Skip to comments.Pan-American, Pan-Anglican
Posted on 08/28/2005 7:23:11 AM PDT by sionnsar
IN ANOTHER REMARKABLE CHAPTER in Anglican realignment, a "Covenant of Understanding" has been signed calling for a formal alliance for mission and ministry in North and South America and the Caribbean.
The pan-American fellowship is envisioned as a mechanism to link those of similar theological perspective and could eventually include more than 1.5 million Anglicans in the hemisphere. It is being organized under the guidance of two primates (provincial leaders) of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Drexel Gomez of the West Indies and Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone of America.
Inspired by the influential Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA), led by Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, the new Council of Anglican Provinces in the Americas and the Caribbean (CAPAC) will be open to provinces, dioceses, networks and ministries that are committed to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and to historic Anglican formularies. Given the Communions current crisis, a call to conform to theological standards outlined in the Windsor Report is also being emphasized.
Initially developed at a recent conference in the Bahamas, the agreement to form CAPAC will be presented to provincial structures in the West Indies and Southern Cone for discussion and ratification. The alliance is intended to support members and share resources in mission, ministry, and theological education; enable constituents to speak as one on common concerns; and seek to "provide regional solutions to regional needs," including those arising from ongoing challenges to orthodox faith in North America.
Among the chief concerns motivating this initiative is the need for adequate episcopal care for faithful Anglicans "in serious theological dispute" with their bishop or province, a provision endorsed by Anglican primates. With the international weight it will now bring to any task, CAPAC will seek to promote such care in cooperation with official Anglican structures, notably the Panel of Reference charged with monitoring substitute bishop arrangements.
"One of the great misconceptions has been the ridiculous assertion that those who remain committed to the faith of the Communion are somehow dissidents. By providing a mechanism to join together, it makes it obvious that those of historic Biblical faith are part of the overwhelming majority in the Anglican Communion," observed Archbishop Venables.
"In addition to addressing the isolation that some conservative congregations experience," Venables continued, "CAPAC will provide a way to work together and reach out more effectively with the Gospel."
THOUGH MODELED on CAPAa leading orthodox voice amid the Communions current crisis over homosexuality and authorityCAPAC will differ from it by not automatically including all the Anglicans in the region. Organizers say this is necessary because of the actions of the U.S. Episcopal Church (ECUSA) and the Anglican Church of Canada that do not conform to historic faith and practice. Another difference is that affiliate status is envisioned for those who, though they are outside the "official" Anglican structures, share a common theological perspective and commitment to historic Anglican formularies.
Archbishop Gomez said, "It is crucial for the future of the Anglican Communion that we find a way to forge links based on shared theological commitments. Despite the fact we have shared some elements of history in the Communion, the current crisis has arisen because we do not share a common theological bond with those who are unilaterally seeking to change the faith."
A first step for CAPAC has been the production of a "Covenant of Understanding." It has been agreed to by the two Archbishops and the Moderators of the Anglican Communion Networks in Canada and the U.S. The next step is for the provinces or any other group desiring membership in the pan-American fellowship to ratify the covenant.
The initiative is drawing support from the Networks "Common Cause Partners," comprised in the U.S. of ECUSA organizations such as the American Anglican Council and the traditionalist Forward in Faith, North America (which forms a separate convocation within the Network), and at least three bodies outside ECUSA: the Anglican Mission in America, Anglican Province of America, and Reformed Episcopal Church. Allies in Canada include both Anglican Essentials Canada partners (The Federation and the Network) and the Anglican Communion in Canada.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has been kept abreast of developing plans and was notified of the intention to inaugurate CAPAC shortly before it was announced in late July.
Nigerias Archbishop Akinola, CAPA Chairman, was among primates who warmly welcomed the pan-American alliance. "The formation of this new regional body should be greeted with applause and strong support from across the Communion," he said.
CAPAC will not conflict and may eventually link with the convocation that Akinola is launching in the U.S. for expatriate Nigerians unable to find a compatible church home in ECUSA.
Archbishop Yong Ping Chung of South East Asia echoed Akinolas welcome, adding, "What is wonderful is the coming together of many different groups. We are very encouraged to see this level of cooperation."
Spokesman for CAPAC organizers, Canon Bill Atwood of the international Ekklesia Society, said, "We owe a great debt to CAPA and other global South provinces that are really and truly focused on mission that is based on Anglican theological formularies. Their example has demonstrated that a shared theological perspective can produce a rallying point for mission and ministry. We need to move away from decline and irrelevance into mobilizing to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone in the Americas and Caribbean." Pan-American Conference
The resolve to form CAPAC arose from a July 6-8 Pan-American Anglican Conference in Nassau, attended by over 35 conservative Anglican leaders and activists from Canada, the U.S., the West Indies, and South America. Chaired by Archbishops Gomez and Venables, the meeting was sponsored by Ekklesia.
Also attending the conference were representatives of the groups and bodies already mentioned, as well as of the Anglican Communion in New Westminster, Anglicans United, Christian Formation Ministries (CFM), the Foundation for Christian Theology, Sharing of Ministries Abroad, and the Diocese of Recife, Brazil.
Participants there backed a draft "Covenant of Understanding" agreeing to form CAPAC, leaving fine-tuning of the document to the steering committee, following two days of prayerful and wide-ranging discussion. The latter included considerations of what the various parties could bring to the alliance in the cause of Christ; legal and structural issues; and recent and possible future developments stemming from or impacting the Communions current crisis.
Among those developments are the recent calls by both Anglican primates and the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) for ECUSA and the Canadian Church to withdraw from the ACC for the period leading up to the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops. In the interim, both churches have effectively been asked to choose between their Communion membership and their pro-gay policies, as represented by ECUSAs consecration of a non-celibate homosexual (Bishop Gene Robinson); the approval of same-sex blessings in ECUSA and the Canadian Diocese of New Westminster; and the Canadian General Synods affirmation of the "integrity and sanctity" of committed homosexual relationships.
The Nassau meeting considered potential responses to this effective ultimatum by the 2006 Episcopal General Convention, and the 2007 Canadian General Synod, and their implications for conservatives. Participants also discussed interim provisions for faithful Anglicans in hostile circumstances, and the chances that the (non-binding) Panel of Reference - urgently requested by primates in February but not fully appointed by Archbishop Williams until June - will be able to facilitate swift or sufficient structural relief in such situations. A "sufficient" provision is defined by the 2004 Windsor Report as one seen by the "alienated community" as offering a "credible degree of security."
Neither the Episcopal bishops "DEPO" (Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight) plan for alternate oversight, or a similar scheme in Canada, has garnered such credibility among the faithful, and some of the few who have sought relief by those means have found that it evoked punitive responses from their bishops. So Conference participants saw as an ongoing, pressing concern those ECUSA and Canadian Church congregations that lack orthodox episcopal oversight, and which suffer oppression or persecution. There was attention as well to individual congregations that have moved outside "official" North American provinces for reasons of conscience and/or liberal pressure, around which have sprung a patchwork of pastoral arrangements supported by foreign bishops and jurisdictions.
Canon Atwood said, "The explicit intention is for CAPAC to cooperate fully with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the structures of the Communion. That only makes sense, since it is being organized by leaders...who are deeply committed to remaining Anglican. So we want to be as official and collaborative as possible. However," he added, "the highest value is faith in Jesus Christ and carrying that forward in mission. If the Panel of Reference fails we will have to find some way of carrying forward the Gospel initiative."
Particularly in the case of parishes struggling within liberal-led dioceses, many at the Nassau meeting felt that the Panelalready unduly delayed in getting underwayneeded to act quickly to demonstrate whether it can improve the often-dire conditions for believers on the ground.
It was within about a week of the Nassau meeting, for example, that pro-gay Connecticut Episcopal Bishop Andrew Smith inhibited one of six conservative priests seeking alternate episcopal oversight and took control of his parish building. By presstime, a second faithful ECUSA priest had been deposed by liberal Eastern Michigan Bishop Edwin Leidel.
Among other trouble spots that loom large among the pan-American alliesand about which they issued a statement from Nassauis one clearly impacted by northern disturbances, but in South America. There, Bishop Robinson Cavalcanti of Recife, Brazil, the only conservative diocesan in the province, was suspended (on the first day of Februarys Primates Meeting) and deposed (two days before Junes ACC meeting) by Archbishop Orlando Santos de Oliveira.
The action, Cavalcanti told the Pan-American Conference, capped nearly 30 years of tensions between the conservative diocese and the (ECUSA-planted) Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil. It was, however, pro-homosexual policies in ECUSA that brought those tensions to a head. The deposition followed the expressed opposition of the bishop and his diocesan standing committee to Gene Robinsons 2003 consecrationwhich de Oliveira publicly supportedand Cavalcantis subsequent decision to join five ECUSA bishops in the unauthorized confirmations of 110 Ohio Episcopalians at theological odds with their local bishop.
At first, Brazilian bishops found no canonical basis on which to discipline Cavalcanti for his Ohio action, but before long it became clear he would face ecclesiastical trial anyway. In the interim, de Oliveira tried to cancel Recifes synod and inject a rival bishop into the diocese, and certain funding to the diocese was cut off. In June, a church court found Cavalcanti guilty of (inter alia) breaching his ordination vows, and "collegiality" in the case of the Ohio confirmations. The bishop is now constrained to make his appeal to the same church court that convicted him.
Though Cavalcanti says that most Recife members still stand behind him, and he continues as their bishop, earlier pleas to the Archbishop of Canterbury and Anglican primates for emergency alternate primatial oversight elicited no reply, and the Panel of Reference, though virtually certain to take up the Recife case straightaway, has not yet pronounced upon it. In short, though a few allies had spoken out, there had been limited response to this situation from the wider Anglican Communion at the time of the Nassau meeting. Recife has now legally registered as a separate ecclesiastical entity, but, said Cavalcanti: "We need to be connected."
In response, the Pan-American Conference fired off a resolution July 8 that noted "with profound concern and regret the lack of restraint [by the primate and province of Brazil] in the precipitous actions taken against [Bishop Cavalcanti] by not allowing the Panel of Reference an opportunity to mediate the conflict. In this way, the Province of Brazil has failed in its fiduciary and pastoral duty towards the Diocese of Recife. The rush to judgment, being both unwarranted and untimely, has caused a fundamental lack of confidence in the findings of the court.
"Therefore," the resolution continued, "we are constrained to maintain our relationship with Bishop Cavalcanti and the clergy and laypeople who continue to recognize him as their bishop." The Conference further implored the Archbishop of Canterbury and Anglican primates to urge "a halt to the legal process in Brazil regarding this issue and to conduct a fair and impartial inquiry into the conflict."
Supporters hope that this is just a start, that CAPACs strength in numbers will in turn strengthen their voice in the cause of securing relief for embattled faithful, and promoting unity in truth in the Anglican Communion. Challenges
CAPAC also plans to take up an exciting opportunity: that of developing and gathering theological and liturgical resources and translating other key materials into Spanish and (ultimately) other languages of the region. CAPAC will in fact "speak" at least four languages, not only English and Spanish, but Portuguese and French.
To this challenge for CAPAC will be added a more familiar one, that being coping with differences, and some impairment of communion, over womens ordination.
However, both sides of the questionstill officially unsettled within the Communionwere well represented at Nassau; the West Indies, for example, accepts female priests while the Southern Cone does not. Andas North American conservatives are already doingthe pan-American allies appear willing to continue providing for these differences in view of how much commonality they have in terms of the faith, their determination to resist liberal revisionism, and their desire to remain linked to the Communions faithful majority. A few at Nassau suggested as well that the bipartisan cooperation, which also responds to appeals from Anglican primates, could foster greater unity on the womens issue over time, via a testing ("reception") process on womens ordination among conservatives that is genuine, rather than pre-determined (as in ECUSA).
Some parts of extramural Anglicanism, of course, would see no point in an alliance in which full communion and interchangeability of ministers does not exist, or one that, if it all embraced historic holy order, would still be in communion with other bishops and provinces at odds with it. But for some other parts of the Anglican Diaspora, the points noted abovetheological commonality, connectedness, and sufficient freedom for Gods will on womens ordination to be made clearappear to motivate involvement rather than isolation.
Presiding Bishop Walter Grundorf of the Anglican Province of America, a Continuing Church, told TCC that the agreement between the Anglican Communion Network and Common Cause Partners affords respect and honor to the theological position of those who do not ordain women, and anticipates "that we will participate together...in all areas where our consciences will allow it."
"This allows us to work in partnership with the vast majority of Anglicans in the Communion as a traditional province in concert with others who are seeking to bring the Gospel to people at home and abroad in the Anglican Way," Grundorf said. "When we have Holy Communion, as we did in the Diocese of Fort Worth at the last ACN/CCP meeting, there has been a sensitivity to all those attending, hence the celebrant was male (Bishop Iker) and from the Anglican Communion."
The "Covenant of Understanding" in fact sees efforts to "bridge differences" and bring currently-fragmented, faithful Anglicans together once again as part of CAPACs raison detre.
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