Friday, October 15, 2010

Can we be a bigger something rather than lots of small somethings?

I appreciate very much that some correspondents here are committed to a pure Anglican Communion of churches. By 'pure' I mean being faithful to a particular vision, so the inclusive TEC which ++Jefferts Schori has recently been promoting could be as pure an Anglican church as, say, the AAC of Bishop David Anderson (recently cited here). Their commitment is so great that sometimes they comment to the effect that if the price of this purity is that some current members of the Anglican Communion cease active, meaningful membership then 'so be it,' or, alternatively, if those committed to a certain purity of church life must leave the AC, then 'so be it.'

On certain days, as I survey the Communion via the blogosphere, it seems much more likely than on other days that sometime soon - it could be as early as February 2011 - there will be a final confirmation that the Communion is irretrievably broken into several entities. Whether this brokenness is the Communion minus TEC but not including ACNA with the Anglican churches in Britain and Ireland in an uproar, or the Communion minus a block loosely matching Global South, with Australia and the Church of England (at least) in an uproar, or even a Communion without both TEC and Global South, and churches such as my own deeply confused, matters little. The general historical claim that the Church of England enlarged into a global communion is worthy of entering into dialogue with Rome and the Eastern Orthodox churches as a sister church, a solid branch in the great ecclesial trunk, will be in tatters.

Oh, yes, some Anglicans will be very happy with this situation. 'The Anglican Communion is not a church' crowd will be happy. As will be the 'Anglicanism stands for inclusivism' group, and the adherents of 'True Anglicanism means being faithful to, indeed furthering the unique vision for a reformed church of the English Reformers.' Yes, quite a few Anglicans will be comfortable with a Communion in disarray, so long as their vision for purity has been fostered, forwarded, and unfettered from the millstones and dragnets holding it back.

But there are some Anglicans - it might just be me and a couple of others!! - who are not at all happy with what (today at least) looks highly likely: a broken down Communion consigned to the wrecker's yard, never to emerge again! So, again, I ask, what would it take for us to stay together?

On my analysis here it might mean that we resolve to give up our small ambitions about fostering our vision of pure Anglicanism. That we seek, instead, to ask what does an episcopal church look like which incorporates global diversity without being constrained by a papal-topped hierarchy, which seeks to be faithful to Scripture and its teachings, consistent with the orthodox tradition of the early centuries and resistant to the accretions of those centuries which led to the Reformation, and which seeks to be liturgically true to its orthodox faith, respecting both the great ancient liturgical tradition of the undivided church and the particular English tradition expressed in the BCP (1662). Then, of course, we would have to be resolved to find a way forward from this common commitment which holds us together rather than drives us apart into insignificant fragments. That way forward is costly.

Might it be worth paying?

If we will not have a pope to direct us in that way, could we have a grand church council instead?

14 comments:

David |Dah • veed| said...

Peter, in your description, I do not see a place for the majority of folks from the so-called Global North, Westernized Episcopal churches to stand.

We are led by the Holy Spirit to honor the baptismal covenant and provide a place at the table of all of the baptized, including the sexual minorities modernly excluded by much of your definition of the Anglicanism you want to see.

And we are not open to having that voted away by a majority rule in the concilarily lead Anglicanism you envision.

Peter Carrell said...

In a way, David, your precisely exemplify my point! North American, Westernized Anglicanism would not want to submit to a global council ... but that would not be the only expression of Anglicanism which (I suspect) would not do so either. So, my question is, are we destined, quite soon, to break up into a series of small Anglican networks (one of which may formally retain the notation 'Anglican Communion')?


Of course a global Anglican council might have another outcome than the one we (i.e. our particular bit of Anglicanism) fear ... could we take the risk of placing ourselves in a decision making process in which the Spirit leads us out of the morass?

Andy S said...

What does it matter, Anglican churches are in the process of making themselves entirely irrelevant as they navel gaze instead of preaching the Gospel.

You don't have to look far to see empty decaying churches that attract nobody and why would they?

2 Timothy 3

1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;

5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,

7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andy S
There are lots of Anglican churches, in all parts of the world, which are not empty, and certainly not decaying.

The question I am pursuing here is not about the relevance of St Swithins in the Marsh to its local community but whether the conglomerate of Anglican churches has any semblance of being a 'church' or 'communion' which has some relevance to the world!

David |Dah • veed| said...

No matter what else you do to appease the Romans and the Orthodox, such as throw all the sexual minorities under the bus, unless you throw women's ordination out the window, they shall never accept you lot. Hell itself would freeze over first!

Perhaps we shall see some new alliances form Peter. I realize that we of the liberal Anglican Westernized Global North churches have much more in common with our Westernized Global North Lutheran and Old Catholic brothers and sisters, than we do any longer with the Anglican Puritans of the Global South.

A curious thing occurred. The (Lutheran) Church of Denmark refused to sign the Porvoo Agreement in 1992, after walking the entire journey of its development, because the Church of England had no women's ordination. But now that the CoE has not only women deacons and priests, but is well on the road to female bishops, the Danes bellied up to the table, pen in hand, and signed on 3 OCT!

TEC is already in full communion with the ELCA and AC Canada with the ELCiC, as well as the Old Catholics individually and through the AC. Perhaps there can be a liberal confederation grow from these three historic church groups.

BTW, you lot can have +Rowan until he retires because he threatened the Swedes the same way he threatened TEC, when they consecrated +Eva Uppsala.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
Ultimately a breakdown of the Communion could lead to a series of new alliances in the Protestant world, loosely around "liberalism" and "conservatism" poles. My question for the Northern/Western alliance around liberalism would then be: how long do you think you will be a significant alliance?

I ask this question because here in NZ progressive Protestantism is showing some signs of serious decline. It might be too early to pronounce it is terminal, but its days appear numbered.

David |Dah • veed| said...

I ask this question because here in NZ progressive Protestantism is showing some signs of serious decline. It might be too early to pronounce it is terminal, but its days appear numbered.

Do you have statistical info that backs that claim or is that your gut optimism? Because the info in the US, Canada and westernized Europe is that the fastest growing affiliation group is none of the above. I would be inclined to believe that westernized NZ was in a similar situation. Also in North America, the young folk are not following in the footprints of their Puritan parents in the Calvinist evangelical churches. They do not have issues with the sexual minorities in their midst. They do not join their parents in the heterosexism, homophobia, racism and anti-immigrant sentiments.

North American, Westernized Anglicanism would not want to submit to a global council

Submit Peter, no. Participate in a consensual body around a table where all retained their autonomy and unique perspective to carry the Gospel to their constituents? Name the time and place and we will be there with bells on! But you see we are already members of a such a body, called the Anglican Communion, with the Anglican Consultative Council. However, the Anglican Puritans no longer find that to their liking because they do not have the authority that allows them to throw folks off of the Anglican Island.

But you know what, Anglican Puritan movements never survive. After they have thrown everyone to their dislike into the fiery pit, they turn to cannibalism and start eating one another, (ACNA's weird groupings are already at it) because pharisaical groups are made up of the self righteous who can never agree on all of their judgmental rules and regulations, or live up to one another's demands.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
(Briefly) I hope a grand Anglican council would seek a consensus. I do not have the confidence you have in the ACC: e.g. I do not see out church's representatives as representative of the breadth of our church; whereas I do think that when our bishops go to a grand Anglican council they do represent the breadth of our church. I agree with you Anglican Puritan movements!

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
To take this thread on a slight different track, I think what is far more important for the Anglican Communion is to sort out its confessional basis, rather than change its structures. If we had a common framework for what we believe and proclaim, and a Christ-like attitude of mutual submission, then our current structures could serve us well.
The foundational step would be to agree that the 39 Articles or the Jerusalem Declaration or even the Covenant defined our confessional basis. The next step would be to agree that in matters affecting multiple provinces, we submit to the opinion of the Lambeth Council of Bishops (note the name change!), and the Primates in the intervening years.
Whatever structure we choose, it will only work if we have a common understanding of the apostolic faith, and a commitment to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Peter Carrell said...

I think the Covenant, Andrew, would be a better basis for a confessional core to 21st century Anglicanism ... many Anglicans say they have no disagreement with the first three sections of the Covenant, whereas both the 39A and the JD seem to excite vigorous disagreement...

David |Dah • veed| said...

whereas both the 39A and the JD seem to excite vigorous disagreement...

Not to mention the latter 2/3s of his second paragraph!

David |Dah • veed| said...

From Sunday's LA Times;
Walking away from church
Organized religion's increasing identification with conservative politics is a turnoff to more and more young adults. Evangelical Protestantism has been hit hard by this development.

Kurt said...

And, it's interesting to note that a recent Nielson study on the Episcopal Church shows that web sites that most discuss TEC are web sites that deal with mothering.

You see, that 30% of young people who say they have no present affiliation, are thinking about the question of affiliation. As parents, they want to raise their children in a tolerant church--not a Puritan one. Those who scoff at the numerical "decline" of TEC may be singing a different tune in the next 20 years!

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Howard Pilgrim said...

That's a very interesting link to the LA Times article, David. I have never subscribed to the propaganda line that only conservative churches are attractive to younger people, which would make my own liberalism a symptom of my senile decline!

Like you, I am passionate about wanting to be part of a church that makes the faith credible to new generations, including my own children and grandchildren, and this aim necessarily includes full inclusion of gays and women. This is not about wanting to be avant guard, at the progressive cutting edge, or taking advantage of any other popularity-driven trend. It is simply about credibility and truthfulness - with myself first, then with those I love most nearly, and finally with all those around us seeking God in the 21st century. It is that century and its spiritually needy multitudes that is speaking to us through the survey reflected in the LAT article.