Monday, March 8, 2021

Our Communion's future: colonialism, context and controversy

 The Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria, the Most Reverend Henry C Ndukuba, issued a statement on Friday 26 February 2021 which referred to “the deadly ‘virus’ of homosexuality”. The statement goes on to use phrases like, “[homosexuality] is likened to a Yeast that should be urgently and radically expunged and excised lest it affects the whole dough”. It also states that “secular governments are adopting aggressive campaign for global homosexual culture.” (sic)

I completely disagree with and condemn this language. It is unacceptable. It dehumanises those human beings of whom the statement speaks.

I am with the Archbishop of Canterbury when he speaks firmly and clearly in respect of ++Ndukuba, Primate of Nigeria's recent condemnatory statement agains both homosexuality and ACNA's "toleration" of it - see post below this.

But a thread of comments to a Thinking Anglicans post on the statement - see here - poses some challenging questions about our Communion's life as a global fellowship of Anglicans confessing some kind of intent to be Anglican.

Within the TA comments is reference to another thread of comments re the ++Welby statement, on ++Welby's Facebook page, in which Nigerians comment thus: (in my words):

- ++Welby should not tell Nigerian Anglicans what to do, that's straight up British colonialism, again.

- doubling down on the ++Ndukuba condemnation of homosexuality and toleration of it.

Then - back to the TA thread - there are comments to the effect of "the Anglican Communion's hardly a Communion, is it?"

All a bit Anglicanly depressing!

There is a kind of thread through such commentary towards a better future for the Communion, though the required will to find the thread would need to also be found if the future is to be better.

That thread would be:

- acceptance that the role of the ABC in respect of the Communion is to speak and such speaking is not to be dismissed as a renewal of colonialism;

- acceptance that the Communion includes many contexts and those contexts (whether we like it or not, agree or not) make a difference to how we approach, discuss and locally determine some matters;

- acceptance that on matters of controversy within the Communion, the path to Communion-wide agreement is only through the Communion's structures (e.g. the role of the ABC, the Primates, Lambeth and ACC) and through respectful conversation with and within those structural means for meeting together.

Is it unrealistic to propose that the Anglican Communion's future lies precisely in a regathering of Anglican provinces which commit to being a communion undergirded by the three acceptances above?


Anonymous said...

This will be several sentences long and a few chapters deep.

It is hard to defend SSB because the burden of proof to be carried is not just the SS but also the B. Weddings are not a sacrament; the NT says more about anointing the sick; clergy did not preside at them until 912. An advocate for SSB may climb far, but s/he starts in a very deep hole.

Conversely, especially for one who assents to the blessed Thirty-Nine Artifacts, it is hard to demonstrate God's will to damn homosexuals as a category. To damn them, that is, not for anything they have done or do, but simply for having SSA.

An opponent of that demonstration starts on the high ground of Artifact XXXI, revisits Artifacts XV-XVII, and then asks, "If God does not predestine any to perdition, then insofar as his providence permits SSA, how is it possible for a whole category of humanity to burn for having the SSA that he gave them?"

Nor is this merely an antiquarian argument. When ordinary Anglican folk are perplexed by ++ Nigeria's sweeping language, it is because, as Anglicans, they have never heard such a categorical condemnation. They have never heard it because the blessed Artifacts do not permit it to be preached.

This is a boundary of Anglican identity. Anglicans have thought all sorts of things about gay sex, many of of them no doubt wrong. But what places them all in a common tradition and differentiates them from say Presbyterians is the turn away from double predestination that the Church of England took in Matthew Parker's day.

If the blessed Thirty-Nine Artifacts are right, then how can Nigeria also be right? If Nigeria actually is right, then was Theodore Beza's double predestination also right-- and the 39A wrong-- after all? And if the 39A were wrong about something so crucial as that, then what is an Anglican and why it it good to be one?


Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Bowman for opening our eyes to the strength of the theological cleavage which underlies these current crop of statements!

Unknown said...

If one is starting from a position like Nigeria's, Peter, then there are two questions to work through in coming to terms with SSA. One is an evaluation of some acts.

But the other is a serious engagement with the place of SSA in personalities. A Christianity inculturated into traditional African spirituality may find something to say that we have not yet heard, but it appears that Nigeria has not yet seen this side of the problem.


Father Ron said...

Firstly; Bowman. Translating the official word 'Articles' into 'Artifacts' - concerning the use of those 39 edicts which were given to the Church of England at its parting of the ways from Rome at the Reformation - was, I thought, one of my own inventions. However, I agree that the 39 Artifacts are now just that - a relic of the history of our Church that no longer ought to control the many offshoots of the C. of E. that have inherited her genius for hermeneutical diversity. (Some of these edicts related to the jurisdiction of the Pope in England, which does not now have the exact same connotation).

Bishop Peter; you said this; near the end of your piece at the head of this thread: "Is it unrealistic to propose that the Anglican Communion's future lies precisely in a regathering of Anglican provinces which commit to being a communion undergirded by the three acceptances above?"

Considering the three premises you outlined above that question, each of which involves a contingency of agreement in order to continue in the long held tradition of Anglican capacity for diversity; I would think it logical to insist that these premises would be vital in any continuence of what we knew - before the emergence of the GAFCON/FOCA/ACNA axis of conservatism that excludes the acceptance the LGBT+ community within the Anglican fold - as the worldwide Anglican Communion, with ties of loyalty and affection to one another under the patronage of Canterbury and the Lambeth Quadrilateral.

For the GAFCON conglomerate to have abandoned the degree of diversity involved, they have placed their own line in the sand - the consequence of which has been felt in our own country of Aotearoa/N.Z. with the arrival of AACCNZ. If there is schism wothin the Anglican Communion, it can only have been brought about by those of the GAFCON affiliates who cut themselves off, voluntarily, by the raising up of their own Primates' Conference, together with their illicit invasion of other Anglican Provinces with the intention of setting up their own private jurisictional Churches.

In reference to Briyden's comment on the place of marriage in the Church, the Universal Church did not at first consider this to be a sacramentally important undertaking - having already been a part of normal human activity (initially to preserve ongoing property rigths within the families involved) - that had evolved before the existence of the Christian Church. Whereas the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion have long been celebrated and recognised as fundamental to membership of the Church as the Body of Christ. Interestingly, Saint Paul says that marriage will no longer be a feature of life in the hereafter, so how important is it to the enterprise of Christian formation in the here and now of life on earth? (Jesus himself did not marry!) The only marriage relationship that is emphasised in the Scriptures as being of vitsl importance is that "betwixt Christ and His Church" - a universal eternal love relationship that has nothing to do with sexuality or gender.

Anonymous said...

Hello, Father Ron. The hour is late here; I will be brief.

Thinking archaeologically, artifacts tell stories about people in the place where they are found. The stories do not control these people, but they do identify them, and identities have meanings.

Marriage belongs to the order of creation; baptism and eucharist to the order of redemption. They are not opposed.


Father Ron said...

Thankas, Bryden. It is late here too, but not to late say that:

Sexual attraction, too, belongs to the order of creation - in all it's variety.
BUT it is not generally understood to be intrinsically linked with redemption. Neither, I believe, is it a barrier to redemption 'en Christo'.

Unknown said...


Binocular observation of wild yearns (Anglicanum transcendentalis) in many trees and meadows has confirmed that, contrary to a persistent error in the literature, they flock as much as birds of other species. Likewise, their plumage and routines vary, but no more than those of most species, and less than that of some. The genes of their common ancestor explain all the known variations of today.

Whence then the misconception that yearns are more diverse than birds of other species? Some, misled by unfamiliarity with those species, have underestimated their variability or overestimated their conformity. By such shallow comparison, yearns can seem less predictable, speaking relatively, than they are.

But there is one small but observable difference. And it can be confused with species-wide diversity: more particular yearns scout terrain alone, and their calls tend to be heeded, though not followed, by nearby flocks.

In anthropomorphic terms, it is as though a tribe of humans adhered to a few adaptive folkways, but were unfazed by the personal witness of eccentric individuals, even when that is somewhat radical. Occasionally, they are influenced by them. We would not say that they were diverse; this would imply that they lacked their obvious cohesion. But we would say that, among them, conformity does not preclude respected personal witness.


Anonymous said...

I apologize, Peter, for so belatedly addressing the question posed at the end of your OP: whether it is "unrealistic" to identify the Communion future with those provinces that collaborate in good faith through the usual Instruments. Speaking only institutionally, yes, of course.

If no provinces act as you propose, then there is no Communion. There must be an In. For an ABC, that warrants a pragmatic decision to invite bishops who collaborate in discernment to meetings for collaborative discernment.

If there is an In, is there an Out? Yes, of course there is. One cannot both advocate the Affirmation of St Louis and participate in a Lambeth Conference. Simply, one cannot deny the competence of a body and yet exercise that competence as a member of it. In is In, out is Out.

Can those Out still be Anglican? That is an historical matter beyond anyone's control. Methodists are very far Out-- a mature alternate global communion-- but it is nearly impossible to define Anglican in a non-institutional way that excludes them. Anglican relations with Methodists are less warm than they should be, but nobody here thinks that they are bound for that place where the worm dieth not and the fire is never quenched.

Conversely, despite having 10 artifacts copied from a Lutheran confession (Wurtemburg) among the 39A, Lutherans and Anglicans have always been easily distinguished. Nobody has ever thought that a Lutheran is an Anglican, or vice versa. Yet TEC is in very full communion with the ELCA here up yonder, and the CoE itself belongs to Porvoo.

Could Canterbury invite Uppsala to a Lambeth Conference? If it helped the conference to do its work, why not? Should Canterbury worry if Nigeria is indisposed to attend? Probably not.

Under God, the work the Instruments do is the only point of them. To use them mainly to claim Anglican identity is a narcissistic abuse of them.


Unknown said...

Sadly, Father Ron, we have not heard from Bryden lately; this is Bowman.


Father Ron said...

Dear Bryden, you speak a lot of sense - in your reference to other Christians who have so much more in common with us Anglicans that any of the newly-minted daughter-churches of the GAFCON conglomerate (or even of GAFCON itself, which has its own 'Primates Conference' to which even the not invited).

I also like the idea of TEC's association with the Lutheran Church in the U.S. Similarly, I think the Church of Pope Francis (notwithstanding his exclusion in the 39 Artifacts) might well, also be invited to send his representatives to the A.C.C. Lambeth Conference - as participants, rather than mere onlookers. This would be almost as exciting as Pope Francis' recent conversation with the Muslims in Iraq! Who knows what good could come of it all?

Anonymous said...


"Speaking only institutionally, no, of course not."

My 7:28 agrees with + Peter's OP. Tapping and proofreading in a small box on the small screen of my small phone, I did not catch the error corrected above.


Father Ron said...

Dear Bowman. Please accept my profound apology - for wrongly crediting your excellently theological contributions to someone with a slight similar name.(Not a Freudian slip, you'll be glad to learn. Merely a 91-yearold's memory lapse!)

Unknown said...

Dear Father Ron, your 91 year old brain has recalled some fascinating memories. I hope to read many more of them.

The Apostolic Constitution, usually but not certainly dated to the late C4, gives rules for church order. They agree reasonably well with what we actually see bishops doing in the documents of that time.

The AC allows archbishops convening councils to invite participants from outside their provinces for the good of the council's work. On the ground, this was pragmatically useful to an archbishop who had few bishops or none familiar with the matters in question.

Now, the AC is what we have called an artifact. Contemporary churches have modern canons, so it does not control anybody. But we look upstream to headwater documents like the NT and the AC to see what our canons mean.

Your idea that Roman (or other non-Anglican) bishops might vote in Lambeth Conferences is consistent with the AC. But as you note, the Romans presently attend only as well-wishing observers. Why? Because the Conferences are still lingering at the threshold from denominational truthiness to ecumenical truth.

In the Bible, the apostles met to find the truth. In modern institutional synods at every level, the participants meet to find something truthy that will fit-- and further reify-- their identity as a denomination separated from others in the Body.

As confessors so often say, you cannot repent of sin without repenting of the habitus of sinning. So how might we repent? By letting historians sort out denominational traditions, and letting bishops discern together what truth their people on the ground need today. Full stop.

The Lambeth Quadrilateral was a declaration that Anglicans intended to get into ecumenism, but later Lambeth Conferences have only dug deeper into denominationalism. And that, today, interferes with truth-seeking when say Nigeria objects that some idea pondered in ACNA will not pass as denominationally truthy. Scripturally thinking, a world faith cannot settle for mere truthiness, and just so cannot bother with denominational pressure politics.

As for prophecy and tongues, they will cease, and Lambeth Conferences too may cease someday. In a sense, Anglican synods everywhere are already fading away, not by failing to meet, but by drawing from an ever-thinning slice of the Body. Even relatively large Anglican churches seem to be smaller than other Christian bodies in the same place. Reality: Most Christians have never believed in synods and denominations, and someday nobody will.

If Lambeth Conferences then continue, they will have left narcissistic Anglicanism behind to spread the ecumenism of the Quadrilateral throughout the world. And they will do so, not as a project or a distinctive, but as their essential mission.

Rome has long waited for them to get on with it. As you imagine, a pope might indeed be happy to lend Lambeth Conferences a few useful bishops.


Anonymous said...


The foregoing reframes That Topic as one less about sex than about the groundrules of denominationalism. Each of the usual sides of it are banging their heads on one of two stubborn realities.

On one hand, (a) to reflective minds, voting as a group to find truth and then settling for the denominationally truthy suggests that even dogma is merely truthy. In this way, denominationalism subtly undermines faith by making it look like pure group-think. Liberals get this in their bones; GAFCONians think that denominations can be bubbles.

But on the other hand, (b) believers need formation on some pattern to carry an identity as Christians down the street, and denominations, along with parachurch ministries, and some media companies provide that. Liberals care about denominations as platforms for espousing social ideals and building careers, but seldom see that GAFCONians and many like them need stable, legible, legitimate order.

Nothing in the Body is tidy. If the Great Anglican Schism ever happens, it will be a mess.

Still, one imagines that the Canterbury remnant would venture much further into ecumenism than is possible amid interminable disputes about Anglican identity. They would retain the historically clear Anglican lineage, but could embrace an ecumenical faith that is not so different from what they now mean by Anglicanism.

Meanwhile, the GAFCONians would further refine a denominationalism in which everything finally fits Edward VI theology. That would not square with what any of us understood Anglicanism to be, but what is a word? Only a few seminary professors would care that other perspectives on the past have wider scope or explain it better.

If GAFCONians are the people who actually need a tribal tradition, is there any harm in letting them call it Anglicanism?


Peter Carrell said...

Dear Bowman and Ron
Thank you for further digging into these matters.
Your analyses and reflections tend, I think, not to deter me from thinking these thoughts:

1. Anglicanism is a many splendoured and many splintered thing and thus if we see common accord with (variously) Methodists and Roman Catholics, or between members of GAFCON (who are not otherwise members of the AC) and members of the AC, or acknowledge crossovers with Lutherans via Porvoo etc, that is all part of the evolving Anglican conversation about what Anglicanism is, who is Anglican and (perhaps most importanly) where the spirit of being Anglican is found. Similarly, of course, we converse about whether being Anglican finds its finest hour and location in Edwardian (VI) England or via Tractate England in the 19th century or even in Selwyn's Anglican church in NZ (he being among the first, if not the first, to set up a church in which laity had a governing voice and vote outside of Britain's Parliament), or these days in Sydney's churches or Nigeria's or in Wales's. Unexpectedly I am always keen to see Anglicanism's finest hours and thoughts in the pages of the NT :).

Summary: the spirit of Anglicanism is not tied to an era, bound to an institution (such as the AC) or unknown in the life of churches not using the name Anglican/Episcopal.

2. The Anglican Communion is an institution intent on being a majority, global, public, defined vehicle for Anglicanism within many versions of "Anglican". It is also an institutional expression of Anglicanism that asks certain things of its member provinces - not much - but something currently not all member provinces are willing to do. Thus the question arises, or several questions arise: will the institution find a way to re-unite? Is it destined to be forever wounded/fractured? Would a new "communion" of Anglican provinces be found if some Anglican provinces left because that would be an honest expression of the fact that current divisions are unreconcilable? AND: is there any version of the Anglican Communion which constitutes "church" or "body of Christ"?

Father Ron said...

Dear Bishop Peter; I think you have captured the heart of the current Anglican dilemma of 'membership' here in these words:

" Would a new "communion" of Anglican provinces be found if some Anglican provinces left because that would be an honest expression of the fact that current divisions are unreconcilable? AND: is there any version of the Anglican Communion which constitutes "church" or "body of Christ? "

My immediate response is that 'communion' in never founded on intentional schism. Notwithstanding the ancient East/West Division, there are moves afoot between Rome and Constantinople (and other part of the Roman/Orthodox churches) towards a loose form of reconciliation. This is the broader picture of what the ancient vision of a unified 'Christianity' might bring to mind.

The split at the Catholic/Protestant Refomation, however, did give evidence of a concept of the 'Body of Christ' which, though even more fractured in institutional terms, did produce some understanding of the cultural, ethnic and ethical differences that, together, are considered by some as a rather more representative overview of the possibility of being 'en Christo' than was formerly imagined. (A microcosm of this underlying unity is seen in the 3-tikanga Church here in Aotearoa/New Zealand/Pasifika - which had to be allowed to expand into 3 distinctive cultural groups in order to give each culture space in which to survive within its own ethnic context).

Could ACANZP's diversity be a model for Church as the Body of Christ anywhere else in our world! ???

I am an Anglican, Baptised and Confirmed in the Church of England, with which Church I Still feel intimately and emotionally connected even though I was ordained 40 years ago as a priest in ACANZP. At the same time, with my own experiences of convergence with Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and various other Christian denominations which see Christ as God's Living Word, needed to be accessed by both Scripture and the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion; I have come to an understanding that everyone with these specific values in their hearts and minds are, per se, 'members of the Body of Christ' feeding on Him, acknowledging their need of Him, and living their lives as best as they can in accordance with the call of Christ, personally. (contd:)

Father Ron said...


As far as the Anglican Communion is concerned; I do not see it as the 'Be-all and End-all' of my life 'en Christo'. I see ACANZP as my current 'home' within the Body of Christ, and part of the larger Fellowship of Christians who happen to be connected to the Anglican Tradition fostered by our common roots in the Church of England. In this, I feel I am no different from any other Anglican who values the breadth and diversity of our Communion, and wonders at the intransigence of those 'Anglicans' (GAFCON/ACNA) who want to be and do something else as 'Church' - in the belief that they are the only 'orthodox Anglicans', while (according to them) the rest of us have becaome 'apostate'. I feel I have more in common with my Roman Catholic and Methodist brethren (& sistren) whose understanding of God as Liberator and Lover is more insistent than the understanding of God as Judge. I know, for instance, that I - in common with ALL others - am a sinner in need of redemption.

If GAFCON/ACNA/FOCA wants to separate out from the Lambeth/Canterbury axis, then they must be allowed to form their own Church. I just wish they wouldn't want to arrogate to themselves the term 'Anglican', which still has a sufficient correlation with the Church of my upbringing as to be more in tune with the needs of a new age of 'The Faith Once Delivered To The Saints', open to new movement of the Holy Spirit, and very different from the conservative 'Confessional Church' these Sola Scriptura enthusiasts have brought into the territory of other Anglican Church jurisdictions (such as ACANZP).

I am reminded of the time in my former parish of Orewa (Auckland), where I noticed the arrival of a new faith community calling themselves 'The Bible-Baptist Church'. This indicated their belief that the Words of Scripture were more important to them that the Word-Made-Flesh in Jesus Christ - implying a certain lack of understanding of Christ's call upon his follows to make Eucharist: "Do this to re-member me". This seemed to me a failure to offer the worship to God-in-Christ in the way he provided, and which is at the heart of what the Church as 'The Body of Christ' is really all about.

I'm all for Unity - but not at the price of God's Justice and Mercy!

Anonymous said...

"To win the [Spanish Civil] War is to save Spain; to save Spain is to save the Catholic Church; to save the Catholic Church is to save the universe."
-- Francisco Franco

"To hold together around X is to save the Church of England; to save the Church of England is to save the Anglican Communion; to save the Anglican Communion is to save the universe."
-- Nobody, so far as I have heard

Peter, we may be in what Bryden used to call heated agreement.

Unity continues and deepens so long as centripetal forces are stronger than centrifugal ones. For pre-conciliar Catholics, the mistaken beliefs that the RCC was the whole of the Body, that there is no salvation outside of it, and that the pope has a special relationship to the Blessed Virgin Mary were powerful centripetal forces that made even cosmic claims like Franco's seem reasonable to those who held them. Rome has had plenty of openings to schism since the modern RCC was founded at Trent (Gallicanism is my favourite ;-) but very few (eg Union of Utrecht, Polish National Catholic Church, St Pius X Society) have been strong enough to escape those centripetal forces. Those few have been notably small.

What makes so much Anglican discussion about the Instruments sound like a squeaking hamster wheel is that the discussants on both sides seldom point to an analogous centripetal force in the Communion that drags all souls to Canterbury. When they do not do this, we literally do not know what unity they are talking about, and that makes discussions about disunity slippery and inconclusive.

For salient example, does any centripetal force hold ACNA to the CoN? The cosmic stakes in that relationship are only slightly higher than one between oh Mennonites in Nebraska and Methodists in the Congo. Leaders of either church might take the other church's leaders seriously enough to consider their opinions, but the believers of neither church need the approval of the other for their practice to make Body sense where they live. True, ACNA and CoN both belong to GAFCON, but GAFCON is even less clear about its centripetal forces than the Communion. As Gertrude Stein said of Oakland, there is no there there.

After all, even the RCC's unity does not bottom entirely on the papal curia. That would be more fascistic than faithful. Rather, doctrinal headwaters carry souls downstream to a delta of durable unity.

Similarly, there can be wonderful Anglican institutions that serve some soul-dragging unity, but that unity cannot bottom on the institutions themselves. It is good to understand the centrifugal forces and to improve methods for conflict resolution, but neither of these strengthen the centripetal ones for unity. Getting That Topic as rightly as we can is worth doing for its own sake, but even complete success in that would not strengthen unity.

Anonymous said...

As you know, the eventual founding of the RCC was foreseen long before it actually happened. Luther himself called for a re-founding council early in the C16. But the papacy was then quite weak, and the political rivalry of the Most Christian King of France and the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire made a council to discuss reform infeasible for decades. Meanwhile, bishops in France, Germany, and especially Italy and Spain concluded that, whatever the reasons behind the radicalism rippling out from Geneva, they would have nothing to do with it. Eventually, the monarchs saw that, in the modern condition of things, they needed the papacy and the papacy needed a council.

In a similar way, the Instruments and the constituent churches may be too preoccupied for now to do much for unity. The Anglican Communion Covenant survives as an ideal, like England's 1927 Book of Common Prayer, but despite its careful compromises, English dioceses and American conventioneers saw it as an intervention on the wrong side of their local power struggles. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

So meanwhile, "always keen to see Anglicanism's finest hours and thoughts in the pages of the NT," we are waiting, like those traditionalist bishops between Luther and Trent, for the postmodern condition to dissolve resistance to a likely outcome. That is, those who have merely particularist soteriologies will continue to disintegrate, whilst those who have more participative ones will be given from heaven the unity in which they believe.


Father Ron said...

Dear Bshop Peter, it's nice tobe remindedat our brother, Pope Francis, has a much broader vision than just Christian Unity, including ALL humanity:


"Dear Brothers and Sisters, by God’s providence, in these days I was able to make the first visit of a Pope to the land of Abraham… Abraham’s hope, and that of his descendants, is fulfilled in the mystery we celebrated, in Jesus, the Son that God the Father did not spare, but gave for everyone’s salvation: through His death and resurrection, He opened the way to the promised land, to that new life where tears are dried, wounds are healed, brothers and sisters are reconciled… “You are all brothers” (Mt 23:8)."
Pope Francis

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Bowman and Ron for further thoughts.
Bowman I always appreciate being in heated agreement and I take to heart your recent points which in summary asks what is the (centripetal) force which binds Anglicans together (or only appears to do so)?

With the salutary observation that the force might be quite weak presently but that that is not necessarily a bad thing. Better unity out of faithfulness than out of fascism (i.e. force imposed from higher hierarchical levels).