddy method rather intentional subversion of text/history.

Indeed, Evangelicals can be superficial about historical commentaries kept by the church, and this is likely why the Jerusalem Declaration avoids language which might otherwise demand a stronger resourcement of catholic fathers (despite the ‘church being the keeper of holy writ’). The Declaration commends reading the Bible “in its plain and canonical sense” but only in such a way that is “respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading”. Elsewhere, it says Anglicans ought to lend an ear to previous divinity since “We can benefit from listening to what they have had to say”(p. 32).

But, don’t tepid endorsements of Tradition (like above) connote a voluntarist aspect with patristics? Regarding resolution of differences in hermeneutics David Hamid admitted a more precise relationship between scripture and tradition is needed:

“if any body at the level of the Communion is going to address issues of human sexuality, it will need to begin with some basic work on scriptural hermeneutics. The Communion has never before had to address this issue of the nature of scriptural authority, nor of the interrelation between scripture, tradition, and reason quite so explicitly.” (p.89-90, Beyond Colonial Anglicanism)

The shortcoming of GAFCON is probably its overwhelming evangelical constituency stemming from Global South which tend to subscribe to (modern methodist) views much like Stott’s and Wright’s.  In his 2010 Communion Governance study, Dr. Stephen Noll’s described Afro-Anglicanism’s historical influences:

“There may be a particular temptation to Provinces of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) to sit loosely to “Anglicanism,” as it is often described in western handbooks. Let me make a few observations from East Africa. The first missionaries to East Africa were not even Anglicans (e.g., the Moravian Krapf in Kenya, and the Presbyterian Mackay in Uganda). The name for the Anglican church is “the Church of Uganda” and in the vernacular Protestant or Evangelical, and the Church is usually perceived as the counterpart and competitor with the Roman Catholic Church, not some sort of bridge church between Protestants and Catholics.The East African Revival reflected the ecumenical Protestant character of its roots in England, especially the emphasis on being “born again,” although the Anglicans in Africa were more successful than their British and American counterparts in channeling the energy of the movement within the Anglican churches. More recently, Anglicans have been challenged by Pentecostals and have responded by adopting elements of free worship. In the decade of controversy over homosexuality, the position of the Anglican has been similar to that of the other “born again” churches.” p. 13

Evangelical influence might also be traced back to the early episcopal government of Western Africa which tended to be Revivalistic. At the Fulcrum Forum, Mr. Atherstone noted the legacy of UK overseers like Bishops Willis and Peel:

“Another theological legacy from Kenya to the Anglican Communion is the Kikuyu Missionary Conference of 1913, where Bishop Willis of Uganda and Bishop Peel of Mombasa (both evangelicals) enjoyed fellowship with Nonconformist friends. Willis and Peel were determined to put evangelical faith before catholic order, for the sake of united evangelism, for which they were denounced as heretics by Bishop Weston of Zanzibar (an Anglo-Catholic). Their ecclesiologies were incompatible.”

It bears to mind what the GAFCON-majority understands as “orthodox”. It could very well be “orthodoxy” for GAFCON has more to do with American Fundamentalism or dissenting churches than anything ‘anglican-specific’. Curiously, the Jersusalem Declaration seems to be a pastiche of a classical Solemn Declaration (such as the 1893 Canadian) with the ‘Five-Fundamentals‘ (or the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy). Indeed, Fudamentalism seems to be a running definition for “orthodoxy” among U.S. evangelicals in general. For example, Methodist leader Charles Keysor has said,

“Orthodoxy in America has developed a theological center known as the ‘five fundamentals’. These are by no means the whole of orthodox doctrine, as many people mistakenly suppose. Instead, these five points constitute a common ground for all who are truly orthodox. But beyond this common ground lies an enormous area of Christian truth where orthodox Christians disagree vigorously”.

A further quesiton might be if the Five Fundamentals square with Anglican formulas? This is where so-called biblical perspicuity and tradition often conflict, as a quick mesh between the two can be elusive.  That difference was apparent with Arthur Middleton’s address to FCA in 2012 when compared to Dr. Thompson’s in 2008(1) .  Middleton is the author of two books on hermeneutics– the Restoring the Anglican Mind (2008) and The Fathers and Anglicans (2001)– both of which give academic rationale the Vincentian canon.  Contrasted with Sydney-Anglican, Dr. Mark Thompson,  highlights the gap:  

“Scripture became the self-evident basis but because the Bible without the Church becomes a mere collection of ancient documents, Scriptural interpretation depends on the appeal to antiquity as mutually inclusive. The Bible and the Church must be dancing partners and where the one is detached from the other it leads to an uncontrollable doctrinal space-flight. Anglicanism maintained the Catholic notion of a perfect union between Scripture and Tradition or the Church and Scripture in that the Church’s authority is not distinct from that of Scripture but rather that they are one.” (p. 13)

For Dr. Thompson the Bible’s alleged perspicuity has a power to trump even long-standing ecclesiastical authorities:

“The authority of Scripture as God’s word written circumscribes all other claims to authority. There are things the church may not do precisely because this word stands over it as the rule of the church’s life… The unity of Scripture, stemming from its origin in God but reinforced in particular by its focused testimony to Christ, is the presupposition of all faithful reading . The ancient practice of the analogy of faith, comparing passages of Scripture and letting the clear and unambiguous passages provide guidance on how to read those passages which are less clear is reaffirmed. There is no need to interpose an authorised interpreter between the Christian and the biblical text. Just so, there is no need to construct an elaborate theory of reading or impose a carefully reasoned set of hermeneutical principles, well-intentioned though they may be.”

The difference between 2008, when Dr. Thompson spoke (2), and 2012– when Canon Middleton lectured– is dramatic, and we might wonder if Middleton’s address signifies new direction for some GAFCON intellectuals.. ?

Democratic Fix or Race to the Top?
Whatever problems strident perspicuity has against traditional hermeneutics, the tension is further exacerbated by ‘experience’ or ‘reception’ added as criteria. African pentecostal-fundamentalism must wrestle with the Anglican Communion’s tendency to equate truth to democratic process or indaba (accompanied with plenty of bureaucratic string-pulling). The Windsor Report (p. 29) treats tradition as a ‘memory of earlier Christian interpretations’ with ambiguity, winking an eye to higher criticism when asking consideration for  ‘large-scale historical reconstruction’ and the  ‘nuances of ancient words’  while reading scripture.

GAFCON is likely saying little more than the Windsor Report–i.e., tradition may be taken into account but in the ‘weak sense’, so Anglicanism is not judged ‘anachronistic’:

“As this task proceeds, questions of interpretation are rightly raised, not as an attempt to avoid or relativise scripture and its authority, but as a way of ensuring that it really is scripture that is being heard, not simply the echo of our own voices (though our own responsive hearing is necessary) or the memory of earlier Christian interpretations (though we must always take them into account: ‘tradition’ consists primarily of the recollection of what the scripture-reading Church has said). Historical interpretation, from ongoing lexicographical work (to make sure the nuances of ancient words are properly and precisely heard) to large-scale historical reconstruction (to ensure we are not making anachronistic assumptions), remains vital. It can be deeply challenging to entrenched views of what scripture is thought to be saying, not least where it has been read within an unchallenged philosophical or cultural matrix.” (parag. 59)

As usual, the Report could be read multiple ways. However, by dropping troubling phrases like– “being open to the fresh wind of the Spirit” (parag. 61) or, “Christians are not at liberty to simplify these matters either by claiming the Spirit’s justification for every proposed innovation or by claiming long-standing tradition as the reason for rejecting all such proposals”(par. 32)–  the Windsor Report leaves solutions murky and Lambeth has yet to come clean on the relation between long-standing tradition, reception, and scripture.

For the most part, the Report substitutes an otherwise solid hermeneutic for ecclesiastical procedure under the rubric of  “reading the bible together”. This further politicizes theology, leaving “reception” to liberal Bishops (who dominate Communion offices) as the final test of  authority. This kind of reception creates problems because  ‘truth’ is squared by majorities (and worst by political hacking ) . Democratic  procedure is not always certain since– as the Articles explain–  ‘general councils may err’. Rather, concilar declarations ought to bear truth with fundamental doctrine, being neither “contrary or repugnant”.   

Furthermore, ‘reception’ determined by votes creates rule-by-faction (with a lot of sore losers) rather than an honest sorting out correct theological presuppositions.   Not surprisingly, Global South Anglicans (as with many charismatics and fundamentalists in America) tend to read the bible in terms of their  subculture (as Noll indicated above) rather than by historical consensus. Such was the FiFNA’s observation at the Nairobi gathering of global south clergy in 2013,

“GAFCON is still in the process of formalizing its identity as an Anglican body, which at this time a confederation of dioceses and provinces that still proclaim the faith once received. GAFCON may become an ecclesial body– that is, an Anglican Church– whose orders, apostolic teaching and discipline would proclaim the Gospel as an equal to institutions derived from Canterbury. One thing we strongly believe is needed by GAFCON is a better understanding and recognition of Anglo-Catholicism and how our witness to the faith needs to be included intentionally in GAFCON’s mission to help leaven her proclamation of Jesus Christ. While we were acknowledged and welcomed at GAFCON, our influence was not as great as we’d hoped in light of the fact that most of the planning and input leading up to GAFCON came from those streams of Anglicanism that lack an understanding of catholic order, the Holy traditions and ecclesiology.” (Nov. 2013 FiFNA letter)

This short-coming in theological depth might have been an allusion the Sydney Diocese. However, insularity becomes a greater problem when butted with neo-marxism. Theologians like Kwok Pui-Lan leave ‘reception’ to third-world indigenous churches who have either been manipulated by the resources and access of Lambeth machinery or formed by evangelical dissent. Pui-Lan says,

“Furthermore, ‘tradition’ must not be a coded term for the tradition of the Church of England, but must include the various traditions in the Communion formed by interaction of the Anglican Church with local cultures” (p. 65, Beyond Colonial Anglicanism).

While  ‘reception’ is not a hermeneutic in itself,  it can challenge a dominant error given conservatives accumulate political clout. For example, a quick tally of conservatives in ACNA might reveal sufficient numbers to place a moratorium on the ordination of women (WO), opening the possibility of hypothetical rollbacks in GAFCON.  The president of FACA, Bishop Paul Hewett, observed:

“We could see that what GAFCON was doing was launching a new, or second, reformation, positioning itself at the beginning of an ecclesial movement for renewal and proclamation opportunities. To do this GAFCON would open up enough structure, like a giant umbrella, within which we can deal with secondary issues. The largest issue is the ordination of women. In his Address, “Where do we go from here?” Bishop John Rodgers noted the “serious degree of impaired communion…around this matter,” and the need for a proper study such as the one AMiA conducted.  To encourage this, Forward in Faith at its recent Assembly in Belleville, IL, passed a resolution urging Common Cause Partners who ordain women to begin such a study, with a moratorium on ordinations until the study is completed.  The same resolution will be on the agenda at FACA’s meeting this September. “

Two Integrities (a Gentleman’s Agreement)
One problem with respectfully dubbing male Holy Orders as a ‘secondary matter’ is that secondary issues often have implicit errors on fundamental principles. Thankfully, the Jerusalem Declaration refrains from assigning WO to ‘adiaphora’. Rather, the Declaration keeps a tacit silence over deeper creedal and hermeneutical errors carried  from ECUSA. “Keeping structure” until a study is finished is predicated upon error by ignorance. In a way, this ‘structure of cooperation” is an extension of the 1977 Port St. Lucie Agreement, allowing respective parties to buy time to resolve differences by serious study. ECUSA forced its civil rights agenda upon churchmen, so a study was never permitted.

By restoring the original Port St Lucie understanding, ACNA has already done more than ECUSA– not only giving alternative oversight to parishes by their affinity in parallel jurisdiction, but provisioning a study that provinces pledge to act upon. Again, this is under the gracious assumption that liberals lack enough ‘facts’. But, ultimately agreement on hermeneutic is the only route forward. 

The recent ACNA task force on Holy Orders recently laid forth a plan for ‘discernment’ which will include other ACNA’s ecumenical partners (like the Russian Orthodox, OCA, LCMS, and Roman Catholics). The Task Force admits to, “addressing hermeneutical issues and the role of the Church’s Tradition in biblical interpretation“. Furthermore, the study is being conducted by the foremost opponents of women priests– the REC and FiFNA clergy– so it’s conclusion is likely to be a verdict against WO. 

Keeping structure among potential rivals until theology is sorted is not special to WO. The Declaration also omits questions about “pro-life”. At first glance, this is surprising given general agreement among evangelicals over pro-life politics, but as a critic of GAFCON noticed:

“Reports from those who were there and were “in the know” said that the question was raised and the decision not to include it was made not on a rejection of a pro-life position, but because of a desire to focus on the specific and most pressing issues immediately causing the current crisis in the Lambeth Anglican Fellowship. Certainly, one might criticize that decision as too short-sighted or as ignoring some of the more fundamental roots of the current divide in the Lambeth Anglicanism. But – and this my caveat – its absence apparently does not denote an endorsement of the anti-life position from some (or even any) of its members — but, rather, simply the choice to keep the Declaration focused on a set of issues which didn’t include that particular concern. Supposedly, fuller statements of position and belief from this new anglo-protestant group will be forthcoming, and, presumably, this issue will be one of the things those statements address.”

A Second Oxford Movement?
How will anglo-catholics influence the making of such a ‘fuller statement’? Since the beginning of 2012 a number of positive developments occurred. In April 2012, the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans held their Leaders’ Conference (3). The Executive Director of FiFNA, Michael Howell, reported two alterations of policy that emerged from London that will likely impact the GAFCON II meeting (to be held Oct. 2013). According to Howell:

  • Assent to the Jerusalem Declaration will be an important means by which faithful ministries and individuals will be distinguished from revisionists. As the Rt. Rev. Dr. Michael Nazir-Ali noted, “The Jerusalem Declaration is now the only game in town”. Moreover, please note that FCA membership is open to any Anglican who accepts the Jerusalem Declaration, including the members of continuing jurisdictions.
  • The FCA is important, but must broaden its constituency and leadership. The FCA is and has been primarily led by evangelicals, whose initiative and hard work should be commended. However, to globally unify faithful Anglicans, it will need to include the full spectrum of (faithful) Anglicanism, including those who hold to its historic, catholic faith and practice. Over the course of the conference, Bishop Ackerman often reminded the FCA leaders about this reality.

It appears FCA (and ultimately GAFCON) plans to invite Anglo-Catholic influence.  Bishop Hewett rattled off a number of evangelical and catholic alliances which have developed over recent years that will likely alter the character of FCA and other realignment organizations,

“Forward in Faith, United Kingdom, is sponsoring the Society of St. Wilfrid and St. Hilda as a way of keeping the faithful together.  Meanwhile, the Anglican Association, a think-tank of Forward in Faith/UK, is setting up fall-back positions in the form of federated relationships with the Free Church of England, the equivalent there of the Reformed Episcopal Church.(4)”

Auburn Traycik made a similar observation at the 2012 FiFNA leadership synod:

“Likewise, there seemed to be a convergence between FiFNA’s president and three visiting allies from England – Fr. Francis Gardom, Canon Arthur Middleton, and Canon Geoffrey Neal, all of them aligned with FiF-UK and the Anglican Association – about the need for another ambitious effort: A new Oxford Movement, and particularly another Tractarian Movement to provide new and reprinted publications needed at this time. Canon Middleton has in fact authored a work published by the Association, A New Oxford Movement, from which Bishop Ackerman quoted in his presidential address to the assembly”. 

Perhaps the 2009 policy of Society of the Sacred Cross (ushered immediately after GAFCON), limiting SSC membership to Lambeth-aligned clergy (scroll down to bottom), illustrates an impatience with catholics who refuse to join such networks (or bubbles)? New SSC membership requirements are punitive, and aim to pressure continuing anglo-catholics into Realignment organizations. Certainly, the FiF-UK leadership would approve.

fcaOther signs of greater catholic participation in FCA emerged in 2012 when Arthur Middleton delivered their keynote lecture. Middleton is the author of several books and papers on traditional hermeneutics as well as being the chair of the re-chartered Anglican Association. Middleton’s views on perspicuity have been discussed above. Likewise, FiFNA’s Declaration upgrade which now incorporates seven councils & sacraments, transforming FiFNA from a single-issue organization against women’s ordination into one committed to formal Tractarianism, closing a door evangelical inclusion (5). The move toward formal Anglo-Catholicism may also be a wink to the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), renewing FiFNA’s ratification the St. Louis Accord in 2002(6).

So, the recently amended Declaration outlines the theological direction New Tractarian churchmen (like +Ackerman, Sutton, Donlon, and Middleton, et. al) might wish to steer GAFCON:  

“To comment briefly on the context the of the revision as one present at the Assembly (but admittedly rather new to FiFNA more generally), Forward in Faith is in the process of transitioning from a lobbying organization with a primary purpose of defending traditional orders to a teaching organization with a broader concern for articulating and promoting Catholic faith and practice within the Anglican Tradition.  Accordingly, the chief interest of the document is in defining what, precisely, that broader vision is. ” (Kidd, 08. 19.13)

Paul Hewett described FiFNA’s recent shift from single-issue to a greater ‘teaching role’ as instructing the “whole faith for the whole world”. This ought be read as ‘the fullness of the catholic faith’ which for too many anglo-catholics means adopting 7/7 formulas on sacraments and undivided councils. But for others, like certain elements in TAC, it obviously can go as far as signing the Roman Catholic catechism also being the “most complete symbol of faith”. That ‘whole’ or ‘completeness’ of doctrine is probably what Kevin Donlon is alluding to when he spoke about catechist and teaching roles for FiF among communion ‘bubbles’.

Surprisingly, Andrew Atherstone at the Fulcrum Forum described North Americans at GAFCON II as a “largely Anglo-Catholic” movement. Whether Atherstone’s description of ACNA is true or not, traditionalists are currently ramping up their activism both inside ACNA and in the UK. Most of this has revolved around FiF, the FCoE, and the Anglican Association which may eventually form the basis of a catholic association wherever GAFCON is active, otherwise proposed by FiF as an “International Catholic Conference”. See Bp. Ackerman’s July address:

GAFCON II gave an indication of Anglo-catholic strengthening when an attempt by liberal evangelicals to widen space for women presbyters (and possibly bishops) was blocked by conservatives. Described as a ‘behind the scene fight’, apparently traditionalists successfully watered-down the recommendations of the women’s mini-conference, replacing a commendation for female ‘leadership’ with a vague acknowledgement of women ‘ministries’.

Some commentators have viewed the proposed language as proof of liberal contamination, but that should not surprise given the constitution of involved partners. The real significance was that liberal evangelicals (emboldened by Uganda) couldn’t push the concession through, and they may be less likely in the future as the alignments inside FCA alter (namely, away from Sydney toward America and the UK).

Some Conclusions: Political alliances are naturally important since  ‘reception’ leaves “truth” to the number of votes. Among GAFCON churches, neo-evangelical biblicism may be on borrowed time. If so, then more moratoriums on WO may arise rather than remain something peculiar to ACNA.  Moreover, the widening of FCA (which is GAFCON’s theological group) to include continuing churches will not only multiply dual and backdoor relations between the Anglican Communion and extra mural Anglicanism, but it could further tilt the hermeneutic in an Anglo-catholic direction. Is a dialectic working?

As the Anglican Catholic Church’s (ACC) ultra-orthodoxy putters away, proving an ecclesiastical dead end, broad-based continuing churches (like APA, ACA, EMC, and DHC) might rekindle curiosity about ACNA, starting with indirect ties like ministry partnership and/or cooperation through FCA. There might even be interest on the part of UECNA to join FACA or help make a FCA-friendly federation for continuers. Indirect ties to the Anglican Communion and Continuum already exist in places like South Africa and Tanzania where the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) has been cooperating with FCA since 2008. The addition of continuers is not unprecedented  Indeed, it reproves the good-will commended by Section V of the St. Louis Affirmation.

The opening of FCA to anglo-catholics will likely modify the theology of the GAFCON movement, and in so doing the continuum may play a constructive role within larger Anglicanism, especially as a new reformation or “new oxford movement” unfolds. This is not an impossibility given the St. Louis Affirmation and Jerusalem Declaration are not that far apart, both casting their own manner of doubt upon the proper number of councils. However, these questions begin to close as catholic groupings like FiF and TAC enumerate such by appeals to a higher ecclesiology (i.e., ecumenical talks with the East and Rome) not unlike the the review of history given in the Preface of TAC’s 2007 Porstmouth Letter. Where this leaves conservative Protestant Anglicans is still up in the air.

Individuals, para-ministries, societies, parishes, and larger bodies can sign the Jerusalem Declaration here.

(1)  Though Middleton’s address was categorized under ‘ecclesiology’, throughout it deals with problems of radical biblicism, emphasizing resourcement of patristics. For Middleton ‘ecclesiology’ is synonymous with ‘patrimony or ‘context’. Middleton says, “Tractarians found that Anglican theological method always included, what was mentioned earlier, a concern for church history and the proper historical setting or context of the Bible: that is, the living apostolic faith and praxis. This ecclesial dimension was appropriated by Anglicanism and made the basis of Chrisitan living, the context of Christian thinking. Studying and reading scripture in its context must be the main source of Anglican renewal.” p. 10

(2) The question of perspicuity is interesting one with Sydney Anglicanism. Thompson went on to make his case for biblicism, mustering Cranmer ‘s Homily on Scripture, “This homily is in fact a celebration of Scripture as a ‘precious gift of our heavenly father’ …But it goes on to answer the suggestion that the Bible is too difficult to understand and that our ignorant reading may lead us into error rather than truth. In this context Cranmer provides us with the closest thing to an official Anglican statement on how to read and understand the Bible: ‘And if you be afraid to fall into error by reading of holy Scripture, I shall shew you how you may read it without danger of error. Read it humbly with a meek and lowly heart, to the intent that you may glorify God, and not yourself, with the knowledge of it: and read it not without daily praying to God, that he would direct your reading to good effect; and take upon you to expound it no further than you can plainly understand it […] Presumption and arrogance is the mother of all error… Therefore the humble man may search any truth boldly in the Scripture, and without any danger of error. And if he be ignorant, he ought the more to read and search holy Scripture, to bring him out of ignorance’. But Thompson conveniently skips Cranmer’s view on contention in the church (also a 1547 Homily) as well as Cranmer’s advice to the unlearned in the 1540 Bible, “If thou can neither so come by it [the meaning of scripture], counsel with some other that is better learned. Go to thy curate and preacher; show thyself to be desirous to know and learn, and I doubt not but God – seeing thy diligence and readiness (if no man else teach thee) – will himself vouchsafe with his holy spirit to illuminate thee, and to open unto thee that which was locked from thee.” Thompson’s view is the adiaphora of early Puritans. If a rule has no biblical injunciton, then matters of order are left to the individual or congregation, etc.. Whereas, Middleton takes a high-view of ecclesiology, extending not only in space but in time. Thompson doesn’t see any obligations in this respect.

(3) It should be clarified that GAFCON represents the gathering of bishops who belong to the fellowship of confessing Anglicans (FCA). However, FCA is broader the GAFCON, including lay leaders and paraministries alongside orthodox Bishops. To make an analogy: FCA is to GAFCON I & II what the Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen (FCC) was to the first and “second” St. Louis Congress by which the ACC and, then, ACA were born. Between ACC and ACA, ACA has the better mind about keeping Section V. 

(4). It appears this loose alliance of UK church groups is on the verge of becoming a formal and much larger catholic-evangelical Federation, expanding to include local Nordic and Polish National churches. In the April edition of the DHC’s e-newsletter, the Fortnightly, Hewett said, “The Moderator made a report on the new federation emerging in the UK, with the Free  Church of England (Bishop John Fenwick), the Nordic Catholic Church (Norway, Bishop Roald Flemestad, and part of the Union of Scranton), the Polish National Catholic Church, and the REC’s burgeoning work in Europe.  It was noted that the Free Church of England is now canonically recognized by the Church of England.  The Anglican Association, a Forward in Faith/UK think tank, is helping to put this federation together.  One of the Anglican Association’s leaders, Canon Geoffrey Neal, Forward in Faith/UK Dean of the Ouse Valley, will be a speaker at the Diocese of the Holy Cross Synod in Winchester, VA on April 19.”

(5) Another admission from Kidd’s article: “In brief, the FiFNA Declaration implicitly includes and then exceeds the points of the Jerusalem Declaration, defining a particular subset of Confessing Anglicans whose theological position tends toward the Anglo-Catholic, rather than the Reformed-Evangelical.” It is a sad commentary today that among continuing or extra mural Anglicans, the overall direction of conservatisim has been toward the ‘New Oxford Movement” rather than the 39 articles. In the effort to further woo continuers, the ACC’s Stahlism may ironically be legitimized. Meanwhile, the REC has been moving in an Oriental direction, sometimes treating the patristic period as the first millennium rather than the first five centuries. This a sleight-of-hand borrowed from Middleton and more typical of anglo-catholics. 

(6) FiF’s overtures (offering olive branches) to TAC and continuing Anglicans date back to the early 1990’s. Bess records, “in the immediate aftermath of the Lambeth Conference (Res. 1.10 in 1998), another resolution issued by the mainstream prelates offered an olive branch to the Continuing churchmen, calling for the Archbishop of Canterbury to initiate discussions with all of the groups who had become disaffected with the Anglican Communion, with the suggested goal of beginning a process that would bring most of the groups claiming an Anglican heritage back into communion with the Anglican mainstream. Seemingly buoyed by the world bishops’ endorsements of a plan to renew orthodox teaching in the Anglican Communion, the Episcopal Synod of America (ESA) emerged shortly thereafter with a new identity, calling itself Forward in Faith in North America (FiFNA), thus aligning itself with the body based in England. FiF had already signed intercommunion agreemetns with TAC (1994) and EMC, and FiFNA now joined in the agitation by FiF to have a separate province for traditionalists Anglicans…” p. 225. Evidently, GAFCON is on the verge of becoming such.

9 responses to “Catholic International

  1. Dear Charles,

    The locus classcus on the number of Councils and their limitations is to be found in the Elizabethan Act of Supremacy. The number is four and the limitation is that all must be grounded in Scripture, Scripture trumps Tradition because all authentic Tradition is to be found in Scripture.


    • Hello Benton,
      I hope I agree with you. Let me clarify: I don’t claim Tradition is a source of doctrine either independent or equal to scripture. But, it should habitually inform our reading of the Bible, and I don’t think that’s exactly ‘optional’, especially when dealing with the marks of the church. These marks include discipline, and that ought to include the nature of the ministry (and therefore episcopacy, male orders, etc.). Holy Orders is wrapped up in the third note. Where neo-evangelicals are anemic is by neglecting Tradition where ecclesiology emerges. They tend to have a basically anabaptist approach. I think that’s active in GAFCON, but a broader movement might correct it.

      I actually went back and fixed the article a bit, changing ‘evangelical’ to ‘neo-evangelical’. I shouldn’t use such equivocations, especially since I think both “catholic” and “evangelical” deserve their historic etymology. In other words, ‘evangelicals’ properly understood would be confessional protestants, capable of dialog with the Augsburg, not modern-day pentecostals or charismatic-lite. In this sense, ‘evangelicals’ are indeed catholics, and the best sort.

      Also, in this article I used “catholic” in its popular sense, including that Newmanisque-Tridentine breed. That’s also probably too much a liberty, and I apologize. I hope those who read this post, suffering through the usual poor grammar, realize I’m speaking of anglo-catholicism and all its modern-day varieties.

      However, oddly, the anglo-catholics seem to be the most reliable opposition to women’s ordination (WO), and I think this has been a major cause for the REC’s convergence with FiFNA as well as a larger girding of Tradition with evangelical (GAFCON) hermeneutics, which I believe, is a needed answer to the neo-evangelical enthusiasm dominant in the global South.

      I hate to link Fr. Novak’s article on GAFCON, but it reveals the problem with the Global South as well as the importance of FCA widening itself to give greater presence to anglo-catholics, like the reverend canon Arthur Middleton. However, I believe Fr. Novak’s article is too pessmistic, and he ignores the dynamics of ACNA, the close split on a moratorium against WO in North America, and what the FiFNA-REC coalition has already accomplished. This is really “kingdom politics” and what can be done with a small seed. Novak+ misses that, and, imo, bites off too much:
      Independent Catholicism


  2. Though I think we’re seeing the early stages of anglo-catholic influence in GAFCON, I’m also working off some philosophical assumptions, some borrowed from the dialectics of Schaff, but more recently from James D. Hunter_To Change the World. Dr. Hunter’s first essay was very impressive, especially how he debunked democratic and individualist fallacies how culture changes. I’d like to think the views of modern evangelicals and anglo-catholics can somehow compliment one another. Furthermore, I believe the concerned churchmen who convened the Congress of St. Louis, plus those broad church jurisdictions still extant in the continuum (UECNA, APA, and even ACA), were right to desire a generous comprehension between catholics and evangelicals. That’s the same position ESA took inside ECUSA. It’s also one Archbishop Robinson has been driving home. I believe in time that comprehension might produce a genuine synthesis, and I think this is happening with FCA. I’ll add a quote from +Paul Hewett, bishop-president of FACA, who said at DHC synod 2011, and he’s speaking of pan-Anglicanism, not just the Continuum here:

    “Getting our act together: This means getting Anglican evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics together on the same page, globally, with reforms such as conciliar governance: governing in accord with the patristic consensus. There re some 35 million Anglicans who claim to be Bible-believing, and our various provinces and jurisdictions are like ships that need to be in convoy together”.

    For ACNA this ‘convoy’ is keeping parallel jurisdictions until the ‘methodology’ or ‘ethos’ is laid to resolve substantial differences resulting from the lack of discipline since WWII. This has happened in many respects, and now they are moving toward a serious study and possible moratorium.


  3. Pingback: Section V | Anglican Rose

  4. There is a lot of thought going into “how to keep Anglo_Catholics afloat” which always seems to end up with an elephant graveyard. Why not just admit that the experiment of being “catholics by ourselves” does not work. If we can see that Western Canterbury Anglicanism has failed because of abandoning Holy Orders, why can’t we Catholic Anglicans admit that our experiment of independent Catholicism has failed as well? Catholic Anglican’s legacy in the Anglican Communion will be that we gave Broad Churchman the one thing they needed to destroy the Communion: historical legitimacy. We gave them the “feel” of Catholicism without the Faith so when they abandon the faith they could look Catholic in doing it. Why not just move on and enter into communion with Rome or Orthodoxy?

    There are a lot of words here to try and make sense in how we can be in communion with people that don’t share but maybe 10% of the faith we do, why not just humble ourselves and come into communion with people we share 90% of the faith with? It does not make sense anymore to stay separated from the Patriarchs in attempts to be in communion with people that fundamentally disagree with us and will continue to schism among themselves.


    • Dale, If GAFCON and ACNA don’t work out in the next few years, I think a lot of catholic Anglicans will end up in either the Roman or Eastern Church. However, the Ordinariate and Western Rite provisions are currently wrestling with outlying problems which beg solution before Anglicans will risk big moves. The recent ‘shake-up’ of the Russian Western Rite is a good example. There has likewise been expressed disappointment with the Ordinariate. I think all observers agree such that sister-church provisions for wandering Anglicans are not built in a single night but will take time before they reach a kind of critical mass or produce a butter-fly effect. The usual projection is 5-10 years. Even the independent, old catholics Anglicans, like ACC, have predicted a five to seven year wait before the consolidation trends within the continuum fully manifest. Oddly, I think we’re all on a five or ten year plan, but I’d like see where this goes before making a final judgement. Meanwhile, my family will be buried Protestant, and we’re preparing an independent, family-centered strategy, if need be, in order to remain Anglican. Securing apostolic succession within my own family would be one way to dismiss ecclesiastical politics. However, while these jurisdictions still exist, I am an ACNA and REC cheerleader but prefer keeping a healthy distance until secondary or cultural questions are there resolved. Given the makeup of the ACNA bicameral houses, I am hopeful. Yet, my own preference for assurance of orders would be through the FPEC while keeping cooperative ties to AOC or UEC, gradually building relationships with FACA churches. I really advocate indirect ACNA involvement with more pragmatic, long-term expectations on my own family.


  5. An excellent example of the coming resourcement: The Anglican Association (mentioned in the post above) wedding UK tractarians with the Free Church of England (FCoE) as a parallel body in Britain. There is also the curious alliance with the greater Union of Scranton. I believe we may expect something similar arising in the USA between REC and FiFNA partners, adding pressure to ACNA liberals. This booklet was evidently put together by Middleton and Fenwick for discussion.


  6. Pingback: UE General Convention | Anglican Rose

  7. I was a bit off on FCA as the vehicle to bring in Continuing Anglo-Catholics. Obviously, the immediate instrument would be FACA. Most interesting is the flag the International Congress has adopted– a fusion of the APA and ACA crosses. No coincidence, APA and ACA make up the bulk of FACA, and FACA is largely reducible to them. The above article seems to join nicely with the following thread:


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