Monday, January 9, 2012

Anglican Communion and the Anglican Church of North America (1)

Thesis: if we admit ACNA to membership* of the Anglican Communion then we take seriously what it means to be Anglican** and to be a Communion.

The existence of the Anglican Communion makes a claim that global fellowship between Anglican churches is both possible and desirable and raises questions about what it means to be ‘Anglican’ (can any church adding ‘Anglican’ to its name become a member church of the Communion?) and to be a ‘Communion’ (is fellowship in this Communion with or without obligations, and what kind of obligations? How is fellowship deepened between members? What (if anything) can break fellowship?).

Present difficulties in the Anglican Communion (exemplified by the failure of all bishops to go to Lambeth 2008 and by the absence of some primates from recent Primates’ Meetings) mean that all is not well. Among these difficulties the pressing need to develop our understanding of ‘Anglican’ is felt (e.g. some Anglicans are calling the actions of other Anglicans ‘unAnglican’). As well, there is stress on our understanding of ‘Communion’, most urgently experienced in the debate over the possibility of the Anglican Covenant being embraced as a key document for the ongoing life of the Communion. For some the argument for the Covenant is its necessity to hold the Communion together; for others the argument against the Covenant is its likely effect of transforming the Communion into a global (Roman Catholic-like) church.

In fact I would like to suggest that another question is implicit (at least) about our understanding of ‘Communion’: are we a formal Communion focused on arrangements between official national or regional Anglican churches with an unvarying principle of only one such church per nation or regiona being recognised, or are we a pastoral movement motivated to draw in as many Anglicans as possible into our global life?

To be continued ...

*membership = in every possible way: admission to ACC, ACNA primate invited to Primates’ Meetings, bishops invited to Lambeth, etc

**for purposes of this and related posts, ‘Anglican’ includes both ‘Anglican’ and ‘Episcopal(ian)’


Father Ron Smith said...

"Thesis: if we admit ACNA to membership of the Anglican Communion"

Then we are alrteady admitting that schismatic activity gains rewards - including that of re-defining what the Anglican Communion is all about!

For ACNA to be invited back into the Anglican Communion, from which it severed itself by declining any further association through the existing channels of membership, would require a public act of penitence - at having departed in the first place.

'You can force a horse to the water but you cannot make her drink!"

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,

Happy New Year to you and may God protect and restore you, the College and the people of Christchurch in the coming year!

It's probably helpful when discussing Communion membership to distinguish between general principles and specific cases. In general, admitting more than one church per region/country to membership of the AC could promote schism, and encourage splinter groups to seek recognition within the AC. There are already a number of splinter "Anglican" groups (e.g. Traditional Anglican Communion) we wouldn't necessarily want to re-admit to the Communion.

However, each case has its own specific circumstances. For example, there are already overlapping jurisdictions in Europe (CofE/TEC). The Church of England in South Africa is recognised as Anglican by some dioceses but not others. In the case of TEC, there has been a clear departure from Anglican faith and practice. They have not heeded calls to repent from the Primates Meeting. A number of parishes and dioceses decided TEC was no longer upholding the essentials of the Anglican faith and left, eventually forming the ACNA after a period of oversight by other provinces. They now represent Anglicans in North America who hold to traditional Anglican faith and practice.

So, I would hope ACNA is admitted to full membership of the AC. However, in other cases, I would urge caution in admitting new members where there are already existing Anglican provinces/churches. We need to be sure that there are genuine theological reasons for the split and that the new entity is viable and representative.

Peter Carrell said...

I agree!

Father Ron Smith said...

"I agree!" - P.C.

With whom?

Peter Carrell said...

I agree with Andrew and disagree with you, Fr Ron: I do not view ACNA as schismatic unless it is the same kind of schism that the C of E engaged in in the 1530s and then the late 1550s: that is, acting in accordance with a good theological conscience, it chose not to continue the errors of Rome.

Pageantmaster said...

I am not sure that TAC has ever been part of the Anglican Communion.

I believe there are overlapping jurisdictions in the Philippines, as well as in Portugal and Spain between native speaking provinces and parts of the Diocese of Europe. Of course in Europe there is the Convocation [US] and Diocese of Europe [CofE] and so on. Broadly though, overlapping jurisdictions are the exception.

The reality is that there has been a divorce in North America and the rest of us are having to consider how we relate to either party. Through the Global South Provinces' decisions more Anglicans are in Communion with ACNA than with TEC.

That is what happens when you tear the fabric of the Communion by ignoring its pleas. Oh well.

Father Ron Smith said...

The fabric of the Communion was not actually 'torn' until schism happened. It may have been newly shaped, but not torn.

John Sandeman said...

part of the TAC certainly used to be part of the Anglican Communion. The Torres Strait churches left as a group.

Pageantmaster said...

Fr Ron Smith
Thanks, but ALL the instruments of Communion including the Archbishop of Canterbury asked TEC not to go ahead with the consecration of Gene Robinson because it would tear the fabric of the Communion. TEC went ahead anyway, and all of the Instruments including the Archbishop of Canterbury stated that the fabric of the Communion was torn by TEC's actions. The consequences of that tearing are apparent in the 22 out of 38 provinces who declared themselves out of or in impaired communion with TEC. In many ways things have got worse since then, but I think you have to distinguish between cause, and effect.

Now you may approve of what TEC did, but that is a different matter, and perhaps are comfortable living with the division TEC brought to the Communion, but being perhaps more catholic, it grieves me to see the body divided so. TEC though just steams ahead, whither we know not.

Father Ron Smith said...

Pageantmaster: "Perhaps, being more catholic, it grieves me to see the body divided so". Well it didn't need to be - if only the departing dissidents would have learned to live with difference - not doctrinal, but adiaphoric.

Anyway, my catholicity is founded upon the Anglican genius for Unity in diversity - under Christ.

Peter Carrell said...

But, Ron, isn't your catholicity solipsistic (i.e. dependent on your own views).

When people say that we should be united around traditional Christian understanding of marriage, your demur and say that diversity is permissible on the matter.

When people say that diversity around whether ACNA is to be included within the Anglican fold on or not, you demur and say that only unity around "official" church conceptions is possible.

Who is to arbitrate within this Anglican catholicity as to which understanding of being catholic is correct?

Father Ron Smith said...

Well, probably not you, Peter, as you obviously claim a rather more evangelical provenance - though not so that you can be spotted as at all solipsistic. Your fellow con/evos on this blog will back you up on your opinions.

Solipsism is definitely, in your mind, the sin of those of us who claim a more catholic, and open-ended, view of the Church and the world, preferring the activity of the Word-made-flesh to the curious prolixity of the words of the Scriprures.

This is in no way to denigrate the Scriptures, which have given us a basic knowledge of the 'mind of God' at different points in the evolution of God's Creation. It is not, however, the uniquely gifted embodiment of the Word-made-flesh in the Eucharist.

A good catholic will balance the Biblical Readings with the 'Word' of God's Self at Holy Communion. Not a bad balance, really Would you not agree?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I am all for balance, and I am not knocking the kind of balance you seek. I differ from you in respect of the relationship between 'Spirit' and 'Word', and in respect of God's contemporary and God's written Word. I remain amazed at your confidence that you know what that contemporary Word is, not least because of the catholic character to your faith, yet you seek neither conciliar nor papal authority to back up your confidence. I think in American/Jewish parlance, you have chutzpah!

Father Ron Smith said...

My confidence, Peter, is not in myself, or any sort of 'private understanding' to which other faithful Christians are not privy. From the scriptures: Jesus said: "Come to ME (not just the words of Scripture, but to the Fountain of All Wisdom) all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. It is in the Christ of the Eucharist that I place my claim to my sonship of God - for that is where He has promised to be with us in Person, existentially, in a way that we can readily access the incarnated wisdom - mediated by God's Spirit.

Of course, you have to believe in the Real Presence of Christ at the Eucharist to fully understand this.

I am reminded of the time when Jesus (as recoded in scripture) said: "I bless you Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, for revealing these things to the simple".

Simplicity is not the prerogative of all professional theologians. Would that it were.

Peter Carrell said...

What you say is very moving and appreciated.

But both the simple man that I am, and the 'professional theologian' that I aspire to be, must ask: if two people meet Christ in the eucharist and claim to have heard two different things, who arbitrates?

Father Ron Smith said...

From my experience of Daily Mass for most of my Religious and priestly life, I can honestly say that such differences of opinion - about the supremacy of God and God's salvific work in Christ - has never been an issue.

To try to answer your question here: My experience is that when two people, on the same occasion, meet Christ in the Eucharist, they are only concerned with the love that has been imparted to them. There is no need for theological interpretation of 'the Message'.

Concerning the possibility of two different faith communities having a different theological understanding of Christ Present in the Eucharist; then there may be a tendency for each community to have a different interpretation of their mission in the world. This would seem to be our present problem in the Anglican Communion.

Do you not think that different communities, with a different ethos from other communities, might see things differently and yet, for the sake of Christ and the Gospel, remain 'in communion' with one another. The Doctrine of Christ is the important binding factor - not adiaphora.

Peter Carrell said...

I am glad that for you, Ron, there has been no problem as a Daily Mass participant.

But there have been problems for others, as you well know. Keble and Newman (to take a notable historical instance) could not agree: one went to Rome and the other did not.

The fact that you and I for all our differences can remain in communion is a good thing.

On this blog I am trying to take seriously the situation in which other Anglicans cannot remain at this time in communion with each other, taking care not to join the 'righteous' myself in casting aspersion on their inability to remain in communion with those they disagree with. Perhaps the disagreements are more substantial than meets the eye; perhaps, in the end, they amount to high level doctrinal difference.

Certainly the proffering of "panentheism" as a serious theological commitment is to be investigated carefully: there is potential for great error here.

Anonymous said...

"It is in the Christ of the Eucharist that I place my claim to my sonship of God - for that is where He has promised to be with us in Person, existentially, in a way that we can readily access the incarnated wisdom - mediated by God's Spirit."

You are probably aware, I trust, that most people who are historic catholics don't actually recognise many (perhaps all) of the Eucharists you may attend as valid or real, and therefore they cannot be means of Christ's Real Presence. If you insist otherwise, than you are claiming a direct sacramental link that bypasses the historic catholic church.


Father Ron Smith said...

Martin, you could be speaking here as a non-believer in the efficacy of Christ for ALL in the canonical celebration of the Eucharist. One can only claim the interpretation of one's own faith community's interpretation of the validity of the Eucharist - but with a humble intention to try to understand the interpretation of others.

Because I am not a follower of the claims of the R.C. Church to sole jurisdiction over the Sacraments of Christ, that does not mean that I have not been called to attest to the validity of the Anglican Sacraments - in as far as it's celebrants recognise the presence of Christ therein.

It has to be admitted that even some 'Anglicans' do not recognise the 'Real Presence' of Christ in the Eucharist, but in some way, God probably respects their view, and provides some other guarantee of His presence with them at their Holy Communion.

We each can only profess faith in what we really believe. 'I believe'

Anonymous said...

Ron, you're a dear fellow but you don't perceive your constant self-contradictions. Like some ardent medievalist, you declare the eucharist/Holy Communion/Lord's Supper to be the summa theologica (yet falsely contrasting it with those "second-rate" Scriptures, about which you have incoherent mid-20th century liberal Protestant views, as if you'd read nothing but 'Bultmann for the masses') without justifying why this should be so. In other words, you half-accept some of the teaching of Rome but not its validating authority. You are a homeless catholic in a liberal Protestant church. You know perfectly well that neither Rome nor Constantinople accept Anglican orders or the validity of their eucharists - and certainly not those celebrated by women. This is the dilemma for homeless catholics. Why not do what Jeffrey Steenson and many others have done and put an end to this anomaly?
Come home to the Catholic Church.

Father Ron Smith said...

Ah, Dear Martin. At last you have come out from under your feathery cloak. You have revealed yurslelf to be none other than a Roman-jurisdiction Catholic. No harm in that, of course - now that you're 'out of the closet' on that point. However, it is important that bloggers reveal their true colours when commenting on other peopl's blogs.

In the light of your new revelation, it is easy to accommodate your latest comments. Most R.C.s I know are accepting of Anglican claims to authentic Sacraments. However, you obviously have a different point of view. This seems natural for a convert. Is that what you are?


Anonymous said...

No, Ron, you have misunderstood me. I am not a Roman Catholic. I am an evangelical Anglican. I believe and uphold the doctrine of the BCP. I don't believe in 'the Real Presence" except in the receptionist way that Calvin and Cranmer did: "after an heavenly manner". I am pointing out one of the absurdities you regularly manifest, an un-Anglican, liberal Protestant view of the Scriptures allied with a traditional Roman (not Anglican) view of the eucharist (along with a very liberal Protestant view of sexual ethics) and urging you to be consistent and make your peace with Rome, as an old-style Anglo-Catholic in a liberal-dominated Anglican church.

Father Ron Smith said...

Martin. I must say that, from your entries here, you are the most difficut person to try to track down - as to what particular provenance in the faith is yours.

However, I'm sure you are aware that not many present-day Anglicans actually have a Calvinisticv view of the Eucharist, with a receptionist understanding of Christ's actual Presence. Such a view has long ago been diminished for all with an orthodox catholic outlook.

Good Pope John XXIII's modern understanding of 'Semper Reformanda' is now more common among 'Thinking Anglicans'. Now that really was a Pope who had many friends among Anglo-Cetholics.

And, by the way, I do have some regard for the BCP. I use it at early morning Mass on Sundays with our older congregants at Saint Michael's, for whom this is 'their way' of appreciating the Sacrament.

I do not regard the Words of the sciptures as 'Second-Class', as you infer. We use at least 3 portions of the scriptures ast every Eucharist - whether ancient or modern. They do 'contain' all that is necessary for salvation - but, they also contain adiaphora, parts that are not, necessarily.

Anonymous said...

"Martin. I must say that, from your entries here, you are the most difficut person to try to track down - as to what particular provenance in the faith is yours."

Tu crois? Perhaps because you don't understand the Reformed faith of the Church of England - everything I've written is consistent with that. It's entirely consistent with John Stott, Jim Packer et al.

"However, I'm sure you are aware that not many present-day Anglicans actually have a Calvinisticv view of the Eucharist, with a receptionist understanding of Christ's actual Presence. Such a view has long ago been diminished for all with an orthodox catholic outlook."

The theological ignorance of Anglicans today - bishops as well as laity - is painfully evident to me. Receptionist and spiritual presence, however, is the teaching of Cranmer. Transusbstantiation is not.

"Good Pope John XXIII's modern understanding of 'Semper Reformanda' is now more common among 'Thinking Anglicans'. Now that really was a Pope who had many friends among Anglo-Cetholics."

If you are referring to that pompously named website, I doubt it. It's mainly a watering hole for gays and their liberal co-belligerents. In any case, Vatican II isn't really a concern of mine. Maybe you should consider why so many Anglo-Catholics have turned their backs on Anglicanism and acceded to Rome - which is where your eucharistic beliefs ought to take you; while your beliefs on Scripture and sexual ethics have nothing to do with catholic thought but reflect liberal Protestantism. You are in an impossible contradiction, Ron - be coherent, please!


Father Ron Smith said...

Martin - the word 'Trans-substantiation' is not one I use. My preference is Consubtantiation, which means that together with the consecrated bread and wine of the Eucharist, Christ is truly present.
And if you find that difficult, that confirms my understanding that you are still holding on to a primitive Calvinist understanding of the Eucharist - not necessary mainstream Anglican. But you are entitled to your view. please respect mine. I base my spiritual life upon it.

Anonymous said...

"consubstantiation" is a primitive Lutheran idea. It isn't taught by the BCP. My understanding is that taught by Cranmer in the Thirty-Nine Articles. Too bad if you think that is "primitive" - it was in fact formulated after "Consubstantiation". If you claim the right to believe what you want about the sacraments, without the direction of Scripture and the teaching of the Church, then you are an individualist liberal Protestant and not a catholic. This would explain your decidedly un-catholic views on sexual ethics.
Be consistent, Ron - be one thing or the other, not some postmodern mishmash.