Friday, June 26, 2009

Let a charitable spirit of catholic Anglicanism flow in North America

The formation of the Anglican Church of North America is done and dusted with the installation of Bob Duncan as the first Archbishop of this church. I have met Bob Duncan - he is a good man - a humble man too.

The catholicity of Ruth Gledhill is in full operation these days as she has recruited Chris Sugden as a guest blogger reporting from the ACNA proceedings!

But Mark Harris of Preludium is a little less than welcoming in respect of inclusion of ACNA within the 'official' Anglican rainbow:

"There is also the question of just what sort of thing ACNA is. We know it is a church, a church with bishops and an Archbishop / Primate. It is also called by reporter George Conger, "The 39th Province - in - waiting." This of course in support of the notion that the end game is either dual jurisdictions in North America, or ACNA's own sense that its destiny is to be THE jurisdiction of the Anglican Communion in North America. The Anglican Communion is not breaking up, it appears. Rather a second world wide Anglican grouping, one not referencing Canterbury directly and not including a number of older churches, fundamentalist in decidedly un-Anglican ways is developing. If so it will join a variety of other world-wide Anglican bodies and will take its place in the history of the Church."

This paragraph captures what I see as the key issue for the Anglican Communion: will it accept the novelty of "dual jurisdictions in North America"? Here are two reasons for the Anglican Communion to do just that:

(1) What is developing in ACNA and TEC/ACCan are two expressions of the Anglican spirit neither of which can be denied in some simple judgement (e.g. with the word "un-Anglican"). The liturgical, missional, and theological commitments of ACNA are anything but "fundamentalist in decidedly un-Anglican ways" (as evidenced, e.g., by BabyBlueOnline's montage of clips and reports from the installation service). In support of the Anglicanism of TEC/ACCan one could note, among other things, that they have a continuing Anglican history on their side, and an openness to embracing the reality of post-modern society which is in keeping with the spirit of original Anglicanism which sought to be a church for the whole of England.

(2) Novelty itself is no reason to deny the possibility of dual jurisdictions in North America. Setting aside possible precedents in the dual Dioceses of Europe and the three tikanga arrangements of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia (which provide for triple jurisdiction in our largest city, Auckland), the simple fact of TEC and ACCan is that their respective incorporations of the ordination of a bishop who is neither married nor celibate and of blessings of same sex couples constitutes a novelty in respect of Scripture, tradition and reason in Anglican history. When one novelty is permitted, why should another be denied?

The matter of whether one jurisdiction (TEC in the USA, ACCan in Canada) or another (ACNA) will prevail should be left to the outworking of future history. Each side claims the other will come to nothing! Why not affirm both and see what happens?

Archbishop Bob Duncan, Archbishop Fred Hiltz and Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori are held in the greatest of esteem by their respective churches. Perhaps a test of the grace of God at work in their ministries of leadership will be whether they will encourage and permit a charitable spirit of catholic Anglicanism flow across their churches. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

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