Thursday, January 13, 2011

Who is an Anglican these days? (2)

Teasing out the issues on Anglican identity is coming along very nicely in comments being made to my first post on the question of who is an Anglican these days. Thank you.

Certainly a pretty tight definition of 'Anglican' (and therefore of who is not Anglican) requires belonging to the Anglican Communion. There is then just the small, but actually rather large question of how people self-identifying as Anglicans who do not belong to the Anglican Communion are to be called. Such people, after all, are clearly and particularly not identifying themselves as Presbyterians or Baptists or Roman Catholics etc!

Frankly, in my book, calling them 'wannabe Anglicans' is less than gracious as well as, I suggest, less than accurate (because 'wannabe' implies a grasping ambition to be something one cannot be, whereas some signs suggest that civil, careful, progressing discussion has been engaged in between ACNA and Canterbury). More helpful is the suggestion that the Anglican Communion (quickly) develops a form of 'associate membership' for the likes of ACNA. Anglicans would then be 'full' and 'associate' members of the Communion. Such an approach would be in keeping with the spirit of 21st century Anglicanism which we are constantly assured is 'inclusive'!

Also helpful is the suggestion that people may appropriately identify themselves as Anglican where the theology to which they hold can broadly be identified as 'Anglican theology.'

Another comment uses the phrase 'truly Anglican' and that is a matter to consider also: are there 'Anglicans' and 'true Anglicans' (and, some might want to add, 'false Anglicans')? Associated questions would then be the grounds by which one designated an Anglican claimant as a 'true Anglican.' Would that include communion with the See of Canterbury? Adherence to formularies of a member church of the Communion? Commitment to Anglican theology? (One particular challenge these days is that some Anglicans think other Anglicans-communing with Canterbury-adhering to relevant formularies have nevertheless lost the Anglican theological plot: are these true or false, orthodox or heterodox or heretical Anglicans?)

Also into the mix of threads of issues - not drawn into conclusions here yet - is the nature of idenfication language: some words play dual roles when it comes to identification. 'Kiwi', for instance, can apply to someone born and bred in NZ; but it is also used by people who emigrated here just a few years ago but who now identify themselves fully with this land and its culture. Also, in my experience, denominational identifications are flexible in various ways. There is many a Presbyterian spouse who has worshipped with their Baptist spouse in Baptist churches for many years of married life who nevertheless understand themselves to be Presbyterian and not Baptist. Ditto Methodists who move to a rural area with only an Anglican or Roman Catholic church to choose from: although fully immersed in the life of the church they participate in, in their hearts they remain Methodist. Conversely there are those Christians who will say 'I am an Anglican these days' (because they have been worshipping in the local Anglican church for a few months) but when they move towns and find the local Baptist church to their liking, cheerfully say 'I am a Baptist these days' (even though the 'full members' of that congregation might look sideways at them because they know they have not been fully immersed!).

Any more issues, questions, nuances to ponder?

ADDED LATER: Of course there are a few more things to think about, like (a) Anglicans who have some tenuous connection with a local parish church, virtually never actually go to church for Sunday worship ... are they more or less Anglican than a member of ACNA? (b) Anglicans who leave (say) TEC for ACNA but do not renounce in any way their Anglican-ness: have they ceased to be Anglican because they left one Communion-associated form of Anglicanism for another?

I will attempt some conclusions in my next post.


Anonymous said...

Dear Peter
A couple of comments - "following the formularies" - well at what distance is following still following. I've sat in Anglican conferences and Anglican cathedrals following some pretty odd liturgies.
And secondly, what kind of future does this discussion have in the
A-NZ context given the relative absence of young people from our churches , and the tiny proportion of those remaining young people who would consider it critically important to be seriously Anglican. This is the context within which we should consider the not unimportant questions you are raising
Rhys Lewis

Brother David said...

because 'wannabe' implies a grasping ambition to be something one cannot be

Exactly. And it applies specifically to ACNA because the AC does not recognize competing provincial jurisdictions within the same geographical territory. And if many of us are successful in opposing such a concept, the AC never will.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Rhys and David for comments.

Agreed: at least for our common experience in ACANZP (but it seems similar, by all accounts, in other Western Anglican churches), the notion of defining who is Anglican and who is not seems highly irrelevant, inapprotiate and so last-century for our young people!

Of course, David, a number of your 'wannabe Anglicans' would say they have always been Anglican and have never ceased being Anglican.

Catholic Defender said...

I have been Graced to see a number of Anglicans convert to the Catholic Faith. Wouldn't that be great if we could become one again! That is my prayer!

Rev. Ngira Simmonds said...

Hi Peter,
As a young "uber Anglican," as I like to refer to myself, I consider Anglican identity to be very important; however the way I identify myself as being Anglican has nothing to do with the fact the our province is officially apart of The Anglican Communion. For me being Anglican is about worship, about challenging unjust structures in society, about whanaungatanga (fellowship), and all those things.
I am hugely proud to be Minihare (Anglican) and it’s important to me to ensure that everybody knows it! Even as a Cleric I am often asked if I am Roman Catholic (blame that on my obsession with vestments) and I have pride in telling people I am Anglican.
ACC, the Lambeth conference, the ABC and the Primates meeting doesn’t come into the picture. While I note that for others the instruments of communion might be important to them, for me being Anglican in my part of the world means something different. I don’t like to think that I belong to the New Zealand branch of the Church of England. I belong to my Church, shaped and defined to be what it is today on these shores and by my people.
I think the very nature of being Anglican is that you can identify with it in any way you like; hence my negative stance towards the Covenant. Being Anglican in Africa will be different to being Mihinare. And to me that’s what being Anglican is – being who you are with God!

Thoroughly enjoying this series of posts! And the comments! Fantastic korero.

Naku nei,


Peter Carrell said...

If we all become Catholic then we can ask why were there ever Anglicans? :)

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Ngira. Clearly one answer to the question of the definition of 'Anglican' is 'many definitions'!

Andrew Reid said...

A quick point on CESA you mentioned in your previous post...they're certainly accepted as Anglicans in the Diocese of Sydney. (Shuts hands over ears as crowd erupts in anti-Sydney shouting. I'm from Melbourne!) One of their bishops was a Sydney priest, Dudley Foord, and George Whitfield College's founding principal was the Moore College stalwart Broughton Knox. I understand they have links with evangelical groups in the CofE and elsewhere, but not official recognition.

Secondly, on the broader issue of Anglican identity, I want to commend more focus on belief in and expression of Anglican theological and confessional perspectives. If an individual, church or diocese rejects the faith as received by the Anglican church, do they still qualify as Anglican? I remember the words of my bishop, Bishop Mouneer, to the TEC House of Bishops in 2007: "Please forgive me when I relay that some say you are a different church, others even think that you are a different religion". (Whole address at:

I don't see that conducting a "Who's In and Who's Out" discussion is very helpful, but when we have accusations of "leaving" or "schism" being thrown about, we have to consider the theological and confessional perspectives. Otherwise, you end up saying Fred Hilz is more Anglican than Jim Packer, or KJS is more Anglican than Jack Iker or Bob Duncan - what a travesty that would be!

Kurt said...

“I have been Graced to see a number of Anglicans convert to the Catholic Faith. Wouldn't that be great if we could become one again! That is my prayer!”—CD

Thanks friend, but we Anglicans/Episcopalians already are Catholics. We became so when we were baptized into Christ’s One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

“And it applies specifically to ACNA because the AC does not recognize competing provincial jurisdictions within the same geographical territory. And if many of us are successful in opposing such a concept, the AC never will.”—David

Quite so. And I, too, will oppose ACNA or any other group that attempts to displace TEC, ACofC etc., as full member provinces of the Anglican Communion. And I will also oppose any attempts by reactionaries to downgrade the status of the American and Canadian churches. That having been said, I don’t see any contradiction in also allowing “associate” status to any number of denominations from the “Continuum,” including ACNA, provided that certain basics—such as reciprocal Table Fellowship—are guaranteed. Parallel does not have to be competing. There is, and can be, only one full member church of the Anglican Communion in the USA, and that is TEC. There can be any number of “associated” churches that might have “observer” status at AC functions, similar to that granted to the Old Catholics and the Porvoo churches.

I realize that David—and many other supporters of TEC and ACofC—do not share my sentiments on this issue. And I want to assure him (and them) that I am unalterably opposed to the homophobic and misogynist behavior that many Continuing Anglican groups (including some elements in ACNA) permit. And I am also opposed to ACNA (and others) who are presently attempting to steal TEC and ACofC properties for their own use.

I believe that— eventually—most Continuum churches will make their peace with women’s ordination and with lesbian/gay equality. (Just as the Reformed Episcopal Church apparently has recently made their peace with the Catholic Revival after nearly 150 years). I think that associate member status would help the process along; but I respect those, like David, who disagree with this approach.

Kurt Hill
In chilly (27F/–2.7C) and snowy
Brooklyn, NY

Kurt Hill said...

“I remember the words of my bishop, Bishop Mouneer, to the TEC House of Bishops in 2007: ‘Please forgive me when I relay that some say you are a different church, others even think that you are a different religion’”—Andrew Reid

You realize, don’t you Andrew, that most Episcopalians I know think that “Sydney ‘Anglicanism’” is a different religion, too? The theology, liturgy and ceremonial of St. James King Street is highly unusual in Sydney, but would be considered “typical” in a great many Episcopal parishes of metro New York. That someone with the theological views of Peter Jensen is an archbishop in an Anglican church is a travesty to many of us here in America.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

John Sandeman said...

So who is more open to other poiints of view? Sydney or NY?
Sydney has churches (adding say St Lukes Enmore or Christchurch St Laurence to SJKS) that Kurt perhaps would see as typical of TEC. Yet is there a Sydney Anglican style church within the diocese of New York?
Would be glad to hear from Kurt that is.

John Sandeman

Kurt said...

St. George's Church, Stuyvesant Square, would probably be more “Sydney Anglican style.”

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

John Sandeman said...

Thanks Kurt.
St Georges as a church with the alpha course would be a place I would feel at home. Thankyou for opening my eyes to it. My Church in Sydney uses the Alpha course. But we're considered a bit oddball in Sydney for using it!