Many years ago an older Christian said to me that in our commitment to Christ we are either going forwards or backwards. There is no standing still. I have a hypothesis that something similar is the case in respect of unity and diversity (or, if you will 'unity-and-diversity'): there is no equilibrium (this side of Glory) between unity and diversity. We are either becoming more unified or more diversified.
You can probably guess where I am going with this. Global Anglicanism is definitely on a pathway of increasing diversity (and its converse, decreasing unity). Over the past decades, just when we might have sought to stem the tide of diversity, we have habitually refused from doing so (the recent Primates' Meeting being the latest refusal).
If we think of global Anglicanism as a wheel, then in recent decades everything has moved away from the axle to the rim. Unsurprisingly, as the wheel has spun faster, somethings have fallen off: congregations and even dioceses have come off the Anglican wheel, bishops and even primates have spun off.
Over time we may find a natural reverse occurring (I hope we do), a yearning for unity which leads to action rather than inaction towards finding our common mind in Christ. But I am guessing that for a long time to come, perhaps for ever, we will see no lessening of the penchant for diversity. The key word defining Anglican churches in relation to each other is and will be 'independent', unmodified by qualifying phrases about 'common faith and practice'.
In terms of the aspirations of this blog - looking for signs of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church among Christians identifying themselves as Anglican - things will be forlorn. We are not one (either institutionally or organically), if we are 'holy' then a whole lot of other Christians are marching to a different understanding of holiness, 'catholic' is questionable as a descriptor of any Anglican entity claiming global connectedness between Anglican Christians, and as for 'apostolic', well, we argue furiously with each other about the content of apostolic teaching relevant for today as foundation and definition of whatever passes for shared theology among Anglicans, and we have varied approaches to understanding the ways in which we are (or are not) in continuity with the ancient apostolic church.
Whether God is bothered to save us from ourselves, I do not know.
What I do know is that there is no Christian body dominated by liberal or progressive theology which has flourished. (NZ readers might like to ask themselves about the non-existence of the NCC-become-CCANZ here). If (as I suspect) the recent Primates' Meeting represents a decisive step in which the entity known as the Anglican Communion has yielded itself to domination by liberal or progressive theology (i.e. rather than ensuring a balanced theology in lively tension between liberalism and conservatism), then there is no reason to think that anything other than decline awaits that entity - measured both by decreasing numbers being represented by those who meet in the name of the Communion, and by further fragmentation of the common life of those who continue to meet.
For those peeling off from the entity known as the Anglican Communion (i.e. peeling off from the actuality of Communion meetings, I acknowledge that no member churches have formally left the institution), the future is not necessarily less bleak. History suggests that those disengaging from a liberal or progessive Christian institution likely themselves will further divide; and there are signs in North America that unity is hard to find among those who have left TEC and ACCan.
I remain ever hopeful that the church of God, represented in churches of many names throughout the world, will flourish. Whether global Anglicanism will flourish as a once, holy, catholic, apostolic communion is unknown to me!
But there are worse problems being faced by Christians. Pray for the Coptic Church!