Anglicans Online is primarily about arrangement and order of Anglican-related information on the web. Since 1994 we have attempted to classify, in a clear and consistent manner, links to information on the internet that would interest our readers.
Recently we have realised we needed to get to grips, of necessity, with the question of classifying the new organization called the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA), the bishops who are heading up that group, and the parishes, once a part of the Episcopal Church in the USA, who have affiliated with it. This was no easy decision.We were grateful to receive a minor flood of emails from our readers that expressed a range of opinion about AMiA and its status. In addition to close reading of all those emails, we spent considerable time in our own research, reviewing a number of primary source documents (Lambeth Conference resolutions, statements of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and statements of the primates and other archbishops of various national churches), and looking again at a number of secondary sources, including histories of the Lambeth conferences and various books about the Anglican Communion.
We are not theological scholars, although we like to think of ourselves as active and reasonably knowledgeable laity in our respective national churches. Anglicans Online is not a doctrinally, theologically, or politically based web site: we are an annotated directory, a portal, if you will, to the Anglican world. We expect you to pass through us to the many Anglican-related sites on the web or to the many news stories that we link you to. The AMiA situation formed an intersection of theology and taxonomy that by its nature was most complex and challenging matter for us to sort through. We consider it a high honour that we've become an important resource in many of your lives, but we caution our readers not to give our decision about AO taxonomy and AMiA more weight than it deserves.
We realise our conclusions about AMiA classification will upset some of our readers whilst they perhaps reassure others. Whether you are annoyed or appeased by our conclusions, we would ask only that you realise they have been reached with much work, thought, discussion, and no little prayer.
We have decided to classify AMiA as a 'Not in the Communion' organization and the parishes which, through that organization and its bishops, have become (virtually) a part of another national church or province, as 'Not in the Communion'.
We shall therefore not list AMiA parishes at Anglicans Online (our policy since 1997 has been not to list individual NIC parishes) and shall list the web site for AMiA in our 'Not in the Communion' section.
Perhaps the most important of primary sources is the definition of the Anglican Communion formulated at the 1930 Lambeth Conference:
"The Conference approves the following statement of nature and status of the Anglican Communion, as that term is used in its Resolutions:
The Anglican Communion is a fellowship, within the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted dioceses, provinces or regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, which have the following characteristics in common:
they uphold and propagate the Catholic and Apostolic faith and order as they are generally set forth in the Book of Common Prayer as authorised in their several Churches;
they are particular or national Churches, and, as such, promote within each of their territories a national expression of Christian faith, life and worship; and
they are bound together not by a central legislative and executive authority, but by mutual loyalty sustained through the common counsel of the bishops in conference.
The Conference makes this statement praying for and eagerly awaiting the time when the Churches of the present Anglican Communion will enter into communion with other parts of the Catholic Church not definable as Anglican in the above sense, as a step towards the ultimate reunion of all Christendom in one visibly united fellowship.
The Anglican Communion is defined as an autonomous group of national churches. A national church has always had a physical meaning, defined by geographic boundaries of dioceses and within those boundaries people meeting together physically in buildings of brick and mortar.
When a person or parish leaves a national church, for whatever reasonsdoctrinal, personal, spiritual, theologicalit does just that: it leaves. The leaving is tantamount to saying: 'This entity has become something I can no longer be a part of'. That decision prima facie breaks communion.
In these days of easy transport and effortless technology of course it is possible to virtually affiliate with another part of the Anglican Communion that seems to be more in line with one's own thinking. But unless one physically moves oneself or one's parish to that geographically-defined national church, one cannot claim to be in communion through some sort of virtual relationship.
Perhaps the definition of a national church or province will need to be altered, to take into effect the increasing globalisation of the communion through the Internet and what that means to the understanding of 'diocese' or 'episcope'. As yet, that redefinition has not taken place.
There is perhaps greater dissimilarity than similarity. The flying-bishops arrangement within the Church of England was worked out through established governmental processes within a national church. The arrangements were agreed upon in synod and bishops who provide such extra-diocesan oversight do so with the full approval of the diocesan bishops. And all the Provincial Episcopal Visitors involved in the arrangement are members of the same national church.
There are some differences that we have concluded are basically superficial. Every person, parish, or group that leaves a national church generally does so on the presumption that the national church no longer represents their understanding of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. Each believes that in leaving they are properly continuing the true tradition of the catholic church, and that the national church has fallen into error.
When this first occurred in the Episcopal Church in the 1870s, with the creation of the Reformed Episcopal Church, there would have been no thought that the REC could remain in communion with the See of Canterbury. Even with the growing attempt to define more clearly the nature of the Anglican Communion after World War I, we know of no attempt made by any group breaking away to suggest that it was remaining within the Anglican Communion after breaking with its national church.
The escalating ease of worldwide communication and global transportation has enabled like-minded men and women to more easily form relationships and establish interest groups: and that is true across all political spectrums in the Anglican Communion. But a national church cannot be splintered into virtual dioceses that are essentially nothing other than like-minded interest groups.
The concept of missionary bishops has always been that of bishops sent to proclaim the gospel in areas where it had not likely been heard. The dioceses of the Episcopal Church in the USA are in place and have been, for some years.
In addition, Resolution 72 of the 1988 Lambeth Conference notes, inter alia:
This Conference: 1. reaffirms its unity in the historical position of respect for diocesan boundaries and the authority of bishops within these boundaries; and in light of the above 2. affirms that it is deemed inappropriate behaviour for any bishop or priest of this Communion to exercise episcopal or pastoral ministry within another diocese without first obtaining the permission and invitation of the ecclesial authority thereof.
Certainly once can find examples of parallel jurisdictions in the Communion. But these have generally arisen through historical accident and, in the case of Europe, the overlap has been deplored; see, for instance, Resolution 63 of the 1968 Lambeth Conference. [http://www.lambethconference.org/resolutions/1968/1968-63.cfm]
We could find no example in the Anglican Communion where parallel jurisdiction has been accepted when it has come about through the apparently aggressive establishment of new dioceses within the boundaries of an existing national church.
At this time we can only refer to the statements of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church:
31 January 2000: [http://www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/news.cfm/2000/1/31/ACNS2004]
The Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed his regret that this action has been taken ahead of the meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion in March , which will be addressing the matters to which the action relates. It has come as a grave disappointment to the Archbishop, as it is his view that such consecrations are irresponsible and irregular and only harm the unity of the Communion.
20 February 2000: [http://www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/acnsarchive/acns2025/acns2037.html]
In the case of this particular consecration, neither the constitution of the Province of South East Asia nor that of the Episcopal Church of Rwanda, to whose primates John Rodgers and Charles Murphy have sworn an oath of canonical obedience, have been followed. In addition, Anglican polity requires that ordained ministers should be properly authorised to pursue their ministry in the Province within which they wish to work, and according to the Canon law of that Province. It appears that this is not the intention in this case, and it is doubtful in the present circumstances whether such authorisation would be forthcoming.
Therefore, whilst recognising John Rodgers and Charles Murphy as faithful and committed ministers of the Gospel, I have to conclude that I cannot recognise their Episcopal ministry until such time as a full rapprochement and reconciliation has taken place between them and the appropriate authorities within the Episcopal Church of the United States.
2 February 2001: [http://ecusa.anglican.org/ens/2001-25.html]
[Presiding Bishop Frank] Griswold said that [Archbishop] Carey was very clear that "he strongly disapproves of the Singapore ordinations" of two Episcopal priests as "missionary bishops." Any regularization of those ordinations "can come only from the Episcopal Church," he said. Carey has also made it clear, according to Griswold, that he "would not recognize a body other than the Episcopal Church as a province of the Anglican Communion in the USA."
If the situation of AMiA changes as a result of further comment by the Archbishop or the Presiding Bishop of the ECUSA, we shall of course revisit our decision about how to classify AMiA and its parishes.
To us this suggests that there are differing opinions amongst ECUSA bishops towards the AMiA bishops. Some bishops have indeed behaved as above; others have concluded that priests and parishes leaving ECUSA and affiliating with AMiA have in effect abandoned their national church and perforce their orders.
We noted the varying decisions of bishops, but saw this as merely one additional fact to consider in deciding on the place of AMiA parishes within the taxonomy of Anglicans Online.
At Anglicans Online, our taxonomy is based on independent national churches (provinces) and the ordering of their dioceses and parishes. We don't categorise by liturgical style (high or low church), political spectrum (conservative or liberal), and the like, so listing AMiA parishes at AO based on doctrinal issues is not appropriate.
Below is a selection of emails sent to Anglicans Online about AMiA classification (with any personally identifying material removed). They represent something of the range of opinion we received.
In categorizing religious groups on the Anglicans Online site, you have already demonstrated good sense by listing many groups who worship using rites from variously dated BCP's and employ the word Episcopal or Anglican in their corporate names as "not in Communion" with the rest of the Anglican Communion.
So it will take some more time ... some more history ... for the standing of the AMiA to become clear. But without the blessing of the Archbishop of Canterbury, no group can properly be considered Anglican. This means that, for the moment, the only seal of Anglicanism is in George Carey's keeping.
The AMiA is certainly not part of the Episcopal Church. Its clergy are not on the clergy rolls, its bishops are not, and so forth. Ultimately the consequence of these actions will either be a radical shift in the meaning of communion, or a breach of communion between the Episcopal Church and the Rwandan and Singapore churches. However, as I understand it, the AMiA bishops are also not bishops of the churches in Rwanda or Singapore. This makes it easy to classify.
The AMiA is not a constituent church of the Anglican Communion, because it has never been so recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Anglican Provinces may start missionary jurisdictions elsewhere which are ipso facto parts of the Anglican Communion, but only when they do so in accordance with the basic principles of the Communion. There is a formal declaration about not doing so in the bounds of another Province, or another Province's missionary jurisdiction, and so while Rwanda might recognize the AMiA as part of the Anglican Communion, nobody else need do so.
So the AMiA is not a Province. Its bishops are not part of any Province of the Anglican Communion (not even Rwanda or Singapore); its clergy are similarly not on the clergy rolls under any bishop of the Communion. It should be listed under the rest of the "not in communion" churches, recognizing that this might change.
What distinguishes AMiA from the continuing churches of recent decades--at least for the time being--is that it's an ongoing undertaking of two active archbishops in communion with Canterbury. If the Archbishop of Singapore simply declines to choose a successor for Chuck Murphy, that could change the situation.
As for parishes that join AMiA, I would indeed list them under the provinces with which they are now in communion. Clearly they are no longer ECUSA parishes, but they're not just independent Bible churches, either. Those bishops who have been gracious enough to grant letters dimissory for departing clergy seem to recognize this reality, and I think the rest of Anglicanism may recognize it in time as well.
I suggest this because, as you know (and it's why you asked!) AMiA is in an odd position. It is in Communion with two provinces at least; its members don't intend to leave the Anglican Communion at all. They're not 'Continuers,' therefore; they're not Presbyterians either.
The Anglican Communion will have to resolve it. When that occurs, they'll fit into one of your categories on the left of the page. Until that occurs... you need a new category: AMiA.
Disclaimer: I am a Romish Priest (we're the guys with the detestable enourmities), so I'm just watching this race.