Why the Anglican Church in North America even exists
In 1975 my mother wrote a letter to the then Right Reverend Robert Rusiak, Episcopal Bishop of Los Angeles, calling him neither right nor reverend for his allowing abortion affirming language into a resolution passed in the Diocese. This period, the mid-1970’s also saw the first ordination of women to Holy Orders within The Episcopal Church, causing the end of the hope of full communion with the Eastern Orthodox Church. It is my firm belief that these two things are part and parcel of the same problem. If one is so willing to ignore tradition and the ancient teachings of the Church on abortion and infanticide, then ordaining a woman is pretty easy. There are plenty of women with sufficient education and drive to have a female clergy. It’s also an easy way to sneer at the ancient church and call her tradition on Holy Orders a misogynistic anachronism.
An aside to readers who may be unfamiliar with this topic: nothing I’m going to say here regarding Women’s Ordination (WO) is particularly original, several people who write far better than I can and have a greater grasp of the subject of WO have also written on this, Father Mark Perkins of Earth and Altar hits hard on this topic. The responses to the Holy Orders Task Force is also very worth the read here. My point, however, is broader.
The struggle of today, is not altogether for today — it is for a vast future also. With a reliance on Providence, all the more firm and earnest, let us proceed in the great task which events have devolved upon us.-Abraham Lincoln 16th President of the United States
Why, you may be asking yourself, does this blog post ostensibly about Women’s Ordination use a quote (and frankly a good nugget of wisdom) from Honest Abe? My argument is simple really. WO is a leading indicator of the existence of fatal cancer. It is not unlike laws prohibiting the harboring of escaped slaves. They existed Only because of the existence of slavery within the United States of America following the ratification of the Constitution, built on the ideals of the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal. The civil war was precipitated by the unbridled expansion of slavery into the territories. It was, of course, a direct refutation of one of the basic ideals of our founding document.
Women’s Ordination exists in the ACNA because The Episcopal Church allowed it and the ACNA needed sufficient strength to stand on its own. Women’s ordination is a modernist aberration and should be stopped dead in its tracks. I will stop short of calling it heretical, but a lot of heresy is going on around it. Besides WO being contrary to the explicit teaching and example of Scripture, it is against 2000 years of church practice. Article 20 clearly states the Church can not order belief contrary to Scripture, it is not a jump to say she also may not order herself in a way contrary to scripture. Not to mention, at the founding of GAFCON it was a clear intention to keep at least the episcopacy undefiled. Father Lee Nelson takes us back to those days to remind us.
The Male Character of Holy Orders
Let us look to the example of the God we worship. Within the Triune God, there are the three Divine persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the three at yet one, the one and yet three. This is overwhelmingly and explicitly male in presentation. The son came and died on a Cross, offering his body and blood for us to consume as the new covenant. Male priesthood is a constant in the OT. John is the last prophet and Jesus chooses all male Apostles. Is Jesus then misogynistic? Of course not, he never sinned nor desired to sin! The Patriarchy was established for our own good, God Himself telling us he is Father.
Jesus is the fulfillment of the bronze serpent lifted up by Moses in the desert to heal the multitude from the bites of the venomous serpents. He became the symbol. Holy Orders is for men because it was ordered by God as, I think, a symbol. The Son of Man. Any man? By no means, only those who have been chosen by the church in accordance with Canon Law. St. Augustine wept when he was elected Bishop, knowing the sheer weight of the task, both physically and assuredly much more so spiritually. He had been tasked with the fatherly care of Christ’s flock. Is this so light a thing that we send any man for the job? Do we not want men of great spiritual depth, of fluency in scripture, wisdom of experience and humility of spirit? Do we not want men of fierce devotion to their flock to chase away the heretics and those who would seek to destroy the souls of those carried in the bosom of Holy Mother Church? Do we not want men who can give a stern word to the lazy and encouragement to the brokenhearted? We need fathers to do this work, neither the effeminate nor women will do.
Does this leave no place for women in the church? Heavens no, as it’s the same place for the vast majority of men as well. We need godly woman as well. I highly commend this article on the neglected ancient office of deaconess. Not to mention, we need mother’s like Mary the Mother of God who carefully raised our Lord as a child. Do you think the providence of God would leave it to just any mom to nurture the Son of the Living God? God gave the gift of life to women. It is a glorious and profoundly beautiful thing. I will never know what it’s like to have a child in my belly. The memory of a unborn child rolling or kicking in the womb. Those experiences are burned deep into the soul of a woman who understands its transcendent magnificence. I can not also fail to mention when God created Eve she was to be a help-meet for Adam. That very phrase is used of the Holy Spirit, a very clear statement on the power given to women.
Where are we now?
I’d like to turn to a series of current events that gives me the most concern. 2020 saw the unleashing of a torrent of content on Critical Race Theory. The language of this new ideology quickly consumed all the oxygen in the room. It was turned by many into a new soteriology, a new way of finding salvation by confessing to racist sins and almost wallowing in the guilt. Archbishop Foley Beach, you have already addressed this fallacy. It seemed to churn most heavily in Dioceses that allow WO.
Earlier in 2021 the College of Bishops issued a Statement on Sexuality, co-authored by my own Bishop, Stewart Ruch III of the Diocese of the Upper Midwest. Even though approved and issued by the College of Bishops, Bishop Todd Hunter of C4SO (Diocese of the Churches for the Sake of Others) took to undermining it. His clergy have been given a free hand to ignore it. C4SO is heavily in favor of WO, and a place of defection for clergy for prefer that and other less orthodox positions, I personally know of at least four within my own diocese.
Notable also is the Diocese of Pittsburgh, almost a trusty sidekick to C4SO. A postulant, Peter Valk, in this Diocese even went so far as to pen the “Dear Gay Anglican” letter of short lived notoriety. There was also the recent issue regarding a diocesan announcement being changed to be more “inclusive” gender neutral language regarding the death of a priest’s daughter who was pretending to be a boy.
Now, the Nigerians were rather quick to find issue with College of Bishops Statement on Sexuality. They seemed to think we were accepting homosexual practice. The Statement is very pastoral in nature, giving some very soft edges to a thorny discussion. One could make the argument that the Statement was the most liberal statement of orthodoxy on the topic without being heterodox or heresy.
Is it really the Province’s desire to allow even this statement to be undermined? My own Bishop has willingly stepped aside to allow the Province to conduct an investigation into allegations of abuse within our Diocese. Is not the threat of another Gospel creeping into the ACNA of higher concern? Shouldn’t the province be examining this?
It seems within our canons that each Diocese is a kind of fiefdom, the Bishop being the head in a loose federation with the other Dioceses within the Province. My own Bishop seems to know that is not how the Episcopate should be, but bound within the Province, counter-weighted by other Bishops. C4SO Canon Theologian Scot McKnight was quick to lambaste my Bishop for authoring the Statement while supposedly ignoring abuse within the Diocese. This is such a gross oversimplification of the issues at hand as to only indicate one thing: full-throated rejection of the Statement and an open attempt to impune a Bishop in another Diocese. It is also, no less, an unseemly attack by an office holder under Bishop Hunter as to indicate open hostility to our Diocese by Bishop Hunter himself.
Rev. Emily McGowin and Fr. Esau McCaulley round out the Canon theologians of C4SO, both of whom also threw their share of stones at the Diocese. Emily regularly platforms known Marxist’s and Liberal/Heterodox Theologians, most recently this atrocity: I FOUND CHRIST’S LIBERATING SPIRIT IN CRITICAL RACE THEORY- BY NATHAN LUIS CARTAGENA (feel free to search for it, I can’t stomach linking to it). If you read my posts you’ll know I was unimpressed by Esau’s book Reading While Black. Esau also frequently vacillates on CRT and where he really stands, frequently using his Twitter feed to gain sympathy for being brave in facing down his critics by blocking them. Scot’s work with Du Mez on Jesus and John Wayne also doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in his orthodoxy. What care are the sheep in these churches really receiving? The the care of Holy Mother Church or leftist indoctrination? There has been endless ink spilled on hand wringing over the effect of MAGA and Trump on supposedly conservative Christians, and rightly so in some cases. Should not the opposite be of concern as well? This is very concerning considering the bleak and desolate history of Socialism and Communism in bringing destruction and famine in their wake. Those who ignore the lessons of history are bound to repeat them.
They are all sounding more like Canon Theologians in a Diocese in The Episcopal Church in the mid-1970s than ones in the ACNA in 2021. We know how this movie ends. We saw it in TEC. My parents were forbidden, forbidden!, by their TEC Bishop in the 90’s from pushing pro-life causes, causing them to finally leave TEC for the Charismatic Episcopal Church, one of many failed forerunners to the ACNA. This was after a long string of run-ins with the Bishop. I have no intention of standing idly by while the heterodox and heretics gain control of the Province. Ordaining Women to Holy Orders was the beginning of the Gender Dysphoria of TEC, something that should not have been brought into the ACNA.
We all understand why that compromise was made, to give the Province sufficient strength to stand on its own. Just as unjust laws protecting Slavery was a cancer eating the soul of this nation, so is Women’s Ordination a leading indicator of a cancer within the ACNA. The Bishops kicked the proverbial can down the road on that one and it should be picked back up. Of course I would argue for restoring the integrity of Holy Orders prior to the aberration introduced in the 1970’s by TEC. This “dual integrities” language is all too reminiscent of the “mutual flourishing” of the Church of England. The heterodoxy of the CofE is plain to see.
Of significance also, C4SO church plants were originally to join the geographic diocese they were planted within. This structural problem should also be addressed, wherever possible churches should be under the care of a Bishop within geographic reach. Extensive examination of the clergy and thorough Catechesis of the laity being the order of the day there.
Proper geographic Diocesan boundaries has been the historic practice of the Church. It has been ignored only when incredibly extenuating situations have arisen, such as our founding as a Province and the help now being lent to the those orthodox believers in New Zealand via the flying Bishop.
Additionally, we should start a process to further tie the Dioceses to the Province and to each other. As Anglicans, of course, we eschew any Popery, “the pope hath no jurisdiction in this realm” being a running joke. But we believe our Bishops to be successors of the Apostles, and as the early Apostles met in Jerusalem to seek the will of God, so must ours be tightly bound together, “for a rope of three strands is not easily broken.”
Ours is a rich and fertile tradition, let us reach into her earthy depths and find the strength to fight for Orthodoxy, to be on mission to seek and save the lost and to properly administer the sacraments as instituted by our Lord and Saviour, to Him be all glory, laud and honour! Amen.
Richard, this is great and full of wisdom. I heartily agree with almost everything you had mentioned. The exception being: “This structural problem should also be addressed, wherever possible churches should be under the care of a Bishop within geographic reach.” Our church is considering leaving our geographic diocese, in favor of joining an REC diocese in order to escape “dual integrities”. Thoughts?
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I’m thinking the REC is going to need more dioceses!
Richard, great article. However, I’d like to see your point about women as mothers broadened somewhat. I have never adopted a child nor cared for any other than my own, aside from brief times. However, I have witnessed women who became mothers through adoption, and the transformation was just as profound as women who became mothers by giving birth themselves. They quickly gained the same innate ability to connect non-verbally with a baby or small child, and in at least one case I heard the husband remark on it in awe. For further reading, take a look at Karl Stern’s _Flight From Woman_, the first section.
Rhonda C. Merrick
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It would make an interesting thought piece.