With a H/T to Ron Smith I can alert you to a post by Stephen Parsons exploring "Challenges for Lambeth 2020. The end of the Anglican Communion?"
There is no doubt that the Anglican Communion, in the sense of (my description) "the largest global collective of churches claiming to be authentic heirs and offshoots of the Church of England," is in the fight of its life to date.
The rise since 2008 of GAFCON, notwithstanding its desire to be within and not without the Anglican Communion, is the formation of another large, global collective of churches claiming to be authentic heirs and offshoots of the Church of England.
GAFCON's particular claim is that its churches' legitimacy as heirs is stronger than the remainder of the Communion because what GAFCON teaches is a doctrine more purely true to the English Reformation.
Just as the English Reformation was a reformation of doctrine (cementing in place the Henrician Reformation in respect of governance of the English church) which resulted in schism from Rome, so we are arguably in another doctrinal reformation, a Communion Reformation which will also result in another schism.
But need that be the result of the present differences and disputes? Can schism be averted? Could Lambeth 2020 be an occasion which holds us together rather than drives us apart (or, just as undesirable, reveals how big the loss of GAFCON-oriented Anglicans is from the Anglican Communion)?
Intriguingly, Parsons offers his own reflection on the state of the play which he sees as a state of warring loyalties within Archbishop Welby himself. I have no idea whether or not this is accurate analysis of ++Justin but it is probably fair speculation in the light of his background:
"Archbishop Welby is faced with a difficult problem in planning for Lambeth 2020. He is caught between two expressions of Anglicanism. The one that he has embraced since ordination is what we would describe as a flexible and even liberal version of the Anglican tradition. At the same time he is still the product of a tradition which is inflexible and strongly into intransigent Church politics.
The right-wing model of politics in church and state knows only the need to dominate and control. Bodies like GAFCON want to create the whole Communion in their own image – a uniformly monochrome body, affirming the ‘unchangeable’ message of Scripture. The fundamentalism espoused by GAFCON (and the 11 bishops) cannot and will not tolerate differences.
The problem for Welby is that, while he can claim to belong to a broader form of Anglicanism today, these older strands of thinking still claim part of his loyalty. His major task must be now to try and reconcile the warring factions which exist in the wider church but these rivalries also struggle inside himself. Can he provide the leadership that will hold things together? Will he be tempted to succumb to the intense lobbying and pressure from his old conservative friends?
The battles being fought before and during Lambeth 2020 will define the nature of the Anglican Communion for ever. Will it become more like a conservative right-wing sect as many desire, or, will it be the place of inclusion and generosity which many of us also long for? The stakes are high, and we must pray that Archbishop Welby rises to the challenge of providing the leadership that Anglican Communion needs at this critical time."What Parsons puts his finger on is the difficulty of drawing together into one conference (let alone one communion service of bishops) a strand of Anglicanism which "will not tolerate differences" and a strand which will.
The ever hopeful bridge-building optimist in me would be keen to see this explored.
To a degree my optimism can draw on the paper Archbishop Glenn Davies spoke to, at a meeting of ACANZP folk in August this year (which I blogged about here, and the paper is mentioned (with links to it) there).
In that paper ++Glenn talks up the prospect of "distinctive co-existence", proposes that this is worked out in the Blessed Isles (with more than a nod to the model of two overlapping Dioceses of Europe), and offers a working plan for a truly global Lambeth Conference (my bold):
" If the Lambeth Conference is to mean anything it is to be the fellowship of bishops who share our Anglican heritage, not merely those whom the ACC recommend to the Primates to be in ‘fellowship with Canterbury’. If our relationships are not grounded in our belief in the Bible, our practice of the principles of the Book of Common Prayer and our adherence to the Thirty-nine Articles, then it is difficult to say that those who depart from these fundamental provisions are Anglican at all. If, on the other hand, TEC could recognise ACNA as a legitimate expression of Anglicanism; if the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (formerly the Church of the Province of South Africa) could recognise the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church (formerly the Church of England in South Africa); if the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil could recognise the Anglican Church in Brazil; if the ACANZP could recognise an alternative expression of Anglicanism in New Zealand, then we could all gather as bishops of Anglican heritage with the Archbishop of Canterbury. This would necessarily redefine the nature of the Lambeth Conference from its historical role as a resolution-making body. The gathering could celebrate our heritage, our common desire to see Christ glorified, without pretending there are no differences among us. Would that not be a celebration worth having?"
Here I don't want to critique the Davies' paper in its details - save to observe that "recognition" locally involves a specific respect for the Treaty of Waitangi as critical to our understanding of claims to being Anglican - our gospel fellowship between Maori and Pakeha must be just as well as congenial, and the measure of justice - e.g. sharing resources of the church - is the Treaty.
But I offer this reflection which I think is friendly to the intention of the Davies' paper:
Can the ACANZP actually recognise an alternative expression of Anglicanism in these islands without there first being a Lambeth Conference which works out the basis on which we might recognise one another as authentically and faithfully Anglican?
(There are many Anglicanisms around the world. In the Davies' list above there are some notable exceptions such as the Free Church of England. Which Anglicanisms are we going to recognise and which are we not, and how will we know the difference?)
Obviously there is a chicken-and-egg scenario here: a local recognition of alternative Anglicanism could confront the Lambeth Conference with a movement to so recognise which works from the ground up rather than the Conference down; whereas I am proposing the Conference tackles this matter first.
Nevertheless, I suggest a conferencing on what "Anglican heritage" means when there are not only differing but divided claimants to be heirs would be helpful.
Critically, we would need to examine whether mutual recognition that we all have authentic Anglican heritage is a sufficient basis on which to have some local/regional/global meetings of Anglican minds. To say nothing of asking whether "Anglican heritage" is a serious ecclesiological principle when it likely does not mean we can celebrate the eucharist together, even when we are serious about "recognition" of one another.
Is the future of global Anglicanism worth one Lambeth Conference in which we meet to discuss such matters, acknowledging there will be no communion of the whole group and that for the purposes of the conference the invitation list will cohere with the Davies' list above?
What could be lost by doing so? Not much I suggest. Whereas by not doing so we might be facing the Parsons' prophecy that the 2020 Conference will be the last ever.