Friday, March 18, 2011

Anglicans in the Southwest seek to form a diocese


Robin G. Jordan said...

The geographical diocese is not as Phil Ashey asserts mandated by the Bible. The English Reformers would not have agreed with him. They found no mandate for any particular form of church governement in the Bible and no mandate for any particular form of church organization. They retained the diocese because it was what they were accustomed to. The diocese has its origins in the organizational structure of the Roman Empire. It was further shaped by Medieval feudalism, serving as a fiefdom for its bishop who was its feudal lord.

As for the diocese being missional, that assertion is highly questionable too. The diocesen organization has not proven itself very effective in missions over the years-certainly not in evangelism and church planting.

Jesus prayed that all who believe in him should be one as he and God were one. Ashey is really stretching the meaning of the passage when he claims that the highly priestly prayer is a mandate for organizing churches in the same region into geographic dioceses.

His final assertion that dioceses is the way "we have always done things" is the real bottom line. This is why he is promoting the organization of the ACNA into geographic dioceses.

Among the dsadvantages of the diocese is that, unless the churches in the diocese are homogenous in their theological outlook, it will invariably lead to competition for leadership in the diocese as was the case in the Episcopal Church. One group of churches may favor women's ordination. Another group of churches may be opposed to it. Ashey would force them together into the same diocese because they are in geographic proximity to each other. It is a formula for tension and eventual conflict.

It would be better for the churches in the ACNA to organize into affinity networks which can be organized regionally into episcopal areas, each with its own bishop. An affinity network is a network of churches that share a common theological outlook. It provides a buffer that dioceses cannot provide.

Affinity networks are how a growing number of the churches that are effective in missions are banding together to carryout the Great Commission.

Dioceses did not work well for the Episcopal Church. The ACNA is not going to any better with them. The ACNA is heading on the same trajectory as the Episcopal Church. We do not need a second Episcopal Church in the USA.

+Edmund said...

I don't know why you say that "dioceses did not work well for the Episcopal Church," as if they are a thing of the past. What hasn't worked well is Katie Schori's drive for power over the dioceses---a different matter altogether, I'm afraid.

Also, your assertion about "not needing a second Episcopal Church in the USA" needs to be backed up.

On a historical basis, I think that the diocese is an excellent way to administer the Church. Would you be more comfortable if they were called "counties" or "states"? That's your problem. I'm not interested in wasting time and energy catering to you.

Bow your head, accept our fathers' term of "diocese," and move on.

Also, as the "official" Episcopal Church in the USA is theologically dead and pastorally nearly so, something is bound to rise up to take its place. The liberal side has had fifty years, virtually unchallenged, in which to make its case. It is killing a patient that wasn't sick in the first place. The liberal case for Christianity is false, fraudulent, destructive, utterly toxic, and DEAD.

Of course, something else is going to rise up in its place---something without a death wish.

Why are you surprised, and why do you resist?

Why, in fact, are you not trying to forge the future?

Jacob Dunn said...

Robin G. Jordan,

There are many things that went into shaping how dioceses are created, and how they see themselves, including the Roman Bureaucracy, and Medieval feudal systems, yes. But also St. Paul organizing Christians into geographic communities, as the Canon said. It would be a shame, I think, to bring up the less joyful parts of history and ignore the more noble.

The Diocesan system has proven highly effective in expanding the mission of the Church, just not in the USA. In Nigeria, for example, they have recently planted more than 20 missionary dioceses, and expect to double the size of the province in the next decade. Just because TEC has failed to run dioceses well, it would be a shame to discredit dioceses entirely, when there are so many examples of success.

The Canon isn't suggesting that because Jesus prayed that we all be one, the logical conclusion is that we must form dioceses, that would be absurd indeed. He is, however, suggesting that congregations that are close together should come together for mission, which is an expression of Christian unity.

The challenges you suggest as part of the diocesan system are really present in any human government. Not because of the weaknesses of the system mind you, but because of the weaknesses of humans. However, I would suggest that one of the blessings of the diocesan structure is that it puts people together who would otherwise not come together. For example, there is much that the Forward in Faith people could learn from the AMiA folks, and vise-a-versa.

The ACNA doesn't object to affinity networks, examples would include the REC, Missionary Diocese of All Saints, the International Diocese, and others. Actually, MDAS looks a lot like the affinity networks you recommend, the name "diocese" aside. Yet even within dioceses, many have affinity networks, sometimes called "regions" or "districts" or "networks".

I second what Edmund said, it wasn't the dioceses that doomed TEC. It was a straying from the Christian faith. The Diocesan system has been part of the Anglican Church since its beginning. It has been part of all their successes and failures. There certainly are reasons to let the diocesan system go, AMiA for instance has done so. Yet the Diocesan system is normative for the Anglican Tradition, and it's no bad thing for the ACNA to encourage it.

Yours in Christ,

PS: Canon Ashley isn't forcing anyone to join a diocese, these congregations are voluntarily coming together to form it.

Robin G. Jordan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robin G. Jordan said...

I have posted a response to Phil Ashey on my blog Anglicans Ablaze entitled "Time to Think Out of the Box: Ecclesiastical Organization and Mission in the Twenty-First Century" and examining the validity of Phil Ashey's arguments and suggesting an important guiding principle for groups of churches seeking to band together for mission and to unite with the Anglican Church in North America. The article is the Internet at:

Robin G. Jordan said...

See also my article, "Mission Perspective: Why Form an Affinity Network?" on the Internet at:

An earlier article, "Affinity Networks," may be found on the Internet at

If the folks in the ACNA are themselves seriously trying to forge a church for the twenty-first century, they will want to give serious thought to the organization of the ACNA into affinity networks instead territory-based judicatories.