A030, Renouncing, Releasing, And Removing

The ‘AKMA Canon’ won’t be considered at this year’s General Convention, as its proposers saw that they’d have to keep up with developments on Resolution A030 which, in effect, substitutes the verbs ‘release’ and ‘remove’ in the canons that used to involve ‘renouncing’ one’s orders. According to A030’s sponsors, ‘renounce’ seemed to carry a negative connotation (as my late father used to say, ‘Surprise! Surprise!’) and this is a more neutral formulation.
That’s all to the good, as far as it goes — but it still reflects a sadly narrow ecclesiology. We — many of us, anyway — understand clergy to have been ordained for ministry in a catholic church. As such, a deacon, priest, or bishop who has been duly ordained isn’t ordained solely with regard to the diocese or province within which the ordination occurred, but with and for the whole world. We understand that different expressions of Christian faith will treat our initial premise differently; Roman Catholics will not recognise Episcopal orders as valid, but Lutherans in the USA will, the Porvoo churches will recognise one another’s orders and sacraments, and Episcopal/Anglican churches around the world are presumed to recognise the orders of other Episcopal/Anglican churches. Such, at least, was the case until we started busily anathematising or just plain ignoring one another.
So although I took somewhat different ordination vows from those I’d have taken if Bishop Gregor had ordained me, the premise of ‘the Anglican Communion’ dictates that within this Communion, the oaths, vows, sacraments, and orders are fundamentally equivalent around the world. Up until the recent outbreak of eristic ecclesiology, Anglican/Episcopal churches suffered one another’s oddities with shrugs or winks or sighs, but without calling into question the familial relationship.
All of which takes the long way ’round to saying that when a priest in good standing moves from Keokuk to Oahu, she need only obtain ‘letters dimissory’ from her original bishop in order to be received as a full-fledged priest in residence on the sunny beaches. There’s no particular reason in principle that such should not be the case when one moves from Keokuk to Auchermuchty, or from Leicester to Llandaff, or from Lusaka to Kandy; Episcopal polity would imply that the collegial relation of one bishop to another suffices for assurance that Deacon Ferrar was well and truly a deacon, and could serve Bishop Harris as he had served Bishop Terwilliger.
So, to return to A030 and the AKMA canon, it would be desirable, both on behalf of those of us who move from one province to another and for the sake of sound catholic ecclesiology, that the US canons make explicit provision for the bishop’s entrusting an ordained person to the episcopal oversight of another bishop in another province — rather than lumping us in with clergy who truly want to renounce their orders, or who want (for more neutral reasons of which I can’t think one up at the moment) simply to be released from ordained ministry. A030 is better than making globe-trotting, missional (ooooh) clergy ‘renounce’ their orders; but obliging us to ask to be ‘removed from’ and ‘released from’ their vocational responsibilities and prerogatives still falls short of recognising that the Episcopal Church USA is a constituent part of a greater global communion, and that ECUSA clergy are ordained not just for a patch of turf between Canada and Mexico but for the whole world, and for all the ages.
My thanks to advocates for an AKMA Canon — maybe next triennium, eh?

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