Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Short-term pain for long-term gain?

In that superbly reliable way of hers, Ruth Gledhill has zapped out a post which rounds up waifs and strays of posts and news into a summary report of where Anglican things are at:

"I might have made the mistake in the past of underestimating Gafcon. Like many Catholics who err on the liberal side in the Church of England, I guess I just hoped it would sort of go away.

Well it's not going to, as witnessed to by the poster, above, of the forthcoming 'alternative Synod' in London just a day before the real thing in York. Note that they've dropped the 'fellow ship' of that was FOCA. Now it's just 'Confessing Anglicans'. And note the interesting early retirement of Michael Nazir-Ali of Rochester, to work with persecuted Christians around the world. Might not conservatives in a liberal church see themselves as one such group?

Dr Nazir-Ali writes one of the most interesting analyses of the covenant in the latest Church of England Newspaper. He questions whether it is 'fit for purpose' and warns that it could lead to the very carte blanche it is designed to avoid. A contrasting view comes from another conservative heavyweight, a man we would normally expect him to be in agreement with, Stephen Noll, of Uganda Christian University. He welcomes it, and hopes that in it the 'real' Anglican Communion will be found in those provinces or 'churches' that participate in it.

Over then to Spread, the website of Charles Raven, a conservative evangelical former Church of England vicar who is now running his own independent ministry but is still very much involved in the debate and was at the Gafcon foundational meeting in Jerusalem last summer."

Click to her post to get the links to these and other matters of interest.

I suggest that what is at stake here is the long-term mission of the Anglican Communion. This mission over the long term will be damaged by splitting. In the short-term there may be gains for (say) both TEC and ACNA as they go separate ways in the USA. But in the long-term the distinctive Anglican interpretation of the gospel will be lost if we splinter. The voice of the Archbishop of Canterbury will carry no weight outside of England, and less inside of England if threatened schism takes place there. Here in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia splitting off Anglican churches will grow over the short-term, but in the long term the "Anglican church" (i.e. the remnant of ACANZP and a series of independent Anglican churches) will be weakened to the point of invisibility.

Here in Nelson we have a salutary story to tell. Some thirty years ago some disaffected Anglicans broke away to form a branch of one of the disaffected Anglican churches abroad in the world. They soldiered on but they could not ensure succession. As their ministers grew old they faced the inevitable and ceased to be a church. One became a Presbyterian, the other a member of the Reformed church. Fortunately it was a minor split and the majority stayed together. Meantime our Diocese has continued strongly, regained some of the evangelicalism which our two friends perhaps felt had been lost, and through its strength has a public witness which is second to none in this region. But I shudder to think where things would be if there had been a series of splits, as threatens to be the case for the time being in the life of the Communion.

Now, perhaps in the purposes of God the loss of the Anglican voice for the gospel will not matter. Perhaps God wants to whittle the field down and we are expendable for the greater good of all Christians. But perchance if we think we might have something to offer could we try a little harder to remain together in fellowship? Could a key to a renewed commitment to fellowship be a new vision for what it means to be the church over the long haul - over the next 500 years and not just the next 5 minutes?

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