Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Anglican Communion is no more. It is dead. Gone. (Updated)

UPDATE Episcopal Lead, 3 Oct 2014, reports that a Church of Ireland Gazette interview (MP3, not transcript) has ++Justin saying this about the prospects of Lambeth 2018 going ahead:

"As to the Lambeth Conference he say[s] that upon his installation he would visit all the communion churches by the end of 2014 and after that the primates, collectively would decide whether or not to go forward with Lambeth."

Thus the following post should be read in the light of that uncertainty.

ORIGINAL Anglican Ink is now reporting what has been emerging around Communion traps since an exchange at the recent TEC House of Bishops' meeting in Taiwan in which ++Jefferts Schori said that ++Welby had told her that the Lambeth Conference scheduled for 2018 is postponed indefinitely.

That there will be no Lambeth Conference is wise. The point of the conference is to gather all Anglican bishops together, each of them bringing their dioceses in spirit with them to form a great council of Anglicans. The Communion of Anglican churches has few meetings, some of those meetings stand out more than others, the Lambeth Conference being the greatest of them, the one with the most legitimacy to give an expression to 'what Anglicans believe' if we are interested in what we believe together globally.

That there will be no Lambeth Conference is chilling for Anglicans who believe we are one of the great branches of the universal church of God. The so called branch theory has been sawn off (by saw wielding Anglicans). We are now NOT a global communion. Just a bunch of people who like to call themselves Anglican.

Further, as Christopher Johnson points out, without the Lambeth Conference there is no means of asserting a legitimacy via membership of that conference: consequently, "you’re Anglican if you think you are."

Consider all the Anglican (or 'Anglican') bishops running around belonging to ACRONYM this and ECRONYM that who were not previously part of the Lambeth Conference invitation list. They now have as much legitimacy calling themselves Anglican bishops as the Archbishop of York or the Archbishop of Melbourne because neither of those bishops is invited to Lambeth either.

In turn this means that the Anglican Communion is now a convenient fiction. It was broken a while back. Some (including me) kept saying it was just wounded, it could be restored, etc so we could keep talking about the actuality of the Anglican Communion. Not now. It is over rover.

When GAFCON or Global South next meets it will have  greater claim to talk about its bishops in communion with one another being 'the' Anglican Communion than the 'Anglican Communion' which now admits it cannot call its bishops together.

Anglicans in my experience often talk about this or that plan for the future being the equivalent of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Well, with respect to the future of the Communion, read my lips, "The Titanic has sunk."

There is one way in which this line of thought could be proved wrong. If the long term plan of ++Justin Welby, to keep working on reconciliation 'behind the scenes', without the shipwreck of conferences bishops do not turn up to, yields some commitment to new meetings, then resurrection will take place.

But let's be clear. The Anglican Communion for the time being is a history and a hope which is not a present reality.

Postscript

In a comment below Kurt makes the pertinent observation that 'communion' re 'Anglican Communion' can also be understood in terms of 'in communion with the See of Canterbury.'

From that understanding then the 'Anglican Communion' exists as a collection of churches remaining in communion with the See of Canterbury. (As an aside, it would be interesting to work out just which churches those were and whether, pace some meetings between the Primate of ACNA and the ABC in recent years, such a definition included ACNA or not).

Nevertheless the objective meeting together is a significant factor in what constitutes the reality of people/churches claiming to be in communion with one another. 

Would we consider a parish was still functioning if the vicar told the bishop that no services were being held but every parishioner considered themselves to remain 'in communion' with the vicar (and, indeed, offered signs of this being so by being willing to share in communion with the vicar when she made a home communion visit)?

It could be that we suspend judgment on the continuing reality of the Communion as a formal body if ++Justin declared that (a) Lambeth 2018 was postponed, but (b) the intention remained to hold a meeting of Anglican bishops at a suitable time and place in the future, while acknowledging that (c) if such a meeting were not to take place by, say, 2030, then formal disbandment of the structures of Communion would then take place.

24 comments:

Kurt said...

I think that you put too much emphasis and importance on the Lambeth Conferences, Peter. I, for one, have long thought that Lambeth had become rather unserviceable, an occasion for mischief rather than dialogue. I agree it’s for the best that the scheduled one be postponed. Besides, the idea that Anglicanism is best represented by the bishops alone—minus the other clergy and the laypeople—went out with the 20th century, if not with Vatican II.

The postponement—or even the end—of Lambeth Conferences hardly means the end of the Anglican Communion. There continue to be many provinces (including America, Australia, Canada and New Zealand) that are in communion with the See of Canterbury, so the Anglican Communion still exists, with or without any of the “Global South” provinces. Keep in mind that there have been Anglican churches not in communion with Canterbury for a long, long time (e.g., the Reformed Episcopal Church, for example.) So while the scale may be different today, Anglicans who are not in communion with Canterbury is hardly a new development.

Of course, Peter, you are right to point out that the conception of the Anglican Communion as a “world Church” has received a severe blow. But I think that is all to the good. As for the “Branch Theory,” my reading of its history is that conception is as much a spiritual as an organizational idea. In fact, we Anglicans are developing more like another “Branch”—the Eastern Churches. We are becoming organizationally more autocephalous in behavior as well as in theory.

Perhaps instead of having a Lambeth Conference of bishops every decade, we should have an International Anglican Conference and Festival every two or three years. We could rotate the country in which it is held. The first one might take place in Canterbury. The next conference could be staged in New York. The following Conference might be held in Sydney, etc. Such international gatherings could have a meeting of bishops and archbishops as part—I say, part—of the gathering, and who shows up shows up. There could also be meetings for priests, deacons and laypeople, on issues of specific concern to them. But such an International Conference should be much broader than just meetings. Panels, talks, worship services, theological debates (how about “Carrell vs. Spong”?), films, etc. open to anyone who wishes to attend, should be at the center of such an International Anglican Conference.

At the same time, the Anglican Communion should use this opportunity to deepen our relationships with other Christian bodies that more nearly share our concerns—the Church of Sweden, the Old Catholic Communion, the Porvoo Communion, etc. In many ways we are often closer to these religious bodies than we are to some of the nominally “Anglican” churches of the “Global South” (e.g., Uganda and Nigeria.)

As for GAFCON and the “Global South, Communion” (for lack of a better term), we should maintain as friendly and as communal relations as possible, realizing that they are not all of one mind on all issues, and that some of them, at least, will revise their views in time. Indeed, there may be provinces that may wish to be members of both the Anglican Communion and the “Global South Communion.” We should not put barriers in the way of such affiliation—even if the “Global South” people do.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY


Jean said...

"It 'aint over until the fat lady sings"........

Lets wait until we get a yeah or neigh from Archbishop Webly himself or Lambeth palace. Just can't trust these blogs : ) .... - yours being the exception Peter

carl jacobs said...

It was inevitable once Rowan Williams cast his lot with TEC. He had no choice of course. His own church would never have followed him in supporting orthodoxy artist the revisions TEC was pushing. But it meant that the Communion would eventually fracture.

TEC exacted its vengeance for Lambeth 1.10. It returned from Lambeth 1998 vowing "Never again." TEC was as good as its word. For once.

carl

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Kurt
Good point re communion with See of Cantab - will add a note about that in main body of text.

Hi Jean,
What if ++Welby offers a 'Yeah, nah' rather than a 'Yeah' or 'Neigh'?!

tachesterton said...

I'm probably a bit more conservative than you, Kurt, but I like your idea of an international conference that includes laity and clergy as well as bishops. My Mennonite friends have such conferences, and, as you suggest, they move around a bit. My understanding is that they are well attended.

Tim C.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl
Yes, TEC has got its way, but at a price: the Communion it refused to leave and which refused to expel it, is in tatters.

Hi Tim,
Yes, all orders conferencing would be a great thing. But if a global 'pretender' to a global ecclesiology cannot get all its bishops in the same room around the same communion table, then its pretensions are over. It may have a future as a series of overlapping conferences to which people keen to wear the same adjective ('Anglican') make an effort to travel, but the gatherings will be akin to conferences of hobbyists and not of episcopally-led churches conferencing as one global episcopally-led expression of the one body of Christ. (That is, if the Anglican Communion (=38 provinces) loses the Lambeth Conference, there may be a future for a set of smaller 'Anglican' communions, but we cannot pretend they constitute 'the Anglican Communion' as currently constituted.)

Jean said...

Hi Peter. Put my money oops faith on Archbishop Webly not being a yeah, nah kinda guy. I am gunning it will be a yes all go or no because.... but we shall see.

Not a bad idea Kurt, although one would still have to consider does the church as a 'whole' need members/participants to share common understandings to be considered officially Anglican?

Kurt said...

“But if a global 'pretender' to a global ecclesiology cannot get all its bishops in the same room around the same communion table, then its pretensions are over.”—Fr. Carrell

But the pretense to “a global ecclesiology” was never nothing more than a fantasy to begin with. Such global affectations were certainly were not in the minds of the originators of the first Lambeth Conference in 1867—including the Archbishop of Canterbury himself! Far from it, in fact.

Discussions of issues by a bunch of bishops do not a “Council” make. Recommendations are not pontifical “decisions” binding upon all. If the Archbishop of Canterbury cannot get “all of his bishops in the same room around the same communion table,” because some bishops refuse to attend if others do, he should invite everyone anyway. Let the “Global South” bishops know that they are welcome to attend all events of the Anglican Communion, but no one is going to be excluded through extortion to make them happy. If they want to “boycott” the event(s), let them. I mean, who cares?

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Kurt
There are 'councils' and 'Councils'. I suggest that Lambeth has functioned as a 'council' to assist people claiming to be 'Anglican' to have some kind of idea of what 'Anglicans' believe.

The point about not all bishops attending is it calls into question what the Anglican Communion actually consists of and whether the Anglican Communion is willing to be honest about its real size and shape. Further, if the Anglican Communion does not meet, how do we give expression to what the mind of the Communion is? If we reduce this mind to 'the Americans think this, the Kiwis think that and the Ugandas think differently' then we have an interesting set of views which Anglicans around the world hold, but we do not have a Communion speaking as one body of Christ.

Kurt said...

“If we reduce this mind to 'the Americans think this, the Kiwis think that and the Ugandans think differently' then we have an interesting set of views which Anglicans around the world hold, but we do not have a Communion speaking as one body of Christ.”

But, Peter, that conception of the Anglican Communion is a product of the 20th century—and probably a product of the post-WWII era, specifically. We are NOT a “World Church;” we NEVER have been. The AC was NOT set up in 1867 as a vehicle for Anglicans to “speak as one body of Christ.” This is a recent development—particularly so after Vatican II. To the extent that some Anglicans—some Britons, above all—have fostered that fantasy, they have been peddling a falsehood. In actuality these pretentions of “a global ecclesiology” didn’t accomplish much, with Rome or anyone else.

I say it is past time to return to the original model of the Anglican Communion: a voluntary international association of national churches that are in communion with the See of Canterbury who meet periodically to discuss issues of mutual interest, period/full stop.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

There is something attractively safe about that view, Kurt!

But I would, on that view, continue to insist that 'Communion' is no part of the description of such an entity.

carl jacobs said...

Used to be that Communion with Canterbury assured a level of orthodoxy. No more. In fact, TECs purpose has been to redefine Christianity such that orthodoxy no longer has meaning. It seeks to make Trinitarian Christianity a local manifestation of a greater more (ahem) inclusive divine truth - a truth more compatible with the deistic universalism that is TECs functional theology.

That's why the Communion fractured. There was no way this attempted redefinition could possibly be tolerated by those who assert that Christianity has essential content. Communion could no longer be founded on shared belief. And what other basis for Communion is there? Historical connection to Canterbury was never going to be sufficient. Not when one side can't recognize the other as Christian in the most elemental sense of the word.

I don't think you need to worry about the long existence if the Communion, however. The collection of churches that will remain formally centered on Canterbury (albeit in truth centered on 815) simply don't have that long to live. They are demographically doomed. As they disappear, the Communion will reform around the orthodox organizations still extant.

carl

Kurt said...

“Used to be that Communion with Canterbury assured a level of orthodoxy.”

That all depends upon what one defines as “orthodoxy,” doesn’t it, carl?

And, you know carl, your frequent—and insistent—prognostications, particularly about the imminent death of TEC, reminds me of the confident carping of old New England Calvinists following the American Revolution. They too were confident that “those Episcopals” would soon depart for their Heavenly Rewards, and that all the “steeple-houses” would be turned over to God’s Elect—them. Didn’t happen then, carl, won’t happen tomorrow, either. It’s like those confident prognostications of yore that the Americans and Canadians would be “kicked out” of the Anglican Communion. Today we see who actually “walked away” from Canterbury, and who didn’t.

Folks who are interested in the origins of our Communion should check out “The American Church and the Formation of the Anglican Communion, 1823-1853,” by the Rev. Dr. Robert Semple Bosher.

http://anglicanhistory.org/academic/bosher1962.pdf

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Galletta said...

Kurt, Your disdain for the bishops of the Global South is so apparent that you don't care if they show up for international meetings. You should! Why? Do you not realize that they represent a majority of Anglicans world wide. So they are not just a small bunch that can be brushed aside so conveniently simple because they don't have the same theology you do. While you may not have much respect for them, I do. I see the bishops of the global south of the WWAC as the true leadership of the orthodox Anglicans. Remember these provinces have NOT left the Anglican Communion. They may be in broken communion with TEC but they remain in communion with Canterbury.
To me, this time period in the WWAC will be remembered as the time that Anglican Communion shed its skin (like a snake does) but not until it grows an entirely new skin underneath it. SO while many may see the tattered remnants of the *old skin*, the *new skin* is right underneath it. The new skin I equate with the Global South provinces. Eventually the old skin (TEC, ACofC and perhaps the CofE) will be destroyed to the point they won't be recognizable and Anglicanism will continue under the leadership of the GFCA and the Global South. SC Blu Cat lady

carl jacobs said...

Kurt

It ain't what you call rocket science. Sixty percent of TEC is over 50, Thirty percent is over 65. Two thirds of its parishes have an ASA below 100. Many of those considerably below 100. In the next 20 years or so, half of TECs current membership is going to die. That will render non-viable an extraordinary number of parishes. Dioceses will follow. Just do the math.

TEC is a church of aging boomers. Their children are gone. They are too old to have more. They don't do evangelism. There is no influx of new members to speak of. When I say TEC is dying, I mean it quite literally.

carl

Jacksonville Jack said...

"In a comment below Kurt makes the pertinent observation that 'communion' re 'Anglican Communion' can also be understood in terms of 'in communion with the See of Canterbury.'

In that case, the Church of Sweden, the Church of Norway, the Baltic Lutheran Churches, are all in the Anglican Communion? Rubbish.

Kurt said...

“When I say TEC is dying, I mean it quite literally.”

But that was precisely the expectation of our Calvinist rivals in the 18th century, carl. They were at least as confident then as you are today, that Episcopalians were dying off—and they had better reason for their belief. Tens of thousands of Anglicans out-migrated after the Revolution (the equivalent of at least hundreds of thousands today). No bishops; few priests and deacons; an aging population of parishioners; many abandoned church buildings; in some places, properties seized by the state.

But then things began to change—incrementally—after the consecration of Dr. Seabury. Bit by bit the Episcopal Church re-built itself. That process is just beginning again now, carl, after the splits of the past forty years. It’s possible neither you nor I will live to see it come to fruition. I can tell you, however, that I have witnessed the process in my small parish in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. More young couples (both straight and gay), more baptisms, more people fleeing conservative denominations. Tomorrow we may be numerically smaller than we were in the 1940s or 1950s, but TEC is in no danger of extinction, as much as you would wish for it. (And remember, carl, the greying anti-gay constituents are also dying off, so who knows what kinds of rapprochement might take place in 20 years to further upset your prognostications…)

“In that case, the Church of Sweden, the Church of Norway, the Baltic Lutheran Churches, are all in the Anglican Communion? Rubbish.”

As far as I know, Jack, none of them has asked for formal affiliation. We do know, of course, that ACNA and its followers are not affiliated with the Anglican Communion—however much they strain logic to say that they are. That might change if they were to meet certain conditions that have been outlined on this site and elsewhere.

Speaking of the Church of Sweden, Jack, you do know don’t you that both the CofE and TEC have continually had a special relationship with these folks? Here in America, Anglican/Episcopal parishes and Church of Sweden parishes always practiced inter-communion. In the 17th and 18th centuries Episcopal priests would officiate at CofS parishes, and Swedish priests would officiate at Episcopal parishes that lacked clergy. This was centuries before our agreements with the ELCA. Most CofS parishes in former Swedish territories here eventually joined TEC, e.g., Gloria Dei/Old Swedes parish in Philadelphia.

A case of selective perception, SC Blu Cat lady? I’ll repeat what I wrote earlier about the Global South:

“As for GAFCON and the “Global South, Communion” (for lack of a better term), we should maintain as friendly and as communal relations as possible, realizing that they are not all of one mind on all issues, and that some of them, at least, will revise their views in time. Indeed, there may be provinces that may wish to be members of both the Anglican Communion and the “Global South Communion.” We should not put barriers in the way of such affiliation—even if the “Global South” people do.”

“As friendly and as communal relations as possible.” Of course, if they prefer to boycott AC events, that’s their business. I could care less how many people their bishops claim to “represent.” They have no power here.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

MichaelA said...

"We do know, of course, that ACNA and its followers are not affiliated with the Anglican Communion—however much they strain logic to say that they are."

Of course they are in the Anglican Communion, Kurt. I say that they are, and my view is equally as weighty as yours. So they are in.

None of your assertions about requirements for membership actually have any basis - you know that. Even the requirement to be "in communion with the See of Canterbury" derives from a resolution passed in 1930 by a group (Lambeth Conference) that did not actually hold any authority to bind anyone.

So there actually isn't any requirement that a member of the AC be in communion with Canterbury. Never was, and probably never will be either.

Of course, you can assert that a group that isn't in communion with Canterbury (according to your definition of "communion") isn't in the Anglican Communion. But that's just your assertion. It carries meaning for you and whoever else agrees with you. But anyone else is free to ignore it. Hence ACNA is in the Anglican Communion, just as much as your province is.

Have a nice Anglican day! :)

Kurt said...


“Of course they are in the Anglican Communion, Kurt. I say that they are, and my view is equally as weighty as yours. So they are in.”--MichaelA

No, Michael, the ACNA is not a member of the Anglican Communion. It’s not just my “assertion” or the opinion of “whoever else” agrees with me. It’s the assertion of the Archbishop of Canterbury himself. Since you refuse to believe me, listen to what Archbishop Welby himself has to say about the status of the ACNA:

http://www.coigazette.net/?page_id=2004

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

MichaelA said...

"listen to what Archbishop Welby himself has to say about the status of the ACNA"

Dear Kurt, why should I?

[As I hope I have made clear, I have no problem whatsoever if *you* wish to obey the Archbishop of Canterbury!]

Kurt said...

“Dear Kurt, why should I [listen]?

“As I hope I have made clear, I have no problem whatsoever if *you* wish to obey the Archbishop of Canterbury!”—MichaelA

It’s not a matter of “obeying” the Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael. I have disagreed with a number of Archbishops of Canterbury on one issue or another all of my adult life. No, Michael, it’s about whether or not the ACNA—and by commonsensical presumption, all other breakaway Anglican bodies in the USA and Canada—are members of the Anglican Communion. Archbishop Welby says “No.”

ABC Welby declares, and I quote, “The ACNA..? The ACNA is a separate Church; it is not part of the Anglican Communion.” A separate Church. Not part of the Anglican Communion. An ecumenical partner in dialogue, perhaps…

So, when you split from The Episcopal Church in the USA or the Anglican Church of Canada, you are no longer a member of the Anglican Communion. This includes former clergy as well as former parishioners. So also “not part of the Anglican Communion” are deposed former Episcopal clergy such as Robert S. Morse, Robert Duncan, John-David Schofield, Jack Iker, Keith Ackerman, Mark Lawrence, et. al.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is willing to engage in dialogue with potential “ecumenical partners.” He has a “commitment to reconciliation” and to “visible unity.” I and other Episcopalians agree with him. Where do the schismatics stand..?

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY





Peter Carrell said...

Hi Kurt and Michael

Following your exchange I make the observation that it is all very well the ABC telling us who is in and who is not in the AC (a not unimportant point because, ultimately, it is his signature on letters of invite to Primates Meetings and to Lambeth Conferences), but if there are no meetings of the Primates and there is no Lambeth Conference, then the AC is, essentially, in suspension, and thus we can make of it what we will. (Continuing meetings of the ACC are of interest, but what happens to their work if it does not get discussed by the Primates and Lambeth Conference?)

Further, in the hiatus, if GAFCON and Global South continue to meet, and continue to invite ACNA to be part of those meetings, then we have a functional Communion of Anglicans of which ACNA is a member!

MichaelA said...

That's a fair observation Peter.

MichaelA said...

I'm sorry Kurt, but you are still just repeating assertions without basis, and hoping no-one will notice!

ABC Welby can repeat till he's blue in the face that ACNA is not part of the Anglican Communion, but that is meaningless, because ABC Welby has no authority to say who is or is not in the Anglican Communion. His authority in that respect is no different to yours or mine.

So you are wasting your time quoting him to me!