Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Are Anglican provinces autonomous or not?

There is an Anglican province which I am not going to name because I do not want this blogpost to be misused in evidence against it, suffice to say that you can likely find it via Google and/or looking at the Church Times, Friday 24 July 2020.

In a country in which Christianity is not the major religion, an association of Protestant churches is claiming that this Anglican province is subject to the authority of the association. I am imagining that beyond the usual suspicions of ecclesiastical power plays, there might be a case for churches in a minority situation seeking to strengthen solidarity, but this is being played out in the courts of the country concerned.

Interestingly, in respect of drawing your attention to this situation, the Anglican church concerned is arguing the following in reply - according to the CT article of the aforementioned date:

"“The PCE want us to come under their umbrella,” [the Primate said] “They say they should be, according to the law, spiritually, financially, and administratively supervising us. Spiritually, that’s very difficult, because we cannot pull out of the Anglican Communion. The Archbishop of Canterbury is our spiritual leader.”"

Now, the Anglican Communion has spent the past couple of decades (or more), focused on this topic and That Topic, with many assertions that each province is, yes, in relational terms "interdependent" (we are a Communion) but in legal terms, strictly independent, with each province fully able to make decisions without reference either to other provinces or to the Church of England as a "mother church" of us all.

We also know that with special reference to That Topic, some Anglican provinces have made it publicly clear that they do not view the Archbishop of Canterbury as their spiritual leader.

For entirely understandable reasons, the province concerned in the court case (actually, one of a series of cases) is arguing for the Communion being a body of authority which means the province cannot come under another ecclesial authority and for the Archbishop of Canterbury being a leader of their provincial leadership.

But not all Anglican provinces would so argue.

It would appear that if we look to the nature of the formal body called the Anglican Communion for signs of a coherent ecclesiology, we look in vain!


Anonymous said...

This is the modernist conundrum.

When the Protestant churches of Parador demanded that the Anglicans there join them, the primate warmly welcomed their submission to his jurisdiction and care. Pointing to the Lambeth Quadrilateral, he said, "we have been waiting for you for a century and a half!" This was not what they had in mind.

So far as reunion with other Protestants is concerned, Anglican ecclesiology could not be more clear. The Church of South India is living proof that it works.

The difficulty is explaining to younger churches with more or less arbitrary polities how it is that a Protestant church insists as much on bishops as on the creeds and canon. To be clear, the difficulty is not at all theological-- see JENSON, Robert W; ODEN, Thomas C; ABRAHAM, William J, etc for non-Anglican successes-- but personal.

To make a Protestant case for bishops, you have to be a Protestant, or at least willing to think like one. But-- I say this with all lovingkindness-- few Anglicans with responsibility know the breadth of the pre-Reformation traditions well enough to do what Jewel, Hooker, or Andrewes could do in the reforming generations. If you learn your churchmanship from today's happy warriors, you can never learn the whole of it.

Those who are individualistically low church would like to think that they are Protestants. But they do not understand the Anglican view of the episcopate because, upstream of that, they cannot understand the apostles' view of the Body. Or, they are lost in the third schism because in the first one they have wandered past Nestorius into a wasteland. Liberal or conservative on That Topic, they mumble the third article of the creeds.

With the usual modernist ignorance, Anglicans resiling against that vacuity blame it on Protestantism. So they fill the hole, not from the fathers or the remembered East as actual Protestants did, especially in the Church of England, but from an idealized Vatican III view of the Roman papacy. When some puzzle appears they ask, "What does the pope do?," then they ask "Can the ABC do this too?," and then they ask for a stiff drink.

Happily, our archbishop in Fuegos del Infierno did not fall into the Rome Trap. He fully embraced the possibility of a reunified local Body, as Jesus himself would no doubt have done. But then he noted that if the reunion really is the Body, it cannot be a disembodied administration or an institutionalist babel, and although passionately local it cannot be merely localist.

In a deeper way, he argued that sacraments, bishops, and communion solve gospel problems intrinsic to the Kingdom. If you are on the wrong side of the first and second schisms, then being on the right side of the third one makes you an interesting heretic, but not a Protestant. If we tarry in the wasteland, we cannot stand with reformers who were far closer to Cyril.

That is the policy of the first several articles of nearly all Reformation confessions. Once we see who belongs to the ecumene, then we can sort which of those stand with Luther and the north, and which with the papacy and the south. Those who were out before, are out after as well.

Ultimately, what alienates the separated clergy of Parador from their archbishop is their belief that, just as a new revelation in the C7 created a Muslim identity independent of all before it, so another revelation in the C16 created a Protestant identity that is transcendent in the same way. Neither identity is Anglican because neither is quite Christian.


Father Ron said...

By the simple virtue of legal establishment, Bishop Peter, I do believe that Anglican Churches in each country of their presence are sovereign entities, each with their own Constitution and governance, existing as individual Churches with the power to change their constitution and rules of governance.

However, because of our relationship to Canterbury as our Founding Province, we are each, also, 'bound to one another in love and fellowship', according to the constitution of the Lambeth Conference - which is a Fellowship of Churches consenting to the basic doctrines of Anglicanism as defined in the Catholic Creeds and our Common Faith and Order traditions.

The current divisions we are experiencing are those of distinctly individual understandings of Faith and Order that will either continue to be recognised - or not - by different parts of the Anglican Communion; or they will result in schismatic severance - if not deliberately, then by default. Perhaps the next Lambeth Conference - now set to take place in 2022 - decide the outcome.

Father Ron said...

Dear Bishop Peter. I hope you don't mind but I find the Daily word fro Pope Francis to be - for me - full of hope for the future in God. Here's today's example:


“Faith begins when we realise we are in need of salvation. We are not self-sufficient; by ourselves we founder: we need the Lord, like ancient navigators needed the stars. Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them. Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.”

Pope Francis "

I find myself praying for this 'man of God' - in his time of vulerability and trial, even from some of his own people (like Jesus?)