A report to the Anglican Association on the International Congress of Catholic Anglicans

By Fr. Stephen Keeble
Sept. 15, 2015

The first ICCA took place in the Fort Worth Hilton, Texas, from 13th to 17th July, 2015 and was attended by some 350 clergy and laity from around the world, although predominantly, for logistical reasons, from the US. It was the first Anglo-Catholic Congress since 1948, the very first having taken place in London in 1920.

There were over 30 bishops in attendance including the patrons Keith Ackerman, Bp Vicar at the Diocese of Quincy, and Michael Nazir-Ali, former Bp of Rochester. They also included Abp Valentino Mokiwa of Tanzania, Abp Steven Than Mynt Oo of Myanmar (formerly Burma), Bp John Hind, retired Bishop of Chichester, Bp Fanuel Magangani of Northern Malawi, Bp John Fenwick of the Free Church of England, Bp Paul Sobiechowski of the Polish National Catholic Church, and Bishop Ray Sutton of the Reformed Episcopal Church’s Diocese of Mid-America. There was a good representation of other bishops from the various continuing Anglican churches in the US: Abp Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), retired ACNA Abp Robert Duncan, Abp Mark Haverland of the Anglican Catholic Church, Bp Paul Hewett of the Diocese of the Holy Cross, Bishop Chad Jones of the Anglican Province of America and Bp Bill Atwood of the International Diocese – affiliated to ACNA, as are some of the other jurisdictions. From The Episcopal Church was Steven Peay, President and Dean of Nashotah House (a kind of Pusey House and St Stephen’s House rolled into one). Services took place in nearby St Andrew’s, Fort Worth, one of Bp Jack Iker’s churches in the Diocese of Fort Worth, which is also affiliated to ACNA. Bp Iker was unable to be at the Congress; he was in England at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.

The Congress was conceived to address the Anglican ‘ecclesial deficit’ reflected in the proliferation of Anglican jurisdictions – the latter a particular feature of North America. But the Congress was not primarily focussed on the North American situation. A key objective, clearly, was to draw the attention of GAFCON and Global South leaders to Anglicanism’s Catholic inheritance as an essential contribution to the unity of re-aligning churches within worldwide Anglicanism, and to the continuing positive role of Anglo-Catholics in various parts of the world.

The schedule was intensive with addresses, so-called breakout sessions in smaller groups, meals and other meetings punctuated and hallowed by Morning Prayer at 7.30 am, Choral Eucharist at 11.45 am and Choral Evensong at 5.30. All services were in the Prayer Book tradition.

A major contribution to the success of the Congress was Bp Nazir-Ali’s early morning studies on the Epistle to the Colossians. The other main fare consisted of six keynote addresses: Abp Mokiwa on ‘Frank Weston and the Foundations for Revival’ – relating the concern of the great fourth Bishop of Zanzibar to meet the practical as well as spiritual needs of people and the impact this had in the conversion of Muslims to Christianity; Bp Ray Sutton on ‘The Theology of Real Presence’; and four addresses touching more closely on the title and subtitle of the Congress ‘One Church, One Faith, One Lord’; ‘Restoring the Conciliar Church and Her Mission’.

These were, in order of delivery:

Dr Edith Humphrey – New Testament Professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and convert from Anglicanism to Antiochene Orthodoxy – on ‘The Nature of the Church: Apostolic, Conciliar and Concrete’.

Dr Humphrey began by quoting father of Roman Catholic biblical modernism Alfred Loisy who, in 1902, said ‘Jesus came preaching the Kingdom and it was the Church that arrived’. For those such as Loisy the institutional church is at best an embarrassment, at worst a liability. But, said Dr Humphrey, it is a mistake to place a wedge between the Kingdom and the Church.

She spoke of ‘the failure of the Protestant experiment’ as ‘major denominations implode and novel communities multiply like rabbits’, but there was also a newfound interest in the Great Tradition of the Church, with people asking What is the Church? Where is she found? What are her characteristics? The Church, she said, is rightly seen as Apostolic, Conciliar and Concrete.

The Church is Apostolic: Jesus appointed 12 apostles. Their primacy is a present reality. With the apostles mission and ecclesiology come together. On apostolic succession, she quoted Orthodox theologian John Meyendorff:

‘Just as the Apostle Peter is the rock upon which the community is built, in the same way every bishop becomes the rock of his community. For St Cyprian, St Gregory of Nyssa and Dionysios, all the bishops are successors of Peter. … The agreement among bishops is a sign of the faith of Peter.’

The primacy of the apostles and the bishops consecrated by them, said Dr Humphrey, is of the esse of the church and not merely the bene esse – of its being rather than its well-being. Cut flowers severed from the root or even put in a glass of water can only survive so long.

The Church is Conciliar: The Church is catholic and the bishops are peers. To be conciliar concerns how we live. Sometimes this entails consultation and decision-making. She used as an example God’s revelation to Peter that the Gospel is for Gentiles as well as Jews, and the reception of this truth by the Church in Jerusalem. Conciliarism involves the whole Church receiving and assenting to what has been formally enacted by those in primacy. There are seven Ecumenical Councils recognised by the historic churches of East and West and, she was glad to be told, also Forward in Faith, North America!

The Church is Concrete: We are called into membership of the Church, we are not invited to dabble at ‘being church’ minus the definite article. The Church is a given and objective reality rather than an ethos or a mode. It is not an organisation for autonomous Christians. It is not a tree with branches representing irreconcilable differences or an invisible ideal. The Church is concrete, an actual connection with the Lord, the apostles, our bishops, one another, the saints and the angelic host.

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali on ‘The Necessity of Unity in Truth for the Church’s Mission’.

He began with Jesus’ High Priestly prayer in St John ch 17: ‘that they may all be one, as you are in me and I in you, that they may be one in us’. This is not a unity of aggregation. Jesus also prays that his disciples may be sanctified in the truth. Jesus, in this prayer, says that God’s word is truth.

Bishop Nazir-Ali asked ‘What must be the basis for our unity?’ and picked out four things of contemporary importance:

i) Language about God. With the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate we are facing demands for the Church to revisit its language about God. The Bible and Church tradition speak of God as ‘Father’, and it is impossible to understand Jesus’ self-consciousness without reference to his understanding of himself in relationship to his father ‘from whom all families on earth are named’ (Eph 3:15). If that were changed to ‘mother’ it would be doing violence to that which is integral to our understanding of the truth of revelation.

God is also spoken of as King, ruling over his kingdom. Queen can be a controversial term. What kind queen would God be? There are Old Testament warnings to God’s people not to be seduced by various goddesses purporting to be Queen of Heaven. God is spoken of as Husband to his people. To call God the wife of Israel would convey a very different meaning.

This call to revise the language of the faith has made Bishop Nazir-Ali ‘more seriously aware of what we have done in the Church. We have created the conditions of full-scale revisionism, not just of order in the Church, but our very understanding of revelation.’

ii) Our doctrine of man. Men and women are created together for the care for and use of the creation.

iii) Sexual differentiation and complementarity. There is increasingly a radical attempt to blur this distinction. We must affirm the goodness of sexual differentiation and what arises from it in terms of marriage, how fathers and mothers relate to their children, etc.

iv) Christians and society. We cannot subscribe to a contractual view of society as a creation by individuals. We are given society in God’s creation. Where God’s people find themselves in hostile societies they are not to opt out. Sometimes they must sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land (Ps 137:4).

Bishop Nazir Ali then asked ‘What makes the Church? His answer was ‘the passing on and receiving and passing on again of the Apostolic Tradition from generation to generation, from person to person, from one culture to another’. When questions arise whether something is apostolic teaching or not, the Anglican answer has been by appealing to the Scriptures – part of the flow of tradition, but the normative part. The Anglican tradition was fortunate at the Reformation in retaining both this sacred deposit and the sacred ministry. They are closely related for an authentic teaching of the Word of God.

To continue in truth we need to gather – for Eucharist, for prayer, for consulting together. Some kinds of gatherings are also for making decisions. In the nineteenth century, when American and Canadian bishops asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to convene a general synod of the Anglican Communion to make certain kinds of decisions he ducked the question because he was advised by lawyers that it might compromise the royal supremacy. This led to the Lambeth Conference, as something not for decision-making but consultation. Even that served its purpose for over 100 years. We don’t know if there will ever be another Lambeth Conference.

The mistake of the Church of England has been to confuse its gatherings with parliamentary gatherings. We cannot reach the consensus fidelium we ought to be able to reach. We have confused this with democratic majorities. The Apostolic Tradition is not about counting votes. The reception of the faithful is indicative of the strength of the pronouncements of those authorised to pass on the tradition but the legitimacy of the Apostolic Tradition does not depend on reception by the faithful.

Bp Nazir-Ali thought it unlikely that the renewal of the Anglican Communion will come by ‘fiddling with institutions’. It will come, rather, as a genuine movement of the Holy Spirit. We are to look for movements of renewal in spirituality, mission and worship before looking for institutional solutions. The Congress, he said, was an example of the movement of the Holy Spirit, ‘a kind of miracle’. The same was true of the first GAFCON conference in Jerusalem. If GAFCON were wise it would remain more of that kind of work of the Spirit than a development of institutional structures.

Finally, in response to a question about how long things can continue as they are, Bp Nazir-Ali said ‘Living together (with revisionists) is already proving difficult, if not impossible. The primates are unable to meet. There is no interchangeability of ministry. All those signs of ecclesial communion have not quite disappeared, but are disappearing fast’.

Bp Keith Ackerman delivered Canon Arthur Middleton’s paper on ‘Restoring the Anglican Mind’.

There are, said Canon Middleton, two competing religions in the Church of England: a secularised one based on experience, and another based on divine revelation, revealed in Scripure and interpreted in tradition; holy orders being part of this divine revelation.

Women’s ordination reduces holy order to functionalism, alters God’s plans for holy order, and ignores our paramount duty to the universal Church. The Church of England and other provinces of worldwide Anglicanism, in ignoring the historic formularies, are not being true to the Anglican Mind and there is a resulting process underway of ‘creeping schism’. 100 years of improved ecumenical relationships, in particular with the Roman and orthodox Churches, have been squandered.

The way back from the secularised mind is via the Anglican way, embracing the prescriptive sources of faith and order found in Canon A5 which states that ‘the doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thiry-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal’.

Canon Middleton suggested eight resolutions to this effect:

i) To pursue the Anglican way by upholding Canon A5.
ii) To assert the authoritative doctrinal character of our Anglican formularies.

iii) To recall Anglicans to the revival of neglected truth and principles of actions which had been in the minds of our predecessors of the seventeenth century.

iv) To uphold and elucidate the doctrines of the Catholic faith as Anglicans have received them.
v) To resist today’s new and insidious erastianism.
vi) To work for the unity and truth and holiness of all Christians and as Anglicans to bring our own characteristic contribution as our fathers have taught us according to the apostolic doctrine and polity of our Church.

vii) To bring recognition to the reality that the way of salvation is the partaking of the body and blood of our sacrificed Redeemer by means of the holy sacrament of the Eucharist.

viii) To be on our watch for all opportunities to inculcate a due sense of this inestimable privilege to provide and circulate information, to familiarise the imaginations of people with the idea to attempt to revive among churchmen the practice of daily common prayer and the more frequent participation in the Eucharist.

Bp John Hind on ‘Anglican Catholics and the Future of Ecumenism’.

A former Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, John Hind is a veteran of ecumenical dialogue but ‘my ecumenical efforts’, he said, ‘have been spectacularly unsuccessful’. Ten years ago the idea of a covenant helped temporarily to steady Anglican-Roman Catholic relations and might have added a more ecclesial dimension to the Anglican Communion itself, but the Church of England and others, especially in the west, rejected it.

True ecumenism, he said, is not about divided churches seeking unity, but about how the one Church fills the whole world and how each part or local church makes the whole visible. ‘There can no more be an individual Church than there can be an individual Christian’. We are all directly accountable for our role in perpetuating divisions.

He spoke rather of ‘Anglican Catholics’ than ‘Catholic Anglicans’, as the adjective qualifies the noun rather than vice versa. ‘I take Anglican Catholics, or Catholic Anglicans,’ he said, ‘to be members of communities which, for a variety of reasons, owe their present existence to the particular shape of Catholic Christianity rooted in the sixth century mission of Rome to England and the ways in which that tradition has developed both before and since the Reformation’.

Dom Gregory Dix commented on the crisis in the mid third century when ‘there had been a time of confusion until it became clear who was in communion with whom and then matters sorted themselves out.’ It was in the midst of that crisis that Cyprian of Carthage described the Roman Church as ‘the chair of Peter, the principal Church whence the unity of the priesthood took its rise’. Elsewhere Cyprian wrote ‘Upon one he (Jesus) builds the Church, and then to all the apostles after his resurrection he gives an equal power and says “as the Father sent me, even so send I you”. Yet in order that he might make clear the unity, by his authority he has placed the source of the same unity as beginning from one. Certainly the other apostles were what Peter was: endowed with equal fellowship and power, but a beginning is made from unity, that but one Church of Christ may be shown.’

Cyprian saw every bishop as sitting in Peter’s chair, yet he also had a very clear sense that Jesus had historically constituted Peter the foundation of the unity of the apostolic college, and that the Roman Peter is the guarantor of the unity of the episcopate. This did not prevent Cyprian from being robust when he saw the Bishop of Rome overreaching himself. Bp Hind asked, in the title of a book of a few years ago (Peter McCord, 1976), can there be ‘a Pope for all Christians’?

The official Anglican commitment to full visible unity is now holed below the waterline. Our quasi-parliamentary consistorial bodies make it absolutely impossible for the Anglican Communion to resist the zeitgeist. If God has given Peter to the Church as a centre of unity, who will secure our orthodoxy?

We must commit ourselves to holiness, particularly in the areas of sex, time and money. But we have to ask ourselves why, having prayed so long for unity, it hasn’t happened. The Father never gives his children stones when they ask for bread. Perhaps we have spent too much time with a particular view of what we want.

In Conclusion

After the closing Eucharist on 17th July a Statement, prepared by a working group and offered for consideration in draft the afternoon before, was read to the Congress. The patrons, Bps Keith Ackerman and Michael Nazir Ali were responsible for its final form, taking into account comments submitted after the first hearing. The revised Statement was accepted by acclamation.


Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Anglican Family, the Global South, the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) movement, and all the faithful seeking a conciliar Church:

The International Catholic Congress of Anglicans, held July 13-17, 2015, at St. Andrew’s parish of the Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, of the Anglican Church in North America, gathered to reaffirm a catholic and conciliar doctrine of the Church. The Great Commission of our Lord directs the Church to make faithful disciples, calling them out of the nations of the world to be holy to the Lord. This statement seeks to sketch out the way forward in fulfilling our Lord’s call to make faithful disciples in the context of a properly conciliar Church.


The Greek word for church, ekklesia, identifies these disciples corporately as “the called One.” The Gospel of our Lord therefore identifies this one holy people, the Church, as integral to salvation for all, so that the Church Fathers and the Reformers of the 16th century, echo the great African Bishop, Saint Cyprian, who said: “outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation,” and, “no one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as mother.” God calls out a people, rescuing them from sin and death, assuring them that they will participate in Christ’s reign, the Kingdom of God. Indeed, it is impossible to know the Lord, who calls out of darkness and into His marvelous light, without being joined to His one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Through preaching, the sacraments, catechesis, and spiritual formation, worshiping in Spirit and in truth, the Church is able to make disciples by being faithful to the Apostles’ teaching, the breaking of bread, the prayers, and the fellowship.

As the body has no life apart from the head, so the Church has no life apart from Christ, whose Spirit is the Lord and Giver of life. However, churches and the culture in the West are in crisis. Secularism pervades both. In many places, Islam seeks to replace the Church and radical Islam persecutes her. Unprincipled egalitarianism eviscerates language, liturgy, life, faith, and orders of a divided Christendom. A culture of death is evident in abortion and euthanasia, and a tragic and unnecessary sexual confusion shapes the paradigms of young and old. What does the Church say? Where does she stand, and with whom? A deficient and aberrant ecclesiology is not simply a result of the present crisis in Church and culture, but is rather a primary cause for the current crisis, and deserves the attention of all catholic Christians.


For the Church (the ekklesia) to act, she must know who she is: what is she called out to be? The Church is called into synodality – to come together, to worship, to live in communion with the Holy Trinity, and to mirror the life of the Holy Trinity. This implies the conciliarity of the whole people of God, responsive to the Blessed Trinity, and participating in God’s “heavenly synod” as the Church Catholic gathered around God’s authoritative Holy Scriptures and the Apostolic Tradition. In this, she is to be the Church on earth as she is in heaven. Perhaps the clearest example of this is the First Ecumenical Council (A.D. 325). The Bishops encircle the emperor’s throne with the copy of God’s Holy Word on it, seeking the mind of Christ, searching the Scriptures daily by the power of the Holy Spirit. This perfectly expresses both the authority of the Word of God written and the authority of the Church.

As the “called out ones,” the Church consists of parts and individuals, made into a whole. This is the meaning of the Greek word “catholic” (kata holon “according to the whole”). It speaks of wholeness and integrity. The people of God are to live, be, and function as the whole Church Catholic of all ages in true worship, living out the Gospel in apostolic doctrine and communion.

Continuity with the whole Church of heaven and earth for all ages (by the expression of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ in worship, witness, belief, and behavior) marks and identifies this conciliar life in synodality. For Anglicans, this continuity is expressed in the common confession of the Catholic Creeds and Ecumenical Councils at which they were formed and clarified.

St. Vincent of Lérins describes this in the true, Christ-centered, biblical, confessing, and conciliar sense when he says that the Church upholds “what has been believed by all, everywhere, and at all times.” This is the essence of kata holon, “according to the whole.” When the Church is healthy she is able to come together in the Great Tradition of Eucharistic-centered worship around God’s heavenly throne that touches earth. As the Church is at holy rest in God’s presence in worship, it becomes a holy people following the unchangeable teachings of Scripture as understood by the Church of all ages and as bearing on the urgent issues facing the world today. Worship as communion with the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of all ages then erupts into the world with one voice, bearing witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ’s glorious Gospel.

However, when the Church drifts from historic faith, order, and morals, the opposite is true. Indeed, is this not what has happened in the Anglican Communion? There is an inability even to gather the historic Lambeth Conference due to this brokenness. Sinfulness has impeded the ability to convene in Holy Synod. The time has come for faithful Anglicans to reclaim the apostolic and Scriptural catholicity, conciliarity, and will, and to come together as a globally obedient witness in Holy Synod, where bishops, clergy, religious and laity can meet together to consult and decide important matters, with each exercising the role proper to them.

In a conciliar Church, bishops hold a place of primacy as servants of the servants of God in succession from the Apostles, who were consecrated by Christ Himself to lead the Church into the Truth of the Holy Scriptures by the power of the Holy Spirit. “Where the bishop is, there is the Church,” and “wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also be” (Saint Ignatius). At the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) the Apostles, in consultation with the presbyters and through prayer in the power of the Holy Spirit, resolve a great doctrinal and practical problem through synodal action. The whole Church, clergy and laity, decide how the decision is to be communicated to churches and Christians around the world. Thus bishops, clergy, and laity all participate in the Church’s synodality, which is effected through the gifts and work of all.

Mutual synodality, however, does not allow the Church “to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another” (Articles of Religion, XX). The ancient Church Fathers and Councils considered apostolic and biblical order, faith, and morals by definition to be unchangeable. Thus, when the people of God gather in synod, they do so in order to receive, discern and follow “the Faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), in communion with the Lord Jesus Christ. Such Councils find the mind of Christ that has been and always will be. The realized goal of conciliarity is that the Church speak in true, orthodox unity to the world with the mind of Christ. As Jesus prayed just before entering the Garden of Gethsemane, this oneness that He has with the Father, and seeks to have with His Church, brings true belief, obedience, mission, and spiritual awakening to the world (John 17).


Thus, the International Catholic Congress of Anglicans met to address and to model a global, realigned, and fully orthodox doctrine of the Church. This Congress is committed to walk in conciliarity with all Christians who embrace the Catholic Faith—and who allow the Faith to embrace them. A conciliar model of the Church is essential to the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. The ancient sees of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, and the faithful in communion with them, along with Anglicans, Lutherans, and various expressions of Protestantism, each have God-given charisms to be given and received by all—uniting them in ultimate synodality for the discipleship of all the nations of the world to Jesus.

Only an Apostolic and conciliar Church can properly allow for such giving and receiving of gifts for the people of God and for the salvation of the world. Indeed, no one part of the Church can stand firm against the world, the flesh and the devil without the other parts. Because of her core ecclesial difficulties, the Church has insufficiently addressed other causes of further demise both within culture and the Church. There are assaults from without such as virile secularism, militant Islamic persecution, sexual confusion, and the redefinition of matrimony from God’s created order upheld by Christ as a lifelong sacramental union between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9). From within there are departures from a Biblical, Catholic faith and order, heresy, liturgical chaos, and failure to call for repentance from sin.

These subsidiary crises, allowed to proliferate through ecclesial lapses, have further fragmented Anglicans globally. Some of the faithful have hoped for the best in the church homes of their youth, others have formed the “Continuing Churches,” or have maintained the Faith in particular jurisdictions. Primates, bishops, clergy, and laity in each of these have struggled valiantly to maintain the historic Church, but the fragmentation continued, and distance between the faithful increased.

God has, however, been moving among Anglicans in an extraordinary way; recent years have seen significant realignment emanating, for example, from GAFCON and the Global South. Yet only with a healthy conciliar ecclesiology will there be movement toward one another in true unity. This Congress recognizes that a proper doctrine of the Church is critical, requiring the attention of all faithful Anglicans.

Now therefore, to fulfill the Great Commission—and to realize further ecumenical relationships within the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church—true unity must surpass mere federations and coalitions. This International Congress invites all Anglicans throughout the world (a) to a re-examination of the doctrine of the Church and (b) to a further consideration of areas of continuing ecclesial contention, for instance, the ordination of women, deemed by some to be a first order issue. This is necessary so that there may be a revival of Catholic Faith and Order, and a return to a biblical, credal, and conciliar fidelity. Only through honest discussion, ongoing prayer, and ultimate agreement will faithful Anglicans discern fully what God is doing in the great realignment taking place globally. This International Congress prays also that in God’s good providence there will be a truly Ecumenical Council of the whole Church to address contentious issues facing Christians and churches and to strengthen the faith of the Church.


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