Thursday, November 05, 2015

Reflections on Provincial Synod XXI

of the Anglican Catholic Church, Original Province

Last week (October 26-30) delegates, observers, clergy and bishops gathered from every major continent for the biannual Provincial Synod of the Original Province of the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC), held this time in Athens, Georgia, at the University of Georgia Hotel and Conference Center. Also present was Pakistani Bishop Mushtaq Andrew form the Second Province of the ACC, whose speech on Wednesday (Oct. 27) concluded the day's meeting on the Synod floor and received a standing ovation. The bushiness of the Synod (i.e. Angends items) was conducted beginning that morning, and the day ended with the Provincial Synod Mass at St. Stephen's ACC in Athens, which included a moving sermon by recently consecrated Bishop Dominic Sonwabo Mdunyelwa of South Africa.

What most of us in the western developed countries (the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia) take away from these Provincial Synods, every other year, is the rich and often moving experience of the ACC people and clergy who live in other countries in which persecution and poverty are among the hardships associated with the life of Christians in general (and though Colombia and Haiti are also in the west, geographically, their day to day life, with all of its struggles, are in many ways more like the lives of our brethren in those countries than life in, e.g., the U.S.). 

The shift of Christianity's center of gravity, from the Europe of old Christendom to the Global South as observed and noted years ago by author Philip Jenkins, is visible in the ACC. Our largest diocese of all is in the South Sudan, cared for by Bishop Wilson Garang. It is quite moving, and can make us feel that our own experience is lacking, if in anything, the kind of suffering under which so many others bear up by the grace of God. I want to say, at this point, it is more practical to give what we can to help and support the Church in those countries. One practical way is for a western parish to join with a sister parish in one of the countries where the need is great, to raise funds and to pray. Another is, of course, individual donations which you can make.

Canonical clarifications

The ACC has found it necessary to make very specific clarification in its Canon Law, all of which proposals were voted into effect on Wednesday (Oct. 28) by the lay delegates, clergy delegates and bishops, due to the present day confusion of basic matters of sex and marriage. The language restricting marriage, as we recognize it, to a life long sacramental union between one man and one woman (as ordained by God, and taught by Christ) and concerning what our clergy are allowed to celebrate and bless, and concerning the protection of ACC parishes from litigation regarding the use of their property, etc., was tightly and unmistakably altered so as to avoid any all possible legal loopholes. This also serves the needs of ACC Military Chaplains in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Furthermore, regarding the modern confusion about "gender identity" our Canon Law now clarifies that one's sex is "assigned" at conception and is an objective biological fact. For purposes of marriage, a "man" is an adult who is male and was conceived male, and a woman is an adult who is female, and was conceived female. "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them (Genesis 1:27)." For purposes of marriage we recognize two sexes, not a large variety of "genders." (On The Continuum we have addressed these issues doctrinally and in terms of medical science. See "Not the Author of Confusion" and "The Doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ Concerning Marriage.")

The ACC has acted prudentially in taking these necessary steps both for spiritual reasons and for legal reasons. Obviously, these issues must be understood correctly for reasons of doctrine, as basic teaching and sacramental theology. They must be clarified, also, to protect our clergy, laity and churches from malicious litigation, or maybe even someday prosecution, as the courts continue to side, more and more, with confusion and immorality at the expense of Freedom to exercise religion. 

Continuing Church ecumenism

Present also were the Most Rev. Brian Marsh, Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Church in America, and the Most Rev. Walter Grundorf, Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Province of America. This has become normal for the Provincial Synods and is no mere symbolic gesture. This generation of bishops are working together in real and practical ways. Presiding Bishop Royal Grote of the Reformed Episcopal Church was present for a while on Wednesday the 28, but was unable to stay for the whole day and for the Synod Mass in the evening.


The feeling and atmosphere of Provincial Synods (which I attended every other year since 2009) is one of peace and joy. All things are done decently and in order. The business conducted on the Synod Floor is always about genuine and relevant issues upon which to vote. Spiritually, the whole experience is always rich and rewarding.

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