Monday, December 22, 2008

GAFCON, Lambeth and the North American Province in retrospect

In life there are margins of tolerance. One chocolate will not cause obesity. A politician can survive a couple of faux-pas. A well-built house can survive a strong wind or a small earthquake. But life always involves consequences when margins of tolerance are exceeded. An earthquake over 8 on the Richter scale will topple even the strongest of buildings. In 2003 the election, confirmation and consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire and, to a lesser extent, the promulgation of the blessing of same sex partnerships in the Diocese of new Westminster exceeded margins of tolerance in the Anglican Communion. Five years later we have seen the consequences in three significant developments.

GAFCON in June was, on reflection, a singular achievement: an agreed theological statement was produced by a large group of quite diverse Anglicans gathered in one place. The contrast with Lambeth in July could not be greater: the bishops of the Communion gathered in one place could not - even without certain conservative bishops present - even conceive of attempting to come to an agreed conclusion to their deliberations. The consequence from 2003 is that the Anglican Communion as a whole is no longer a communion in the Christian sense of that word, a union of people bound by common truth; at best it can muster a reasonably large communion (i.e. GAFCON) from within its ranks, and a smaller communion (i.e. TEC and its supporters). But, as a world communion it is finished unless TEC and GAFCON reach a compromise. But precisely at this point of wondering when such a compromise might be reached the third development of the year answers our question: the new North American Province demonstrates both that no effort is being made to reach a compromise and that the limits to diversity within TEC were breached in 2003. The only practical way to contain the diversity in North American Anglicanism/Episcopalianism is for two provinces to exist side by side (in each of Canada and the USA).

It is time for the Anglican Communion Instruments of Unity to wake up to the reality of the situation and to stop all wishful thinking that the situation might be otherwise. Let 2009 be the Anglican Year of Reality with the goal of changing our self-identification from 'Communion' to 'Federation'!

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