Friday, August 30, 2013

A Pastoral Letter: Thoughts and Reflections

Recently the presiding bishops of the Anglican Province of America and the Anglican Church in America released a statement on the merger process between the two provinces. I think that it is a very good, straightforward letter, and I applaud the bishops for their courage and honesty in writing it. The letter acknowledges some of the difficulties involved with trying to merge our two jurisdictions, but at the same time affirms our mutual commitment to work for eventual corporate unity. 

A process like this can take a long time, sometimes a generation or two. But it is best to have it take a while and wait for God's perfect timing so it gets done right rather than forcing it through because we think it suits our timetable and desires better. Considering how much time, energy, and other resources these processes consume it is best to be slow and methodical so we get the results that we want the first time around and avoid any unintended, negative results. This is what happened with the "Ecumenical Movement" of the 20th century in certain areas.

I can understand how some people would want to rush a process like this because it can make it seem as though the churches are "doing" something. That attitude reminds me of the rector of my old seminary who always had a major construction program going on - even if it wasn't needed and cost tons of money - because it conveyed "progress"... even if the seminary was mostly empty of students studying for the priesthood! Likewise, we have to have as our first priority spreading the good news of Jesus Christ and building the Kingdom of God. We need to engage in actions that will help us reach the lost and strengthen the Body of Christ and view mergers and unification programs as means to that end.

Personally, I see nothing wrong in simply spending an indeterminate number of years in fellowship and full intercommunion, while trying to work together on the ground and on other projects as much as we can. This has been happening in various ways between most of the continuing churches, so much so that we are already, for most practical purposes, one church. Once again, I applaud these two men for this letter and for their godly leadership, and may we offer prayers on their behalf, as well as on behalf of all of those involved in the process, and for all of the people of the two churches.


  1. Hello Reverend Sirs,
    I wonder if a non-geographic solution to diocesan/bishopric territory might be an answer? Affinity or non-geographic relations aren't entirely foreign to APA or the continuing movement. I believe the ACA initially anticipated a 'two province, one church' structure. According to Mark Clavier (in his brief history on the APA):

    "Despite vocal and often acrimonious opposition from bishops and others in the ACC, a plan for organic union with the AEC emerged in 1990. It envisioned a two Province body, divided into dioceses. The Metropolitan of one of the Provinces of the new Church was its Primate, with limited authority outside his Province. A draft Constitution and Canons emerged based largely on earlier ECUSA models, amended to create a two Province church not unlike the system in place in England and Ireland." p. 9

    Of more recent date was AB Grundorf's Provincial Synod Address of 2008 Evidently, DMA entered APA as a non-geographic body and later sharing ministerial oversight with other Bishops. I'm guessing the recent addition of AIC in Maryland is also technically non-geographic? Anyway, ++Grundorf said:

    "In the later part of the 1990's and 2000, the Bishops Herbert Groce and Larry Shaver of the Anglican Rite Synod of the Americas (ARSA) and the APA began negotiating to become part of the APA...Following a period as intercommunion partners, the ARSA voted to become part of the APA and our Bishops gathered at St. Andrew's Cathedral in Merriville, Indiana to sign the agreement. They became the non-geographical Diocese of St. Augustine in May 2003."

    So, there are several precedents, and perhaps Affinity might be one way to proceed with the ACA-APA merger, with individual dioceses electing their own pace of integration? Where issues remain unresolved, non-geography might be a way to side step what ought to be merely temporary problems.

    My only regret with the proposed merger is the Reconciliation Committee's adoption of the 1993 or 1991 ACA C&C with little reference to the APA's constitution. The APA's Solemn Declaration is superior with respect to the older brand of continuing churchmanship (broad, middle of the road), having a generous solemn declaration. I'd like to see this ethos carry into the new C&C, and shouldn't the size and vitality of the APA be a factor in issues such as this one?

  2. Good point. I agree that an excellent approach might be to have a sort of "ecclesiastical gerrymandering" for the time being or also an "alternative episcopal oversight." In the APA there was a parish in Ohio that was once part of the eastern diocese, but everyone know it had to be in the middle diocese. So they went over but I think Bp. Grundorf still visited them for a year or two afterwards while the transition was being made. It worked great and they are now firmly ensconced in the middle diocese.