Preamble: this is not another excursion into the rights and wrongs of Anglicans taking position A rather than position B on matters of homosexuality. For the purposes of this post I am assuming there are two such positions (or more) and am not seeking to review them. Rather the focus here, and the preferred focus for any comments you wish to make is on the implications of these positions in the specific light of the recent GAFCON 2023 conference for the shape and character of global Anglicanism.
The post: John Sandemann, commenter here on ADU, Anglican media expert in the West Island, has written two interesting articles relating to the recent GAFCON 2023 conference in Kigali, Rwanda.
First, you might like to read his report on The Sexual Politics of Gafcon. This is a helpful, brave account of the inside story of the nuances and subtleties as the drafting of the Kigali Commitment took place. John, if you are reading this: thank you.
Much understanding comes from this article, even if I nevertheless remain no less concerned about where the Archbishop of Uganda stands on the proposed legislation in his country - as well as remaining concerned that "the sexual politics of Gafcon" could not be consistent within the final Kigali statement, in respect of public comment on Anglican Communion matters which, not unreasonably, could be expected to critique both the Instruments of Communion, various provinces, including my own AND Uganda!
Secondly, at the foot of that article is a reference to something Archbishop Kanishka Raffel, Sydney, said in a Q and A session in a post-conference visit in Africa, already noted in comments to my post here (1 May 2023). The fuller report is here.
++Raffel is clear in what he says, and while - of course - not every Gafconite would agree with refusing communion to worshippers who are in a same sex marriage, it is difficult to see an official line in a Gafcon statement ever demurring from such strict policing at the communion (Communion?) rail.
What is going on? What is Gafcon really in respect of what it means to be Anglican?
The line out of the 2023 conference has been that a majority of the Communion's primates will be working on a "reset" of the Communion. The Instruments are broken, the ABC deserves no respect being hopelessly compromised by decisions within the CofE, etc. Thus a large number of primates - possibly a majority since Global South is getting closer to Gafcon - could work out a reset of the Communion. Some commenters think this won't actually happen; but it is too early to tell.
I wonder if there is a counter line. Another take. A line which says something like this:
Yes, there is a reset of the Communion taking place.
It is a reset into two forms of being Anglican.
One is very strict. The Bible says this and this and no Anglican can deny it and if they do they are not a proper faithful or orthodox Anglican. The only form this Strict Anglicanism is going to take anytime soon is very conservative in respect of morality, mostly but not entirely in respect of women being ordained as priests and bishops, but it will take evangelical, charismatic and anglo-catholic forms. The strictness, if you like, is ethical-theological and not "party-spirit."
One is comfortable with latitude, with breadth, with including grey as well as black and white in working out and working through what we can live with as we disagree respectfully. The form of Latitude Anglicanism will be mistaken for "Liberal/Progressive" Anglicanism but Latitude Anglicanism will include many categories of self-identifying Anglicans. It will not be comfortable with, e.g. strict policing of the communion rail (per Archbishop Raffel's remarks above), and it won't be comfortable with questioning the considered decision-making of individual Anglican provinces, except in extreme circumstances (such as a province supporting a draconian bill against gay people).
An obvious challenge is when both forms of Anglicanism advertise themselves in the same suburb or small town. Should one be called Anglican and the other not? (And who decides?)
It is also notable that Anglicanism has gone this way previously!
The English Reformation of the 16th and 17th centuries included a huge drive towards a "strict Anglicanism", exemplified, for example, in the shift between the 1549 and 1552 Prayer Books and in the demands of the "strict Anglicans"/Puritans of King James' day, only one of which he gave way to, the one which resulted in the King James Bible (1611).
The drive was resisted, not only by King James but also by Queen Elizabeth (with the aid of Richard Hooker and his via media between a Catholicising Anglicanism and a Puritan Anglicanism). The result for centuries illustrated by and expressed through the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. (Indeed, the 17th century, after theological controversies and civil wars in England produced a movement of toleration and sitting light to dogma called Latitudinarianism.)
Now, it is quite true that the broad Anglicanism of the 16th and 17th centuries won the day because at some equivalent to GAFCON or Lambeth Conferences, a majority of broad-minded prelates, clergy and laity were in ascendance. There was a majority parliament of laity to enforce the contemporary spirit of the Church of England.
That is, in the 21st century some care needs to be taken in assuming that the "true" or "genuine" or "authentic" spirit of 21st century Anglicanism rests on the course of histories through those earlier centuries if only, say, we could get the English parliament (not that there is such a thing - there is a UK parliament) to continue the enforcement.
Clearly, in the 21st century the spirit of Anglicanism, whether it be Strict or Latitude in character, is not going to be determined by a parliament which represents, say, "middle England" or "the open-mindedness of the West", let alone "the intended spirit of global peace and goodwill of the UN." Anglicanism's (or Anglicanisms') character will be determined by Anglicans meeting in a variety of synods, conferences and forums. Likely it will not be determined in one single gathering. Indeed, if our history since Henry VIII is anything to go by, it may take centuries to reach some kind of "settlement".
And, dear readers, you will be quick to point out that any "settlement" won't suppress the unsettling spirits of Anglicanism since whatever was previously settled is now, again, unsettled :).
Back to the 21st century. There is, I suggest, a settlement of sorts going on, in which a mooted "re-set" of the Anglican Communion is re-setting the state of global Anglicanism for the time-being, into two forms of Anglicanism, Strict and Latitude, each claiming to be genuine/true/authentic Anglicanism.
Likely, if Global South does align closely with Gafcon, then Strict Anglicanism will be able to truthfully claim to be in the ascendance with a majority adherence.
In that case the challenge for Latitude Anglicanism is not to get in an Anglican huff about the re-set but to focus on what we believe, how we behave and how we belong, working hard to read Scripture and apply it, worship liturgically according to our synodical agreements and develop episcopal leadership and synodical governance in ways which are transparent, just and territorially respectful of other Anglicans.
It will also be important that Latitude Anglicanism carefully and wholeheartedly embraces all conservative Anglicans who choose to be conservative-with-Latitude Anglicanism. The long run claim for Latitude Anglicanism through present and future time is that it is what it says on the tin, embracing of all Anglicanism who will live with difference and disagreement.