My previous post about a significant change to ACNA, a discombobulation which possibly heralds its disintegration, could be connected to some ongoing reflection on my part about the significance of last week's ACANZP General Synod in Gisborne via the word 'accommodation'. That word, I think I have previously written, was memorably offered to me as a one word description of the Anglican church over thirty years ago when I was a young student by a senior mentor.
Whether we think of the church in England drawing together its Celtic and Roman strands at the Synod of Whitby, or weaving its ways through 1549 and 1552 reformed liturgies towards its grand finale in 1662, or remaining intact in the 19th century as distinctive evangelical and anglo-catholic parties emerged, a hallmark of being Anglican has been 'accommodation'. A question in the twenty-first century is whether accommodation will continue to be a hallmark or not; and, if so, how large will be the accommodation?
There are Anglicans who are open and honest about wishing to forge an Anglicanism which is either not accommodationist, or is barely accommodationist. Thus we can circle the globe in a trend spotting satellite and observe some Anglicans intent on completing the Reformation in a Puritan direction (seemingly unaware that the Presbyterians got there before them!), others on undoing the Reformation with a revived English Catholicism which seems more Roman than the Pope himself (always puzzling evangelicals such as myself as to why they do not simply cross the Tiber), and then still others who seem to understand being Anglican as an uncompromising embrace of secular wisdom and pluralist spiritualities (seemingly unaware of the indistinguishability of what they believe from the manifestos of modern social democratic political parties). The same satellite will spot many Anglicans in groupings and networks in which a significant degree of accommodation does occur, in most of those instances involving happy campers, comfortable in the accommodation they have built.
From a distance the trouble with ACNA seems to involve a drawing together of Anglican groups/networks which do not understand being Anglican to be accommodating. Thus their version of Anglican accommodation will be a troubled house unless, fairly quickly, they can discover the virtues and advantages of accommodation.
What about my church, and the significant developments at our General Synod?
For some ten years now we have tried a somewhat novel formal experiment in accommodation: being a church of three tikanga, governed by a constitution which spells out clearly that we are such a church. When, at this most recent Synod, we (a) began a new conversation about resource sharing, underpinned by sobering statistics of a weakening congregational life in Tikanga Maori, and (b) accepted that three tikanga leadership (three heads of three constituent colleges attempting to lead one college) has come to an end for the institution, St John's College, which has been the flagship of "three tikanga life happening in reality on a daily basis", we effectively moved from one phase of this particular accommodation to another phase.
(This paragraph needs heavy prefacing with "in my view"!) General Synod may not have been aware of the fact that it signalled the end of that phase. But that is what happened. In the words of another person at GS, we are now going to be one church working in three tikanga, rather than a three tikanga church in which each of the tikanga has appeared to work in separate ways. The brutal fact, not quite spelled out at our GS, is that we do not have the people resources to sustain three tikanga operating separately as well as successfully. We have been asking, for instance, that two thirds of every whole church committee and commission be supplied from Tikanga Maori and Tikanga Polynesia, each of which, in "numbers on the ground", is less than a half of the size of our smallest pakeha diocese. My observation at this GS (having participated previously in GS 1996-2004) is that leadership replenishment is not occurring within Tikanga Maori and Tikanga Polynesia in a manner commensurate with the needs of Anglican mission among our peoples and islands in the twenty-first century. An urgent question is what development of mission and ministry is required to broaden the base from which future leadership will be drawn.
But all is not lost. Not by any means. But the means will be a three tikanga life different to the years 1990-2010. Just how this works out in detail is yet to be seen (though I have one or two suggestions to make), but the significant changes will begin at St John's College, and in the resource sharing commission GS has set up.
We need to recombobulate our own accommodation as Anglicans here. There will be pain. There need to be changes. They must be made. Otherwise the experiment we have been so proud of - perhaps too proud - will be judged a failure.