Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Archbishop Jenson’s understanding of North America: Is it correct?

Archbishop Peter Jensen and the Bishops of Sydney are, I regret to record, not going to the Lambeth Conference 2008. One of the reasons given for not attending has special reference to those of us living in North America, and especially those among us who have been unjustly treated by the hierarchy of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in Canada.

Here is what Dr Jensen wrote:

Fifth, we have a duty of pastoral care to the Anglican Christians in North America and elsewhere who have made their protest against the local innovations. How can they feel confidence in us if we simply attend this conference and have what the world would see as fellowship in the delightful surroundings of Canterbury - studying the Bible, receiving Communion, meeting new people, enjoying gracious hospitality, attending a garden party at Buckingham Palace, while they endure prosecution, dispossession and doubt over their standing as Anglicans? Faced with the terrible choice between unity and truth, they have chosen to live by the truth. Should we not be witnesses that their choice is right?
http://acl.asn.au/pdf/Lambeth2008.pdf ]

Let us carefully note what he believes is the situation and plight of Anglican Christians in North America (U.S.A. & Canada), who have protested against (what I take it he means) the local, sexual innovations within The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.
He states that, “They endure prosecution, dispossession and doubt over their standing as Anglicans.” And, that “faced with the terrible choice between unity and truth, they have chosen to live by the truth.” And his conclusion is that they should be supported by Sydney. In evaluating the comments of Dr Jensen, I think we need to bear in mind the following facts:

  1. Relatively speaking only a few parishes in Canada have left the Anglican Church of Canada and in all cases it was a parish decision to leave rather than being cast out. Not a few of them have been given much tribulation by the Bishop of New Westminster, but this said, it was their decision to leave this Church and transfer either to Rwanda or the Southern Cone of S.A. We need to be clear that there is no consensus amongst those committed to the classic Anglican Formularies in Canada concerning the duty of, or need for, secession at this moment in time.
  2. The major movement of Episcopalians out from The Episcopal Church [TEC] in the U.S.A., to become Anglicans outside, has also been through voluntary secession of either parts of, or full, congregations—and, in one instance, also of nearly one whole diocese. It was their choice to exit, based on the view that they had in conscience to leave a Church that was definitely going in the wrong direction contrary to the Word of God. In other words, and this is important to grasp, they followed a path that has been going on in the U.S.A. for a long time, where secessions from existing denominations create new denominations, and thereby the number of American religious groups is much increased.
  3. Very few groups and individual persons, lay and clergy, have left TEC because they were literally forced out. Certainly, clergy (I am one) have been refused licenses by Bishops and, further, life inside a given diocese has often been difficult and problematic for many who did not follow the liberal progressive agenda; but the decision to depart permanently was usually made by the seceders. They had the option to stay and suffer and they chose to leave.
  4. Beginning with the major secession of 1977 creating “the Continuing Church[es]” and coming right through to 2008, the movement to create Anglicanism of various kinds outside TEC has been basically a voluntary one, in the well-documented tradition of American religious expansion. However, the reasons given have not been identical from 1977-2008: but all are variations on the alleged apostasy and faithlessness of TEC—from its implantation of women’s ordination and easy remarriage for divorcees in the 1970s to its bad management style, heretical baptismal covenant teaching and support of liberation movements in the 1990s, to the advocating homosexual unions more recently.
  5. The creation of the Anglican Mission in America by Rwanda was well before the major outcry of the consecration of Gene Robinson and had nothing to do with opposing same-sex unions. Rather, it related to the inability of TEC to be a Gospel, missionary Church and the failure of its bishops to be Gospel leaders.
  6. Certainly the exit of a congregation from a diocese has often led to a legal dispute as to the ownership of property. Here, the attitude and behavior of the hierarchy of TEC has often been reprehensible; however, this bad behavior does not remove the possibility that in U.S.A. law the diocese has a right to seek to retain the property—by decent means--for its own “missionary” purposes.
  7. The involvement of a growing number of overseas Bishops, and then most significantly, of whole Provinces inside the U.S.A. most certainly encouraged the secession of groups from TEC, raising high hopes that they were exiting into a situation, which would be wholly superior to the one they left behind.
  8. Indeed this connection with African Provinces also served to create negative views of the present Archbishop of Canterbury and even of the ancient See of Canterbury and the Church of England as the mother Church of the Anglican Family.
  9. Bearing in mind the multiplicity of Anglican jurisdictions and groupings created between 1977 and the Gene Robinson episode in 2002ff., the overseas Primates could have (a) placed their support around AMIA/Rwanda that was already present in the U.S.A., and not invaded themselves, and (b) advised TEC congregations wishing to be orthodoxy to wait for the Lambeth Conference 2008 (where the Global South Primates would fight hard for them) for a resolution and to bear in patience any tribulation coming their way.
No doubt the Anglican situation is very messy and very complex, with those claiming to be “orthodox” existing in a multiplicity of denominations, jurisdictions and networks. Though there are some indications of cooperation, in general these autonomous groups do their own thing according to their own insights and vision and work with others as needed.

Dr Jensen accepts that they have abandoned unity (which is only too clear to anyone who takes a bird’s eye view of the situation) and thinks they all pursue truth. But I ask him, “What truth?” They seem only to be fully unified over their stated position that the church should NOT bless same-sex unions and ordain persons in such arrangements. Over the doctrines of holy matrimony, which Formularies to follow, which liturgy to use, and many other things they proclaim a great variety of views. Most of those in relations to the overseas Primates still are profoundly influenced by the 1979 TEC Prayer Book, which, ironically has one of the primary sources and supports of the growth of infidelity, error and innovation in TEC—and some if not much of this has been taken by the seceders into their new sphere or extra-mural Anglicans. (This is one of the reasons why I worked with AMIA to produce the contemporary language equivalent of the historic, classic Prayer Book – An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) from www.anglicanmarketplace.com )

In summary, I just cannot see how Dr Jensen is supporting the varied American Anglicanism by staying away from Lambeth 08! And I do not know of any pastoral support he is giving to churches in the U.S.A.

drpetertoon@yahoo.com www.pbsusa.org Feb 25 08

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