ACNA bishops vote for the status quo on women’s orders

Sep 9, 2017 by

A Statement from the College of Bishops on the Ordination of Women

September 7, 2017

PREAMBLE In an act of mutual submission at the foundation of the Anglican Church in North America, it was agreed that each Diocese and Jurisdiction has the freedom, responsibility, and authority to study Holy Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition of the Church, and to seek the mind of Christ in determining its own convictions and practices concerning the ordination of women to the diaconate and the priesthood. It was also unanimously agreed that women will not be consecrated as bishops in the Anglican Church in North America. These positions are established within our Constitution and Canons and, because we are a conciliar Church, would require the action of both Provincial Council and Provincial Assembly to be changed.

STATEMENT Having gratefully received and thoroughly considered the five-year study by the Theological Task Force on Holy Orders, we acknowledge that there are differing principles of ecclesiology and hermeneutics that are acceptable within Anglicanism that may lead to divergent conclusions regarding women’s ordination to the priesthood. However, we also acknowledge that this practice is a recent innovation to Apostolic Tradition and Catholic Order. We agree that there is insufficient scriptural warrant to accept women’s ordination to the priesthood as standard practice throughout the Province. However, we continue to acknowledge that individual dioceses have constitutional authority to ordain women to the priesthood.

COMMITMENTS As a College of Bishops, we confess that our Province has failed to affirm adequately the ministry of all Christians as the basic agents of the work of the Gospel. We have not effectively discipled and equipped all Christians, male and especially female, lay and ordained, to fulfill their callings and ministries in the work of God’s kingdom. We repent of this and commit to work earnestly toward a far greater release of the whole Church to her God-given mission. Having met in Conclave to pray, worship, study, talk, and listen well to one another, we commit to move forward in unity to carry on the good witness and work that God has given us to do in North America (Ephesians 4:1-6; John 17). We invite and urge all members of the Province to engage with us in this endeavor to grow in understanding the mission and ministry of all God’s people.

Adopted Unanimously by the College of Bishops of the Anglican Church in North America

The Church of Our Lord, Victoria, BC, Canada


Statement from Archbishop Foley Beach

Barbara Gauthier comments:

Following three days of worship, corporate prayer, Scriptural study, silent prayer and discussions that were “frank and, at times, poignant and painful,” the ACNA College of Bishops has responded to the Task Force Report on Holy Orders by issuing a unanimous statement on women’s ordination in the ACNA.  It is short, brief, to the point and maintains the status quo: “each Diocese and Jurisdiction has the freedom, responsibility, and authority to study Holy Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition of the Church, and to seek the mind of Christ in determining its own convictions and practices concerning the ordination of women to the diaconate and the priesthood.”  The 43 bishops present unanimously agreed that women will not be consecrated as bishops in the Anglican Church in North America.

As I read the statement, however, there also appear to be some significant shifts in how the bishops understand this “dual integrities” position.  Up until now these two positions were presented as two equally valid options within the province: some dioceses ordain women to the priesthood, some dioceses do not ordain women to the priesthood — option A and option B, if you will.  The bishops have now decided that these two “local options” can no longer be considered fully equal, and therefore interchangeable, in all regards.  They unanimously acknowledged that ordaining women as to the priesthood “is a recent innovation to Apostolic Tradition and Catholic Order” and therefore not on an equal footing with the universal non-WO practice and tradition of the Church for the past two millennia.  The bishops also unanimously agreed “that there is insufficient scriptural warrant to accept women’s ordination to the priesthood as standard practice throughout the Province.”  The only acknowledgment that individual pro-WO dioceses received for their position is that they “have constitutional authority to ordain women to the priesthood.”  Note the wording: Constitutional authority.   Not Scriptural authority, not Ecclesial authority — both of which appear to have been accorded to the non-WO position, since the pro-WO attempt to provide evidence to the contrary on both counts was deemed “insufficient.”

Frankly, there is not much that the College of Bishops can do on their own to change the status quo.  The “dual integrities” position on women’s ordination to the priesthood was “established within our Constitution and Canons and, because we are a conciliar Church, would require the action of both Provincial Council and Provincial Assembly to be changed.”  It would thus be extremely difficult and time-consuming to change the ACNA’s constitutions and canons and formally eliminate WO to the priesthood province-wide.  But the Bishops do have the power to decide whether their own dioceses will or will not ordain women to the priesthood.  If every diocesan bishop should decide to reserve the presbyterate to men only in his respective diocese, ordaining women to the priesthood would then be de facto ended in the ACNA, constitution or no constitution.

I may be reading a lot more into this than is actually here.  Reading between the lines is a lot like connecting dots that aren’t numbered — and a good deal trickier at times.  I’m sure there will be others taking a stab at it and it’ll be interesting to see what results they come up with.

 

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