Regular readers will know that Judges is one of my favourite books of the Bible. A gentle work of direct revelation, it speaks of a time and society with values exactly like our own. Indeed, I’ve often considered the account in Chapter 19 of a Levite who hands his concubine over to be pack-raped and then afterwards carves her into 12 pieces has the makings of a tremendous Broadway musical, although for reasons I’ve never been able to understand my sola scriptura colleagues always seem to prefer I don’t raise this passage when campaigning for compulsory Bible reading in schools.
So it’s with a heavy heart that I discovered the Communion's latest road-show, Little Bobby Duncan and the ACNA Experience has chosen to ignore the core message of this part of Our Sacred Canon – that without some form of centralized authority things devolve into chaos.
To see what I mean please take the time from your otherwise irrelevant lives to examine the finally released list of ACNA dioceses. Yes, for those of you who had doubted, it not only achieves their earlier claim of 28 dioceses, but exceeds it, listing 29 – although I’m not too sure what to make of a diocese with only 510 congregants, and since the criteria seems pretty hazy I can’t for the life of me see why things weren’t just split up some more to create thousands of dioceses, which would really have shown the apostate TEC a thing or two.
Yet regardless of how many dioceses they end up with, the point is that the lines of authority between those dioceses is about as clear as Don Armstrong’s personal account-keeping – and five of them are listed as being “in formation”, which mans they don’t even exist yet! What’s going to happen when, for example, one of little Bobby’s congregations in Pittsburgh decide they no longer like girl-cooties and what to join an AMiA cluster? Or if at some point in the future the Rwandan primate (the real one, not a faux-Rwandan) should through some strange work of the Spirit detect a certain hypocrisy in the fact that while his national church ordains women to the Priesthood, his faux-Rwandan bishops will only do so to the Diaconate, and decides to order his U.S./Canadian “mission” to display a little consistency? What then? What’s the difference between the “Anglican Diocese in the Southeast” and the “Diocese of the Southeast”, and can a minister and their parish flick between them according to whoever’s currently offering the best deal?
Four times the Book of Judges reminds readers that "there was no king in Israel in those days" (Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25) by way of an explanation for the anarchy it recounts: in the absence of any clear structure of leadership there was no rule of law. Much of Anglicanism’s historic success have been due to its ability to place check and balances on extremists of any persuasion; the reason clergy like me can’t attain the income of, for example, Kenneth Copeland or the reach of the delightfully named Creflo Dollar is because we have been called to serve with a hierarchical framework which imposes a measure of control upon our ministries and schemes. This leash attached to our collars may at times be restrictive, but it also helps stop us from running out into the traffic and getting bowled over by a passing truck, and – even worse – from taking our congregations along with us. As a system of church governance Episcopalianism has its flaws, but a predilection for serving cyanide-laced Kool-Aid has never been one of them. Under ACNA I'm not certain the old restraints will remain.
Far from bringing a “New Israel” to North America, ACNA looks suspiciously like reintroducing a very old one. My recommendation is we all give thanks we’re not Layperson Minns’ concubine.
I’m Father Christian and I teach the Bible.