The sand may be no less quick if I suggest this week some thinking about the "what" of Anglicanism. What makes an Anglican? What defines an Anglican?
This question has a sharp focus now we have the media release of two outcomes of the inaugural synod of the new "extra provincial diocese" being formed here in NZ. The release, made on Friday 17 May 2019, is here.
The opening part of the release, with my bold, is:
"A Statement by the Synod of the Church of Confessing Anglicans Aotearoa/New Zealand
Today representatives from twelve churches throughout New Zealand gathered and formed the Church of Confessing Anglicans Aotearoa/New Zealand. By the grace of God we are a new Anglican Diocese in these Islands, standing firmly in Anglican faith and practice, and structurally distinct from the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.
This new Diocese is united in the crucified, risen, ascended and glorified Christ, committed to the authority of the Bible, and dedicated to our common mission of proclaiming to all the good news of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. We praise God for his guidance and grace, and the sense of unity and common purpose we shared as we met.We also prayerfully elected as our first Bishop the Rev. Jay Behan, Vicar of St Stephen’s Anglican Church, Christchurch. Jay is a man of humility and grace, committed to the authority of the Bible and the Lordship of Jesus. He is an excellent preacher and caring pastor, and will serve and lead the Diocese as together we seek to reach these Islands with the transforming power of the gospel. ..."
The election of Jay has been widely expected by those who know him and have observed the significant leadership role he has already exercised among the congregations which have been working on the formation of the new church/diocese.
What about the name of the new church? the Church of Confessing Anglicans Aotearoa/New Zealand.
Already I have been in some discussion about the name. The following thinking reflects and develops that discussion (all in my own words).
A Confessing Church?
The notion of a “Confessing Church” reminds us of the church of that name which formed in 1930s Nazi Germany to stand against the evil of Nazism. The stand being taken by the new diocese against our church’s decision to permit the blessing of same-sex marriages is simply not in the same league of steadfastness for the cause of Christ. Homosexuality is not evil, it is a condition of being within humanity. Whatever we wish to propose re sexual morality for relations between people, being theologically motivated to bless lifelong, committed love between two people of the same sex, as some in our church are, is not evil. There is no need to invoke "Confessing" with a capital C in order to become a church with a different view on whether another church is judged to be too broad minded on the matter such that it includes more than one view.
From a different perspective I observe that every Anglican is a confessing Anglican: daily and weekly confessing our sins, regularly in corporate worship confessing our credal faith. All Anglicans belong to the Church of Confessing Anglicans!
Of course, in recent Anglican history, since 2003, "confessing" (with a small c) with respect to conservative Anglicanism is to do with being willing to commit to a statement (confession) of faith (such as the Thirty-Nine Articles), compared with that kind of Anglicanism which sits lightly to statements of faith, perhaps even celebrating doubt of basic credal statements. From that perspective we can talk, appropriately, about confessional Anglicanism.
In these islands, “Anglican” in relation to the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia is both a term relating to historic connection with the Church of England, as well as a term relating to our history as a transplanted church with English roots, now composed of Maori and Pakeha, bound by Gospel and Treaty (of Waitangi), secured by a constitution which sets out our partnership as Anglicans, incorporating also the Diocese of Polynesia.
A few months back, our General Synod Standing Committee, responding to a proposal of the Archbishop of Sydney re a possible "distinctive co-existence" for the future of the Communion, had this to say about the Pakeha-Maori dimension to being Anglican, as reported in Taonga,
"The letter goes on to say that that being bound together in constitutional and Treaty-based relationships is essential to being Anglican in Aotearoa in New Zealand."If those disaffiliating want to be committed to that fundamental consequence of being Anglican in Aotearoa New Zealand, then they must stay in these constitutional and Treaty-based relationships."We cannot recognise a Church as Anglican which does not encapsulate this 200 years of relationship and history.""
In other words, any church anywhere in the world can stake a claim to be "Anglican" but in these islands with our distinctive history, our church is saying that we cannot recognise such a claim in these parts unless there is a bond with Maori Anglican via constitutional and Treaty-based relationships. In other words, being Anglican hereabouts is concerned with a theology of covenant more than a theology of confession. Who are we related to?, is the critical question in the theology of covenant, in contrast to the question, What do we believe?, which lies at the heart of a confessional approach to Anglican identity.
Who are we related to as Anglicans? First, to the covenant making God - the God of Abraham, Moses, David - the God who in Jesus Christ makes a new covenant, revealed in Scripture, renewed in the sacrament we celebrate as commanded. Secondly, to each other: the Church of England is the broad church including all English men and women, a nation at worship; transplanted to these islands, the Anglican church is not now a whole nation at worship, but it remains a broad church welcoming all men and women, underpinned by the New Covenant or Gospel and by a particular local covenant, the Treaty of Waitangi.
The GSSC letter sets out a theology of covenant in which Anglicans are related to Anglicans in connection with constitutional arrangements which honour the Treaty between Maori and Pakeha. We are not Anglicans related to Anglicans if we have no such constitutional arrangements. According to the media release above, CCAANZ [corrected from CCANZ after comment below] is a church "structurally distinct from the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia" which, on this covenantal theology, evacuates the prior statement concerning "standing firmly in Anglican faith and practice" of its meaning, because the practice of Anglican faith in these islands is a relational, covenanted church, Pakeha and Maori.
Of course, no true Anglican can be solely interested in "who we are related to" at the expense of "what we believe." If the relational question is prior here, it is only slightly prior. ACANZP is thoroughly confessional (as touched on above re confession of sin and confession of faith). Notwithstanding GAFCON criticism of ACANZP as unfaithful (see here; and, sadly, also, here re a local view of ACANZP as "apostate"), in two services I participated in today we said the creed, read the Scriptures and sang the praises of God Father Son and Holy Spirit!
I could go on. Please stop the reader says! Seriously: there is much more to say but in the time allowance of this week I must stop now, well short of as full an answer to the question "What is an Anglican?" as I would like.
So far, What is an Anglican? provokes two further questions, Who do we relate to? and What do we believe? In this new situation where the new confessional church has clearly and publicly claimed "Anglicans" within its name, what answers to these questions do the two churches of Anglicans in these islands give? Are they satisfactory answers? Do the answers persuade people, both inside the churches, for instance, towards recognition of the other or towards declaratory judgements about unfaithfulness and apostasy; and outside the churches, so that outsiders are drawn to a persuasive welcome and inclusion of all enquirers?