Monday, January 15, 2007

The ACC and the TAC: An Ecumenical Endeavour that Stalled

More than two years ago I volunteered to write a paper on behalf of the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC) outlining our ecumenical position with respect to the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) and how we thought progress toward reconciliation might begin.

After much consultation, the first draft was changed in various respects to reflect better the range of opinion within the ACC on certain matters. The final paper was duly sent to TAC Primate, Archbishop John Hepworth, who read it, made some preliminary remarks by email, and told me by telephone that an official response would be forthcoming.

It has been about two years since then and no further or official response has been received. To be fair, the following ameliorating factors should be noted. Firstly, the TAC's ecumenical priority has been Rome and this ecumenical endeavour has undoubtedly not only been time-consuming but has apparently hit some road blocks, perhaps slowing down everything else. Secondly, the recent "warning shot across the bows" of Forward in Faith (FiF) by Archbishop Hepworth may signal that the TAC is getting to closer to addressing some of our concerns about FiF, even though this action is not related to the paper's specific objections. Thirdly, there are public statements by individual TAC bishops rejecting doctrinal comprehensiveness, which is a step towards the official, corporate statement desired by the ACC in the paper.

Nevertheless, our present Metropolitan, the Most Reverend Mark Haverland, has been asked questions by TAC bishops in that time about what our position towards them is, implying they are unaware of the paper where these questions were answered. I believe it is time for it to become a matter of public record, and have been given permission by Archbishop Haverland to make it available on-line.

It may be found here. (An Addendum included with the original document has been deleted. The reasons for this are that the Addendum dealt with another jurisdiction whose relations with the TAC may have caused problems at that stage. Since that time developments have taken place which give hope for better things in the future in this regard. To include the Addendum would thus have been unhelpful and unnecessary.)

Before reading the paper, many will need some background on one the events spoken of therein. There is detailed analysis of the "Deerfield Beach consecrations". In brief, this was a Conditional Consecration of the bishops of the "American Episcopal Church" (AEC) (not to be confused with the mainstream Episcopal Church in the U.S.) and some bishops who had belonged to the ACC. Associated with this act was the voluntary re-association of these bishops into a new jurisdiction, the Anglican Church in America (ACA). This church then effectively replaced the ACC as the U.S.A. portion of the TAC, since joining the TAC was one of the primary motivations of the AEC for participating in these acts and since the ACC considered this whole sequence of events to be schismatic, rupturing its former relationship of full communion with the rest of the TAC.

The reason that re-consecrations occurred and a new church was created was that the ACC had already effectively rejected the claim of the AEC to be a Catholic jurisdiction with certainly valid Apostolic Orders and had also questioned the integrity and suitability for office of its Primate, Anthony Clavier. The ACC had thus indicated that the only way for the AEC to join the TAC was via conditional repetition of its ordinations and confirmations and acceptance into the ACC -- and the latter would not mean automatic acceptance of all AEC clergy into active ministry. There was a minority within the ACC that felt that its position was too rigid and so it appears they organised a way, in collaboration with the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada and the AEC, to get around this obstruction.

Finally, there is one TAC defence of the Deerfield Beach Consecrations not addressed in my paper that I will briefly address here. The fact that ACC bishops, who the consecrators said they had no doubts about as to the validity of their episcopal orders, were nevertheless conditionally reconsecrated, has been justified by Archbishop Falk (in Deerfield Beach Revisited) on the grounds that the ACC succession included early consecrations that were not " 'normal', 'canonical', or 'regular' " and that "one widely recognised good reason for conditional ... consecration ... has exactly been the matter of 'regularising' Orders". The problem with this defence is that it is absolutely incompatible with another defence by Archbishop Falk and others of Deerfield Beach -- that the uncanonical lack of warrants there didn't matter since there were none at the Denver Consecrations at the beginning of the ACC either. You cannot justify a re-consecration on the grounds of making up for irregularities in prior consecrations and simultaneously excuse irregularities in the reconsecration because they are no worse than those in the original! As it happens, the lack of warrants was a smaller (and relatively trivial) problem compared to the more fundamental one at Deerfield Beach: the jurisdictions/sees to which the men were to be appointed did not officially exist at the time they were consecrated: in other words they were, strictly speaking, not explicitly consecrated for a specific ministry. The sees were not created till the next day when the ACA was constituted. This serious mistake was not one made at the original Denver Consecrations which gave bishops to the "Affirmation of St Louis"-based Continuing Church. Nevertheless, when it comes to the question of validity rather than regularity, I believe we can be morally certain of the genuineness of TAC Orders, including any conferred at or via the Deerfield Beach Consecrations. I will post on this matter soon, giving my refutation of the contrary position common in the ACC.


poetreader said...

Thank you, Fr. Kirby.

This, obviously, is a matter of highest importance for Continuing Anglicanism. If the Continuum continues as a collection of warring mini-sects, it will die, and deserve to.

For myself, I recently visited an ACC parish (I won't specify). When I introduced myself as from ACA, the response from its proest was a rather long lecture about how 'Catholic Anglicans' like he, and 'Protestant Anglicans' like me could not be in the same church. I shut up and left quietly, dismayed at the unpleasant rigidity. We have to find our way oput of this kind of thing.


ACC Member said...

As Continuing Anglicans, our best hope of growth and survival is to unite, as there is strength in numbers. That is the first step. The second step is to develop a good plan for planting mew missions and reaching what is today a largely "unchurched" population. There have been good discussions on "Patristic Anglican" blogspot recently that could start a good brain-storming process to develop such a mission plan. In my humble opinion, we need to start thinking of ourselves collectively as traditional Anglicans. We need to STOP emphasizing differences between Anglo-Catholic, High Church, Low Church, etc. As one brilliant priest I know once said, "We all use the same prayerbook, but all do it a little differently." I think its OK to "do it a little differently" so long as we're loyal to the 1928 BCP and the traditional Anglican faith.

Albion Land said...

Did you get his name?

Send it to me!

Albion Land said...

You tell 'em, Death!

I am still hoping for some word from the bishops.

ACC Member said...

I was glad to know that the ACC had at least sent the invitation to talk----that's a start, but Death is right. There isn't a significant reason there not to unite! The sad thing is that as long the Bishops don't unite, the continuing churches will continue to decline and decline. We've lost the opportunity to gain many new clergy and churches fleeing TEC because of the "sinful" divisions that seperate us.

ACC Member said...

A suggestion to bring union between the ACC and TAC: shake hands, say "I'm sorry for the past errors, and want to turn around our relationship as Christ would have us do." Then the bishops of both sides should sign a communion agreement with no stipulations involving the past. Then all the bishops should practice the Christian faith by forgiving and forgeting. I believe Christ Jesus would be so pleased by those actions.

Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

When I was studying for Holy Orders in the ACA I visited an ACC parish while on a trip. The people came up to my wife and I after the Mass and said "it looks as though we have some Anglicans here!" They were very interested in the fact that I was studying for the priesthood and wanted to know when I'd be ordained. The priest was very warm until I said I was in an ACA parish, after which he turned and walked away. I thought this odd at the time--I didn't know the history between the ACA and the ACC.

However, at the ACA parish where I attended we had frequent ACC visitors, including a priest and a deacon who attended regularly and received Communion.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...


I am sorry that this was your experience. The assumptions behind the priest's tirade are unfortunate, but perhaps slightly understandable.It needs to be remembered that in the early days, when the split was happening, one of the justifications given by spokesmen the ACC-A and the nascent ACA was that the ACC was not "comprehensive" enough and "too" Catholic. While this self-understanding of the TAC seems to have changed for the better, the reasoning behind the sidelining of the ACC have not been forgotten. It will take time for the clearer, more explicit assertions of Catholic identity by the TAC since that time to make an impact and for trust to be rebuilt.

Ohio Anglican,

It is certainly true that we should not waste time over liturgical preferences. However, what we are fundamentally committed to, and immutably so, is the Catholic Faith. Inasmuch as the Anglican tradition submits to the consensus of the Catholic Church by its own confession, it is thereby made a fitting home for us and a valuable part of the Great Tradition, Holy Tradition. On no other basis is it worth saving or adhering to. And that means that there is no point trying to re-create our own "cafeteria Catholicism". In matters genuinely indifferent or uncertain, let there be liberty. But on matters of doctrine or dogma, we are under obedience and are Catholics who happen to be Anglican. We have no right to compromise in these areas just to increase our numbers.


While personality issues and petty arguments have played a role in our disunity, it is simply naive and shallow to overlook the fact that substantive issues were also involved. It is very easy to lecture the bishops and impugn their motives and pastoral priorities whenever they do not do what you want or move fast enough. What you do not seem to realise is that it was impatient desire for "UNITY NOW!" that led to the mess we are in.

The fact that some Continuing Churches believe its OK for certain "orthodox" dioceses and provinces within the Anglican Communion to remain within it and in communion with heterodox Canterbury, even to the point of being in full communion with such jurisdictions, and others believe this is wrong and ecclesiologically incoherent is a matter of substance and obviously affects communio in sacris by definition. Maybe a resolution can be found by patient dialogue, but nothing will be fixed by intemperate demands or ignoring a very real problem.

The fact that the ACA began in an act that involved encouragement of conscious separation from the ACC by some of its members, a rejection and overiding of its decisions within its jurisdictional boundaries and its replacement in the TAC by the new church means that the Deerfield Beach event was deliberately designed to exclude the ACC. Again, this is by definition communion-dividing, though not on doctrinal grounds.

The objections to Clavier and his Church had to do with, among other things, the fact that his original "succession" and most of his ecclesial history were vagantes-derived. Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches have always refused to acknowledge the Catholicity of such bodies, even when admitting their tactile succession. (Would it have been ecumenically sensible to ignore this fact?) If you don't think this matters, read Anson's Bishops at Large and you will change your mind, trust me!

Now, the ACC may have made its own mistakes and been too rigid at times or may have made insufficient allowance for the fact that sometimes people and institutions change for the better. But to simply accuse the bishops of the ACC (or any other Church) of being proud and deluded and make patronising and sarcastic remarks about them based on insufficient understanding is to be presumptious and rude. As for the laity sending "the lot ... to time out", well, if lay control over the clergy is your answer, then you should find many churches conforming to your wishes, but they will all be protestant. The Catholic way is to pray for the bishops, not assume the worst and not make any accusations against them without really knowing and understanding the relevant facts.

If we want unity, and we do, we must remember that this must involve conversations where the conversers trust one another enough not to assume the other is insincere, has a hidden agenda or selfishly motivated. But, Death, you try to rhetorically muscle the bishops into doing this while doing the very opposite yourself. This is not the path to unity.

Assuming that all obstacles to unity are merely the result of episcopal sin is quite unreasonable and unjust. We must deal with the issues in a forthright, logical and objective manner without either belittling them or using them as excuses to condemn individuals, whatever we might say about actions or ideas.

ACC Member said...

Fr. Kirby: I do not believe that anywhere in my post I suggested that we abandon the catholic faith. As traditional Anglicans, I believe we asssume that we are all "prayerbook catholics". We must, however, make sure that what we practice is truly "catholic" and not "Roman". The English Reformation, for which there was great need, got rid of those innovations/doctrines added to the faith by the Romans, restoring the true catholic faith of the first 1000 years. That true catholic faith is what the unchurched need. I believe we should begin to make a concerted effort to build our churches and bring others into that catholic faith. The BCP is the link that proves through its liturgy and ordinal that we as Anglicans are a legitimate part of the true catholic faith. I personally think that if we traditional Anglicans could at least be in communion with each other, it would demonstrate to the world that we are legitimate disciples of the catholic faith and not a bunch of schismatics. Just as much as unity would help, we traditional Anglicans need to seriously think about a mission plan to plant new churches and actually attempt to grow in a systematic way. In no way, did I indicate we should abandon the catholic faith. Brian McKee

Anonymous said...

The ACC looks just like my kind of Anglicanism. One problem I have with it, however, is that it appears as a Catholic paradise that never existed in Anglicanism prior to its formation. The Oxford fathers rediscovered (some would say invented) and asserted the catholicity of Anglicanism without forming a new communion of their own. It would seem (from my ignorant lay perspective) that to them, there was nothing communion-breaking about the differences between themselves and the C of E at large, but rather an ancient national Church in need of teaching and reconversion. We must turn our minds to just what is communion-breaking (the ordination of women comes to mind) and just what can be tolerated.

Even within the bureaucratic monolith of Rome people still get away with having divergent opinions.

If I try to make the perfect church for me, I'll be its only member, and that bespeaks a faulty ecclesiology.

For my part, I pray that ACC and TAC bishops will sit down around a table like the brothers they really are and, like brothers, have an open and frank brawl until they've isolated the things that absolutely matter from the things that aren't entirely to their liking, but which they lived with in years gone by and can live with again.

After that, the laity may return to the position they fancy was that of their ancestors (even if it wasn't), of knowing that it's true because the bishop says so. (Too many of us have had to rebel against bishops for too long in order to keep the faith, that we've forgotten that we're meant to love and trust them, and perhaps we forgot to pray for them, which got us into this mess in the first place.)

ACC Member said...

nlWe need to pray for our bishops everyday. I do as I read my daily offices each morning and evening. They shoulder a huge responsibility, and do so without the large resources of money and staff that Episcopal or Roman bishops have at their disposal. Let us never forget that even though they wear mitres, they are still human beings. We feeble human beings often find it easy to hold hurt feelings from past wrongs. But, with lots of prayer and refelction, it is within us all to finally forgive. As I said, weshould all pray daily for them. That would please Christ, I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

Could someone point me to the irenic bits?

Fr Richard Sutter said...

Fr Kirby, I have a much more realistic and accurate suggestion.

The ACC(OP) bishops and clergy sign the statement "We have sinned. Please forgive us."

The ACA bishops and clergy who were formerly ACC sign the statement "We have sinned. Please forgive us."

Burn both statements together and concelebrate Mass.

Then appoint a committee to work out how to merge.

Br. John said...

Purple Shirt Fever is an ever growing problem (with the ever growing number of "Independent Jurisdictions" and therefore Bishops.) Why can't we all just get along? We are all (theoretically) striving for the same things! Play Nice!