Friday, February 18, 2011

Blast from the Past

Reading an article in the Living Church I have been reminded of this definition of the Anglican Communion:

'The Anglican Communion
The Conference approves the following statement of nature and status of the Anglican Communion, as that term is used in its Resolutions:

The Anglican Communion is a fellowship, within the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted dioceses, provinces or regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, which have the following characteristics in common:

a.they uphold and propagate the Catholic and Apostolic faith and order as they are generally set forth in the Book of Common Prayer as authorised in their several Churches;

b.they are particular or national Churches, and, as such, promote within each of their territories a national expression of Christian faith, life and worship; and

c.they are bound together not by a central legislative and executive authority, but by mutual loyalty sustained through the common counsel of the bishops in conference.

The Conference makes this statement praying for and eagerly awaiting the time when the Churches of the present Anglican Communion will enter into communion with other parts of the Catholic Church not definable as Anglican in the above sense, as a step towards the ultimate reunion of all Christendom in one visibly united fellowship.'

This is Resolution 49 from Lambeth Conference 1930.

Some points of interest here are:

- inclusion of 'dioceses' as part of the Communion. (Yes, I understand that in 1930 this would have been about the Diocese of ex-colony X which is not yet part of a national church, rather than providing for a diocese recently broken away from its national church).

- clear commitment to the autonomy of 'national' churches in which the 'national expression of Christian faith, life and worship' is within the framework of 'the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church' and related to other national expressions by 'mutual loyalty sustained through the common counsel of the bishops in conference.'

- framing of the theology of the Communion and its member churches in these terms: 'the Catholic and Apostolic faith and order' as set out in Anglican prayerbooks.

- eager hope for future visible unity in fellowship with all churches.

Eighty-one years later this vision of the Communion is ragged if not in tatters. Consider:

(1) We seem only able to have 'common counsel' when we gather less than the sum of all our bishops together in conference.

(2) 'the Catholic and Apostolic faith and order' seems to be dispensable when it conflicts with some local interest or fashion.

(3) We talk to other churches, have made progress in visible unity with some, but generally have no eagerness to share in visible fellowship if it looks like we would lose control of our church and its autonomy.

(4) The Anglican Communion is not itself united so it becomes a mockery to organise for the Communion itself to engage in talks intended to make progress towards visible unity with other churches (e.g. ARCIC III).


Brother David said...

There are still a number of extra-provincial dioceses in the AC today, without having to resort to schismatics who have left the communion of their regional/national church. Bermuda and Cuba come to mind in our hemisphere. As well as the churches in Portugal and Spain.

Schismatics are a bit rich going on about about wanting to remain "in communion" with nameless, faceless folks half a world away when they cannot remain "in communion" with folks in their own neighborhood.

Chicken Little your cries are becoming like a stuck record.

Paul Powers said...

Without wishing to minimize the importance of the AC Instruments, they aren't where I see the face of Anglicanism. Lisa Fox, a blogger--and recently elected general convention deputy--from Missouri has written movingly about the relationship that has developed between her diocese and the Diocese of Lui in the Sudan despite the huge cultural and theological differences between them. That's one place where the face of Anglicanism can be seen. People from the ACNA Diocese of Fort Worth have been involved in mission work in the Diocese of Northern Malawi, even though Central Africa doesn't recognize the ACNA, and in Northern Mexico (particularly an orphanage in Ciudad Cuauhtémoc) even though Mexico doesn't recognize it either. Here in Fort Worth, one of our "split" parishes has a shared intercession list used by both TEC and ACNA congregations. There are probably hundreds of other examples throughout the Anglican world where relationships are being developed that transcend ecclesiastical politics. It's in those places that the face of Anglicanism can be seen, and where it will continue to be seen regardless of whether the Instruments stay in harmony.

Father Ron Smith said...

"(1) We seem only able to have 'common counsel' when we gather less than the sum of all our bishops together in conference.

(2) 'the Catholic and Apostolic faith and order' seems to be dispensable when it conflicts with some local interest or fashion" - Peter Carrell -

From (1) we must presume that the Provinces who are willing to be part of the Anglican Communion are/were willing to meet at Meetings of Primates and at Lambeth, where matters of common concern are/were discussed. You cannot coerce unwilling partneships to come together

From (2)'some local interest or fashion' seems a very slight way of referring to issues of sexuality and gender, which, in Provinces like Uganda or Nigeria, the local Church aids and abets a culture of death or imprisonment for homosexuals. No-one in their right mind would want to call this a matter of 'local interest or fashion', and therefore inimical to the Gospel of Inclusion.