They may be legends in their own lifetime, the gang of four, self-appointed, with laptop, taking on the future of the Communion, to the chagrin of many critics, but they are brilliant. Is anyone else on the internet consistently turning out the quality of essays the Anglican Communion Institutes fellows have been publishing for years now? Remember, as you launch into the 'usual' criticism of the ACI, they are driven by a vision for the unity of the Communion. I am not always convinced myself that their critics share their vision with the same passionate commitment.
For some time now they have been saying the Communion is likely to fragment, and nothing has proven them wrong to date. Where they have been wrong is to have hoped that the future of the Communion would evolve through sticking to the Windsor recipe. That is not now happening.
Thus Philip Turner, writing at ACI, turns his attention to the next challenge in the reality of post Primates' Meeting global Anglicanism, whether the absentee primates represent an Anglicanism which is or can be united in working towards a renewed vision of a large global Communion. Critics of the ACI may be advised to read the whole essay carefully as what is written is no Hallelujah chorus celebrating the future of Global South and GAFCON. Rather Turner is something of a Jeremiah, somewhat gloomy about the prospects. Here is an excerpt:
'How can those in dissent provide such an alternative? From the outside I can only say that, as I have observed events over the past few years, the objections of the course TEC is taking are clear enough, but I have not seen an equally forceful account of either the Christian Gospel or the nature and mission of the church. We are all involved in a church struggle that cannot be won simply by saying no. A yes must be spoken for a more powerful account of Christian belief, practice and order if this church struggle is to issue in the restoration of communion rather than the ratification of “different integrities.”
Anglicans who opposed the actions of TEC from both above and below the equator have not done this work. The theological position of TEC and its supporters does not go beyond a commitment to inclusion that they share with citizens of liberal democracies throughout the world. Toleration and acceptance have replaced the cross as a test of orthodoxy. This is rather thin gruel, but those in dissent have not taken the invitation of those who wrote the Windsor Report to go more deeply into the vision of unity found in Ephesians and Corinthians. They have not placed their distress with the way things are within a view of God’s providence and his will for the church and the world to be found in Holy Scripture. It appears that the dissidents from both north and south of the equator have decided to play the game on terms set by the liberal leadership of the Instruments. They have rightly resisted the change in moral practice TEC has undertaken, but they have neither exposed the shallow nature of the theology behind these changes nor proposed a more robust alternative.
I have no doubt that an objection to what I have said will be lodged at this point. Some will say that the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans has done the necessary work and they will point to the Jerusalem Declaration as evidence that this work has been done. With but two exceptions, I could happily sign the Declaration, but from my perspective it does not exemplify the sort of theological work necessary if the Anglican Communion is to survive as a communion of churches. The Jerusalem Declaration is comprised of fourteen assertions having to do with things its signers hold to be true. The fourteen points are matters in which they “rejoice” or “believe.” They are matters they “uphold,” “proclaim” or “recognize.”
No doubt theological views stand behind these assertions, and many of these views I probably share. Nevertheless, all confessions (this one included) represent theological summaries designed to give a group identity and mark the boundaries of its membership. The theological work I have in mind is rather different. The present crisis has forced upon Anglicans questions the heat of the present struggle has led them to ignore. What do Anglicans mean when they say they belong to a communion of churches? What content do Anglicans give this word? Why did the authors of the Windsor Report use the notion of koinonia both as a way into the most essential of Christian beliefs and as a means of displaying the importance of unity in the church? Were they right to do so; and have they made clear why dissolution of the Anglican Communion might prove an unacceptable loss to the church catholic?'
I share many of these concerns, and applaud Turner for writing them down. The Jerusalem Declaration, for instance, for all its many strengths has significant weaknesses. Those who trumpet it as the future basis for a renewed Communion need to sit down with some really good theologians and do some work on improving it. (In a future post I may delve into the Declaration).