By Jason G. Antonio
Canadian bishops may license priests from the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), should they choose, after receiving clarity about what it means to bring in clergy who are “in good standing.”
Delegates to the Anglican Church of Canada’s General Synod in Calgary, Alberta, discussed a motion to amend Canon XVII — on the licensing of clergy — on the last day of a busy synod.
A second reading is required in 2025 to approve the changes to Canon XVII, but bishops are free to call ACNA clergy now, as discussion in the Order of Bishops made clear.
The ACNA was founded in 2009 by bishops, priests, and congregations who left the Episcopal Church because of differences on same-sex marriage and other matters of theology.
According to the motion, “in good standing” means a bishop, priest, or deacon is not “inhibited from, suspended from, deprived of or deposed from ministry due to a disciplinary matter, and who has not relinquished or abandoned the exercise of the ordained ministry without being reinstated thereto.”
Chancellor David Jones moved the motion and General Secretary Alan Perry seconded it.
Delegates approved the amended motion, with two-thirds of each order — laity, clergy and bishops — in favor.
Targeting ACNA Clergy
The motion’s definition of not being “in good standing” — specifically, those who relinquish or abandon their ordained ministry — could have targeted priests from the ACNA, Bishop Joey Royal said during the discussion.
This was problematic since the Diocese of the Arctic struggles to find ministers, the ministry demands are heavy, and the organization is under-resourced. Moreover, the motion harms Northern and Indigenous communities the most.
“I really don’t want our hands tied as far as who we can and cannot license,” Royal said, adding that he hoped the motion didn’t forbid ACoC bishops from hiring ACNA priests.
Jones shook his head, replying, “What paragraph 1 does is to add a definition of good standing. It doesn’t relate to the entity [with which] the person would have been in good standing.”
Royal asked whether ACC bishops would violate that language if they hired and licensed ACNA clergy.
“There may be other concerns. But … as long as they were in good standing with the entity you described, this would not affect what we’re talking about because this is a definition of good standing,” Jones said. “I understand the Anglican Church in North America is not somebody whose orders we’ve recognized, but that’s a different issue. This is purely about good standing.”
The archbishops of Canterbury and of York recognize ACNA’s orders, Royal pointed out, as they have since 2017.
The discussion about licensing clergy lasted almost an hour, with most delegates speaking against the motion.
Stephen Connor of the Diocese of Quebec opposed the motion, pointing out the message delegates heard continually during General Synod focused on the sharing of ministry, resources, capacity, and expertise. This motion contradicts that message, while it would imperil the parishes in his diocese.
Recalling a conversation he had with Bishop David Parsons of the Arctic, Connor said that the ACC “needs to be about expansion and not repression or regression.”
Bishop Lynne MacNaughton of the Diocese of Kootenay also opposed the motion since it in her diocese it jeopardized two of the oldest shared ecumenical ministries in Canada — over 55 years — and two of the newest such ministries, all with the United Church of Canada.
“That kind of fluidity about how we create a Christian identity in small communities, I see this as … regressive,” she said. “It sets us back in terms of the shared ministries we have and the ones we’re working towards (with organizations like the United Church).”
Bishop Dave Greenwood of the Diocese of Athabasca thought the motion was “a solution looking for a problem,” a statement with which numerous other delegates concurred.
In the end, when the motion passed, some concerns still remained, but delegates had received some clarity from the chancellor about its scope, and the most disputed elements had been removed.