February 13, 2010

Declaring Victory and Moving On

The Anglican Church in North America certainly failed to earn the Church of England’s imprimatur in the General Synod Wednesday as lay member Lorna Ashworth’s resolution was adopted only after being amended beyond recognition. (See “A Shot Across the Bow.”) ACNA did not get nothing—The Episcopal Church would have preferred that the Ashworth proposal simply be voted down—but it got little more than a modicum of sympathy and the implied advice that it should seek Communion recognition in the standard fashion. The Ashworth ploy was a high-risk gamble that did not pay off. Matthew Davies’ excellent story for Episcopal News Service suggests that ACNA had invested heavily in the General Synod maneuver.

So, what was the reaction of ACNA to its failure in the General Synod? The story on the ACNA Web site carries the headline “General Synod Affirms Anglican Church in North America.” The subhead on that story immediately belies the headline: “General Synod, the national assembly of the Church of England, affirmed the Anglican Church in North America’s desire ‘to remain within the Anglican family.’” Well, this isn’t saying much, is it? ACNA wanted recognition; it got recognition that it wanted recognition.

The original, eviscerated Ashworth motion is never quoted in the ACNA story, lest readers recognize the chasm between what was asked and what was offered. Yet minor variations of “affirms our desire to remain within the Anglican family” are repeated in each of the first three paragraphs of the ACNA story. If said often enough, we are supposed to believe that such affirmation is of some real significance. In fact, ACNA is already a part, albeit a rather embarrassing part, of the “Anglican family.” It is, of course, not a part of the Anglican Communion, and, God willing, never will be.

In the second paragraph of the ACNA story, Archbishop Bob Duncan is quoted as saying, “It is very encouraging that the synod recognizes and affirms our desire to remain within the Anglican family.” He told The Washington Times reporter Julia Duin essentially the same thing. He then departed from his message (and the truth) by explaining to Duin, “They have basically said they favor overlapping provinces here.” (You can read The Washington Times story here.)

Anyone who thinks that what was passed by the Church of England’s General Synod represents a validation of the Anglican Church in North America and advances its aspiration to replace The Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada as members of the Anglican Communion should read the Rev. Brian Lewis’s description of how the General Synod got from the originally proposed motion to the one that was finally adopted. You can find it on Mark Harris’s blog, Preludium. For readers up for a more sarcastic (and more amusing) view of what happened Wednesday in the General Synod, I recommend this post on GAFCON (God and Father Christian: Obscuring Nothing).

Predictably, Bob Duncan has done what he always does when he is delivered a defeat: he declares victory and moves on. It is anyone’s guess how long his followers will continue to fall for this. The wisdom of that great sage Phineas Taylor Barnum suggests that Duncan may have a long run.


  1. You're right, Lionel. And there seem to be a whole lot of them following "Bishop" Duncan.

  2. Hi! Yes... It was a polite "no" to Duncan... But in my humble opinion it have some consequences to TEC... What Duncan needs really from the CofE synod was a good excuse to dificult TEC life in the courts... And CofE synod provided one for him!... So, for now, he will use it in courts, in order to delay and probably win some disputes... And of course consumming your resources in that disputes!... And what will be TEC reaction?... Probably accept Mary Glasspool as Sufragan Bishop of Los Angeles!... And... If the motion was rejectes, some liberal bishops shoud have been voted against her in order to the unity of church, I suppose... Now some of remaining conservatives could consent, just because they don't agree, but probably they dislike Duncan view of world!... Lets see!!!... Have a good Weekend!...

  3. I don’t think that ACNA got anything useful in American courts. As for Mary Glasspool, I suspect that no one knows what’s going to happen.

  4. And don't forget, the English General Synod did something else that will prove a separation from the theology of ACNA - by passing a motion to secure full pension rights for the surviving spouse of same-sex clergy within the C.of E. Perhaps ACNA won't want to become part of the Anglican Communion now!

    And when it passes the legislation for women bishops - that will be a further problem for homophobes and misogynists. Perhaps they will all become part of a vastly diminishing Southern Cone Church of the Pure and Holy.

  5. Everthing in Ashworth's motion after "That this Synod...." is gone, sent away into oblivion. And yet, and yet, some of the conservatives claim victory. I don't get it.

  6. Hi Lionel,

    I like Tony Clavier's take on this.



  7. Bruce,

    I find Tony’s argument naïve and irrelevant. In a divorce, a single family unit is involved. In the case of TEC and ACNA, an agreed-upon resolution may have far-reaching implications. If parishes discover that they can leave and retain “their” property, it can only encourage other parishes to depart, either because they find their church (whether TEC or ACNA) too conservative or too liberal.

    More is at stake than Tony acknowledges.

  8. It seems to me that there is a lot at stake for those on both sides of the divide. And that what is at stake is only partly about property, or about who is "right" in the context of canon or civil law. Though those things are important. In the end the question for all of us will be about our conduct as Christian people, and the measure of our lives as a reflection of a call to generosity, hospitality, and love. I read the presentations of ACNA and of TEC in the context of the conversation at Synod, and I'm not so sure either one really "measured up."

    Bruce Robison


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