Women and Authority in the ACNA. Don't They Already Have It?

Discussion in 'Sacraments and Holy Orders' started by Justin Haskins, Apr 29, 2018.

  1. Justin Haskins

    Justin Haskins Active Member

    Posts:
    157
    Likes Received:
    45
    Country:
    United States of America
    Religion:
    Christian
    Hello All,

    I've long been interested in Anglicanism, but until relatively recently, I haven't lived in a place in which a regularly operating ACNA parish exists, and I never felt comfortable with the Episcopal Church, for a variety of reasons most of you could probably guess.

    As I've spent some more time recently investigating the ACNA, one thing struck me as rather surprising: Although the ACNA still doesn't allow the ordination of women to the office of Bishop, it does appear to give governing authority to women in the church. I found this very surprising given all the controversy surrounding women's ordination, so I'm wondering if I'm missing something.

    According to ACNA's Constitution, lay people are elected to serve in the ACNA's Assembly and its Provincial Council, the two bodies required to change the ACNA's Constitution. As far as I can tell, there are no prohibitions on women serving in the Assembly or in the Council, which means they already have the authority to vote on things like ordination standards, amending the Constitution, worship practices, and basically everything else, including the denomination's position on women ordination, the definition of marriage, etc.

    I was also surprised to see the ACNA's College of Bishops doesn't appear to have any authority over the Assembly/Provincial Council. This has led me to wonder: If women are serving alongside clergy in the Assembly and Council to make theological, governing decisions, aren't they already serving in governing roles and exercising authority over men in the church? Isn't that the primary objection many in the ACNA have to the concept of ordaining women to the Episcopate?

    What am I missing? Why is everyone in the ACNA OK with this but not OK with women serving as Elders or Bishops?
     
  2. Cameron

    Cameron Active Member

    Posts:
    147
    Likes Received:
    152
    Country:
    Newfoundland
    Religion:
    Catholic
    Before I give my two pence worth, I want to see what people more knowledgeable on the topic have to say. Our parish has grappled with this reality for a while.
     
  3. Justin Haskins

    Justin Haskins Active Member

    Posts:
    157
    Likes Received:
    45
    Country:
    United States of America
    Religion:
    Christian
    Thanks. I look forward to it.
     
  4. anglican74

    anglican74 Well-Known Member Anglican

    Posts:
    818
    Likes Received:
    651
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    Anglican (ACNA)
    Hmmm...

    Well the Assembly and Provincial Council are not autonomous governing bodies, but rather, they vote on laws and changes which the House of Bishops passes down

    The HoB meets in regular legislative session at least twice a year, not including extraordinary meetings such as the Conclave last September ... the deliberations they select are then passed down to the Assembly to vote on, then becoming law

    The Assembly meets once every 2-3 years? Or so

    The Chairman of the Provincial Assemblies is always the Archbishop, and Canon Ashey is the secretary and chief canonist..

    And the function/purpose of the Assemblies is to vote on the decisions of the HoB, not to propose the laws of their own

    Thus the House of Bishops is the ultimate governing authority in ACNA, and the function of the lay/clergy/bishops Assembly is to ratify the decisions of the House of bishops
     
  5. Justin Haskins

    Justin Haskins Active Member

    Posts:
    157
    Likes Received:
    45
    Country:
    United States of America
    Religion:
    Christian
    Really interesting. Thanks for the response!

    With all due respect, are you sure you're right about this? I've read the Constitution a few times, and I don't see anything in it about the College of Bishops proposing anything (see here: http://www.anglicanchurch.net/index.php/main/governance/). According to Article V of the ACNA Constitution, it's the Provincial Council that does the work you're describing above. The Assembly is then required to "ratify" it. The Council does include clergy, but half the Council is lay members. That means all the lay members and a minority of the clergy together could impose just about any requirements they want, including changes to the Constitution. The lay members and clergy each have one vote (it appears), and there's no prohibition on women serving in those roles.

    You say "the HoB meets in regular legislative session" but as far as I can tell, they NEVER meet in "legislative sessions," because they can't actually pass legislation. They can simply call for it to be considered by the Council/Assembly.

    You say "And the function/purpose of the Assemblies is to vote on the decisions of the HoB, not to propose the laws of their own," but that doesn't appear to be true based on the Constitution. The Assembly ratifies what is passed by the Council, not the College of Bishops.
     
  6. anglican74

    anglican74 Well-Known Member Anglican

    Posts:
    818
    Likes Received:
    651
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    Anglican (ACNA)
    I haven't read the Constitution at that level of detail, so you'll have to pardon my ignorance, as my main experience has just been in attending these meetings myself

    What this may reflect is a disconnect between the letter and the spirit of the laws governing ACNA, where the lived pattern is not fully captured by the official laws on the books

    You'll have to remember that there was no ACNA until 2008 making it literally just ten years old, so I would not be surprised if the laws do not fully capture the practical reality of ACNA legislation, and that several more amendments will have to be made to match the Constitution to the lived reality...

    What the lived practice consists of is the governance by the House of Bishops, meeting twice a year, and the deliberations they conclude forming the substance of the Assembly and Council, almost always in 100% ratifying it, and on rare occassion slightly tweaking it, at least the wording of it

    I can tell you is that I've never heard or seen either the laity or even the clergy, or even the bishops, propose substantial new legislation at Assemblies and Councils, and you can confirm this through watching the ACNA livestreams...

    ----


    So take something like the ordination of Women: To provide the theological basis for the discussion, Archbishop Bob Duncan established a theological taskforce... The Taskforce finished its deliberations in 2017 and issued a (muddled) report, and the Bishops met at the Conclave in September to decide if the situation was clear enough to make a final decision (pro or against)... They decided that the situation wasn't sufficiently clear and kept the WO question unresolved for now

    However the Final Report from the bishops has stated that Women's Ordination is not found in the Scripture or the Early Church

    There will be no opportunity for the Council to make a different conclusion than the ones the HoB has made in that conclave
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2018
  7. Justin Haskins

    Justin Haskins Active Member

    Posts:
    157
    Likes Received:
    45
    Country:
    United States of America
    Religion:
    Christian
    I'm very appreciative of this response. You're probably right about the disconnect between the practice and letter of the law. Thanks for pointing that out. I'll have think about this more.
     
  8. Shane R

    Shane R Active Member

    Posts:
    187
    Likes Received:
    181
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    Anglican
    With ACNA, there is the additional sticky matter of some of the constituent dioceses being more or less members of autonomous churches. The Reformed Episcopal Church is probably the most notable such entity, having its own constitution and canons and its own Prayer Book and Hymnal. CANA is another example, wherein they (according to some of my friends within the organization) are bound to the Nigerian canons. There was PEAR-USA, which was under the jurisdiction of the Rwandans until a couple of years ago when they yielded oversight to US dioceses. So, ACNA has its constitution and canons, but some of the constituents have dual allegiances.
     
    Cameron likes this.
  9. Cameron

    Cameron Active Member

    Posts:
    147
    Likes Received:
    152
    Country:
    Newfoundland
    Religion:
    Catholic
    I assume that the Anglican Network in Canada, also has its own canons?
     
  10. Shane R

    Shane R Active Member

    Posts:
    187
    Likes Received:
    181
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    Anglican

Share This Page