Monday, March 26, 2012

The Anglican Association and the Anglican Communion

POSTSCRIPT: if you want a slightly different alternative to what I have written below, read Andrew Goddard's 'post Covenant rejection by CofE' essay at Fulcrum.

Ideas have their time and some ideas find their time does not come according to their supporters timetable. The Anglican Covenant may prove to be such an idea as a proposal for the Anglican Communion. (It has clearly proved in the last few days to be an idea whose time has not yet come for the Church of England). As the Living Church editorial I pointed to yesterday says, we can look back to 1963 and the Toronto Congress to see that the notion of mutual responsibility and interdependence has charted the evolution of the Communion for nearly fifty years:

"The [No Anglican Covenant] coalition’s opposition to the Covenant has principally centered on a sustained disinterest in global Communion structures, funded by an unhappy amnesia (at best, ignorance at worst) regarding the modern evolution of the Anglican Communion. Among other things, prescribed reading for all members of the NACC, and those tempted to follow them, would include the report from the 1963 Anglican Congress in Toronto, Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ, which charted the course for inter-Anglican conversation of the last half century in a visionary, missionary mode."
Will future historians look back and see that the Anglican Covenant's rejection by sufficient member churches to prevent its effective implementation was just a hiccup on the way to fulfilment of the Toronto vision? Were that to be so then the next period of Communion life will likely show signs of the situation being a hiccup rather than a dead end. Here is how our global life might play out over the next few decades.

(1) Synods and General Synods/Conventions will continue to make their responses to the Covenant through the next year or so. In the end a majority of member churches will support the Covenant because it is a good idea to bind together our talk of 'mutual responsibility and interdependence in the body of Christ' into a plan for action (i.e. a willingness to accept that there are consequences to failing to live up to mutual responsibility and interdependence in the body of Christ). A sound communion ecclesiology is on the side of all those supporting the Covenant.

(2) Parts of the present Communion will engage with each other and with Covenant-minded members in an "association" manner: meeting, talking, tolerating, doing absolutely nothing about any disagreements. This will be pleasant for all concerned but within this association mode Anglican diversity will diversify further and "Anglican" will increasingly mean "AnythingGoes." Slowly but surely this "association" will fade away because it is largely supported by declining Western Anglican churches.

(3) A strong part of the present Communion, currently found across movements and meetings associated with GAFCON//the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, and the Global South, will act as a "communion": a fellowship of Anglicans bound together in common cause, willing to hold each other accountable as those who are interdependent in the body of Christ. This version of the Anglican Communion will be supported by a good number of member churches with their full commitment, as well as by leaders from other member churches (and by ACNA). It will be the dominant expression of dynamic, growing Anglican Christianity for years to come.

(4) From within declining Western Anglican churches the dynamic, growing parishes and dioceses will send their leaders to join with the dominant expression of "Anglican Communion" in (3) above. When the GAFCON site tells us that some 200 leaders from 30 member churches are gathering in London in late April for a leadership conference (itself a preface to another GAFCON in 2013), we can be sure that the dominant expression of Anglican Christianity is stronger than the liberal/progessive expression which has fought against the Covenant. Even from within ACANZP, which is likely to reject the Covenant, we will have leaders, including bishops, at this April, 2012 event. Even more will go to GAFCON 2013.

(5) Effectively, that is, the present Anglican Communion of 38 member churches will work out its life as an Anglican Association of about 10-12 member churches and an Anglican Communion (or Fellowship) of about 26-28 member churches.

(6) Eventually the penny will drop, the idea of the Covenant will have its time: those within the Anglican Association who are tired of being part of an Anglicanism going nowhere and lacking common doctrinal accord will join with the (effective) Anglican Communion in a revised form of the (official) Anglican Communion which will have Instruments of Unity which work, a covenant which binds, and conferences which all member churches attend. However by that stage the 'covenant which binds' will have more in common doctrinally with the Jerusalem Declaration than with the Covenant doing the synodical rounds today.

(7) This means that the next ABC from a Communion perspective should be someone capable of seeing into the far future of the Communion, able to relate well to the leaders GAFCON/FCA while also connecting with the leaders of the Anglican Association, and, of course, competent to lead the C of E but not given to being anxious about the course of Communion life during the decade or so they will be in the ABC role.

Understandably ++Rowan has been anxious about the Communion, and that anxiety has served him well in pushing for the Covenant while not serving him well in respect of TEC: he was too anxious to please TEC!

The next ABC could be more relaxed about the Association and the Communion. My personal recommendation for "Lambeth 2018" would be to run twin events for the Association and for the Communion with a joint picnic on the lawns of the University of Kent for those from each who would like to break bread together (a la the 5000 rather than the Lord's Supper).

By 2028 we could see a Covenant-bonded Communion fully represented at the Lambeth Conference of that year. But 2038 would do.


Fr. Jonathan said...

You are much more hopeful for the future than I am. It's worth remembering that some of the strongest objections to the covenant have come from Gafcon provinces. That said, if the Gafcon movement can get its act together and stay focused on classical Anglicanism, rather than on internal division, I think you're right that we'll effectively see two communions going forward. But it will be a generation before this is sorted enough that we can actually face each other across the ecumenical table, assuming there is anyone left of the "association" variety by then.

Anonymous said...

"From within declining Western Anglican churches the dynamic, growing parishes and dioceses will send their leaders to join with the dominant expression of "Anglican Communion" in (3) above. When the GAFCON site tells us that some 200 leaders from 30 member churches are gathering in London in late April for a leadership conference (itself a preface to another GAFCON in 2013), we can be sure that the dominant expression of Anglican Christianity is stronger than the liberal/progessive expression which has fought against the Covenant."

Liberalism within the Church is dying, that is clear, and it has been clear for at least ten to fifteen years now. While it is easy to say that numbers do not matter, the reality is that if you cannot grow sufficient numbers of healthy local churches then your voice and presence in the Church will fade over time, allowing the larger majority dominate.

This is partly what makes the current Covenant debate so frustrating. We have to deal constantly with objections from a wing of the Church which is simply no longer relevant. The passé liberalism of people like John A.T. Robinson and John Spong is yesterdays news, not the cutting edge.

This is where I disagree with those wanting to maintain ties with TEC. I see TEC (as do most Evangelicals and Conservatives) as a lost cause. The ordination to the Bishopric of Spong was clear evidence that TEC had fallen from the Faith and was in schismatic heresy. The ordination of Gene Robinson merely confirmed the obvious. In TEC we are not dealing with issues that we can continue discussing. There is nothing to discuss with those who have abandoned the Faith in favour of paganism and cultural Marxism.

So it is time to cut the dead wood. Expel TEC and reformulate a new Anglican body in North America, and do the same wherever else it is needed, and let us get on with the mission Christ has given us. Far too much time and energy has been wasted on those serving false gods.

Father Ron Smith said...

re Fr. Jonathan's comment, that there will be 2 Communion's;

Some have thought there might be 3:
YES Covenanters,
NO Covenanters,
& Gafcon.

However, it is more likely to end up as bi-partisan:
1.The Anglican Communion (in relationship with Canterbury, &
2.The Gafcon Primitive Church .

In the end though, their is only one Body of Christ, and that is the fellowship of ALL the Baptized!

Hail Mary, full of grace....!
Feast of The Annunciation.

Anonymous said...

Here is a very good article by Stephen Noll, commenting on a speech given by His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk. He makes a point I have made here myself that the real divide in the Church cuts across denominational lines and is between those who are trying to maintain some form of orthodoxy, and those who have fully surrendered to the idolatries of modernism.

Peter Carrell said...

Very good and pertinent, Shawn!

Lay Anglicana said...

Bishop Graham Kings referred me, and other followers on twitter, to this piece. I am a member of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition who has not yet breakfasted, so you catch me in a particularly pedantic mood.

In your first line, it should be 'different alternatives from', not 'different alternatives to'. And in your quote from the editorial in 'Living Church' (admittedly their fault rather than yours, but it makes nonsense of the piece), I think you mean 'uninterested' rather than 'disinterested'. Disinterested, meaning impartial, having no personal interest or axe to grind, is something we should all aspire to be, whereas I take it the paragraph is meant as an insult. And your penultimate paragraph 'a la the' leaves me, you may be glad to hear, speechless.

Peter Carrell said...

Pedants are welcome here, Lay Anglicana, even when dissatisfied with my grammar and those of my associates :)

I may not have been clear re the "5000" picnic: just recognising that full sharing in the Lord's Supper by all bishops of the Association-and-Communion might not be possible by then.

Father Ron Smith said...

Bravo, Lay Anglican. I'm all for proper grammar and brevity on blogs.

One particular bete noir I have is people who constantly use the word 'your', when they really mean you're (you are)

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you for your indulgent reply :)

My blood sugar levels have returned to normal, the sun is shining and it is a lovely Spring morning.

I honestly feel that if the whole Communion could pick up at the Chicago Lambeth Quadrilateral where we left off, as it were, the Communion could continue as before. The reading for Lent 5 in the CofE lectionary (which as has been pointed out to me is neither revised nor common) was from Jeremiah 31.31-34, which I interpret as: "there is no need for a written Covenant, because I will write it in your hearts. Nor is there any need for you to teach your neighbour how to know me." You will never get The Episcopal Church and the Church in Nigeria to agree, for example, on the treatment of women, gays or even gay women, yet both Churches regard themselves as Anglican.

Please let us leave it at that, agreeing to disagree, and concentrate on what unites us rather on what divides us. I remain a fervent advocate of the Anglican Communion, as I know do you. Let us have a virtual embrace!

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

You assume a unity of the larger number of Churches and all covenanting, but most of the covenanting will believe in not crossing boudaries and this will include non-covenanting Anglicans. The GAFCON people will want to cross boundaries, either via entryism or independence (a new Church) and will not want to sign a restrictive Covenant. It may well be a newer amdended Covenant emerges.

As for the other Anglican Churches going nowhere, where are they meant to be going? They will attend to their own situations, as well as offer mutual assistance. They are not into empire building or 'going' elsewhere.

But yes the actual new denominations cut across the present old denominations, and this is what is being worked through. My PhD said as much in 1989.

Daniel Weir said...

The assumption that there are/will no vibrant and griowing progressive parishes or dioceses is one that I would challenge, as I would the assumption that being progressive in unAnglican.

Anonymous said...


"The assumption that there are/will no vibrant and griowing progressive parishes or dioceses is one that I would challenge"

I would not say there are none, though I have yet to experience one. However I would say that overall, those vibrant and growing parishes I am aware of in both Christchurch and Auckland are predominantly Evangelical. And in terms of the global Communion, the demographics easily favour conservatives and Evangelicals.

"as I would the assumption that being progressive in unAnglican"

I am less concerned with what is "unAnglican", and more concerned with what is Biblical.

Of course, it depends on what is meant by the label "progressive". If "progressive" means a surrendering to the spirit of the age, an acceptance of the world view of post-enlightenment humanism, then I think there is a deep and profound conflict between the Theocentric worldview of Scripture, and the human centred worldview of modernism, a conflict which leads to serious theological and missional problems.

Anonymous said...

Shawn, the danger is more that evangelical orthodox churches can lose their way through a focus on music, personalities or whatever and become "progressive" by default. A number of "progressive" churches had a fairly orthodox past, lively youth work etc, but under more liberal leadership have moved into theologically grey areas, at the same time announcing their cultural 'relevance' or 'coolness' to the world. Brian McLaren, Steve Chalke and maybe Rob Bell are examples of this - able men, practically speaking, with compelling personas in the Christian youth world from conservative backgrounds but lightweight theologically who ruminate out loud about things they haven't really understood.
A focus on 'spirituality' or 'faith' rather than doctrine in a post-Christendom world is another Holzweg for some.

MIchael Godfrey said...

As a pro-Covenant liberal I'm wondering how to swim the Bosphorous ... would I have to grow a beard to be a priest again, or should I surrender my priesthood?

On the liberal side of things there is an oft-unstated but complex divide between those along the lines of Spong, who are doctrinally and socially liberal and some like myself (clearly not quite in the same realms as I don't have Spong's pay-cheque!) who are doctrinally conservative but socially somewhere on a liberal nexus - absolutely committed to the theology of resurrection, absolutely open to gays enjoying full benefit of encounter with the Resurrected Lord. I will not engage in ethical argument without engagement, for example with the texts of faith - not in a war of texts (my John 3.16 is bigger than your Gal. 5.12) but in a consideration of the huge questions of inclusion and exclusion as approached by the whole witness of scripture, reason and tradition. (Incidentally I am less convinec than "Anonymous" that Rob Bell is a theological lightweight: his christological inclusivism is well-reasoned and accessibly presented).

Guess I'm hoping the Bosphorous isn't too toxic: I would swim it rather than the Tiber, but I suspect either is fairly radio-active these days. I would swim either than whatever river takes me to the arms of GAFCON - for they would exclude me anyway, and it's such a long swim back.

Peter Carrell said...

If only, Michael, your approach to the issues dividing Anglicanism was typical of all liberal/progressives. We might have had a constructive engagement instead of the destructive one which has ensued this last decade or so.

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Michael, for your contribution to the discussion. I find myself very near to your position - except that I fear the current attempt at 'Covenant' would continue to host a dichotomy of 'inclusive' versus 'exclusive' views vying with one another in an ongoing feud within the covenanted partnership.

To my mind, it may be better to have two different parts of the Communion - each with their own theological stance on gender and sexuality, because that is patently what divides us at this time.

It is certainly what has raised up the likes of GAFCON and ACNA - who do not want a bar of relating with certain other Provinces in the Communion under any circumstances.

The only way we could all be together would be for traditional Anglican 'Unity in Diversity' ethics to be further extended.

In any case, our true unity is not only in any confessional body, but rather 'en Christo', into Whose death and resurrection we have all been Baptised, and Whose life we share together in the Eucharist.