By The Rt. Rev. William C. Wantland
As an Anglo-Catholic, I am most interested in the Constitution and Canons of the emerging Anglican Church in North America. I have had the privilege of being a part of the development of the Constitution and Canons, and can recommend them most strongly to Catholic Anglicans.
The Constitution embraces the Lambeth Quadrilateral (including all three Creeds, Apostles', Nicene and Athanasian), the Seven Ecumenical Councils and the Articles of Religion. It recognizes the doctrinal authority of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, but also recognizes the liturgical practices of other Prayer Books, includig the 1549 Book.
It protects the rights of parishes and dioceses in the ownership of property, rejecting the so-called trust provision of the Dennis Canon.
It also recognizes the right of a diocese to withdraw from the Province. As to the Canons, first, the Canons recognize that we embrace the faith "once for all delivered to the saints" of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic church. Next, the Canons recognize the ministry and duties of the laity as embracing the essentials of daily Catholic practice.
The Canons recognize the Sunday by Sunday celebration of the Eucharist, and that Baptism and Holy Communion are "Dominical Sacraments", giving recognition to the other Sacraments of the Church, specifically establishing the norm of Confirmation for children and adults after Baptism.
The Eucharist is to be celebrated only by Bishops and Priests, and no unbaptized person may receive Communion. Baptized members of other Churches may receive only if they meet the requirements of Article XXVIII, requiring a recognition that reception is a partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, what we commonly call the "Real Presence".
The Canons restore the Catholic teaching concerning Christian Marriage as a lifelong union of one man and one woman, restoring the impediments to valid marriage historically a part of Catholic practice enshrined in Anglican Canon and repealed by The Episcopal Church in 1973.
Remarriage after a civil divorce is permitted only if one of the impediments to a valid marriage is determined to have existed, or if the divorce is for the permitted circumstances in Our Lord's teaching in Matthew's Gospel, chapter 19, or St. Paul's exception in 1 Corinthian 7.
The Canons make it clear that sexual relations are permitted only between a man and a woman within the confines of holy matrimony. Fornication and adultery, including all homosexual acts, are prohibited. Further, the Canons affirm the sanctity of every human life from conception to natural death.
While the question of the ordination of women to priesthood or episcopate is a serious one, the Canons requre that all Bishops be male, assuring a universal recognition of validity in episcopal orders.
Further, each diocese determines at present whether to permit ordination of women to the priesthood. Over 3/4 of all dioceses in the Province do not ordain women to the priesthood and the Province cannot impose a change on any such diocese. There will be six jurisdiction in the Province which permit it, but an in-depth study of the matter will be undertaken.
The Canons on Ecclesiastical Discipline return to the procedures in place prior to the serious and dangerous amendments adopted by The Episcopal Church to create an opportunity for bureaucratic control. Depostion from the Sacred Ministry without trial is no longer permitted, and appeals are readily available, including a Provincial "Supreme Court" to avoid the unfair practices most of us have known.
Finally, there are only 33 pages of Canons for the Province, as opposed to over 170 pages of Canons for The Episcopal Church. The Canons are simple and easily understood, and they are far more acceptable to a Catholic Anglican.
---The Rt. Rev. William C. Wantland, is the retired bishop of the Diocese of Eau Claire (Wisconsin) and is assisting Bishop Jack Iker of the Episcopal Diocese of Forth Worth (Texas)