Tim Harris, writing at Hikanos, offers a reflection on earthquakes in the Anglican landscape:
"Yet an earthquake has struck the Anglican Communion, with its epicentre in a relative backwater region of New Hampshire in 2003. But the actual quake was much deeper, and the rolling series of aftershocks continue to be experienced. We are now well on the other side of the crisis event, but the enduring damage and realignment of the landscape is still with us."
His whole post is here.
David Virtue reports on an address given by an Orthodox metropolitan in the presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Included in the reported remarks of Metropolitan Hilarion are these:
""All current versions of Christianity can be very conditionally divided into two major groups - traditional and liberal. The abyss that exists today divides not so much the Orthodox from the Catholics or the Catholics from the Protestants as it does the 'traditionalists' from the 'liberals'.
"Some Christian leaders, for example, tell us that marriage between a man and a woman is no longer the only way of building a Christian family: there are other models and the Church should become appropriately 'inclusive' to recognize alternative behavioral standards and give them official blessing. Some try to persuade us that human life is no longer an absolute value; that it can be terminated in a mother's womb or that one can terminate one's life at will. Christian 'traditionalists' are being asked to reconsider their views under the slogan of keeping abreast with modernity.
"Among the vivid indications of disagreement within the Anglican Community (I am reluctant to say 'schism') is the fact that almost 200 Anglican bishops refused to attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference. I was there as an observer from the Russian Orthodox Church and could see various manifestations of deep and painful differences among the Anglicans."
"Today the notion of heresy, while present in church vocabulary, is manifestly absent from the vocabulary of contemporary politically-correct theology - a theology that prefers to refer to "pluralism" and to speak of admissible and legitimate differences," he opined.
"Indeed, St Paul himself wrote that 'there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval' (1 Cor. 11:19). But what kind of differences was he referring to? Certainly not those which concerned the essence of faith, church order or Christian morals. For, in these matters, there is only one truth and any deviation from it is none other than heresy." "
In other words, on analogy with earthquakes and fautlines, historic faultlines (Orthodox, Roman, Protestant) mingle with modern faultlines (traditionalist, liberal) and a post-modern view that there are no faultlines as such ('the notion of heresy ... is manifestly absent from the vocabulary of contemporary politically-correct theology'). Earthquakes may erupt at faultlines at any time, and as Tim Harris rightly observes, 2003 was such an occasion. Its rippling effects spread to fautlines between Anglican and Roman, and Anglican and Orthodox churches.
There is something else I notice here in the Metropolitan's reported remarks. I suggest he is touching on some other faultlines when he says,
"Some Christian leaders, for example, tell us that marriage between a man and a woman is no longer the only way of building a Christian family: there are other models and the Church should become appropriately 'inclusive' to recognize alternative behavioral standards and give them official blessing."
It is comparatively easy, at least within Anglican circles, to focus attention on 2003 in a binary manner: either you are for or against affirmation of gay Anglicans. One unfortunate consequence of this approach is the constant invoking of the term 'homophobia' to characterise those perceived to be 'against' affirmation of gay Anglicans. But the Metropolitan's remarks remind us that several faultlines are present in respect of human sexuality issues in our Communion.
I suggest these faultlines:
(i) The manner of welcome, inclusion and incorporation of Anglicans self-identifying as gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual.
(ii) The character of Anglican understanding of marriage and family: what might be fixed elements (e.g. the desirability that a family consists of a father and mother and children) and what might be flexible elements in that understanding, and, may that understanding be counted as 'doctrine' to be universally adhered to by Anglicans?
(iii) The ordering of our orders of ministry: should the traditional understanding that ordained ministers of the church are either celibate or married remain in place in every part of the Anglican world, notwithstanding significant societal differences in respect of singleness, marriage, and other 'marriage-like' partnerships?
Would it be helpful to observe these faultlines and then to see what bridges might be built across them, rather than to assume the faultline is of a different character?
It would be my hope that we could be united in overcoming the faultline around (i). I acknowledge that the divisions among us around (ii) and (iii) are of considerable width. The Metropolitan is correct when he implies that around (ii) and (iii) some Anglicans are closer to Romans and the Orthodox than to fellow Anglicans.