ACNA Task Force makes no decision on ordination of women

On Facebook, a discussion arose on the Anglican Ordinariate Informal Discussion Forum about the Anglican Church in North America Task Force on Holy Orders that earlier this year issued a report.  You can find a link to it here.

ANCA primate Archbishop Foley Beach gives some highlights: 

• The Task Force was not commissioned to resolve the issue, but was asked to develop
resources to help the bishops in future conversation on this topic.
• Therefore the report does not answer the questions of what the College is to do, but it is
a study presented to the College to help the College in our discussions.
• The report does not change our current practice regarding women’s orders as stated in
our Constitution. Our current practice allows each diocese to determine whether it
will ordain women as deacons or priests.
• The report will now be sent to the GAFCON Primates for their input and guidance for
our discussions.
• The College of Bishops will now be studying the whole report, and we will meet in
special session later in the year to discuss how we move forward together.

S.M. Hutchens writes his reaction over at Touchstone’s Mere Comments blog:

Not entirely, for the Task Force, despite the methodological groundwork it had laid in irresolution because of the existence of differing ecclesiologies, was careful not to tell the bishops explicitly what they should do, but employed terminology that tended toward making the change of the current denominational status quo (i.e., ordained women in some dioceses) a long, distasteful, divisive, anger and angst-filled process, making it easier, much easier, not to change anything, and thus to fall back on denominational unity as the principal value to be served, with no weightier theological reasoning than the necessity to accommodate pre-existing ecclesiologies–the acceptability of none of which is apparently open to questioning–that is, the threat of more time-consuming, divisive, destabilizing, and unpleasant theological work.  Better all-round, it would appear, to make unity the thing by waking only one sleeping dog, and doing it carefully:

“The Task Force is aware that there is a great deal of anxiety for many in our Province on both sides, who hold this issue to be of great importance. Some may be tempted to act on this anxiety, if their desired outcome is not realized in this report or in the College’s use of it.  We encourage the College of Bishops to be aware of the extent to which anxiety can be a powerful motivator toward detrimental, reactionary behavior and to be a model of peace and stability to each other and the dioceses we serve . . . . Both positions on this issue cannot be right, but both positions are held by good and godly people. Work toward a resolution of this issue must move forward, but it should be done with patience and the leading of the Holy Spirit.  (pp. 316, 318)”

The Report is heavily larded with the customary affidavits in defense of the learning, goodness, and godliness of all parties involved.  Alas, another red herring in which this long report seems to have specialized, as in this whole business of treating varieties of churchmanship as bearing on the issue.

My heart goes out to the folks in ANCA because there is no easy resolution to these matters of ecclesiology and sacramental theology and everything else involved when what holds you together is a high regard for Scripture but without even an agreed upon method of interpreting it.  And for those who think, oh, it’s a simple matter, they should just join the Ordinariates, as many of us know who have trod this path, it is costly for communities of faith, bringing about parish splits, new antagonisms among longtime friends, and in many cases having to walk away from everything one has built.   Many of them are going to be losing properties or have lost properties already.   And, what does the Catholic Church look like these days to outsiders?  Does it also look like Her members, too, are struggling with competing ecclesiologies and understandings of theology and Scripture?

Let’s pray for them and support them as they discern what’s next for them.

We’re all called to deeper conversion and dying to self, to surrendering all but anyone who thinks we are able to do this without suffering, well, I haven’t met that person yet.


3 thoughts on “ACNA Task Force makes no decision on ordination of women

  1. We all should be praying for the bishops of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) on this issue, that they might have the wisdom to seek God’s will and to guide their people to accept it. They face a difficult situation, even on a good day.

    Realistically, it will be extremely difficult for the bishops of ACNA to stop women who are already ordained from exercising their present orders and only slightly less difficult to deny ordination to those who are already in the proverbial pipeline of preparing for it. Any reversion to an all-male clergy would more likely take the form of no longer taking women into the pipeline leading to ordination and phasing out female clergy as those who are already ordained, or at least in the pipeline, complete their active ministry.

    However, such a phase-out also seems unlikely. Here, the chart at the bottom of Page 256 of the report is very insightful — I’m more than a little surprised that the provinces of the “Global South” that don’t ordain women at all are not part of the Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON)! But since ACNA is part of GAFCON, it seems pretty clear that ACNA must at least recognize the normative practice of the other provinces of GAFCON, which is to ordain women to the orders to the order of deacon and presbyter. The chart shows only two exceptions to this — one GAFCON province that currently ordains women only to the order of deacon and another also ordains women to the order of bishop. And to those dioceses of ACNA that don’t ordain women to the order of presbyter, what’s the difference between recognizing the orders of female clergy of other provinces of GAFCON and recognizing the orders of female clergy of the other dioceses of ACNA?

    Realistically, I think that the path of least resistance will be an agreement by the bishops of ACNA whereby (1) each diocese may retain its own policy with respect to ordination of women to the orders of deacon and presbyter but (2) each diocese agrees to recognize the orders of women ordained to those orders by other dioceses of ACNA and by other provinces of GAFCON. It’s inevitable that the dioceses of ACNA that currently do not ordain women to the orders of deacon and/or presbyter will get bishops that favor doing so sooner or later and will change their practice, and thus that ordination of women to the orders of deacon and presbyter will become normative in the dioceses of ACNA.

    By way of clarity, I say this in the context that the Catholic Church holds Anglican orders to be utterly null and void anyway. However, the ordination of women in Anglican bodies is an additional complication to the mission of ecumenism since the Catholic Church currently would not accept any female clergy as candidates for Catholic ordination (though Pope Francis has convened a study of the feasibility of ordaining women to the deaconate, potentially opening that door in the future).



    • Norm wrote:

      “Page 256 of the report is very insightful — I’m more than a little surprised that the provinces of the “Global South” that don’t ordain women at all are not part of the Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON)!”

      I’m not surprised at this. The provinces that don’t ordain women at all are almost entirely “Conservative Anglo-Catholic” in their theological coloration (e.g., Central Africa and Papua New Guinea) or “Conservative Evangelical” (e.g., Southeast Asia) – truly “Conservative Evangelical” Anglicans oppose WO just as strongly as do orthodox Anglo-Catholics, albeit for totally different (“Male Headship-” related) reasons. I know nothing much about Melenesia or Myanmar, but I suspect that their social context is unique here, as Myanmar was evangelized by both Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic Anglicans, and likewise Melenesia, although the latter was predominantly Anglo-Catholic. Nigeria may be unique: predominantly Evangelical, but with Anglo-Catholics a strong minority presence in some areas. I recall,vaguely, that its former Primate, Peter Akinola, once opined that he had no objection in principle to the ordination of women to the diaconate, but that his church “saw no need” to do so.

      Compare the table on p. 256 with the information provided here;

      Most of the GAFCON Anglican Churches are, historically, strongly Evangelical and, in theological terms, unsympathetic (at best) towards both Catholicism and Anglo-Catholicism. (The one notable exception is Tanzania, where the majority of dioceses are strongly Evangelical, but with some others that are strongly Anglo-Catholic. The ordination of women to the presbyterate there, and the more recent vote to open its episcopate to women was in some ways an Evangelical vs Anglo-Catholic struggle.) There are both orthodox Anglo-Catholics and Conservative Evangelicals that view those GAFCON churches that purport to ordain women as “conservative” rather than “orthodox,” and prefer to keep their distance from them. Curiously, in Kenya, where there are two “rival” Lutheran churches, the conservative “Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya” (with about 100,000 members) and the liberal “Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church” (with about 44,000 members), the former, which is “high-church,” but strongly “confessionalist” Lutheran, and strongly opposed to WO, has attracted some Anglicans discontented with the strongly pro-WO stance of the Anglican Church there; that church has provided strong support for conservative dissident anti-WO and anti-“gay accepting” bodies that have emerged in Sweden, Norway, and Finland over the past two decades.


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