While the world watches as Putin realigns Russian interests in Ukraine, taking over Crimea, threatening the possibility of further realignment of eastern Ukraine with Russia, the Anglican Communion is having its own Crimean moment. Some realignment is in the making.
This is not a Putinesque putsch in the sense of one major leader directing matters, but one group within the Communion is looking after those with whom it has common interest. The Global South Primates have had enough. Let's hear their voices:
"We thank God for the times of fellowship, Bible study and prayer together. We also appreciated the frank discussion, open sharing, and spirit of unity among us. We are also encouraged by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s emphases on renewal, mission and evangelism within the Church of England and the rest of the Anglican Communion.
c) We realize that the time has come to address the ecclesial deficit, the mutual accountability and re-shaping the instruments of unity by following through the recommendations mentioned in the Windsor Report (2004), the Primates Meetings in Dromantine (2005) and Dar es Salam (2007), and the Windsor Continuation Group report."
Note that this is a realignment 'within the Communion.' As they offer 'pastoral and primatial oversight to dissenting individuals, parishes, and dioceses' - an action analogous to the oversight Russia is offering Crimea as they dissent from the change of government in Ukraine - they do so 'in order to keep them within the Communion.'
No doubt much comment will be forthcoming in the "wringing hands" mode of voiced concern. But I wonder how much that comment will focus on the simple reason for the realignment?
I suggest Anglican observers around the world need to ponder this: theological difference is driving this realignment. That is tricky for those Anglicans used to geographical alignments: you in your province over there and me in my province over here.
It is difficult for some of us to get our heads around the possibility that the revising of Anglicanism to include same sex marriage or blessings of same sex relationships is a theological revision of what being Anglican means. For example, it involves a theological revision of where the weight of authority lies in the triad of Scripture/tradition/reason. The weight shifts with this revision to 'reason' (i.e. reasoning from experience to draw a conclusion).
In a reason-based Anglicanism, everything formerly weighted towards Scripture or Scripture and tradition is open for revision. That necessarily includes the tradition of a territorial understanding of episcopal authority which has divided Anglicanism into non-overlapping dioceses and provinces (with a few exceptions: Europe, our own three tikanga church, etc).
Effectively Global South is saying, "If the Communion is changing its theology of human sexuality then it can change its theology of episcopacy too."
Geography has allowed us to develop notions of Anglican diversity (we are different but, hey, we are stuck in the same corner of the vineyard so we just have to get along). What happens when the theological diversity is stretched so far that it breaks? Do we expel the minority group and depose them from being Anglican? Does the minority leave the Anglican fold because we have had enough? Or do we re-organise ourselves as Anglicans within the one Communion according to theology and not to geography? Global South seems to be offering the third alternative.
For my own church, as day by day we move through the months of 2014 to May, we face a stern test of wisdom. Given our differences, how will we work out living together? What will bind us together? What can we avoid which will break us apart? Where do we locate the commonality of our life in Christ: geography? theology? history? tradition? tikanga?
The Global South - whether it is right or wrong in what it is offering - is committed to remaining within the one Anglican Communion. I hope that in ACANZP we have a commitment to remaining as the one communion of Anglicans in these islands, whichever steps we take to re-organise our future. If we do not have that commitment, then the Global South has indicated that options are available for dissenting Anglicans to remain in the global Communion.
Pray for our General Synod reps as they begin meeting to ponder the meeting in May and as, aroundabout now, proposed motions and bills will be sent to them.