Church of England takes steps forward in building bridges with the Anglican Church in North America

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York have formally released the report to the General Synod of the Church of England of their study on the continuing relationship of the Church of England (CoE) and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).  At the February 6-9, 2012 sessions of the Church of England Synod, Archbishop Rowan Williams and Archbishop John Sentamu reported on their findings as requested by the February 2010 Church of England Synod resolution that recognized and affirmed the ACNA’s desire to remain in the Anglican family of churches.

UPDATE FROM THE ACNA from here including comments from Archbishop Bob Duncan:


Church of England General Synod Report Encourages “Open-Ended Engagement” 

The General Synod, the national assembly of the Church of England, released a report this week providing further clarity on its working relationship with the Anglican Church in North America, and encouraged an “open-ended engagement with ACNA on the part of the Church of England and the (Anglican) Communion.”

“We are encouraged by the desire of the Church of England to continue to embrace the Anglican Church in North America and remain in solidarity with us as we proclaim the Gospel message and truth as revealed in Scripture in the way it has always been understood in Anglican formularies,” said Archbishop Duncan.

The Church of England General Synod report can be viewed here.

“As we have demonstrated successfully to the GAFCON primates, the Anglican Church in North America remains committed to our growing relationships with Anglican provinces outside of North America. Our biblical orthodoxy and ministries are strengthening our bond to our Anglican brothers and sisters around the globe. We are gratified that we are already in a relationship of full communion with many Anglican Provinces and look forward to expanding that circle.”

“In that regard, we appreciate the work of the Faith and Order Commission of the Church of England, whose report and recommendations to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York form the basis of the document now released for General Synod, and whose content substantially advances the same ends with the Church of England,” concluded Archbishop Duncan.

In July 2009, a resolution was brought forth to the Church of England’s General Synod to recognize its common faith and fellowship with the growing Anglican Church in North America. The following February, 2010, representatives and ecumenical friends of the Anglican Church in North America shared directly with the General Synod the vision of the church for reaching North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ.  At the 2010 meeting, the General Synod first affirmed the Anglican Church in North America’s desire “to remain within the Anglican family.” 

Read it all here.

Key sections are this:

15. Where then do matters currently stand concerning ACNA on each of these three issues, namely relations with the Church of England, relations with the Anglican Communion and the ability of ACNA clergy to be authorised to minister in the Church of England?

16. The Synod motion rightly began by referring to “the distress caused by recent divisions within the Anglican churches of the United States of America and Canada.” That distress, in which we share, is a continuing element in the present situation and is likely to remain so for some considerable time.

17. Wounds are still fresh. Those who follow developments in North America from some distance have a responsibility not to say or do anything which will inflame an already difficult situation and make it harder for those directly involved to manage the various challenges with which they are still grappling.

18. We would, therefore, encourage an open-ended engagement with ACNA on the part of the Church of England and the Communion, while recognising that the outcome is unlikely to be clear for some time yet, especially given the strong feelings on all sides of the debate in North America.

19. The Church of England remains fully committed to the Anglican Communion and to being in communion both with the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church (TEC). In addition, the Synod motion has given Church of England affirmation to the desire of ACNA to remain in some sense within the Anglican family.

20. Among issues that will need to be explored in direct discussions between the Church of England and ACNA are the canonical situation of the latter, its relationship to other Churches of the Communion outside North America and its attitude towards existing Anglican ecumenical agreements.

21. Where clergy from ACNA wish to come to England the position in relation to their orders and their personal suitability for ministry here will be considered by us on a case by case basis under the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967.

This is a very positive development.  No door is closed, no windows are locked.  We are asked to deal gently with one another and there are those within our Episcopal and Anglican communities who are very good at speaking truth gently but firmly and building trust.  That does take time.  We do recognize, as Jesus said, that our peacemakers are blessed, and in their work they shall be called the children of God.  A sobering thought indeed.  The conversation is not over, which means the relationship is not over. It’s realistic to understand that we do not know the outcome – this is indeed a walk of faith.  The topics on the table are good ones and with malice toward none and charity toward all, by the grace of God we may find a way.  


Have not yet receive official response from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of The Episcopal Church.  ENS based at the NY offices of the Presiding Bishop does have a story on the report here but no official reaction yet from TEC.


Below is the entire statement from here:

GENERAL SYNOD
The Church of England and the Anglican Church in North America

Church of England Synod
  1. On 10 February 2010 the General Synod debated a Private Members Motion concerning the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). The Motion passed by the Synod, incorporating an amendment moved by the Bishop of Bristol on behalf of the House of Bishops, was as follows:
    „That this Synod, aware of the distress caused by recent divisions within the Anglican churches of the United States of America and Canada,
    1. (a)  recognise and affirm the desire of those who have formed the
      Anglican Church in North America to remain within the Anglican
      family;
    2. (b)  acknowledge that this aspiration, in respect both of relations with
      the Church of England and membership of the Anglican Communion, raises issues which the relevant authorities of each need to explore further; and
    3. (c)  invite the Archbishops to report further to the Synod in 2011
  2. This note constitutes our response to the request in the final part of the Synod motion. It is necessarily a report on work in progress since the consequences of the establishment of ACNA some two and a half years ago are still emerging and on a number of issues any assessment at this stage must necessarily be tentative.
  3. We are grateful to the Faith and Order Commission (FAOC) for devoting some time to studying the relevant issues and drawing together for us a range of resources on the underlying ecclesiological questions.
  4. As was explained in the background note prepared for the Synod debate (GS 1764B), there are at least three different sorts of question, which arise for the Church of England in considering the implications of the creation of ACNA:
    •   What is the range of relationship with other Christian churches that is possible for the Church of England?
    •   How does a particular local Church become accepted as part of the Anglican Communion?
    •   In what circumstances can the orders of another Church be recognised and accepted by the Church of England so that someone ordained in that church can be given archiepiscopal authorisation for ministry here?
  5. The location of responsibility for determining each of these questions is distinct.
  1. Thus, it is for the decision making bodies of the Church of England to determine the nature of its relationship with other Christian churches. Since the creation of the General Synod in 1970 the mind of the Church of England on such matters has been discerned in the General Synod, which, because issues of theology and ecclesiology are involved, necessarily looks for guidance to the House of Bishops.
  2. This has been the case whether the issue has been about the Church of England entering into communion with another Church, as with the Porvoo Churches in the 1990s, or whether it has concerned a formal agreement of a different kind, such as the Covenant with the Methodist Church in 2003.
  3. In relation to the second question, the concept of membership of the Anglican Communion is not entirely straightforward. The Communion itself (in common with the Church of England) has no legal personality. In addition (and unlike the Church of England) it does not have a set of canons which set out its core beliefs and regulate aspects of its internal governance.
  4. Thus, from the time of the first Lambeth Conference in 1867, those Churches whose bishops have been invited by the Archbishop of Canterbury of the day to attend, participate fully and vote in the deliberations of the Conference have been regarded as part of the Anglican Communion.
  5. The creation of a new legal entity in the 1960s the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) created the need for a more formalised basis for membership of that body. Under the ACC‟s constitution a Church can be added to the ACC schedule of membership by decision of the Standing Committee of the Communion and with the assent of 2/3 of the primates of the Churches already listed in the schedule.
  6. The third question- how a judgement is made over whether someone‟s orders are recognised and accepted by the Church of England- is not dependent on whether the Church from which that person comes is in communion with the Church of England or a member of the Anglican Communion.
  7. The criteria set out in a report of 1980 from the Faith and Order Advisory Group on Episcopi Vagantes remain helpful namely:
    “. . . that the minister of ordination must be a bishop, himself validly consecrated, the recipient must have been baptised, the right matter must be used which is the laying on of hands, and the right form which consists of words of prayer referring to the special gift and showing the object of the laying on of hands.”
  8. Thus, those ordained in other churches which accept the historic episcopate- for example the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church- may be received into the Church of England and authorised to minister, as may clergy from the Church of England in South Africa.

  1. Authorisation by the Archbishop of the Province is considered on a case by case basis and will take a number of relevant considerations into account. It is not the case, therefore, that ordination in another Church of this kind confers any entitlement to minister here. But it does involve the conferring of orders which the Church of England is able to recognise and accept.
  2. Where then do matters currently stand concerning ACNA on each of these three issues, namely relations with the Church of England, relations with the Anglican Communion and the ability of ACNA clergy to be authorised to minister in the Church of England?
  3. The Synod motion rightly began by referring to “the distress caused by recent divisions within the Anglican churches of the United States of America and Canada.” That distress, in which we share, is a continuing element in the present situation and is likely to remain so for some considerable time.
  4. Wounds are still fresh. Those who follow developments in North America from some distance have a responsibility not to say or do anything which will inflame an already difficult situation and make it harder for those directly involved to manage the various challenges with which they are still grappling.
  5. We would, therefore, encourage an open-ended engagement with ACNA on the part of the Church of England and the Communion, while recognising that the outcome is unlikely to be clear for some time yet, especially given the strong feelings on all sides of the debate in North America.
  6. The Church of England remains fully committed to the Anglican Communion and to being in communion both with the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church (TEC). In addition, the Synod motion has given Church of England affirmation to the desire of ACNA to remain in some sense within the Anglican family.
  7. Among issues that will need to be explored in direct discussions between the Church of England and ACNA are the canonical situation of the latter, its relationship to other Churches of the Communion outside North America and its attitude towards existing Anglican ecumenical agreements.
  8. Where clergy from ACNA wish to come to England the position in relation to their orders and their personal suitability for ministry here will be considered by us on a case by case basis under the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967.
Rowan Cantuar: December 2011

Sentamu Ebor: 

Read it all here.