THE General Synod is being asked next month by a lay representative from Chichester diocese to “express the desire that the Church of England be in communion with the Anglican Church in North America” (ACNA).
The private member’s motion is being proposed by Canadian-born Lorna Ashworth, who wants to “give Synod an opportunity to hear about the unfair treatment of people who have continued to maintain the Anglican faith in doctrine, practice, and worship”. She refers to Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh, Bishop Henry Scriven, and the Revd Dr James Packer among the 491 clergy inhibited or deposed in legislation estimated to cost $30 million.
The motion is “not about interfering in the polity of other Anglican provinces”, Ms Ashworth says in her background paper. She questions whether the use of the canons for solving property disputes or deposing bishops and clergy in both the Episcopal Church in the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada has “in every regard been proper or in accordance with natural justice”.
It is “not acceptable” that those who have not left either of those Churches for another jurisdiction should be “deposed without canonical process because of what they might do, or that they should be formally advised that they have abandoned their ministry when they have done nothing of the kind”, Ms Ashworth suggests.
Of the 83-year-old Dr Packer, she says: “It is ironic as well as hurtful that a man who, as a young priest, was a doughty defender of the inheritance and doctrine of the Church of England against its detractors should be presumed to have abandoned the ordained ministry.”
The Bishops of Blackburn, Exeter, and Winchester will host a lunchtime meeting at the Synod on Tuesday 9 February, at which members can “quiz loyal Anglicans” from the US Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.
The General Synod’s Secretary General, William Fittall, has supplied a seven-page background note on the ACNA, which was set up in June last year and says that it has 100,000 members in the US and Canada.
The note offers “material on how new provinces are admitted to the Anglican Communion, how the Church of England has entered into communion with Churches outside the Anglican Communion, and how episcopally ordained ministers of some Churches which are not in communion with the Church of England can be permitted to minister”.
Bishops were said at the pre-Synod briefing on Monday to be producing an alternative motion. ACNA did not respond this week to requests for comment.
Jim Naughton, former Canon for Communications in the Episcopal diocese of Washington, said on Tuesday: “My primary concern about this motion is that it would set a bizarre precedent that would encourage schismatic activity in other provinces.
“When you look at ACNA’s numbers, then subtract the folks who were never Episcopalians to begin with, you see that they’ve spent millions of dollars to draw away about three per cent of our Church. That sets the bar for the quasi-recognition that is being discussed awfully low, and can only encourage similar splinter groups — who may be upset about other issues — to take similar initiatives.
“Passing this resolution, or one like it, will make it harder for the Covenant to get a fair hearing in the Episcopal Church.”