As the Anglican Communion heads this year towards Lambeth 2020 - the opportunity every 10 years or so for every Anglican diocese throughout the world to be represented by its bishop(s) at a conference - it is worth a few words on the ecclesiologies which are at work among us.
A noticeable phenomenon in the run up to Lambeth is the willingness of bishops who disagree over That Topic to gather there (including, intriguingly, Kenyan bishops whom their Archbishop is permitting to attend even though he himself will not).
That is, this year there will be an underlining of the fact that the division among Anglicans around the globe is not "because of That Topic" but because at least two different ecclesiologies are held by Anglicans.
The (as I will call it) Lambeth ecclesiology is held by those who understand that Anglicans hold various matters in common (enabling meeting together) and many matters in difference (so meeting together is opportunity to talk about these matters).
By contrast the (we may as well call it) GAFCON ecclesiology is held by those who understand that Anglicans may (actually, should) divide over certain matters, that that willingness to divide is critical to Anglican character, and that correct doctrine is prerequisite for meeting together. A GAFCON ecclesiology, in other words, is a willingness to boycott meetings when it is determined that people holding the wrong doctrine are going to turn up.
From an historical perspective we might note - I think reasonably and fairly - that a Lambeth ecclesiology flows with the arc of Anglican history, noting the ways in which Anglicanism has followed the via media, enabled both Protestant and Catholic sentiments to hold together within the framework of one prayer book and generally gone with Hooker's arguments about avoiding Catholicizing and Puritanizing extremes. A GAFCON ecclesiology, by contrast, is a Puritan ecclesiology finally dominant in a fairly significant number of Anglicans around the globe. (Strictly, a majority of "Anglicans in the pews" but a minority of Anglican provinces).
Of course much remains to be seen about how these ecclesiologies unfold this year. For instance, will Lambeth 2020 be an environment in which (say) "debate" is encouraged compared with "discussion"? Will the grassroots of bishops be able to move a resolution from the floor of the conference or will it be a stage-managed conference in which such democratizing possibilities are ruled out? Might GAFCON 2020 unexpectedly put out an olive branch towards Lambeth?
Also, of course, we could have an interesting discussion about which ecclesiology is "Anglican/unAnglican" or "better." I think that is a little pointless. "Anglican" is always contestable. Hooker wrote not because he had an idle Sunday afternoon to fill in with hypotheses about ideal Anglicanism but because there was a contest. The first Lambeth Conference was not called because the ABC thought it a nice idea. There was a contest of ideas which needed sorting out.
But what I would like to set out here is my reasoning why Anglicans contemplating boycott of Lambeth 2020 should re-think their position.
(1) It is not a good ecclesiology to force or enforce a point of view by not turning up to engage in conversation/discussion/debate. Necessarily an ecclesiology willing to boycott is willing to divide and an ecclesiology willing to divide the church always diminishes our witness as Christians. Nevertheless I acknowledge that GAFCON does not see itself as a dividing of the Communion permanently so much as a gathering place for those who will re-commit to practical unity when the remainder of the Communion wakes up to its theological error.
(2) That Topic can be characterised as a matter of doctrine, of adherence to orthodoxy and thus, on the face of it, justification for boycott appears reasonable, even heroic: "We are not going the way of the world, we are resisting the cultural hegemony which is shaping the church when it should be the other way round." But it is not a fair characterization. Not least because it does not do justice to faithful Anglicans who have come to a belief that orthodoxy on the doctrine of marriage is neither as simple as some statements make out (e.g. there is not one, single, global view on remarriage after divorce, which incidentally has led to no boycotts of global Anglican conferences ever) nor beyond debate in the light of new understanding on homosexuality. That is, unless we believe that Anglicanism is synonymous with the revelation of an unchanging understanding of homosexuality, it is simple respect for brothers and sisters in Christ to acknowledge that Anglicanism could include those who think there is an unchanging revelation and those who think there is not on the matter of homosexuality.
(3) Anglicanism through history has made accommodation to changes in understanding of God's revelation in Scripture. I have no idea throughout the Communion how many Anglicans hold to an understanding of the six days of creation in Genesis 1 which would be completely at home in, say, the 16th century while also at great variance with discoveries about evolution, age of the universe and of our planet, actual progress of creation in respect of light and matter. But I am sure there are some, even as many, many Anglicans have made the adjustment of an historic understanding of Genesis 1 in order to teach a doctrine of creation compatible with both the text of Genesis and with accepted scientific discoveries. And there is no boycott proposed because Anglicanism accommodates both views in its midst.
(4) While we can readily acknowledge 1001 ways in which the sexual revolution of the 20th century has unleashed a cultural tide of opposition to traditional, biblical, orthodox Christian sexual morality, itself part of a larger tsunami of philosophical change and challenges flowing against Christianity since the Enlightenment, we can also distinguish that cultural tide from the specific point of difference on homosexuality among Anglicans.
That point of difference is Anglicans awakening to two realities among their families, friends and congregations:
(1) that beloved people have the courage to identify that they do not belong to the assumed normality of heterosexuality so that when we are talking about "homosexuals" we are no longer talking about an "us" and "them" division of society but about our sons, our nieces, the person who sits next to us in the pew who reads the same Bible, sings the same hymns and prays to the same Lord as everyone else in the congregation.
(2) these beloved people are driven like everyone else with sexual desire, with ambition for intimacy, with longing to love and to be loved in the permanent embrace of a lifelong partnership. And, here is the point of difference, such awakened Anglicans asking whether it is a dereliction of doctrine, a revision of orthodoxy, a simple caving into cultural tides to propose that the church might view lifelong partnerships between two people of the same sex with commendation rather than condemnation. At stake here, similar to 3 above, is a new understanding of what it means to be human, to be granted the gift of life, including the capacity to love another, in the context of creation.
In other words, it is reasonable to propose that when Anglicans differ on this matter we might remain in the same room, attend the same conference because we can respect that difference has arisen in a responsible manner, not because of a tragic lapse into heresy etc. Essentially this is what ACANZP's General Synod 2018 decisions mean.
And if Hookerian Anglicanism means anything at all, does it not mean that we approach matters of dispute seeking to understand the reasoning which has led to the issue or issues at stake with a willingness to seek accommodation of reasonable points of view?