The name included the word "Anglican" and photos revealed liturgical events with robes being worn which would be completely in place in any member church of the Communion. Is my correspondent an Anglican? May he determine that he is an Anglican?
At precisely the point of trying to frame answers to such questions the handy phrase "it depends" comes into view!
It depends if you are talking about a person who is a member of a church which is a member church/province of the Anglican Communion of which the Archbishop of Canterbury is the leading primatial bishop. I think everyone (inside and outside the Communion) accepts that such Christians are Anglican Christians.
It depends if you are talking about a person who is a member of a church which names itself as "Anglican" but which is not itself a member church/province of the Anglican Communion of which the Archbishop of Canterbury is the leading primatial bishop. I suggest there are a variety of answers which depend (!!) on a few factors which need ferreting out.
Is my episcopal correspondent seeking to become a missionary bishop in my diocese an Anglican or not? Speaking personally, I am loath to stand as judge and jury and say that a person so identifying as an Anglican is not an Anglican, but it would appear to be an objective fact that this Anglican bishop is not an Anglican who belongs to the Anglican Communion. (On a question which might be on some readers' minds, I know nothing which would help answer the question whether this person's episcopal orders could be recognised by my church.)
Closer to the issue of the day, is Archbishop Foley Beach, with whom I nearly had a coffee recently, and who will be back in NZ later this year (from what I am reading on the internet) to participate in the ordination of a bishop for the new diocese being formally set up here during this month, an Anglican?
Archbishop Foley leads the Anglican Church in North America which is composed of many former members of the Anglican Communion provinces, the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church of the USA, as well as many new Christians who will definitely be also identifying as Anglican Christians.
Against answering "Yes" is a line, "He is not a member of a member church of the Anglican Communion."
For answering "Yes" is a line, "He is a member of an Anglican church which is in full fellowship as an Anglican church with a number of other Anglican churches (i.e. GAFCON) which are themselves members churches/provinces of the Anglican Communion."
Which answer is correct? Which answer is helpful?
Worth considering is a guest post on Psephizo by Andrew Atherstone which - spoiler alert - touches on many aspects of current controversy as it came to the fore at the last minute at ACC-17. But some of those aspects touch on the question of Anglican identity. Thus Andrew writes,
"One particularly urgent ecclesiological question is the relationship between the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) and the Anglican Communion. The 2016 primates meeting observed that:
We need some urgent ecclesiological thinking at this level of detail, focused on ACNA as a worked example. And rather than throwing around brickbats in rival press releases about who is, or who is not, a member of the Anglican Communion, a more nuanced approach is required. For example, one way through the impasse is to think of ACNA as a province within the Anglican Communion (because grown from an existing province, like Sudan, or Chile, or Sri Lanka, or North Africa), but because it has jumped the gun by forming a new province without the agreement of two-thirds of the primates or the ACC standing committee, it is in an anomalous position and its relationship with the ‘instruments of communion’ needs to be retrospectively regularized." End of Atherstone citation.
Note that ACANZP's structure gets a mention!
There is a lot to ponder. I wrote a comment to the blog post which I reproduce here.
Any which way, and I may have not explained myself that well, it is fascinating that ACNA are seemingly keen to be in this Communion with all its difficulties (the narrative of which I enjoyed reading above)." End of my cited comment.
I felt as I read this extraordinarily rich and challenging post by Andrew that something fascinating is going on when the Communion (on some analysts' reckoning) is in disarray and yet belonging to it, being counted within it rather than outside it seems to matter a lot, even for those in disagreement with it!
Whether my comment gets to the heart of the fascinating mystery of ACNA and the Communion is another matter. What does matter is that we remain in conversation about what being Anglican means.
After all, many Anglicans speak proudly of belonging to an inclusive church and Communion. Surely we need a definition (or set of definitions for differing questions) which is not too exclusive?!