Saturday, July 4, 2009

A New Declaration of Independence

The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) has now organized, and nine of the 38 Provinces in the Anglican Communion have given it recognition, without waiting for the Anglican Consultative Council to act. (The Episcoleft still pats its collective back with the fact that the number of Provinces so recognizing ACNA is in a numerical minority, because they know that they control --- for the time being, at any rate --- the majority of Provinces in the ACC. The fact that those Provinces which have thus far recognized ACNA constitute nearly half of the world's Anglicans carries no weight whatsoever with them, because in their elitist liberal eyes, the people who make up those Provinces are "people who never were English, [and who] don't speak English as their native tongue", to quote one prominent member of ECUSA's Executive Council.)

Almost a year ago, when it appeared that everything was falling into place for the creation of what has since become ACNA, I put up a post in which I took the text of Mr. Jefferson's immortal Declaration of Independence and modified it ever so slightly to make it into a Declaration of Religious Independence. Using his descriptions of the tyrannical acts committed with respect to the Thirteen Colonies by the British sovereign, I provided links to descriptions of equivalent acts by ECUSA and its leadership. Just as His Excellency George III would not allow any dialogue or tolerate negotiations with the colonials, so has the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori refused to negotiate with those she regards as thieves and apostates who presume to cart off the parish silver at the same time as they refuse to recognize her authority. As is inevitable with the Internet, many of the links in that earlier post no longer work, and need updating.

Accordingly, now that ACNA has just finished its initial organizing convocation at Bedford Texas, and we are celebrating a real Fourth of July, it is timely to provide an update of that earlier post. I therefore dedicate the following remake of my earlier post to those who throughout the Anglican world, whether "in communion" with Canterbury or not, are steadfast in their resistance of the divisive and ruinous campaign in ECUSA and in ACoC to force the Anglican Communion to recognize and acquiesce in the tenet that all lifestyles are created equal, while all men and women are not. (Those who disagree are definitely homophobic and inferior, both mentally and culturally, and must therefore be hounded, derided, vilified and ultimately excluded from true Anglican society --see elitist remarks quoted above.) We are now at a watershed in the history of the Anglican Communion --- a time when the forces resisting the heterodoxy rampant within the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada can no longer be confined to the one-way mazes erected and maintained by those who demand from the Church a form of secular justice that is not its own to dispense. (As I so often have to remind those who come here, there are no civil rights which one can demand from God, who owes us sinners nothing.)

The forces of resistance are now more powerful than before, because they have organized into a single body. (And already those who have thus far not shied from disruption to achieve their ends are gloating that ACNA's "unity in diversity" cannot last.) The result is, for the first time in Anglican history, a genuine threat to the exclusivity of the franchises thus far held by ECUSA and ACoC. The new Province is a fact on the ground, and those who make gibes to the effect of "a Province of what Communion?" would do better to look to their own fading ties. The Church of England, on which ECUSA and ACoC have thus far leaned, is torn between the Scylla of ordaining women to the episcopate and the Charybdis of accommodating gays and lesbians while avoiding all forms of legislatively defined discrimination. Because it, too, cannot be all things to all Anglicans, it may split apart in the near future. Meanwhile, the stress on all the ties that bind Anglicans will be increased to the breaking point by the 76th General Convention that starts next week.

A Church that once turned all manner of backwards somersaults in order to be seen as faithful to its English origins (so that the bishops of the Church of England would not be dissuaded from consecrating bishops for them) now arrogantly presumes to call the tune to which all others must dance. Well, the dancers are leaving the floor in droves, and soon the orchestra may do so, too. ECUSA may own the dance floor, but after this next General Convention may find itself with few partners, and be forced to act as its own disc jockey.

A similar watershed was reached in times past, at a momentous point in the history of our country, and a document was created to memorialize the irrevocable resolve of its founders. That document---the Declaration of Independence---chronicled the abuses and misrule that led to the decision to throw off the King's yoke, and declared to all the world why George III had, by his actions, forfeited his exclusive franchise over the thirteen colonies.

There is no reason why a similar Declaration cannot be drafted now. In just the same way as King George's insults and abuses led our forefathers to declare themselves forever free of his polity, so the constituent members of the Anglican Church of North America, with the support of the Global South and the likewise newly organized Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, can declare themselves free of the polity of the Episcopal Church (USA) and of the Anglican Church of Canada.

Some of the members of ACNA, like the Reformed Episcopal Church, declared themselves free more than a century ago, while others, like CANA and Forward in Faith North America, have from their beginnings been free of ECUSA and the ACoC. However, because of their hitherto exclusive Anglican franchises in North America, ECUSA and ACoC have been able to date to keep these outside organizations from being recognized as constituent members of the Anglican Communion. Thus the chief purpose of a modern Declaration would be to state the reasons why the franchises of those two churches can no longer be regarded as exclusive, and should be declared forfeit for their betrayal of the trust which the Communion extended to them at the outset. At the same time, a new Declaration can lay the foundation, if need be, for a new and independent Communion which will not have to be defined through the aimless dithering of the ACC and Canterbury.

In putting together the following exercise, I was constantly surprised at how Thomas Jefferson's words could be applied with very little change (once the document had been adapted as a religious, rather than a secular, declaration) to the offenses committed by the leadership of The Episcopal Church. (ACoC readers can easily substitute their own indictments.) Not all of the links below are serious, but most are, and as a whole they bear out the fact that the time has now come to begin the separation that must inevitably occur following the carefully pre-orchestrated outcome of General Convention 2009. Accordingly, with Mr. Jefferson's classic text as a model, here is what such a contemporary "Declaration of Independence" looks like:

The unanimous Declaration of the Anglican Church in North America

WHEN in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the religious bands which have connected them with another, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these religious truths to be self-evident, that all Christians are baptized equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, which is Salvation by Grace through Faith.—That to secure these rights, Churches and their Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from God and from the consent of the governed.—That whenever any Form of Church Polity becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it; and to institute a new Church, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most conducive to their Salvation and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Churches long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such a Church, and to provide new Guards for their future security.—Such has been the patient sufferance of these who are now united as Members of the Anglican Church of North America; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Church Polity. The history of the Presiding Bishop and General Convention of The Episcopal Church is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over Anglicans in America. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

They have refused their Assent to Resolutions affirming the basic Tenets of the Christian Faith, the most wholesome and necessary for the good of the body religious.

They have forbidden their Dioceses to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till their Assent should be obtained.

They intend other Laws demanding the payment of assessments by the Dioceses, unless those Dioceses would relinquish the right of Representation in the General Convention, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

They have called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant, so that the requisite majority needed for action could not attend, for the sole purpose of fatiguing the members into compliance with their measures, adopted without the required number of assents.

They have deposed Bishops and Priests repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness their invasions on the rights of the Dioceses and Congregations.

They have obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing their Assent to Presentments for violation of the Church Canons.

They have made Bishops dependent on their Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

They have erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

They have established among us, in times of peace, Standing Committees without the Consent of any duly noticed Diocesan Convention.

They have affected to render the Presiding Bishop independent of and superior to the Canons that embody the Discipline of the Church.

They have combined with others to subject us to a theology foreign to our tradition, and unacknowledged by our scriptures; giving their Assent to the teaching of false doctrine.

For Quartering large bodies of clergy preaching and celebrating open sin among us:

For protecting them, by unscriptural enactments, from being excluded from ordination, or from deposition once ordained:

For cutting off our bonds with all parts of the Anglican Communion:

For imposing Immorality on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury through the abuse of the "Abandonment of Communion" Canons, and through new canons proposed for adoption:

For forcing us to look beyond the Seas for adequate pastoral oversight, and for denouncing and hindering our every attempt to do so:

For abolishing the free System of Canon law in the Diocese of San Joaquin, and establishing therein an Arbitrary Church government, so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into other Dioceses:

For taking away the right freely to amend our Diocesan Constitutions, falsely construing our most valuable Canons, and thereby altering fundamentally the Forms of our Church Governments:

For suspending our own elected Ecclesiastical Authorities, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate and execute for us in all cases whatsoever:

They have forfeited and abdicated their exclusive Anglican franchise here, by declaring us out of their Protection and waging War against us.

They have squandered our reserves on wasteful proceedings at law, laid claim to our properties, seized our bank accounts, and destroyed the Lives of our people.

They are at this time plotting new resolutions and legislation for the next General Convention, to complete the works of desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy of the Head of a Christian religion.

They have constrained our fellow Bishops to bring charges against their Will, to become the deposers of their friends and Brethren, or to be deposed themselves by their Hands.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Primate, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free Church.

Nor have We been wanting in attention to our British brethren, from whose Church we were born. We have warned them from time to time of the attempts by The Episcopal Church to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too---especially their Archbishop of Canterbury---have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in Oppression, in Faith Friends.—

WE, THEREFORE, the REPRESENTATIVES of the Anglican Church in North America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of our Churches, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Churches, Dioceses and their Members are, and of Right ought to be FREE AND INDEPENDENT of The Episcopal Church in the United States of America and of the Anglican Church of Canada; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to or Dependence upon the said Churches, and that all political and canonical connection between them and those Churches, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent members of their own Anglican Communion, they have full Power to organize themselves as they deem fit, conclude Covenants, recognize and bestow Orders, establish Relationships in Communion, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent Churches may of right do.—And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


  1. Where does TEC get the idea that it can be the only representation of Anglicanism in North America? This is the church of God, not a business franchise.

  2. I think TEC believes the ACNA doesn't have a prayer, but the Brits were wrong in their estimation of the power of freedom back in the 1770's. I suspect TEC will be proved wrong as well. Unfortunately, for a period of time brother will be set upon brother, loyalists against rebels, each calling the other "rebel."

  3. Dear Mr. Haley,

    You wrote, "The Episcoleft still pats its collective back with the fact that the number of Provinces so recognizing ACNA is in a numerical minority, because they know that they control --- for the time being, at any rate --- the majority of Provinces in the ACC."

    This is a bold statement which, if it were actually true, would be a distressing statement about the Anglican Communion. Having made such a statement, please give us the benefit of the eveidence.

  4. Father Weir, I do not intend to avoid your question, but to respond to it in the detail it demands would take this post too far off track. (That's why I put the original remark in parentheses.)

    Suffice it to say, for the present, that the outcome of the recent meeting of ACC-14 provides the practical, if not the legal, evidence for my statement. The Appendix to the St. Andrew's Draft had presented the major stumbling block prior to the current Ridley Cambridge Draft presented to the meeting. However, only a minority of provinces, including ECUSA, ACoC, Brazil, Ireland and Wales had spoken specifically beforehand against the Appendix to the Covenant before that part was substantially modified in the Ridley Draft in order to address their concerns. (See the collected responses to the St. Andrews Draft.) One expected, therefore, that at most still five of the 35 provinces represented at ACC-14 would be against sending the revised Ridley Covenant to the Communion for an up-or-down vote.

    But that was not to be. Through their control of the Joint Standing Committee, ECUSA and its allies managed to prevent one delegate from Uganda from being seated. With that show of power, they went on to manipulate the outcome (sometimes by a telling majority of just one vote) so that the Covenant was not passed on to the Communion at large for adoption, but sent into a black hole for "re-drafting" --- which guarantees that ECUSA will not even be able to take it up, if ever, until 2012. Had they not controlled a majority of the delegations assembled, such a result would not have been possible.

  5. Thank you for the response which I find unconvincing.

    As to the matter of the representative from Uganda, his being engaged in activity which the Windsor Report requested be ended, it is not surprising that he was not seated. All the representatives from ECUSA were not seated at an earlier meeting of the ACC in response to the WR, so this refusal seems unexceptional.

  6. Father Weir, I wonder why I am not surprised that I have failed to convince you. ;>)

    However, your analogy to previous events for the Uganda delegate is, I submit, wanting. The delegates who did not take their seats at ACC-13 did so voluntarily in response to an express request made by the Windsor Report, and backed by the Primates Meeting. The delegate from Uganda was excluded involuntarily in response to no request except that made by the Presiding Bishop of ECUSA to the Joint Standing Committee --- in direct contrast to the ACC's response when others made objections to ECUSA's seating a delegate in violation of the ACC rules at the 1999 meeting in Dundee.

    The "sins" of the Rev. Philip Ashey --- a solitary individual --- can in no way be equated with the violations of 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 by ECUSA, an entire church. Were they on a par, then there should have been a request to bar not just the Rev. Ashey, but the entire delegation from Uganda. That was not done; instead, the Presiding Bishop simply used the occasion to lash out at an individual priest who formerly belonged to ECUSA.

    The fact that you would equate the voluntariness of the 2006 request with respect to an entire Church with the involuntariness of the 2009 fiat against a solitary individual is, I would submit, rather indicative of the ongoing perception gap that divides the Global South from ECUSA and ACoC, even as we trade comments. You see no domination of the ACC at all, while those from Africa perceive a heavy-handed attempt to resurrect the overweening colonialism of earlier days.

    However, as I feared, we are going wholly off-topic with this debate over Anglican minutiae. I would rather hear from you about whether there are genuine parallels between the actions of ECUSA under +Griswold and +Schori, and the actions of England toward the 13 colonies in the time of George III.