Skip to comments.The Anglican Communion and the Evangelical Centre
Posted on 10/18/2005 5:01:31 PM PDT by sionnsar
by Francis Bridger
Chair of Fulcrum and Visiting Professor of Practical Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary, California
The notes in the text are hyperlinked into the end notes; to return to the text, click on the end note number [Hyperlinks will probably not work here. --sionnsar]
Dear Fulcrum friends,
In three lectures delivered in the United States earlier this month, Archbishop Robin Eames offered his reflections on the Anglican Communion at the present time. As the chair of the Lambeth Commission which produced the Windsor Report, his thoughts must be taken seriously. Aside from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop Eames probably has a shrewder bird's eye view of the global state of play than anybody.
Among his many points, three are of central significance. First, that underlying the present crisis is a longstanding issue of authority. This has been brought to the surface by the events since 2003 within ECUSA and Canada; but the problem of sexuality, while fundamental in itself, is the triggering, rather than the underlying, issue. Windsor recognized this and sought to address it. The Communion must now face squarely how to deal with it if the pull towards autonomous provincial reaction is to be avoided. Provinces acting solely according to their own lights, without reference to the needs and views of the Communion as whole, will simply result in the fragmentation of the Communion even further. The establishment of a Covenant along the lines suggested in the report would act as a force for coherence and should therefore be pursued with vigour.
Second, it is essential for the Communion to allow the Primates' decisions at Dromantine to work themselves out in the run up to the next Lambeth Conference. The mechanisms, notably the Panel of Reference, are being put in place, albeit more slowly than at first hoped. If resolution is to be found, it will be through patient talking and acting together, not through precipitate reaction to headlines (or, we might add, through inflammatory political rhetoric).
Thirdly, the Anglican Communion, in reality, is much more resilient and robust than some would allow. Although from one perspective the current crisis looks as if it might prove overwhelming, from another it might be seen as a sign of hope as the Communion learns to work together in ways it has not hitherto achieved.
What should we make of the Eames analysis? There are those who believe the crisis is too deep and probably too far advanced to resolve through the instruments put forward by Windsor. On this view, there is no time for lengthy deliberation and covenant-building. The advent of email and the jet plane have outpaced the machinery of the Communion. Methods of resolving disputes within the Church which require deliberation and consensus built up over time are dead, consigned to a Luddite grave. Resolute, bold and heroic action is required. The fires are already burning and must be put out. Windsor can do no more than pour droplets on the flames. A fire engine is needed with a courageous driver in control to prevent the collapse of the historic faith and the triumph of revisionist liberalism.
To this, it is important to ask what the alternative to the Windsor process would actually be. The real danger is not that Windsor will take time to unfold (what rational proposals arrived at by corporate deliberation do not?) but that we shall find ourselves shaped by decision-making according to the latest turn of events or - even worse - the loudest campaigning lobby driven by the force of its own rhetoric.
When Archbishop Eames calls for patience, therefore, to find an agreed way out of the present impasse, we should listen. Those who clamour for instant and radical action on the grounds of irresistible urgency should take a deep breath and pause for a moment so that those who are tasked with carrying out the Primates' wishes at Dromantine can get on with the job.
There are, of course, dangers in such a strategy. Advocates of the Eames approach run the risk that they will be perceived as dilatory or even naïve. But, as Professor Oliver O'Donovan noted in his article for Fulcrum shortly after the publication of Windsor, it remains the only game of substance in town.
The desire, by contrast, to replace the historic instruments of unity, as some have recently advocated, with a confessional network based on associative autonomy and allegiance to a self-defined orthodoxy is a road to nowhere. Or, more precisely, a road to provincial congregationalism that bears little resemblance to historic Anglicanism or that respects the organic development of the Communion. The Communion is more than a collection of people and provinces bound together by adherence to the same ideas and beliefs. Its mutuality (a better term than common ground) is to be found in the Faith (understood as the integrity of doctrine and life) and in instruments of governance that express both universality and particularity. Moreover, it can only be genuinely common if held within bonds of trust that allow for reasoned and open exchange of differences. It is time for us to reaffirm a genuinely evangelical Anglican understanding of the Church and its global governance shaped by Scripture on one hand and historical and cultural contingency on the other; to understand that the fact of cultural diversity should not blind us to the historic strengths of the Communion as it has evolved; to eschew all attempts to offer an alternative based on a shallow reading of history;
and to resist a superficially attractive but uncritical acceptance of the electronic network culture as an alternative model of Communion.
This is surely a time for us to hold our nerve and thereby to stand by the values and strengths of the Evangelical centre which are, at one and the same time, both authentically Anglican and authentically mainstream.
Yours in Christ,
The notes in the text are hyperlinked into the end notes; to return to the text, click on the end note number
See USA Lectures by Robin Eames
See, for example, the recent article by Vinay Samuel and Chris Sugden, Staying Together or Walking Together on the Anglican Mainstream website
Samuel and Sugden (ibid) comment: 'It is only naïve, romantic or downright luddite to say that more time is needed because church disputes took decades in the early church. The early church had neither e-mail nor jet aeroplanes. The current situation looks like fiddling while Rome burns. It is about time some people started dowsing the fires.'
But it should be a 'passionate patience' (to use the Archbishop of Canterbury's phrase). See review by Graham Kings
Oliver O'Donovan, The Only Poker-Game in Town: Reflections on the Windsor Report. This article has been widely quoted and is worth re-reading as the South to South Encounter meets in Egypt this month. See The Episcopal Diocese of Egypt welcomes the Third Anglican Global South to South Encounter
See the Church Times article by Francis Bridger & Graham Kings, 'Why Archbishop Akinola is Wrong'. The title is that of the CT rather than the authors.
See letter from Canon Colin Craston, former Chair of the Anglican Consultative Council, in the Church Times 14 October 2005, (till 29 October only on subscription and thereafter on the public pages).
Isn't this fellow proposing that "corporate" form be elevated over the substance of the Faith?
From an Orthodox viewpoint, it would be unthinkable that one Church would remain in communion with a Church which had apostasized. Of course, there is no such thing as an "Orthodox Communion". Unlike this fellows view of The Church, in Orthodoxy we are bound together by expressing theologically and liturgically and living the exact same Faith. How else would The Church be held together if in fact the fullness of The Catholic Church is, as +Ignatius of Antioch wrote, found in a bishop teaching The orthodox Faith surrounded by his monastics, priests and laity?
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