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Should TEC be concerned about CoE’s recognition of Free Church of England?

Should TEC be concerned about CoE’s recognition of Free Church of England?

The Church of England has recognized the orders of the Free Church of England according to Thinking Anglicans. Is this cause for concern or not? From the Church of England press release:

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have recognised the Orders of the Free Church of England under the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967. The Measure gives the Archbishops authority to determine whether the Orders of any Church are ‘recognised and accepted’ by the Church of England.

The recognition of the Orders of the Free Church of England follows approximately three years of contact between the bishops of the Free Church of England, the Council for Christian Unity and the Faith and Order Commission, which recommended that the Orders of the Free Church of England be recognised. That recommendation was subsequently endorsed by the Standing Committee of the House of Bishops…

What is the Free Church of England?

According to Anglicans Online they are not in communion with the Anglican Communion.

The Free Church of England (see also Reformed Episcopal Church)

The first congregations of the Free Church of England were formed in 1844 by members of the Church of England anxious to uphold the doctrines of the Anglican Reformation as expressed in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion and the Book of Common Prayer, which many Evangelicals felt to be under attack from the Oxford Movement. A Constitution was adopted in 1863. In 1876 a branch of the Reformed Episcopal Church was established in the UK. The two denominations cooperated closely and united in 1927. The united Church is a member of Churches Together in England and is a Designated Church under the Church of England’s Ecumenical Canons. There were official conversations with the Church of England in the mid 1990s. The provision of modern language worship has been approved and a process of drafting and authorization is under way. The episcopal succession derives originally (but not solely) from the Reformed Episcopal Church. Only men are ordained to the historic Orders or admitted as Readers. (emphasis by Café)

Why was this group’s orders recognized? Some comments from Thinking Anglicans:

I was only moderately concerned about the CofE’s recognition when I first learned of it. (I was not happy with the absence of women among the Free Church of England’s clergy.) Reading the tortured explanation of the church’s “Anglicanism,” however, has raised my concern. Touting one’s relationship with ACNA as evidence of one’s Anglicanism is profoundly wrong-headed.

Justin Welby should—but I suspect won’t—make it clear that ACNA is not a member of the Communion and will remain outside it as long as The Episcopal Church wants to remain a part of the Communion.

Posted by: Lionel Deimel on Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 1:07pm GMT

There’s something not quite right here. The first Free Church of England congregations were formed in 1844. Why is it only now that they are seeking recognition of orders?

This will set an uncomfortable and unanswerable precedent for the C of E when it comes to the Anglican Church of North America and any requests they may make. The House of Bishops are sleepwalking into what is prospectively a very divisive situation.

Yes, Lionel I agree, the new Archbishop of Canterbury needs to make clear that the ACNA is not a member of the Communion … but like you I doubt whether he will.

Posted by: Concerned Anglican on Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 1:45pm GMT

What do you think. Cause for alarm? or not?


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tobias haller

Elizabeth is spot on. This is not about the recognition of a church or a welcome into the Anglican Communion (which at the least, to my mind anyway, requires a change to the schedule of membership maintained by the ACC). It is about permission to function as a cleric in the C of E.

Elizabeth Anderson

I don’t see any problem here at all, as recognition of orders is a very different thing from full communion. We recognize, for example, the orders of the Catholic and Orthodox churches (even though they do not recognize ours) and we would not re-ordain people that they have ordained. This seems to simply be the equivalent of that. The article does say that if clergy from the Free Church of England want to serve in the Church of England they would still need permission and perhaps additional training. They just would not be re-ordained. For that matter, I’m pretty sure that basically the Episcopal church DOES recognize ACNA’s orders as well, given that we changed the language in our canons from “renunciation of orders” to the language of “release and removal”. I don’t know if we have had any situations to test that yet, since I’m not sure if anyone ordained in ACNA has yet sought to enter the Episcopal Church. However, if it hasn’t happened yet then it almost certainly will at some point, and it is worth thinking through what our response would be. I would assume (and hope) that we would recognize their sacraments, however, including ordination. If schism were enough to render sacraments invalid, we would all be in some pretty serious trouble…..

Bruce Robison

Ah. If only there were some sort of, oh, I don’t know–let’s call it a “Covenant.” Some process, some structure of relationship, that would build on mutual values and understandings of communion to permit a careful dialogue on the implications of situations like this . . . .

Bruce Robison

Morgan Hickenlooper

And, if the ACNA should affiliate with the Free Church of England, what tangled Web would then be woven insofar as recognition of the former and it’s affiliated clergy in the US by TEC? By Canterbury? By the Anglican Communion?

TEC belongs to itself, not the desperate old dream of empire that is the CofE’s “headship” of the failed communion. I suspect they’ll get a dreadful shock if they try to make some sort of attempt to hand our parishes over to breakaways.

-Mark Brunson

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