Sunday, April 11, 2010

Evolving thoughts on the evolving state of world Anglicanism

So the GAFCON Primates have met and issued a communique, signed by Archbishop Bob Duncan of ACNA, a province of world Anglicanism not yet formally recognised through membership of the Anglican Communion; the 4th Global South Encounter takes place in a week or so in Singapore; and a couple of weeks after that, Mary Glasspool will be consecrated a bishop in TEC, a setting apart action which will confirm a walking apart by TEC relative to much of the Anglican Communion. Meantime, General Synods (such as our own in ACANZP in May 2010) are being asked to make some response, if not confirmation of acceptance of the Anglican Covenant. World Anglicanism is changing before our eyes. Some questions on my mind include these:

Will world Anglicanism and the Anglican Communion emerge from this process of change more or less the same thing?

Will the Anglican Communion - already an impaired communion because not all Anglicans will share communion with other Anglicans - fracture decisively or become yet more frayed; or be renewed, refreshed and reunited?

My hunch is that no one person, Instrument of Unity, or meeting of 'concerned Anglicans' is able to break up the Communion in a decisive manner. Rather we will see some changes taking place through evolution rather than revolution. The Anglican Communion will remain intact, but it may be a shadow of its former self, its meetings peopled by less than full representation of all member churches, and that representation being less diverse than it once was. The irony of certain moves towards greater Anglican inclusiveness being moves effectively to greater exclusion! Also in the mix will be greater significance around groupings such as Global South, GAFCON, TEC and its friends, and (I wonder) greater emphasis on regional Anglican networks ('If the global Communion is dysfunctional, could we in the South Pacific work together?').

In this evolution I suggest the following factors are going to steer the character of new Anglican groupings.

Common theology establishing communion together

The current situation we are in has arisen because Anglican diversity has been unchecked. We have lost sight of the importance of common theology (i.e. limiting diversity) for the sustaining of communion. The changing shape of world Anglicanism will be driven by communion based on common theology. Those, for example, who gather with and around TEC will do so because they share things in common with TEC's current direction. Incidentally, these common theologies around which various groupings will form will be 'positive' theologies. Unity in mere condemnations is fleeting. What is emerging is not fleeting because, notwithstanding certain grandstanding comments in Anglican blogs alleging the contrary, it is in fact being built on what is believed together: the creeds, the 39A, concern for global poverty, etc.

Accountability and autonomy in harmony

The charge is often made these days that TEC has forsaken accountability to the Anglican Communion for autonomy, its right as a self-governing church to determine its own future. Whether that charge is fair or not, I suggest we will see Global South and GAFCON grow from strength to strength to the extent that they involve not just folks meeting together, but church leaders and their churches engaging in decisions together for which they are accountable to one another. Being Anglican, and with no particular tendency emerging towards papalism (that I can detect), we can be sure that autonomy will not be suppressed in these groupings, but it will be balanced with accountability.

Its early days, and the thing about evolution is that it is hard to see the exact character and contours of the new species which will emerge!

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