Monday, September 21, 2015

Federashun or Communniun?

Talk of the 'Anglican Communion' becoming a 'Federation' reminds me of a former leader of the former NZ 'Federation of Labour', Jim Knox, who was often cited by comics as pronouncing 'Federation' in the vernacular given in the title. I thought I would match it with 'Communion' in the vernacular too. All the better to illustrate how Inglush ought to be pronounced. Unless we are at Lambeth Palace. In which case could I have an interpreter please?

Talk of the Communion becoming a Federation is unsettling and one of the unsettled is Andrew Goddard who writes 'From Communion to ... Federation?' at Fulcrum. He kindly mentions my own recent post on the matter, though he disagrees with my prediction. But it is the words of Ruth Gledhill he takes particular aim at when she writes,

'The move towards a more federal model, an Anglican Federation along the lines of Europe's Lutheran Federation, is a much better model for the Church in today's world.'

Rightly Goddard deduces that no one in the Communion really wants a Federation instead of a Communion:

'The way forward after January is unlikely to be simply a reversion to an earlier attempted solution, whether the Dar Primates’ model or the Anglican Communion Covenant in its present form. It is, however, even less likely to be an agreement from the Primates that they need to embrace a “federation” model of global Anglicanism. This effectively abandons any claim to respect provincial interdependence (not to mention any doctrinal or ethical basis for unity which is clearly so important for many of the provinces whether in terms of the Jerusalem Declaration or the broader wording in Section One of the Covenant). Instead it gives unfettered freedom to provincial autonomy on the basis that we must all simply “agree to disagree”'

I wouldn't put my case that we are heading towards a 'Federation' in the words Gledhill uses because I do not think it would be 'a much better model for the Church in today's world.'

I remain convinced, with Andrew Goddard, in the importance of being an interdependent Communion. I agree with him as he analyses the implication of moving to a federation model with its consequential loss of the Anglican genius for the Communion we have enjoyed:

'It is very hard to see how a paradigm shift to a “looser” or “federation” model in any way shows “respect” for decades of theological and ecclesiological thought about what it means to be “a fellowship, within the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” identified in part by being “bound together not by a central legislative and executive authority, but by mutual loyalty sustained through the common counsel of the bishops in conference” (a definition going back to Resolution 49 of the 1930 Lambeth Conference)'

The difficulty I have with what Goddard writes is that it does not look like it is possible. The AC of former days is not the present reality - the reality in which we are currently a federation of communions (with various overlaps, and with everyone claiming to still belong to the AC. But not all willing to share in the eucharist together).

So I would rephrase what Ruth Gledhill writes:

The move towards a more federal model, an Anglican Federation - no doubt along peculiarly Anglican lines - is the best model we can hope for the global Anglican churches in today's world to remain in some kind of connection with each other.

A commenter (below) has asked the following questions of the post above:

1) What do you define as "a communion"? A body of people* meeting in fellowship and sharing the eucharist together. 'Fellowship' implies holding things in common - koinonia - as well as a commitment to an interdependent life together. *In this context the 'people' may be episcopal/clerical/lay representatives of Anglican churches meeting as Lambeth, Primates, ACC. Added (in light of further comment): I am distinguishing at this point 'communion' and 'Communion'. The latter as in the 'Anglican Communion' or (if we so term) the Communion of Orthodox churches or those churches forming the Communion of the Western rite and Eastern rite Catholic churches speaks of a global organisation of churches (whether lightly or tightly organised). But in each such case these Communions are fellowships of churches willing to take communion together.
2) What do you define as "a federation"? A collection of communions with a commitment to meet together from time to time but no commitment to sharing the eucharist together when the full collection meets.
3) What do you mean by an "interdependent communion" (i.e. interdependent Communion), and how does it differ from a "communion"? 'Interdependent' underlines an aspect of 'communion' (see above). Strictly speaking it is redundant but I was emphasising a point made by Andrew Goddard.
4) In which years has the Anglican Communion ever satisfied your definition of a communion and/or an interdependent communion? 1867. OK, seriously, I acknowledge that the communion of the AC has been impaired since the ordination of women in the 1970s affected Communion meetings so that - so I understand - not all present would share the eucharist, and in individual churches some would not receive the eucharist from a presiding woman priest/bishop. Nevertheless across large swathes of the AC people got on with meeting together and, in 1998, if not all then nearly all bishops turned up to Lambeth and, as far as I know, prior to 2003, all Primates shared the eucharist at the Primates' Meetings. Thus the AC mostly but not completely satisfied my definition until c. 2003. Since then 'impairment' has shifted to 'broken' or 'divided' and thus I see the AC as not currently being an honest title for the global Anglican collection of churches.


Father Ron Smith said...

Here, Peter, is a very comprehensive and eirenically intetesting link to a statement by a priest in TEC, about the present conflict:'

The article, gleaned from 'Episcopal Cafe', says much of what I would want to say about our membership of the Anglican Communion, fraternally connected with the ABC, Lambeth and all who want to continue to be Anglicans wherever we happen to be; in communion with other Anglicans - but, without let or hindrance from any would-be dogmatic oversight from anyone else.

Peter Carrell said...

That is an unsaitsfactory article, Ron, which misses almost completely the situation the AC is in.

Anglicans used to agree on more things, now they agree on fewer things. That makes it harder, not easier, to convince all Anglicans to bother to meet together even if it is only for consultation and chinwagging.

It was unilateral action by TEC which highlighted the lack of agreement and we have been stuck pretty much ever since.

The article really is saying the AC consists of or should consist of people who want it to be a certain kind of (loose ties) organisation. That is a fair wish to express but it would be a smaller AC than we currently (sort of) have if that is where we are heading.

The author seems to have no understanding that some Anglicans don't want to live in a muddle!

Anonymous said...

I read your post, Peter, and am left with more questions than answers:

1) What do you define as "a communion"?
2) What do you define as "a federation"?
3) What do you mean by an "interdependent communion", and how does it differ from a "communion"?
4) In which years has the Anglican Communion ever satisfied your definition of a communion and/or an interdependent communion?



Father Ron Smith said...

"The article really is saying the AC consists of or should consist of people who want it to be a certain kind of (loose ties) organisation. That is a fair wish to express but it would be a smaller AC than we currently (sort of) have if that is where we are heading." - Peter C. -

Maybe, Peter, in this instance; smaller might just be better. At least it would not contain the sins of homophobia and mysogyny - which are 'relational sins' allied to the breaking of Communion intentionally - not by default or mistaken zeal for change.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
I will attempt to answer your questions in a PS to the post itself.

Father Ron Smith said...

"We know from this same passage of the Bible, in Matthew, that hades itself will not overcome God's church. So we must see a way to faith that the Archbishop of Canterbury's call to the 37 other Primates who head the worldwide Anglican Communion is ultimately a step towards and not away from unity. - Ruth Gledhill -

Ruth has a felicitous way of explaining the nitty-gritty of the Anglican situation. She, herself, has experienced change from a more conservative view-point on gender and sexuality - into the realm of realisation that relationships are more important to the Gospel theme than our myopic judgement of how others live their lives.

God is The Judge - there is no other. It is ultimately an experience of the life and vitality of the love of God-in-Christ that will convert our stubborn hearts into an acceptable 'Unity in Diversity' - a unity based, not on uniformity, but of loving God and one another.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, in your response to Bosco's points, above, you seem to have hit (almost inadvertently) on the secret of what would make the Anglican Communion a more satisfactory Communion of Fellowship - which it once was - before the recent drawing apart of various conservative elements.

Whatever the basis of our relationship as Anglicans, the very basic requirement, I believe, must be the willingness and the preparedness to share the Body of Christ in celebration of the Eucharist. Apart from Baptism, this is the only liturgical function of 'membership' that Jesus recommended for everyone.

One reason we are still not united with our Roman Catholic and Orthodox co-believers, is that they are unprepared to share the Eucharist with us. They are our brothers and sisters 'IN CHRIST' (because of our individual participation of the Eucharist) but in a way that is not recognised by them - because they do not agree with our theology!!! That seems to be the very same (doctrinal) reason why Gafcon, Acna, Fifa, Amia, Amie and verious other assorted breakaway sodalities will not share the Eucharist with the rest of us - because of our Inclusive Theology. How divisive is that?

The sign of withdrawal from Eucharistic Fellowship is definitive of an act of disunity; which is what the present conflict is all about.

Peter Carrell said...

Believe it or not, Ron, I do it enjoy it when we are in agreement!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Peter, I do not think your definition of a "communion", for the purposes of your post, does the trick.
The New Zealand Association of Religious Education Teachers and School Chaplains, as just one example, satisfies your definition. No one would suggest that it is "a communion" - and to suggest that it is one akin to the Anglican Communion, the Old Catholic Communion, or the Eastern Orthodox Communion, would be met with only confused looks.
The lack of clarity about a Communion or a Federation means asking which one Anglicanism is becomes a nonsense question.



Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
The context is discussion of the Anglican Communion with a capital 'C' and asking if it is actually a 'communion' with a small 'c'. I would hope that many bodies of Christians gathering together form 'communions' with small 'c'.

My point is that if the 'Communion' in 'Anglican Communion' is to be an honest word then beyond whatever formal apparatus it cites about being a fellowship of Anglican churches, a global set of meetings, a network of people with shared history and values etc (the apparatus which distinguishes it from the bodies you cite), it should include 'communion.'

That it does not suggests it is time to front up to reality and to change 'Communion' to something else. 'Federation' is currently my best alternative.

What is the basis on which you believe that 'Communion' is a justified continuing usage in the title 'Anglican Communion'?

Anonymous said...

I will try, then, Peter, to say what I have been saying here previously but in a different way.
If you say, following your criterion, that Anglicanism is not a Communion,
then it has not been a Communion for about four and a half decades.
If you say it is not a Communion now, but a Federation,
then it has been a Federation for as long as our generation can remember.



Peter Carrell said...

Historians may agree with you, Bosco!

I guess a related point might be that the possibility that we are a Federation rather than a Communion has perhaps been hidden through some of those decades (i.e. hidden from recognition and realisation by most Anglicans), become a little clearer in 2003 (when TEC decisively and globally/publicly clarified the non-koinonia of the Communion re Lambeth Resolutions), yet more clear through Primates Meetings subsequently, stepped forward more boldly into the light with the formation of GAFCON in 2008-and-the failure of about one third of bishops to turn up to Lambeth 2008 ... and so today with the inability of the ABC to call Lambeth 2018 together.

Bryden Black said...

First. As the 21st C began, an intriguing document was produced by a small ecumenical group mainly in the USA. It was entitled, In One Body through the Cross: The Princeton Proposal for Christian Unity, eds Carl Braaten & Robert Jenson (Eerdmans, 2003).

Here are some sections paraphrased by myself in a review I wrote up years ago:

III. Paras 19ff examine the theological, especially exegetical, base for the Christian Church as God’s “bringing unity to divided humanity.” Diversity and differences are especially covered with circumspection, treating truthful elements as well as false aspects. Two texts are however seminal: para 27 invokes Ephesians; para 28 the Fourth Gospel, especially ch.17; from which key characteristics are to be noted. Just so, unity and mission are integral to the NT vision, the one reinforcing and establishing the other (para 29). Consequently, there are clear warnings in the NT about the dangers of disunity (para 30), which warnings apply to ourselves today (para 31). Three contemporary “pervasive and debilitating consequences of division” (para 36) are examined in paras 32-34: re special distinguishing marks of our communities; churchly identities as functions of society; “boasting” about such features as being more determining than the gospel of the cross of Christ.

IV. All these modern features of our life/lives seriously undermine the churches’ authority to proclaim the Gospel. As a result our disagreement over the apostolic legacy means that other things will serve to ground and order the foundation(s) of the Christian Church. “Church shopping” (para 39) and “consumer options” versus “binding norms” (para 40) become the order of the day, whereas at least historically (para 41) most “disagreements were about the content and significance of the apostolic legacy”. The upshot is that distinctive marks of communal identity become the norm, as opposed to that which actually forms and transforms Christian community under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. This shift from truth to tribal identification thus helps to confirm our separated existence (para 42); “institutional and/or cultural self-maintenance” then marks our churches. The antidote to this prevailing situation can only be our joint attentiveness and commitment to the cause of visible unity, with the accompanying “shared discipline of faithfulness to the apostolic word” (para 43).

Bryden Black said...

Second. V. While greater tolerance and acceptance of differences are laudable, “friendly division is still division”. And so what form and shape might future efforts towards unity take? Different stances re ordination, sacraments, bishops, Petrine ministry, etc., among the participants were evident; but “visible unity”, after the depiction of the New Delhi 1961 statement, should remain the goal. To that end “three chief aspects of unity” need addressing:

47a. Unity of faith and doctrine - “holding the one apostolic faith, preaching the one Gospel”. Such “common teaching and witness ... across a wide spectrum of churches” has indeed emerged in the likes of BEM (WCC, 1982). To build upon these gains, three further steps should be undertaken (para 49) to strengthen doctrinal discipline.

50b. Coordination of witness and service - “having a corporate life reaching out in witness and service to all” - marked the emergence of the ecumenical movement. Re-evangelization in our own day warrants greater cooperation across a wide front - even if there are some clear obstacles to overcome (para 51). Therefore once again, these steps should be taken (para 52).

53c. Reciprocity of membership and ministry contrasts greatly with a “possessive attitude” to these things - “united with the whole Christian fellowship in all places and in all ages, in such wise that ministry and members are accepted by all.” Acknowledging differences of theological understanding regarding ministry does not however endorse many present professional and institutional attitudes and practices towards one another ‘in the field’ (para 54), so that a further set of steps are proposed - both where there are “agreements in place” and where “full communion does not exist” (para 55).

All in all, the New Delhi Statement offers “vital guidance for the future.” [Ends]

If I refer to this document and my review, I sense both Peter and Bosco could usefully examine this proposal - not least as its diagnosis of much of US religious behaviour (TEC’s no less than others) is both powerful and reveals truly worrisome details. It also helps to sort out some the confusion between P’s and B’s nomenclature - I venture. Tolle! Lege!

Father Ron Smith said...

Jesus said: "They will know you're my disciples by your love" It would seem to be the basic criterion of Unity in diversity - not Uniformity.
"We are One Bread, One Body, for we all partake of the One Bread" - Christ Himself.