Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Integrity is not plural

Open Questions to Bishop Martyn Minns

With both Christmas and the feast of Epiphany now past, and an early Septuagesima coming at us, I turn attention to a subject upon which I have already touched, and that I should no longer put off. With all due respect for anyone who has tasted the warfare from the leaders of TEC, and has tried to be faithful to Christ, I am addressing open questions to Bishop Martyn Minns of CANA. First I will set up the questions for the readers.

On December 9th Bishop Minns consecrated four new bishops for the CANA churches in North America. At that time he addressed the subject of women's "ordination." It should come as no surprise that among those of us who have led the way out of the Episcopal Church without giving up our Anglicanism, this topic is one of the essential issues. People who laugh it off as a "non-salvation" issue ("off topic" is the popular excuse in one venue where erudition is scarce at best), cannot lay claim to a historic connection with Anglicanism. As one of two sacraments "generally necessary for salvation," the Holy Communion is directly affected by the validity of priests and bishops. So, the connection is obvious (John 6:51-53). Bishop Minns appears to have made a statement that satisfied no one, but that left open the possibility that he intends to "ordain" women as priests. The full text is in the link I have provided (above) to my earlier post.

My first open questions to his Grace are based on this part of his statement (these will not be softball questions):

"At this time the Church of Nigeria, to which we owe canonical obedience, has no provision for the ordination of women although there has been acceptance of women in the order of deacons. At their most recent gathering the Church of Nigeria’s General Synod tabled discussion about ordination of women to a future date. Archbishop Peter Akinola has stated that while he supports this action he recognizes that there needs to be freedom for CANA to take a different direction because of its North American context."

1. Are we to understand that Archbishop Akinola has reversed a long held position to create some kind of exception for CANA churches?

2. If so, how can his words be verified? Where can we find a quotation that comes from his own mouth?

3. Even if Archbishop Akinola were to make this promise, how can even he simply skirt around Canon Law?

4. We know that in TEC this was done in 1975 as an act of rebellion, deemed "prophetic" one year later at General Convention in Minneapolis. Just because the American church proved to be lawless, should we expect the same from the Nigerian church?

My second set of open questions are based on this part of his statement:

From the inception of CANA we have made it very clear that we are committed to the full participation of women in the life and leadership of the church. We recognize that among biblically faithful members of the Anglican Communion there are differing theological positions as to whether women should serve in ordained ministry. There are, as have been described, two integrities: those who believe that women should not be ordained at all and those who do believe that women can serve in ordained ministry– although within the latter group there are differing understandings as to whether this includes priesthood and extends to congregational oversight and serving as bishops."

And also from this part:

We will keep our promise to honor both integrities within CANA and fulfill our commitment to the full participation of women, in the life and leadership of the church. We will seek to do so in such a manner that both those who are unable to support the ordination of women and those who embrace it will know that their position has been honored."

1. Where did this expression "two integrities" come from?
2. Exactly how will two conflicting beliefs be honored?

Again, with all due respect, I have no intention of making this easy. I protest that the plural use of "integrity" takes the meaning out of the word "integrity." I believe this word has been chosen in Screwtape fashion (unwittingly) to prevent thought. This is an example of a word employed for the opposite of communication, a scrambling device to silence the mind from objecting. His Grace could not say: "There are, as has been described, two traditions." In fact, the Church has no tradition of "ordaining" women at all. Even the office of deaconess was, from ancient times until 1976, a lay ministry. This is historic fact, and we are not discussing the definition of a word, but its usage from the earliest times of the Church. His Grace could have said: "
There are, as has been described, two doctrines." But, since doctrine can be either true or false, this would not serve the purpose of making the two positions appear equal in weight, or due equal consideration. So, the language has been tortured and mangled in modern ECUSAN fashion (like Frank Griswold's "pluriform truths") in order to pass something completely illegal through customs, hoping that it would not be detected.

As I said, I am not making this easy for the bishop; and I hope he will realize that my purpose is not hostile at all. In many ways I am very much on his side in his fight with TEC. It is simply the case that these matters are important.

My last set of questions is from this part of Bishop Minns' statement:

We will continue to accept applications from qualified congregations and female clergy with the expectation that women clergy will be licensed to continue their ministry within CANA. We will request permission of the Church of Nigeria to ordain appropriately qualified women candidates to the diaconate within CANA as soon as possible."

I expect the Church of Nigeria not to create provisions for women "priests" in its Canon Law. Such a provision would have a direct effect on the Nigerian Anglicans themselves, and the people of that church seem unwilling to adopt this modern innovation.

1. Does this mean that women are encouraged to apply for "ordination" to the priesthood?
2. If the Church of Nigeria makes no provision in its Canon Law for an exception to be granted the CANA churches, what responsible steps will be taken to prevent women from incurring loss by pursuing a dream with expectations that was never really possible for them?

I hope his Grace, if he takes time to read this, will know that he has our love and our prayers. I hope he would be willing to reply. This is not written out of opposition, but out of charity and with a sense of responsibility for the good of the Church and for its mission to save souls as the Body of Christ, the agent of Jesus Christ our Lord in the world. In this purpose that we share, I am asking these difficult questions.


Anonymous said...

You are most kind Fr. Hart. I think that any competent attorney and/or canon lawyer will likely conclude that Bishop Minns has clearly (or as clear as any revisionist ever gets) answered your questions in full via his own printed statement.
As an old fellow who has read this sort of statement from scores of politicians (in my former life) and more recently from various church revisionists, if the statement allows for any current or future deviation from the traditions of the Church, than that is their intention!
Sounds like Frank Griswold, ET. me.
Fr. DeHart ACC priest

John A. Hollister said...

Fr. Hart quoted Bp. Minns as saying, "At this time the Church of Nigeria, to which we owe canonical obedience, has no provision for the ordination of women although there has been acceptance of women in the order of deacons."

This one sentence has packed into it several significant implications:

1. It appears that the C of N, although it refuses to go through the farce of "ordaining" women within its own territorial boundaries, has "accepted" and transferred into its jurisdiction deaconettes who were "ordained" elsewhere.

2. It seems these women were transferred into the clerical Office of Deacon, and therefore accepted as having received the Grace of the Sacrament of Orders, because they are not described as having received the "Office of Deaconess" (feminie noun) but, in contrast, are expressly stated to have received the "Order of Deacons" (masculine noun).

3. If all this be true, as it appears to be, then the C of N DOES in fact countenance women's so-called "ordination". It does not matter one whit whether it has one Deaconette within its clerical ranks or (like Graham Leonard's Diocese of London) 90; it has expressly accepted the doctrine that women can be ordained. Nor does it matter one whit that these women have only been accepted as Deaconettes and not as Priestesses; Holy Order is ONE Sacrament that is administered in three grades so that anyone who may be a Deacon may, ipso facto, be a Bishop.

The C of N's refusal to perform such rites within its home territories then becomes not a principled stance on a theological issue but merely an expedient choice for political or social reasons.

It's like Rite I in the 1979 "Prayer Book": encountered once, inattentively, it may sound authentic but examined closely it shows itself to be revisionist to the core.

John A. Hollister+

John A. Hollister said...

Note that Bp. Minns said "there has been acceptance of women in the order of deacons", NOT "there has been acceptance of women in the OFFICE of DEACONESSES".

This means:

1. The Church of Nigeria has "accepted", i.e., transferred in, women who were purportedly "ordained" to holy orders elsewhere.

2. By doing so, it has acknowledged the "validity" of women's "ordination" just as much as though it had gone through the ceremony of "ordaining" these women within the geographical boundaries of its home territory in Africa.

3. Having thus acknowledged the "legitimacy" of women's "ordination", and having thereby thoroughly trashed its own claims to having valid sacramental intention in ANY ordinations it may perform, the C of N's only remaining claim to superiority over ECUSA is that its clergy, both male and female, apparently hold their meetings elsewhere than in bus station rest rooms and bath houses.

That's some improvement but it's not enough.

John A. Hollister+

Albion Land said...

Canon Hollister,

Might I humbly suggest that we try to avoid such language as "bus station rest rooms and bath houses," which is unnecessarily provocative and unfair to the vast majority of TEC clergy.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Excellent blog post! I support the respectful line of questioning posed to Bishop Minns by Fr. Hart.

John Dixon said...

Having watched Bishop Minns seek the Office of Bishop for years and having followed the morphing of the position of 'stay in at all costs' to one of "it is time to go because we say so" from others such as Canon Anderson of the Network, I wonder if any intent was ever expressed to recapture authentic Anflican Doctrine as the leaders of all these new groups sat through the Righter Trial and accepted that ECUSA "had no core doctrine", then while getting in a huff about VGR never paid any attention to Res. B001 of the same Convention (03) which was voted down by the majority of bishops twice thereby content to stay in at all costs in a 'church' that denies all historic documents including the creeds as a matter of orthodoxy.

What seemingly matters most to these folk is to reestablish TEC prior to GC03 which was already a liberal cult.

The other odd thing is why would those within their ranks who earnestly seek to recapture the catholic tradition trust those who for years never made any notice of doctrinal backsliding and in fact embraced the heretical 79 "prayer book" and all of it's innovations. These men are to be the drivers of the new 'bus' on the road to a restored province?

Seems like a weird hollywood movie.

Well we can pray for the deliverance of all these souls and make them as welcome as possible as some cross our thresholds . We have had a number of visitors recently and some are staying on.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The idea of women as deacons is clearly wrong, and based on ignorance or willful rejection of the known and easily documented practice of the ancient Apostolic Church. But, it seems that many people have failed to study the subject, and have made an honest mistake based on concerning themselves only with the definition of the Greek word rather than its known usage.

But, on a practical level it is better that these mistakes are limited, since the charismatic functions of priests and bishops are not directly involved. That is, at least no one presumes to have deacons (real or not) celebrate (as in consecrate), absolve, confirm or ordain.

As one very old prayer put it: "Thank God for the evil that the king has neglected to do." It could be worse.

Anonymous said...

John is correct: "Having watched Bishop Minns seek the Office of Bishop for years..."

Bishop Minns could have gone any number of places with his large congregation...but where did he go? Did he go to the already established AMiA, which was an exact match for his Evangelical Charismatic theology...Nope! He went to the one place he would be made a Bishop!

Bishop Minns is no were near being orthodox. He is simply TEc minus gays. The problem is that many people trying to flee TEc without the facts are going to flock to his banner without even understanding at best CANA is a "slightly better form of new age theology" is not the Episcopal Church that was stolen from the people.

Deacon David

John A. Hollister said...

Fr. Hart wrote:

"[O]n a practical level it is better that these mistakes [of accepting women as deacons] are limited, since the charismatic functions of priests and bishops are not directly involved. That is, at least no one presumes to have deacons (real or not) celebrate (as in consecrate), absolve, confirm or ordain."

I must respectfully disagree.

1. As 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 make clear, only husbands and fathers -- who are necessarily male -- are eligible for either Office, deacon or bishop. (The priests had not, in Paul's day, yet emerged in between those two as a third grade of the Sacrament of Orders.) So to say that women may be deacons is to say that they may be husbands and fathers, which is not only inherently nonsensical but is also an implicit claim that they are also eligible to be bishops.

So it is a grievous error to separate deacons from priests and bishops on the basis of their present-day liturgical roles.

2. Because there is only one Sacrament of Order, if a church group adopts formularies and practices by the use of which it intends to "ordain" women to the office of deacon, then thereafter its intention in the Sacrament of Order is always defective, even when it is purporting to ordain a man to the office of deacon or to one of the higher grades of Order.

Thus "on a practical ... these mistakes are [un]limited, since the charismatic functions of priests and bishops are ... directly involved" precisely because they are, in fact, completely vitiated by those same "mistakes".

John A. Hollister+

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Bishop Minns is no were near being orthodox. He is simply TEc minus gays.

Really? There was so much hoopla when +Minns left TEC to join CANA. I don't recall reading a single negative comment about +Minns from the "orthodox" side of Anglicanism when the cheering began. This is the first that I've heard that +Minns is not all that orthodox.

++Akinola is a staunch conservative Anglican. I figured he'd want a staunch conservative as a CANA bishop in America.

PTB+ said...

truth unites...and divides wrote:

"++Akinola is a staunch conservative Anglican."

"Conservative" is not "orthodox" in Anglicanism today.
Broadly speaking there are three levels of Anglicans today: "liberals", "conservatives" and "orthodox."
++Akinola is a conservative, but that does not mean he is orthodox (which is what Deacon David wrote).
The fact his archdiocese allows women deacons (whether he ordains them himself or not, he is the archbishop and can just say no) and will allow CANA to have women "priests" in an organization under his canonical authority are evidence enough that he is not orthodox. If he and +Minns were orthodox they would not accept this departure from the Catholic faith.
This second fracturing of the TEC provides a new opportunity for each bishop and priest the opportunity to return to orthodoxy.
Accepting a mere conservatism is not the same thing.

Paul Beutell+ ACC priest

poetreader said...

"orthodox" has, regrettably, become a rather elastic and variable term. The current wave of defections from ECUSA has defined it in such a way as to include much that I and many others would prefer to label as heresy. Thinking in ECUSA and much of the Anglican Communion has "advanced" considerably since the late 'seventies when the Continuers decided to, well, continue. Many of the attitudes held by AMiA, CANA, and the other new groups on Scripture, on Tradition, on the Sacraments, on ministry itself, appear more like those of contemporary liberal Anglicanism than like the traditional views which we hold. Others of their views are much closer to those of distinctly Protestant megachurches than like those of "orthodox" AngloCatholics. +Minns has struck me as far more of a liberal evangelical than any kind of orthodox, and I have to say that ++Akinola increasingly seems the same. These stauch African provinces, admirable as they are in many ways, still end up advocating a form of revisionism, though a less dramatic form than such as Mrs. Schori.

I'm sorry (really) that I can't agree that "++Akinola is a staunch conservative Anglican," nor that he'd really "want a staunch conservative as a CANA bishop in America."

I like the man, and admire him in many ways, but on so very many issues, he's just wrong.


Fr. Robert Hart said...

By the way, does anyone know if there is any comment from ++Akinola to justify +Minns' hope that he will get to have priestesses? Until I see it, I won't accept it as fact. On the subject of "ordination" to the diaconate in Nigeria, I really think that it is an honest mistake based on misinformation, and confusion. But, that is as eirenic as I get.