The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) hereinafter called The Church of Nigeria or This Church shall be in full communion with all Anglican Churches Dioceses and Provinces that hold and maintain the Historic Faith, Doctrine, Sacrament and Discipline of the one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church as the Lord has commanded in His holy Word and as the same are received as taught in the Book of Common Prayer and the ordinal of 1662 and in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.
Let us note that the re-worded Constitution of the Anglican Church of Nigeria is explicit in its claim that it belongs to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of God and further that it is Reformed Catholic in its jurisdiction and fellowship. It states the latter by its commitment to the Holy Scriptures and then to the Formularies of the Anglican Way [the classic BCP, Ordinal (Ordination Services) and the Articles].
As far as North American Episcopalians are concerned, this means that there is no Communion between the Church of Nigeria and the Episcopal Church of the USA. As is well known, the latter rejected the Formularies in 1976/79 when it adopted a wholly new form of Prayer Book, Ordination Services and Catechism and confined the received Formularies to “historical documents.” (Regrettably the Church in the West Indies followed this example in the 1990s – I wonder whether the Nigerian realize this?)
The Nigerian Church states what truly unites the real Anglican Family. It is not what these days are called “the Instruments of unity” but rather the common Formularies (adapted locally to respect the nature of government and culture). From the earliest days of the spread of the Anglican Way around the world, the Formularies, and especially the Book of Common Prayer, were the glue that bound the (now) provinces together. And the weakening of this glue since the 1970s has been a major cause of the continuing crises of the Anglican Communion of Churches.
I cannot see how the dioceses and churches within the American Anglican Council and the Network (as it is called) in the ECUSA can escape being also placed out of communion with the Nigerian Church. For despite all protest of orthodoxy, this part of the ECUSA still accepts the 1979 Book as its Formulary and has not repudiated it in favor of the classic Formularies. Whatever claims it makes with regard to the classic tradition of the Anglican Way, the fact is that it still accepts the 1979 Book as the Formulary, and does so knowing that its adoption means in real terms the rejection of the received, historic Formularies.
It is in this context that I have made the proposal that the Network recover the classic Anglican Way by making two Rites and two only available in its churches for the next decade, in order to stabilize and order its common life. And the two Rites are essentially one, for the first is the text of the classic Formulary, the BCP, and the other is a contemporary language form of it, providing strict equivalency in terms of structure, doctrine and content. After all, in living memory all the ECUSA parishes used the one Rite – admittedly with different forms of churchmanship, but one Rite nevertheless. What once united can unite again!
Peter Toon September 16, 2005