Reading through 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus (the Pastoral Letters), one can hardly fail to be struck by the recurring emphasis on sound teaching, warnings against false and deceiving teachers, and one might notice that some forms of confession of faith seemed to be incorporated into the writing (e.g. 1 T 3:5-6; 2 T 2:11-13; and, just maybe, Titus 3:4-7). This is 'striking' because other Pauline letters have less overt emphasis on these things.
That raises the question about the 'occasion(s)' of the Pastorals. What kind of discussions, debates and dialogues (if not diatribes) were taking place in the churches being addressed through Timothy and Titus which occasioned this 'confessional' emphasis? What level of divisiveness had occurred, or had looked like being imminent, which provoked the need to talk about sound teaching and to warn about false teaching?
Two things can be deduced by considering the Pastorals against the background of the whole New Testament. (1) Concern for confessional unity (knowing and agreeing on the truth as basis for fellowship) is not always present. (2) Sometimes concern for confessional unity is very urgent.
In the Anglican Communion today some seemed unconcerned about confessional unity (indeed a few argue vigorously against any notion of confessional unity within Anglicanism) while others are urgently concerned about it. Is our situation an occasion for concern about confessional unity or not?
If it is such an occasion then it matters little that confessional unity may not have been a feature of the Anglican landscape in the past. The past is not always helpful in guiding us about present situations. We who live in Christchurch know all about that: the absence of locally generated earthquakes prior to 4th September led us to believe we would not be troubled by such an earthquake. But the past deluded us and we were rudely awoken to a new reality!
It is scarcely credible that the Anglican Communion in this first decade of the 21st century is not facing a new reality compared to the preceding centuries. The question before us is whether we are responding appropriately to the occasion or not. The fact that we can entertain the possibility of formally admitting we are no longer united in one Communion, that, indeed, we might even accept that unity is no longer worth working for, suggests that we are in such a situation that we cannot, and should not rule out reconsideration of the importance of confessional unity for our future fellowship in Christ.