Reading some reactions to the Poon paper, to say nothing of a comment or two here, I am struck by the amount of fear that talk of the Communion becoming a church generates. Interesting! But it would also be fair to say that a continuing line of rebuttal is that there is nothing wrong with the Communion as it is: a fellowship of national churches, none beholden to the other, all able to make appropriate decisions in their local contexts. We are fine as we are, thank you very much.
I will put off making comment myself on Michael Poon's paper for a day or so, and make a few observations here about the idea of the Communion becoming a worldwide church:
(a) 'the Communion is not a worldwide church' is a doctrine to suit the occasion: it was noticeable recently when the Ugandan parliament, with some church support, was moving towards a draconian law against homosexuals, there was a tremendous amount on international Anglican interest in persuading the Anglican Church of Uganda not to support this proposed law. Apparently that member church of the Communion was about to make an inappropriate decision in its own local context and needed to be told so by a body of opinion larger than itself.
(b) the arguments against the Communion becoming a worldwide church are noticeably negative in the headline and poorly thought through in the substance: it would be like Rome, it would be without precedent, it would mean we would all have to believe the same things. What happened to Anglicanism's unique ability to create and forge its own singular identity? Why would a worldwide Anglican church look like the bits of Roman Catholicism that we do not admire? (Would it be a bad thing if we looked like the bits of Roman Catholicism which we do admire?!) What is it with the 'no precedent' argument when Anglicanism's history is full of new precedents being created? Would it be such a bad idea to believe everything together? That used to be a definition of orthodoxy! And, why is it that there is a version of Anglicanism that insists that we all believe in diversity, tolerance, reading from the same lectionary around the world, and the virtues of local autonomy? That version gets a free pass by critics of the possibility of a worldwide Anglican church! Incidentally, try critiquing aspects of the uniform version of Anglicanism and see what the Anglican Magisterium does to you in response!!
(c) The one positive argument against the idea of a worldwide Anglican church is that everything is fine with Communion life as it is. But that is palpably absurd. As various commenters have observed from time to time here, our Communion is and has been for a long time an impaired Communion. We have an incoherent set of Instruments of Unity - none held to be primary over the others, only one with a constitution and representation from bishops, clergy, and laity, and the most important one (in my view) only meeting every ten years (and the last time it met, assiduously avoiding making any resolutions). While it is most unfortunate pastorally that the presenting issue through this decade which is most on our minds concerns human sexuality, the simple fact is that we have an issue on which we are divided and are struggling to find common ground on which to stand together in fellowship. The unwillingness, on several sides, to find a way forward, suggests that the Communion does not mean a fellowship of member churches, but a set of churches with a history of togetherness and a future of dispersal, unchecked by concern to hold more rather than less in common.
Do not worry, those who are fearful of the Communion becoming a worldwide church. It cannot happen if Anglicans do not want it to happen.
But my argument here on this blog is that the Communion is finished if it does not intensify its common life. Like any marriage, our relationships with one another cannot stand still, we are either growing forward into greater oneness or growing apart towards separation.