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.
• 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
• 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.
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.