(1) relevant to the original post below is a bit of liberal Protestant jelly on the other side of the ditch, as brought out by Convictional Anglican, ruminating on the election (by committee!!) of a new bishop for Grafton. I wonder if the same committee has been electing the Australian cricket team of late :)
(2) we may as well pop a little branch theory into this post, courtesy of The Conciliar Anglican.
My own comment on branch theory is that a better theory is called twig theory. It goes like this: basically the church is any bunch of people trying to figure out what Jesus was and is up to. If any one twigs what that is, please let others know!
It must be true, this liberal Protestant character of the Anglican church (see discussion below). Because Damian Thompson says so!
"Anglo-Catholics in the Church of England won't have to encounter lady bishops in their own parishes, but they are decisively throwing in their lot with a liberal Protestant denomination that consecrates them. Come on, guys, admit it!"
However I differ from Damian in using the word 'denomination'. I suggest 'jelly' would be much better. A very fine pudding is a jelly, but it does wobble, and that is what Anglicans do quite well.
Here is an example, quoting from the same Thompson article the words of +Jonathan Baker, Bishop of Fulham, doyen of English 'FiF' Anglo-Catholics, about the proposal, likely to pass, that the C of E will have women bishops, but parishes not wanting them can appeal to an ombudsman:
"“Though these proposals are still far from what we have long said would be ideal, we believe that they may have the potential to provide workable arrangements for the future, which will ensure that our people, clergy and parishes have continued access to a ministry that will enable us to flourish within the structures of the Church of England, and make our full contribution to its life and mission.""
Thus Anglo-Catholics, even of the Forward in Faith variety, are able to wobble a little in order to accommodate change. Even, it would seem, from the Telegraph article re the proposal, there is a little wobble coming from Reform (the evangelical counterpart to Forward in Faith).
Remarkably there is potential for liberal Protestant jelly within GAFCON! Yes, dear reader, this will surprise you, but it is spelled out in this address, "The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion: The Church and its Mission", a defence of GAFCON, by Archbishop Wakabula, Primate of Kenya, and Chair of the GAFCON Primates' Council.
First, there is no wobble in some important things ++Wakabula says about the 39A. In them is found true doctrine, expressions of the 'power of the gospel and the priority of Scripture.' Secondly, there is likely to be debate about the use of the descriptive term 'moralism' to describe the Anglicanism of the seventeeth century. I make no comment myself: I do not know enough. Nevertheless there is straight up and down, no jelly to be found proposition when ++Wakabula summarily says,
"The Articles alert us to the fact that effective mission must be based on clear theological convictions about the gospel."
No, the interesting wobble in ++Wakabula's address lies elsewhere:
"Following the spirit of the Articles, we respect diversity on secondary matters and the GAFCON movement models this in the variety of traditions it embraces and the recognition of principled difference about the role of women in church leadership. However, on those matters which touch the central message of the Church’s mission we need to also follow the spirit of the Articles, reinforcing the great positives of the gospel by stating the necessary negatives, especially in an intellectual environment dominated by post modernist relativism where it is assumed that truth claims are merely preferences."
The 'recognition of principled difference about the role of women in church leadership' is a wobbling jelly of a statement because it allows that 'principled difference' might be a substantive explanation of diversity in the life of the church. To confine this substantive explanation to 'secondary matters', without theological justification (or, we could say, with as insubstantial an appeal as 'following the spirit of the Articles'), is to express 'preference' and thus to fall into precisely the situation which the citation professes to abhor, 'an intellectual environment dominated by post modernist relativism where it is assumed that truth claims are merely preferences.'
Naturally, within this particular defense of GAFCON, ++Wakabula does not deviate from the line that a progressive approach to same sex relationships is the heart of a modern Anglican false gospel:
"The Anglican story for the past 15 years has been the attempt by the revisionist Provinces of North America, with significant support from the Church of England itself, to undermine the collegiality of the Lambeth Conference’s resolution on human sexuality. A false gospel has now become entrenched in parts of the Communion, as the Jerusalem Statement of 2008 correctly diagnosed, and the GAFCON movement has had to describe itself as a Confessing Anglican movement in the face of the confusion which has been allowed to take hold."
But this line is seriously exposed by ++Wakabula as frayed. If 'principled difference' over women in leadership is allowable but not over same sex partnerships, there has to be a reason if the counter charge of 'prejudice' is not to be invoked.
The distinction between 'primary' and 'secondary' matters might be brought into play. But what if one group of Anglicans says the matter of same sex partnerships is 'secondary' and another says it is primary? This is likely to be a matter of 'principled difference', which ++Wakabula allows as part of Anglicanism.
Other matters of 'principled difference' could be at work in the ever changing situation of our Western world. For instance, I suggest it is 'principled difference' if you believe that a lesbian couple coming to church with their three children should nevertheless be asked to break up their relationship (and consequentially their family) on scriptural grounds while I believe that (despite my agreeing with you that lesbian relationships cannot be blessed by the church) this family should be respected and assisted by the church (since breaking up families, however constituted, is not part of church pastoral care).
In the end, if Anglican attitudes to homosexuality can be demonstrated to be matters in which 'principled difference' is at work, then, logically, GAFCON should welcome diversity in these attitudes, as it does over women in leadership.
There is a further wobble in ++Wakabula's address which I want to note.
As he explores further the question of the authority of Scripture he rightly discusses the integral question of the interpretation of Scripture. How do we resolve differences in interpretation of Scripture? (Incidentally, we are also sticking with the meme of 'principled difference' at this point). One answer is to form an Anglican Magisterium. Like all good Anglicans, ++Wakabula immediately rejects such a Roman idea. But then he goes onto offer some jelly (my bold).
"So while an Anglican magisterium is out of place, we should not reject the idea of a body with a more circumscribed authority to exercise the ministry of being a “witness and keeper of Holy Writ” for the Communion as a whole. This is especially necessary now that Article 34 has taken on greater significance with the formation over the centuries of the Anglican Communion as a fellowship of national and regional Churches. The Article affirms that diversity is legitimate so long as “nothing be ordained against God’s Word” and recognizes the authority of national churches in matters of rites and ceremonies. The strength of this understanding for mission is that the unchanging truths of the gospel can be expressed in culturally appropriate forms, but it also carries the risk that the culture may distort the message of the gospel. It is therefore strength for a global communion to have a means by which local adaptations can be tested to ensure that they enhance the communication of the gospel rather than domesticating it to a particular culture."
With respect, Archbishop Wakabula, should you read this, a magisterium is a magisterium, with or without 'a more circumscribed authority'.
As a matter of fact I think an Anglican magisterium is a good idea. I am offering to be its first chairperson. If efficiency and effectiveness is required of the magisterium, I am also willing to shoulder the load by being its sole member for the next ten years ... with all decisions communicated via ADU!
Now to the serious business of a conclusion re Anglican jelly (whether liberal or Protestant or both).
Damian Thompson is right and wrong.
He is wrong to call the Anglican church/Anglican Communion a 'liberal Protestant denomination'. It is more than that.
He is right to call attention to the jelly like statement of the Bishop of Fulham.
He is wrong to castigate it with sarcasm.
The Anglican point in response to Thompson's smart alec brand of certitude is that life is difficult, Christian wisdom requires flexibility, the Anglican church offers that ... and Rome (actually, as Pope Francis is showing us to be the case) knows that it also needs to follow suit.