Anglican Diocese of Sydney affirms that it is in full communion with the ACNA

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) welcomes the affirmation from the Anglican Diocese of Sydney(Australia) that it is in full communion with the ACNA.

On October 28, the Diocese of Sydney’s Synod passed a resolution which stated: “Synod welcomes the creation of the Province of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) under the leadership of Archbishop Bob Duncan and notes the GAFCON Primates’ Council recognition of the ACNA as genuinely Anglican and its recommendation that Anglican Provinces affirm full communion with the ACNA. Synod therefore expresses its desire to be in full communion with the ACNA.” The resolution also directed the diocese’s standing committee to ask its national body, the Anglican Church of Australia, to declare that it is in full communion with the ACNA as well.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican Church in North America (ACNA)Anglican ProvincesAnglican Church of Australia

Posted October 30, 2009 at 5:17 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Archer_of_the_Forest wrote:

Aren’t they the ones who have lay consecration?

October 30, 5:45 pm | [comment link]
2. Jeremy Bonner wrote:

I suspect that it’s passage (or non-passage) of a similar resolution at the General Synod of the Church of England next spring that will determine whether or not a two-track Communion is viable.

Catholic and Reformed

October 30, 5:57 pm | [comment link]
3. Ad Orientem wrote:

Re #1
You beat me to it.  What does being in communion with people like that mean?  It’s like being in communion with Methodists.  Nice people.  But do they have real sacraments (even from an Anglican POV)?


October 30, 6:02 pm | [comment link]
4. azusa wrote:

Yes, good question - are Methodists Christians?

October 30, 6:51 pm | [comment link]
5. Ad Orientem wrote:

I don’t think the question is whether or not they are Christians.  The question is whether or not they have valid sacraments.  Anglicans have historically claimed to be a branch of the Catholic Church spoken of in the creeds.  But that church has a very definite understanding about sacraments and the necessity of apostolic succession.  The Archbishop and diocese of Sydney (as also Methodists) have repudiated that understanding.

This is a very serious issue.  If they lack valid sacraments how can one be “in communion” with them?  How can a priest concelebrate the Holy Mysteries of the Altar with a layman?


October 30, 7:12 pm | [comment link]
6. austin wrote:

My sister lives and worships in Sydney.  Many Sydney Anglicans are far more Protestant than Methodists .  They are thorough-going Calvinists, Zwinglian or memorialist about the sacraments, casual about the ordained ministry—and certainly non-believers in the character imposed on a priest in ordination, and very comfortable with Baptists and evangelically minded Presbyterians.  Sydney is how the Church of England may have looked had Queen Elizabeth not reined in the Puritans or the Restoration happened. 

How they co-exist with the Diocese of the Murray, for example, has always puzzled me.  In the usual Anglican way, each goes on as if the other did not exist.

Recognition by Sydney is rather a mixed blessing.

October 30, 7:46 pm | [comment link]
7. ReinertJ wrote:

#6 austin, The reality is, that the Australian Anglican church needs the diocese of Sydney far more than they need it.  The diocese of the Murray was created in 1970 and there is no long history of any style of churchmanship.  It, like other rural dioceses are on the verge of bankruptcy, and will probably cease to exist in the next four or five years. 
Jon R

October 30, 8:59 pm | [comment link]
8. Crypto Papist wrote:

It seems to me one little gay bishop in one little diocese is not as damaging in the big picture as the ecclesial-sacramental confusion of the “conservatives” in Sydney.

October 31, 12:31 am | [comment link]
9. Ad Orientem wrote:

[Comment deleted by Elf - please be careful how you express yourself and respect the T19 comment policy - Elf]

October 31, 1:17 am | [comment link]
10. Mark Baddeley wrote:

I am keen to see some way forward for creedal Anglicans, but comments like the ones above strain charity.

Anglicans have historically claimed to be a branch of the Catholic Church spoken of in the creeds.  But that church has a very definite understanding about sacraments and the necessity of apostolic succession.  The Archbishop and diocese of Sydney (as also Methodists) have repudiated that understanding.

The Church of England also repudiated that understanding in its articles, BCP, and Ordinal, as well as in the various apologetic writings that were generated during Elizabeth’s reign.  That repudiation is still the legal basis of the Church of England, and forms the basis of Anglicanism.

All Protestants during the Reformation claimed to be the Catholic church described in the creeds - and denied a sacerdotal understanding of the sacraments or the need for a three fold order of ministry.  Anglo-Catholics and revisionists seem to have this much in common - a willful sitting light on the theological heritage of their own denomination and its documents in order to promote their own novelties: either nineteenth century ones (in the case of Anglo-Catholics) or twentieth century ones (in the case of revisionists).

And this is just heartbreaking to read:

It seems to me one little gay bishop in one little diocese is not as damaging in the big picture as the ecclesial-sacramental confusion of the “conservatives” in Sydney.

Sydney’s synod has voted to say that the theology of the sacraments enshrined in the articles and BCP and the teaching of Scripture do not prohibit lay people administering (or presiding) at holy communion.  That is a fairly defendable position, even if others disagree with either the Elizabethan settlement’s view of the nature of the sacraments or with Scripture.

TEC has knowingly selected an open practicing homosexual to be a bishop as a clear statement of repudiation of what the Faith says about sexual expression, marriage, and the nature of sin and grace. 

Nothing more shows how much the grace of God is distorted when form is held to be part of the content than when TEC’s actions are held to be, not just on a par with Sydney’s, but as ‘not as damaging in the big-picture.’

October 31, 8:01 am | [comment link]
11. Dr. William Tighe wrote:

Re: # 10,

This is a cogent statement of the Evangelical Anglican position, and it has a lot of historical support in both the 39 Articles and the general stance of almost all Elizabethan divines.  However, there is no historical evidence to support the assertion that “the Elizabethan settlement’s view of the nature of the sacraments or with Scripture” (to quote from Mr. Baddeley) extended to “lay celebration.”  Luther himself clearly stated that laymen (and laywomen) had in principle the right (or ability) to perform both Baptism and “the consecration of the bread and wine,” but his own followers seem not to have followed him in this respect (cf. Article 14 of the Augsburg Confession: “Of Ecclesiastical Order they teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called” )—although lay celebration (allowed today in America by the liberal ELCA, the conservative Missouri Synod and the “ultra-conservative” Wisconsin Synod) came into Lutheranism via Pietism in the 18th Century.  However, all of the “Reformed Reformers” (Zwilgli, Bullinger, Calvin and the rest) repudiated and prohibited both “lay Baptism” and “lay celebration of the Lord’s Supper.”

But there is another side to this.  The Church of England adopted a set of canons in 1571, of which this is the most relevant for the purpose of this posting (Canon 6, Concerning Preachers).  Because it is long, I will content myself with giving a link to the full text here, and then copy an excerpt below it:

“Preachers shall behave themselves modestly and soberly in every department of their life. But especially shall they see to it that they teach nothing in the way of a sermon, which they would have religiously held and believed by the people, save what is agreeable to the teaching of the Old or New Testament, and what the Catholic fathers and ancient bishops have collected from this selfsame doctrine.”

“... and what the Catholic fathers and ancient bishops have collected from this selfsame doctrine.”  This has always been the Magna Carta of the anti-Reformed among Anglicans of all times, of Richard Hooker, of Lancelot Andrewes and his followers and disciples, the “Caroline Divines,” high-churchmen in the late 17th/early 18th centuries, the Tractarians and their “ritualist” successors, and so forth.  It has been used to subject the teaching of the English Reformers, the Elizabethan divines and of the Reformation generally, to what the “Church Fathers” of the early centuries taught and professed, and if some aspects of the former (e.g., the “invisibility” of the Church, the “adiaphoristic” nature of an episcopal church polity, the nature of the sacraments—in other words, what Mr. Baddeley terms “the Elizabethan settlement’s view of the nature of the sacraments”) conflicts with the latter, so much the worse for it.  What we have here is what the late English Anglican theologican E. L. Mascall (1905-1993) termed the conflict between “the Anglican appeal to Tradition” versus “the appeal to Anglican tradition.”  No doubt those who framed the 1571 canons had no idea of the use to which it would be put, but “you have appealed to the Fathers; to the Fathers you shall go.”

What about the 39 articles?  they seem a tougher nut to crack, but if I may be allowed to cite from an essay on those Articles that was published in the latest issue of *Anglican Embers* (the journal of the Anglican Use society):

“In 1630 Charles I ordered the republication of the 39 Articles, to which was prefixed ‘His Majesty’s Declaration’ and to this day it remains in that position in the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England (1662).  The Declaration was explicitly intended to put an end to theological controversy over the meaning of the Articles, and its most significant section ended with the king’s commandment ‘that no man shall hereafter print or preach to draw the Articles aside any way, but shall submit to it in the plain and full meaning thereof: and shall not put his own sense or comment to be the meaning of the Article, but shall take it in the literal and grammatical sense.’  This seems an unexceptionable and perhaps even commendable, if futile, gesture, but its purpose, and immediate effect, was to ‘deprivilege’ and hence undermine the Reformed and Calvinist reading of the Articles that had been ‘traditional’ for the previous sixty-five years.  Within a short time of the Declaration’s issuance, an increasing number of ‘Caroline divines’ began to interpret the Articles, or some of them, in ways explicitly repudiated Reformed readings, and to align then as closely to what they saw as the views of the ‘Catholic bishops and fathers’ which had in some general sense been presented as exemplary back in 1571, and at the same time the publications of Calvinist divines began to encounter censorship or outright suppression, as contravening the Royal Declaration and contradicting the views of those ‘Catholic bishops and fathers’ mentioned earlier.”

Although I am not an Anglican, it seem entirely reasonable for Anglicans who, in line with Canon 6 of 1571 and Eric Mascall’s distinction cited above, appeal to the Fathers or to what Lancelot Andrewes termed the “consensus quinquesecularis” (the consensus of the Fathers of the first five centuries) not only to repudiate “lay celebration,” but to regard it as just as bad, if not worse, than the acceptance of homosexual practice among church members and leaders.  I certainly do so, and I have found a Missouri-Synod pastor who does so as well:

October 31, 9:45 am | [comment link]
12. francis wrote:

They do not have lay consecration yet.

October 31, 10:16 am | [comment link]
13. Mark Baddeley wrote:

#11, Dr William Tighe

Thank you for such a considered response.  Here’s my thoughts, some of which, especially towards the end are hard words, but for what it is worth they aren’t offered as ‘gotchas’ even as I think your observations (and judgement on Sydney) were intended constructively.

However, there is no historical evidence to support the assertion that “the Elizabethan settlement’s view of the nature of the sacraments or with Scripture” (to quote from Mr. Baddeley) extended to “lay celebration.”

It depends a bit on what you mean at this point, Dr Tighe. 

As your analysis suggests Magisterial Reformers seemed to have two broad approaches to the sacraments.  The continental Reformed divines seemed to tie it closely to Office and so had no doctrine of a layperson exercising a sacrament in emergencies.  Luther tied the exercise of the sacraments to the priesthood of all believers, and so he did hold that laypersons could baptise, celebrate communion, preach, and even ordain to the priesthood in emergencies. 

Cranmer, and the Church of England, seems to have followed Luther at this point.

Now, neither Luther and Cranmer offered any support for the practice that Sydney’s synod has declared its in principle support - of laypersons celebrating communion as normal practice in a non-emergency situation (and if that’s what your quote is implying, we agree).  But that has, I would suggest, nothing to do with the doctrine of the sacraments, it has to do with how concerns for decency and order were expressed in the English and German national churches in the sixteenth century.

The practice that Sydney’s synod has declared in principled support for has no support in sixteenth century Anglicanism.  But it does not conflict with the theology of the sacraments articulated in the establishment of the Church of England.

In fact, I would suggest, even as someone who personally is opposed to lay administration/presidency, that it could be argued that this may be an instance where the practice has to be changed in order to safeguard the doctrine.

Given the long tradition - which you have clearly detailed - of Anglicans seeking to escape the authority of the articles, the BCP and the Ordinal, and to try and keep reinterpreting Anglicanism as a kind of sacerdotalism, it shouldn’t be too surprising if those Anglicans in love with the theology of the articles begin to look for ways to clearly and unambiguously assert the reformed nature of Anglicanism.  Lay administration does that.  In a world where sacerdotaly minded Anglicans (and their Catholic friends) were more open in acknowledging that the Church of England has been constituted as a Protestant and Reformed (with some Lutheran elements, and some distinctively English) national church then I suspect that lay presidency/administration would likely never have even appeared. 

I’d suggest it is a bit like the Apostle Paul’s stance on circumcision.  He circumcises Timothy, but as soon as the practice of circumcision obscures the gospel he tells the Galatians that to be circumcised is apostasy.  Opposite practices to articulate the same theology, depending on how the underlying theology is being interpreted.  As I said, I don’t think lay presidency/administration is a good way forward, but I think a similar case could be made here - Sydney is contemplating breaking with a good practice in the tradition because that good practice is constantly used to justify a theology of the sacraments completely at odds with the establishment of the Church of England.  And it would seem to me that, forced to choose between the practice and the theology, the Elizabethan divines would, by and large, have chosen the theology.

How divines behaved post 1662 is hardly authoritative - it is de facto, not de jure.  It is like revisionists pointing out that, in practice, there have likely always been practicing homosexuals within the clergy as though this overrules the publicly declared position of the church.

Similarly the attempt to use the 1571 canons in this way seems to me to be an attempt to find some ground to evade the articles and the theology of the BCP, and to play each (canon and articles/BCP) off against the other rather than as mutually interpreting.  The articles and the BCP is intended to enshrine and declare what the teaching of the Old and New Testament is that is taught by the Early Church fathers.  The canons of 1571 were not intended to establish a superior source of interpretive authority to annul the doctrinal position of the Church of England.  It was intended to apply that position to the issue of preaching.  The articles and BCP are the ‘constitution’, the canons are the ‘laws’.  Laws are judged unconstitutional, constitutions are not judged illegal.

It is somewhat suprising to have a Roman Catholic offer what is essentially an almost Anabaptist view of the right of private judgement whereby someone can radically reinterpret the plain meaning of the articles based on their personal reading of the fathers of the early church.  A Baptist offering this I can understand, but it seems odd coming from you - I’d expect you to denounce this as every bit as bad as the articles themselves, Dr Tighe. 

You, and a Missouri-Synod Pastor, may find lay administration/presidency worse than declaring active homosexuality to be not sin.  As you yourself have implied, the Missouri-Synod’s judgement is intriguing given that for a Lutheran to implicitly pass that kind of judgement upon Luther is fairly unusual to say the least.  I’m not sure what kind of supporting authority such a judgement really offers.

I am reminded of the incident that Steven Ozment (I think) tells of how in the sixteenth century a young man returned to his family having become a Protestant.  They had hoped he would join the priesthood and so were dismayed to find that he had brought his wife with him.  Their response was that, “It would have been better if you had brought a prostitute with you.”  It was a statement quite in keeping with the view that it was more acceptible for clergy to be in a lifelong de facto relationship and raise children out of wedlock - and so to regulate that with defined fines to Bishops for the woman and the birth of each child - than to allow priests to marry. Celibacy for clergy is an issue of discipline, homosexuality is an issue of doctrine.  And yet, then and now, whether discipline or doctrine, the subordination of God’s holiness to Church order seems to be an endemic problem when order is made part of the esse of the gospel.

I agree that if one is a sacerdoalist your judgement can be reasonable.  But it is still heartbreaking.  If I understand correctly, there are surveys suggesting that among American Catholic seminarians 60% identify themselves as homosexual, and another 20% as ‘confused’ about their sexual identity.  I also understand that the plague of sexual abuse cases and accusations in the States and in Ireland involve pedarastry far more than paedophilia.  Sexual orientation seems to matter in pedarastry in a way that it does not appear to in paedophilia.  I don’t think such a coming together of factors is caused by a view that considers church order more fundamental than morality, but it strains my credibility to believe that it is entirely coincidental either. 

And whether it is sixteenth century children of priests living under the stigma of being bastards in a culture where that meant something, or whether it is young males in the twentieth century transitioning from being boys to men and being preyed upon, it is always the least of Christ’s that suffer when good order matters more than life or doctrine.

October 31, 7:47 pm | [comment link]
14. driver8 wrote:

In England at least one may want to consider is it legal to be ordained not believing some of the 39 Articles. Yes, of course is the answer.

In other words, the 39 Articles, along with the 1662 BCP and Ordinal remain norms (and I’m not sure quite sure how that is to be defined - one might look at ecclesiastical case law - except to say that the rigorist interpretation is not demanded though it is permitted) that bear witness to the faith found in Scripture.

November 1, 2:25 am | [comment link]
15. driver8 wrote:

Ironically isn’t the Sydney view on lay presidency (not eucharistic theology) rather closer to non-conformist reformed thought than anything any sixteenth century Anglican reformer thought.

Of course one might say that nevertheless Sydney is upholding a reformed eucharistic theology - which is doubtless true. And that the COE refomers agreed that the godly magistrate was given by God the authority to order the church as he or she wished (within the limits implied by a broadly reformed understanding of the word, godly). Whether Sydney has this right - that is, whether it may function as it’s own Magistrate - is a question that the COE Reformers alone will not answer.

November 1, 2:36 am | [comment link]
16. Mark Baddeley wrote:


Yes, ‘authority of the articles’ was probably insufficiently nuanced.  My impression is that many parts of the communion do not require an ordinand to themselves hold to the theology of the articles, BCP etc.  I think my point is that the theology of the articles et al is the official theology of the denomination.  There has been a practice to allow people in office who do not hold that doctrine, so I am not wanting to play the “true Anglican” game of denying other churchmen the label ‘Anglican’ (except revisionists - I’ll deny them even the term ‘Christian’).  What I am objecting to is the ongoing attempts to define ‘Anglican’ so as to exclude people who do agree with the doctrine in the articles, BCP etc.  Either by attempting the arguments Dr Tighe has offered, or by holding to some kind of non-doctrinal comprehensiveness as the essence of Anglicanism.  That is what I’m sort of gesturing at by speaking of avoiding the authority of the articles.

As to your comment #15 you and I would be in agreement I think.  I think what Sydney is proposing is more in line with non-comformist reformed practice than Anglicanism.  However, I get thoroughly disgruntled with non-evangelicals calling shock horror on what Sydney is proposing as though it denies some essential feature of Anglicanism.  When Anglo-Catholics have introduced practices completely at odds with everything the articles and BCP sought to establish, and revisionists have introduced women’s ordination, lay presidency is on a par with deciding to move the 10:30am service to 11:00am.  And as I said, I think it could be argued that the kind of action Sydney is contemplating can be justified as a response to constant innovations by those whose churchmanship is other than the official theology of Anglicanism.  When the status quo is under assault, is the right response merely to try and hold onto the status quo as it slips away?  Or does one need to introduce new changes to address the changes being introduced by non-reformed Anglicans?  Anglicanism, by allowing people to make changes to practice that conflict with the official theology of Anglicanism should not be surprised if people then want to make changes that radically assert the official theology of Anglicanism.  The status quo can only be maintained dynamically, not statically, if one (or two out of three) sides are allowed to introduce their own innovations.

As to legal authority to make such changes, the articles seem to imply that such authority exists at a national (or provincial) level.  If I understand correctly the Australian Anglican Church’s legal body has ruled that such a change cannot be made at a diocesan level - only by a decision of the general synod.  As diocesan delegate numbers to general synod are linked to the numbers in a diocese, I suppose Sydney can just wait if it really want to see this happen.  It is growing, and already has more than half the Australian Anglicans in church on Sunday, and most other dioceses are shrinking.  For it to not happen eventually, Sydney will probably need to see a reason to not do what all other Anglican factions have done in such circumstances - introduce innovation when one has de jure or de facto laws on one’s side.

Maybe revisionists and Anglican Catholics could offer to abandon their innovations?  (Suggested with tongue firmly in cheek <smiley face></smiley face>)

November 1, 6:36 am | [comment link]
17. driver8 wrote:

I think my point is that the theology of the articles et al is the official theology of the denomination

Not in the rigorist sense, at least in the COE. That is, neither the COE as a whole nor any individual member is committed to holding the doctrinal truthfulness of every Article.

November 1, 4:25 pm | [comment link]
18. Dr. William Tighe wrote:

Or of any Article.

November 1, 4:39 pm | [comment link]
19. Mark Baddeley wrote:

No disagreement #17 an #18.  But it is still the theology legally at the basis of the Church of England, and ordinands still need to acknowledge it.  A Catholic like Dr Tighe can make the judgement he did and be consistent with his Catholicism, I’m not so sure an Anglican can without passing a destructive judgement upon the theological heritage of their own denomination.

To suggest that because no one is required to be committed to the doctrinal truthfulness of any Article that one can then act as though Reformed theology and practice consistent with that theology is some kind of heresy is absurd.  It’d be like arguing that because we are no longer bound by the article upholding the Nicene Creed, it is heretical to believe in the divinity of the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Freedom to dissent is not the same as annulment as a doctrinal norm, still less a repudiation.  To the extent that Anglicanism has any theological content, and can speak of something as being heresy, the articles are the theology of Anglicanism.  There’s certainly nothing else that forms the basis of the CoE’s establishment, and which ordinands need to acknowledge.

Freedom to dissent from the articles is important, but I’m not sure that it permits the horror of the Anglo-Catholics in the earlier part of the thread, still lest the kind of argument Dr Tighe ran.

November 2, 7:10 am | [comment link]
20. driver8 wrote:

The COE as whole is not committed to the truthfulness of all of the Articles. They are a norm, a witness, a historic formulary and may be believed (that is, believing they are truthful in their entirety is not prohibited). It is I think committed to the truthfulness of some of them - e.g. Article 1. Thus denying Article 1 could be, I think, grounds for a complaint against a cleric under the clergy discipline measure. (Time will tell!)

Of course there was a time when it was indeed committed to the truthfulness of each Article and demanded such commitment from all its clergy. COE Canon Law changed very slowly between 1604 and 1969. However nevertheless interpretation by ecclesiastical courts did develop - such as the enforcement and then abandonment by courts of the rigorist interpretation of BCP rubrics.

FWIW such interpretation by ecclesiastic courts in the twentieth century slowly did declare that much Anglo Catholic liturgical practice was actually legal.

Thus to get a picture of the current authority of the Articles in the COE - one needs to look at the existing Canons, the judgments of ecclesiastical courts, law like decisions of General Synod etc..

November 2, 3:40 pm | [comment link]
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