I haven’t and can’t follow it all. The official party line can be found at www.acnaassembly.org; for a more neutral view, see the list of postings by Kendall Harmon or browse for live reports and commentary at BabyBlue or VirtueOnline.
Certainly the event has been well-organized and orchestrated, a PR triumph. Supporters and critics note that ACNA has managed to get national visibility and recognition for the idea that this newborn group is the Anglican alternative to TEC. (I think they have also created some good news for battered N.A. Anglicans.) It was a masterstroke to get Rick Warren (no matter what his theology) the same year he preached for the Presidential Inaugural. Attracting Metropolitan Jonah was more substantive, particularly since he promised ecumenical ties with ACNA and cut his province's ties with TEC at the same time.
I have some friends who participated in Bedford, and many others who have eagerly joined ACNA, whether as part of Western Anglicans or its fledgling Bay Area counterpart. People I have known for years have nothing but the greatest respect for the three Anglo-Catholic bishops — Ackerman, Iker and Schofield — who led their dioceses to (or through) their departure from TEC to help form ACNA, and who are now standing alongside Abp. Duncan.
I also see ACNA as the only possibility for a near-term theologically traditional update to the BCP or Hymnal 1940, to replace the 1979 alternative service book and Hymnal 1982.
Despite this good news, I have a sense of foreboding, bothered by what my coworker used to call a “spidey sense.” There are a few small indications that ACNA 40 years from now will be no more devout than TEC in 1995. Call it a hunch, but on a hunch I recognized John Chane for what he is long before he was appointed First Apostate of the National Cathedral.
Exhibit A was the nature of the centralized authority in the canons of ACNA.
Exhibit B is women’s ordination. Although personally I’m an agnostic on women’s ordination (perhaps a subject of another posting), I am troubled by Rt. Rev. Duncan’s attitudes on the subject. After Anglo-Catholics have claimed that women’s ordination will not be imposed upon traditionalists, this seems dubious in light of the December 2008 press conference (on YouTube) by the then archbishop-apparent:
Reporter: Bishop, what does scripture say about women priests?This is troubling on many levels. Being a Christian witness is not the same as being a preacher or priest. Despite what Bp. Duncan said, many clergy see it as black & white, and it’s hard to see how this issue will be resolved properly with the primate’s thumb on the scale. Worse yet, this “nuanced” view of Scripture is consistent with the sort of TEC revisionism that got us into this mess.
Bp. Duncan: Scripture is unclear - that is to say, scripture gives women roles of leadership throughout the old and new testaments. Often women emerge as leaders over Israel and in the church....
It's also the case that women had an apostolic function in much of the new testament story. After all, it is women who first tell of the resurrection of Jesus.
Whereas some issues are quite clear in Scripture, other have a complexity. Or, as one lay person said to me … “It’s a Technicolor® picture; it’s not black & white.”
Finally, among the dozens of Continuing Anglican blogger postings this week about the convention, the open letter to Bp. Duncan from Bp. Millsaps of the tiny Episcopal Missionary Church caught my eye. I recommend the entire posting (and the comments), but here is a relevant excerpt:
How can those who think, as I do, that only men can be presbyters (the very word means old men) process with priests who are female? You yourself have left no doubt as to where you stand, as you have ordained more and more women, even in recent months.This posting really brought my concerns into focus. If Dan Quayle was no Jack Kennedy, then Bedford is no Congress of St. Louis.
Then there is the problem of multi-married male clergy. The ranks of the new body are filled with them. The late Dr. Peter Toon wrote time and time again about this issue. There are tragic situations where abandonment of married men and contested divorces have taken place, but could there be as many as seems the case with clergy members of the bodies coming together as the "ACNA"?
Has the ACNA in formation taken a stand on Abortion? I know individuals have done so, but is there a public stand?
Perhaps you have read the Affirmation of St. Louis. The Episcopal Missionary Church did not come into being until 1992, but has affirmed the Affirmation and asked our friends in the Reformed Episcopal Church to do so only to be told there were things in it which they could not affirm.
The 1977 gathering and its Affirmation were about sharply defining doctrine, with continuity both back to the origins of the Church of England, and setting a precedent for decades if not centuries to come. This week’s gathering was about fuzzing theological differences between Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics, while reassuring both parties that the ACNA is no TEC.
It’s possible that more truth, clarity and courage will be forthcoming, but right now I don’t have reason to be optimistic. If he wants to connect to those American Christians who believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church, Metropolitan Jonah still has a few dozen Schism I bishops yet to meet. Perhaps it’s time for the Congress of St. Louis/Schism I crowd to convene their own media event. If the Metropolitan isn’t available, they could invite Cardinal Kasper.