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Bishop MacDonald: ‘Catholicity Is At Stake’: TLC 12.01.09 December 1, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Canada, Living Church, The Episcopal Church.
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First published in The Living Church magazine.

The Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald has questioned Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s assertion that he must renounce his orders as a bishop of the Episcopal Church because of his ministry in Canada.

The former Bishop of Alaska and Assistant Bishop of Navajoland now serves as the Anglican Church of Canada’s National Indigenous Bishop.

Bishop MacDonald told The Living Church he was “shocked and surprised” by the Presiding Bishop’s remarks on his ministry, adding that he has “written to her asking for clarification.”

“I am on loan to the Anglican Church of Canada under the PB’s supervision. I have an unofficial position, with no set authority or jurisdiction,” he said.

“I was in conversation” with the Presiding Bishop “well before I took the position” in Canada, Bishop MacDonald said. “I had never heard at all that this would be seen as a de facto renunciation of my orders.”

The question of Bishop MacDonald’s orders arose after the Rt. Rev. Keith L. Ackerman, SSC, wrote to Bishop Jefferts Schori that he wished to serve as a bishop in the Diocese of Bolivia. She responded to Bishop Ackerman on Oct. 7, writing that “as you know there is no provision for transferring a bishop to another province,” and releasing him from his orders as a bishop of the Episcopal Church.

Through her press officer, Neva Rae Fox, the Presiding Bishop has declined to answer questions about the orders of Bishop MacDonald and other bishops serving outside the Episcopal Church. On Oct 22, however, she sent an email message to the House of Bishops regarding Bishop Ackerman.

“We have been and will be consistent regarding our canons, which clearly state that The Episcopal Church can accept the ministry of a bishop of The Episcopal Church functioning temporarily in another province of the Anglican Communion, when it is clear that that province does not seek to undermine or replace the ministry of this Church,” she wrote, although she did not cite which canon forbids such an action.

“Such temporary duty requires the full and informed consent of the respective ecclesiastical authorities,” the Presiding Bishop wrote. “The ministry of Mark McDonald is an example, but as his position becomes permanent, his loyalty will have to be to the Anglican Church of Canada, rather than The Episcopal Church, and a recognition of his renunciation of orders in this Church will be necessary.”

Bishop MacDonald sees no such necessity. The Rt. Rev. Edward Leidel, retired Bishop of Eastern Michigan, “is more official than I am,” and is a congregational coach in the Diocese of Huron, Bishop MacDonald said, noting too that the Rt. Rev. Walter Jones, the former Bishop of South Dakota, became Bishop of Rupert’s Land from 1983 to 1993. Neither bishop had to renounce his orders.

“I would like to see clarification from the PB on this issue,” he said. “There has to be a better way. I would like to see our canons embody the understanding of the catholicity of the church.”

The “indelibility of orders is not the issue,” Bishop MacDonald said. The “Christological doctrine of the catholicity of the church is at stake.”

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