Is it time for “the Orthodox” in North America in gratitude to take a REAL STAND for Anglican Truth in response to the good will and actions of the Primates of the Global South?
No doubt the recent statement from the Primates of the Global South from Kigali, Rwanda, on September 22, 2006, was most encouraging to the membership of The Anglican Communion Network in the U.S.A. and Canada. After expressing real misgivings about the ECUSA response to The Windsor Report at its June 2006 General Convention, the statement went on:
We are, however, greatly encouraged by the continued faithfulness of the Network Dioceses and all of the other congregations and communities of faithful Anglicans in North America. In addition, we commend the members of the Anglican Network in Canada for their commitment to historic, biblical faith and practice. We value their courage and consistent witness. We are also pleased by the emergence of a wider circle of 'Windsor Dioceses' and urge all of them to walk more closely together and deliberately work towards the unity that Christ enjoins. We are aware that a growing number of congregations are receiving oversight from dioceses in the Global South and in recent days we have received requests to provide Alternative Primatial Oversight for a number of dioceses. This is an unprecedented situation in our Communion….
And a little later we read:
We are convinced that the time has now come to take initial steps towards the formation of what will be recognized as a separate ecclesiastical structure of the Anglican Communion in the USA. We have asked the Global South Steering Committee to develop such a proposal in consultation with the appropriate instruments of unity of the Communion. We understand the serious implications of this determination. We believe that we would be failing in our apostolic witness if we do not make this provision for those who hold firmly to a commitment to historic Anglican faith.
Here we note that the members of the Network are congratulated for their “faithfulness” and “commitment to historic, biblical faith and practice” and are said to be those who hold firmly “to a commitment to historic Anglican faith.” They are given the real hope of a new, orthodox Province for North America into which they will be able to move away from the clutches of the “apostate” ECUSA.
Now it is difficult to believe that the Primates in their congratulations only had in mind the traditional sexual ethics promoted by The Network. They appear to assume that the Network churches and members are wholly and really committed (as the Primates are by their own Provincial Constitutions and Formularies—usually BCP 1662) to historic Anglican faith and practice. Let us be clear, this assumption is true for the Canadians (see the important Solemn Declaration printed at page viii in their splendid 1962 BCP); but—and this is the question for those south of the border—is it true, really true, for the members, parishes and dioceses of The Network within the Episcopal Church?
I much regret to have to say this—and it is not the first time that I have felt a duty to say it— but the vast majority of the Network membership within the ECUSA appears not to be committed practically and really to “historic Anglican faith.” What do I mean by this seemingly “preposterous” statement? I mean very simply that the Formularies of the ECUSA, to which all bishops and clergy in the ECUSA must be committed in order to be canonically resident and licensed, are not the Formularies known in Canada or in Nigeria or Uganda or Rwanda or in England or in thirty or so other provinces.
The Formularies known by the Global South and in Canada were effectively rejected in the ECUSA by majority votes in 1976 and 1979 and new ones of mixed theology and morality were put in their place. All the new ones are found in the ECUSA Prayer Book of 1976/79—the liturgies, the ordination services and the “outline of faith”—and the 1979 Book (wrongly and mischievously called “The BCP”) is the actual Formulary of the ECUSA (and as far as I can see a majority of The Network people use this without blinking an eye and happily treat it as their Formulary).
May I suggest that the best way for The Network to receive in gratitude the encouraging support from the Primates of the Global South is to do what they ought to have done a long time ago. That is, to declare that for them, practically and really, the true Formularies are those which were in place before 1976 (as printed in The BCP, 1928) and that the 1979 Book is to be seen as the equivalent of what is known in Canada as BAS (Book of Alternative Services) or as was known in England as ASB (Alternative Service Book).
Repentance is most surely needed within The Network of ECUSA not only for what the ECUSA did to the received, classic Anglican Way in the 1970s (it effectively trashed it!) but also for the way in which those who wished to use the classic BCP (1928) in the ECUSA were treated even persecuted between 1980 and 2003—and sometimes by the very dioceses now claiming to be orthodox and receiving the praise of the Primates.
This action of recovering the basic Anglican Formularies by the ECUSA part of The Network is much more important than opposing the recent sexual agenda of the ECUSA, for the one is foundational and the other is as removing bad fruit from a bad root. Many “extra-mural” Anglicans or (as the Network has called them “Anglicans of the diaspora”) in the U.S.A. and millions abroad, would be delighted to see The ECUSA Network taking a real and true stand for biblical, orthodox, Anglican Faith and becoming of the same Anglican Faith as those presently supporting them abroad and at home. In fact, does not the ECUSA Network owe it to them, and more importantly, to God to become in practice what it allows people abroad to think that it is in reality? I look forward to seeing greater use of the American 1928 BCP either in its classic English form or in an appropriate contemporary English form—preserving the doctrine and style of the original (the Prayer Book Society of the U.S.A. could provide this); and along with this the cessation of the practice of calling the 1979 Book by the hallowed name of “The BCP.”
Let us pray earnestly for the renewal and unifying of the Anglican Way in North America (do visit, www.anglicansatprayer.org )
(See further the important study, Neither Orthodoxy Nor A Formulary, a critique of the 1979 Book, by the late Lou Tarsitano with Peter Toon, available online from www.anglicanmarketplace.com or from 1-800-727-1928.)
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)