This morning I had the opportunity to ask Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker a few questions.
Some Anglo-Catholics have deep misgivings about GAFCON, particularly its emphasis on the 39 Articles and the 1662 Prayer Book. They are wondering if there is going to be any place for them in this new coalition, and if it will be one where they are merely tolerated. What do you say to people who are suspicious of GAFCON’s accommodations of Anglo-Catholics?
Bishop Iker: GAFCON has a definite evangelical flavor about it, and this has been so from the very beginning with the selection of the planning group. However, the leadership of the movement is committed to being sensitive to the needs of Anglo-Catholics in the formation of the province in North America that is now underway. As a minority group in the Communion, Anglo-Catholics have often been ignored, ridiculed or criticized, and it is understandable that many of us have certain misgivings about the future of the GAFCON movement based upon past realities. That being said, while it is clear that there is no future in The Episcopal Church for traditional Anglo-Catholics, there will be a secure, respected place for us in the province being birthed. Our theological perspective and liturgical practices will be permitted, protected and honored. Our succession of catholic bishops will be secured.
It is important to remember that the direction of the province that is envisioned will be under the Common Cause Partnership, and for this reason, we must look primarily to the wording of Theological Statement agreed upon by Common Cause some time ago. There are some slight differences in wording and emphasis in that document from the final statement that came out of the Jerusalem meeting. Suffice it to say that Anglo-Catholics in the future will continue to regard the 1662 Prayer Book, the 39 Articles, liturgical practices, and the Councils of the patristic church just as the Oxford Movement did under Pusey, Keble, and Newman, our fathers in the faith.
Here are a few quotes from the Common Cause Partnership Theological Statement that deserve careful comparison with the relevant parallel parts of the final Statement on the Global Anglican Future.
“5. Concerning the seven Councils of the undivided Church, we affirm the teaching of the first four Councils and the Christological clarifications of the fifth, sixth and seventh Councils, in so far as they are agreeable to the Holy Scriptures.
6. We receive The Book of Common Prayer as set forth by the Church of England in 1662, together with the Ordinal attached to the same, as a standard for Anglican doctrine and discipline, and, with the Books which preceded it, as the standard for the Anglican tradition of worship.
7. We receive the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1562, taken in their literal and grammatical sense, as expressing the Anglican response to certain doctrinal issues controverted at that time, and as expressing the fundamental principles of authentic Anglican belief.”
A careful comparative reading of the two similar documents will be illuminating. I would conclude with the following quote from the Common Cause Theological Statement:
“The Anglican Communion,” Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher wrote, “has no peculiar thought, practice, creed or confession of its own. It has only the Catholic Faith of the ancient Catholic Church, as preserved in the Catholic Creeds and maintained in the Catholic and Apostolic constitution of Christ’s Church from the beginning.” It may licitly teach as necessary for salvation nothing but what is read in the Holy Scriptures as God’s Word written or may be proved thereby. It therefore embraces and affirms such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the Scriptures, and thus to be counted apostolic. The Church has no authority to innovate: it is obliged continually, and particularly in times of renewal or reformation, to return to “the faith once delivered to the saints.”
To be an Anglican, then, is not to embrace a distinct version of Christianity, but a distinct way of being a “Mere Christian,” at the same time evangelical, apostolic, catholic, reformed, and Spirit-filled.”
This is where we are headed with Common Cause, and Anglo-Catholics can joyfully and confidently be a part of the same.
What are your thoughts on the Church of England’s decision to consecrate women to the episcopacy? Will it have any effect on your plans for the diocese of Fort Worth?
Bishop Iker: The decision itself was not a surprise, as the C of E has been moving in this direction for several years. What is a surprise - as well as highly offensive and deeply disturbing - is the refusal to offer any safeguards that would provide for a secure future for traditional Anglo-Catholics within the Church of England. The dictatorial, heavy hand of liberalism shows its ugly side once again. “Get with the program, or get out!”
It will have no effect on our plans in Fort Worth, at least not in the immediate future.