A couple of posts below I make the slightly radical suggestion that a way forward for the Anglican Communion would be to suspend Anglican Communion operations (committees, commissions, conferences) for twenty years or so and see what happens. Mark Harris has noticed this and (I think) assessed it as the wrong way to go. Fair enough, though I notice his way forward has a certain amount of prescription which to all intents and purposes implies some kind of covenanted restart to the Communion!
Either way, we are in a period of Anglican Competition: competing ideas for the way forward (muddle on, suspend operations, suspend even expel a member or two), competing proposals for how we might be bound together (Covenant or not, in Communion with the ABC or not), competing notions of what form our binding together might take (global church, communion, federation), competing groupings (GAFCON, Global South, TEC and its allies), and competing alternatives to Anglican-by-virtue-of-formal-membership-of-the-Communion (ACNA, Anglican Ordinariate).
It is very hard, I suggest, to see a way forward here in which the Anglican Communion as we know it currently is not considerably weakened. With each passing month we see further fragmentation and deeper disagreement. If 10 primates do not show up at the Meeting in January 2011 then we have a significant underlining of the crisis we are in. More importantly, their absence will almost certainly (based on past performance of the ABC in the presence of the PB) lead to no decision which clarifies the future of the Communion. It will muddle on, failing to grasp the challenge of formally suspending from membership either the protagonists or the antagonists in the present crisis, and lacking the power to insist that all member churches front up at the same table of discussion.
The way will open up for some form of GAFCON and/or Global South to pursue more vigorously a vision for global Anglican life which will be at variance with the vision (or, for that matter, lack thereof) of the official Anglican Communion. Bit by bit that vision - given a fair wind and some carefulness in articulation - will draw in other dioceses and parishes from around the Communion. Effectively the Communion will formally work in two tracks (even three) because there will be the track of the Communion itself (three quarters of the primates, roughly one quarter of the people membership) and the track of those not on that track.
It is not as though the vision of the official Anglican Communion, dominated by a progressive theological agenda, will not have some attraction itself. It will be supported, but it will be on a downhill slide as long as its major supporters are member churches in the Western hemisphere. Uniformly these Anglican churches are declining in numbers ... and numbers matter when it comes to some things: keeping churches open, paying for ministers, funding costs of administration.
Over time, my guess is that the present Anglican Communion will wither on the vine. A different Anglican entity will dominate in 2100. It will be closer in spirit and organisation to a global Anglican Church. It may be scarily fundamentalist. If there is some form of the Anglican Communion still in existence it will be like the SCM in our NZ universities: it still exists, no one knows how it keeps going, and it is virtually invisible.
Historians will look back and wonder why in the first part of the 21st century Anglicanism lost its way with irretrievable consequences as a catholic-and-reformed church, with a liberal heart. They will conclude that an unwillingness for any leading figure, apart from the ABC himself, to compromise was the principle reason for the demise of the Communion.