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ECUSA's Choice: the hard road and the narrow way that lead to communion in Christ Jesus
VirtueOnline-News ^ | 2/13/2006 | The Very Rev. Dr Philip W. Turner III

Posted on 02/13/2006 5:55:08 PM PST by sionnsar


In years past when I have spoken at conferences such as this one, I have delivered a more or less learned paper on a topic related to a common theme. In adopting such a format, I acted like professors act-my words directed more to fellow professionals than to the people actually sitting there listening (or not listening) to what I had to say. I am not going to do so today.

This is not an academic paper. My words are closer in form to a classical diatribe than a learned paper. I do not mean a modern diatribe-an angry rant. I mean a classical diatribe-an extended argument meant, on the one hand, to wear away a point of view that one believes to be false and, on the other, to present by contrast a more adequate perspective.

In this diatribe, it is my intention to place clearly before us several points of view that I believe to be pervasive (even among those of us assembled here); show that they are destructively in error; and propose, in if only briefly, another position-one that marks out a hard road and a narrow path that lead in a direction quite different from the ones in which our church now seems to be walking.

There is a reason for this change in strategy. For years I held the hope that ECUSA might engage in a theologically informed discussion of the many issues that now threaten to divide it. I no longer have such a hope. We have given up reasoned and faithful argument for struggles in which the exercise of power dominates, and in which calls for "dialogue" do no more than cloak a quest for dominance. On the matters I am about to present, I am not asking for dialogue. Sadly, we now live outside that possibility. I ask only to be listened to. When what I have to say has been heard, let each of us make what they will of it. There is in the original Rule of Taize a wonderful paragraph that (roughly paraphrased) says this. When there is a matter of common concern, let the brother say what he has to say and then remain silent. Let there be no special pleading-no heaping up of words. Let the truth (if there be any) make its own way.

With that I am now content! Let the truth in what I say (if there be any) make its own way. What truth? In this case, it is the truth of what ECUSA and the Anglican Communion within the providence of God are called to be and become. In search of this truth, I begin with the recent actions by the Diocese of New Westminster and the General Convention of ECUSA. These actions have driven wedges between contending parties both within these two Provinces and within the Anglican Communion as a whole. Those wedges within a matter of months may turn into something like the Berlin wall-divides that both separate our various provinces one from another and lock the members of these provinces within the bubble of an isolated existence.

Of these rather bleak possibilities most Episcopalians are only dimly aware, and only marginally concerned. Despite our Episcopal polity, our self identification as a communion rather than a federation of churches, and our claim to be an exemplar of a catholic form of Christian belief and practice, we are in fact relentlessly congregational in both attitude and practice. However, the good news buried in our present struggles is that these very conflicts are forcing upon us a question of identity-a question concerning the adequacy of our self understanding. We call ourselves a communion, but what does that mean? Prior to the present crisis, we have been able to use the term; but we have never been forced to plumb either its meaning or implications. The present crisis is, however, forcing the issue so long buried to the surface.

In fact, the discussion has already begun, and into that conversation several opposing points of view are making their way. Interestingly enough, most, if not all of them (be they progressive or traditional), want to hold onto the claim that Anglicans belong to a communion rather than a federation of churches. Most clearly assert their dedication to the "bonds of affection" that supposedly define our communion. As I hope to show, however, while claiming to be supportive of "communion," most of the positions now in the field in fact subvert that reality and in the end distort it beyond all recognition.


To show what I mean, let us look first at the view of communion proposed by those who now occupy the positions of power both within ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada. On their reckoning, to them belongs a "progressive" or "prophetic" voice that would maintain Anglicanism as a communion of churches by leading its various provinces into God's future. In this future, same gender sexual relations will not provide grounds for division, persecution, or exclusion. Some have come to this conclusion because they do not believe matters of sexual ethics are of sufficient weight to be considered "church dividing."

Thus, in an article entitled "Faithfulness in Crisis," Marilyn McCord Adams contends that conservative evangelical voices within the Communion, in a way that is illegitimate, have elevated ethical matters to the level of creedal statements; and so require uniformity on matters concerning which differences of opinion ought to be tolerated.[1] In a similar vein, Andrew Linzey has argued that Anglicans have always held that opinion on moral matters need not be "monochromatic."[2]

I believe these writers have raised a legitimate question-one that deserves far more attention than it has yet received. Just what does constitute a "church dividing" issue? Most conservatives have simply assumed that the matter of homosexual relations is properly church dividing; but, save pointing in a rather wooden fashion to certain biblical passages, have not bothered to exposit or justify their position. Be that as it may, the primary move by progressives to narrow the theological content of the word communion is not to reduce the significance of moral matters for Christian unity.

Rather, it is to contend, often on the basis of a peculiarly thin Doctrine of the Incarnation, that the demands of enculturation require adaptations in one part of the communion that may not be appropriate in other parts of the communion. Thus, ECUSA in its officeial response to Windsor states that "The particular form in which Christ's holiness embodies itself in every concrete situation must necessarily be diverse if it is to be real for each local community."[3]

William Countryman similarly maintains "One basic fact of any genuinely global community is that it will have to exist simultaneously in a great many different cultural and historical contexts." This means that "Questions that have great power to create conflict in one place may be meaningless in another." From these observations he concludes (as an example), "Christians of the North American community have no business dictating the details of theological reflection to Christians in today's mature Asian churches."[4] And for Countryman, what is sauce for the goose is, without question, also sauce for the gander. In like manner Christians from Africa have no business dictating the details of theological reflection to Christians in the "mature" Western churches.

At the base of the progressive account of "communion" lies a form of theological and ethical pluralism that, from their perspective, is virtually irreducible. The theological and moral pluralism that underlies the progressive position leads to a view of "communion" that is both narrow and univocally ethical in focus. Four words in particular appear over and over again in the various attempts by progressives I have read to give content to this word." They are "love," "service," "respect" (which includes conversation or dialogue in the face of disagreement), and "hospitality."

The first careful articulation of this position I have come across is that of the former Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Michael Peers, in his Arnold Lecture of 2000.[5] Fearing reaction to present divisions in the form either of an "Anglican Curia" or a neo-confessionalism like that he perceives in the Kuala Lumpur Statement, and noting that "precision of doctrine and clarity of decision-making are not among the strongest hall marks of 'communion'," Archbishop Peers (citing Paul Avis) defines communion as extension to others of "the same welcome and acceptance that Christ extended to you." Welcome and acceptance, practices that for Archbishop Peers constitute the heart of communion, are maintained and expressed by giving pride of place to one another, persistence in prayer, contributing to one another's needs, and above all in the practice of hospitality.

Of these four elements, hospitality, not common belief and practice, constitutes the real foundation of communion. So Archbishop Peers writes, "Communion is rooted in hospitality. Hospitality is willingness to invite and receive another into your house, to break bread, and share life." It also involves "respect" for the autonomy of each member church of the Communion.

To be sure, each church holds, he says a common faith, but the articulation of that faith properly remains at the most general level of creedal statement. More important to him is a mandate rooted in the Incarnation of Christ to adapt the faith to the various circumstances in which it must be expressed. Thus, he wishes to locate final authority in respect to faith and morals in the autonomous churches of the Communion. If there are conflicts between provinces in respect to faith and morals, Bishops Peers believes it best simply to live with such diversity and go on with the practice of hospitality.

Archbishop Peers' lecture is valuable in a number of respects, but chief among them is the clear identification of two of the basic issues involved in our present disputes. One is the basis and nature of communion itself and the other is the sort of polity that is appropriate for its furtherance. It is clear that for Archbishop Peers, the basis and nature of communion does not lie in doctrinal and moral agreement, but in the imitation of the hospitality and respect figured in the life of Christ. It is clear also that the sort of polity most appropriate to communion as he understands it is one in which the autonomy of individual provinces trumps the stated views of the Communion as a whole.

Since the appearance of Archbishop Peers' lecture, various versions of the sort of argument he makes have appeared. Both their similarity can be seen in two recent collections-one the Fall 2005 edition of the Anglican Theological Review and another a collection of essays entitled Gays and the Future of Anglicanism.[6] In the account that follows, I intend simply to summarize several of the articles that appear in these collections.

In his article "Authority, Unity, and Mission in the Windsor Report," Ian Douglas notes that communion rests less on the Instruments of Unity (read political and canonical structures) and "more on relationships across differences in service to God's mission." [7] In his article, "The Spiritual Context of the Windsor Report," Steven Charleston defines these relationships as ones of service. Service demands neither agreement in doctrine nor uniformity of practice. Indeed, "The servanthood process is not intended to resolve tension, but to maintain tension. Community equilibrium does not depend on resolution but on reconciliation."[8]

William Countryman, in an essay entitled "Politics, Polity, and the Bible as Hostage," defines relationships of communion in terms neither of hospitality nor service but in terms of "respect." Thus, he contends we must eschew centralizing political moves as a means of addressing diversity. Rather, we must recognize, as indicated previously, that within a global community "Christians of the North Atlantic community have no business dictating the details of theological reflection to Christians in today's mature Asian churches." [9] Clearly he believes also (again as previously noted) that in a global world Christians from Africa have no business dictating such matters to the "mature" churches in North America. His point, however, is that in a global context, "our proper response to one another is respect (emphasis added)-respect made manifest by both questioning and encouragement."[10]

The fundamental importance of respect is also a basic premise of the essay "In Defense of Diversity" by Andrew Linzey.[11] Thus Linzey contends that if communion is to be maintained, it is of vital importance that the various factions within do not push one another in ways that exclude differing "emphases and integrities."[12] Accordingly he insists provinces must "respect" (emphasis added) not only the geographical integrity, but also the moral and theological integrity, of other provinces..."[13]

A final rendition of the ethical interpretation of communion is to be found in Keith Ward's essay, "Ecclesial Authority and Morality."[14] Agreeing with the previous authors that moves toward a more centralized form of authority is not the way to maintain communion, Ward pleads for tolerance of diversity of opinion not only because diversity is both inevitable and good but also because of the universality of grace and divine love.

Paul, like Jesus, he says, gives us a criterion to decide what is right and wrong, namely, "love of the neighbor and concern for their wellbeing."[15] What we hold to be right and wrong will remain matters of dispute. The law cannot settle these disputes. Only love of the neighbor, rooted in the universal grace and love of God for humankind, can contain such differences in a way that does not divide. It has been the genius of the Church of England, he believes, to understand this fact and live by it.

In summary, it would seem that the basic outline of the developing progressive argument is this. Given the irreducible fact of pluralism in respect to faith and morals, the only remedies for division are ethical. Love, respect, service, and hospitality-these virtues properly define the "bonds of affection" that give substance to the Anglican Communion. From these beliefs flow two others-one clearly stated in this literature and the other (sadly) only implied.

The clearly stated conviction is that attempts to maintain communion by strengthening the authority of the "instruments of unity" will carry the Anglican Communion in the wrong direction. The unstated conviction is that, because of the prime importance of autonomy, no form of ecclesial discipline is appropriate as a means of addressing disputes between the various Anglican provinces. The only proper way to address these differences is the exercise of the virtues mentioned above.

One of the clearest and most provocative attacks on attempts to address division by changes in polity is that of R William Carroll, a visiting professor of theology at the University of the South. For Carroll, communion is satisfactorily defined by the phrase "bonds of affection." These bonds are best preserved not by "centralization" (which he believes to be the central thrust of the Windsor Report) but by polycentrism.

So he writes, "I propose a genuinely polycentric and postcolonial Anglicanism, in which intercommunion in Christ enhances rather than diminishes autonomy.[16] Polycentrism of the sort he recommends requires a radical dispersal of authority to the local level and a focus on the autonomy not only of province, but also of diocese and even parish. Each must find the faithful way in its own context. The bonds of affection then are best restored and preserved by "continuing the process of devolution of authority that began with the end of the British Empire."[17]

William Pattison in an article entitled "The Rhetoric of Unity"[18] has articulated a still more radical view of polycentrism. The Windsor report, he says, articulates a form of counterfactual thinking in which the unity of the various provinces of the Anglican Communion is both valorized and taken as a fact.

The truth of the matter, says Pattison, is that the Anglican Communion is but a fragment of a fragment of a divided church that is itself in a process of further fragmentation. Given the pervasive and intractable nature of our divisions it makes more sense, he believes, to seek unity in circumstances where the divided churches face similar challenges. Thus, it would be better for the Church of England or ECUSA for example to seek unity with other "northern churches" than to chase a "will of a wisp," namely, the unity of the Anglican Communion that contains so many provinces whose circumstances are so radically different.

Many other examples can be provided of the emphasis placed on the autonomy of the local church by "progressive" authors. Indeed, the articles written by progressives in response to the Windsor Report without exception opt for local autonomy in the midst of global difference rather than a form of polity that limits autonomy and supports theological and moral agreement between provinces.

The reason for progressive support of diversity and polycentrism rests, however, not only upon convictions about the inevitability and benefit of diverse accounts of Christian faith and practice. It rests also upon the conviction that moves toward more centralized forms of authority (as represented in the increasing authority given by both the Virginia Report and the Windsor Report to the instruments of unity) will inhibit positive developments in both faith and morals.

As examples of this concern they cite changes in practices governing lay participation in the leadership of the church, divorce and remarriage, the ordination of women, and (latterly) same gender sexual relationships. The common charge that runs through the literature is that had the recommendations contained in the Virginia Report and the Windsor Report been in place when practices concerning lay participation in church leadership, divorce and remarriage and the ordination of women were changed, these developments, to the detriment of the Anglican Communion, would have been prevented. (Thus, William Countryman is convinced that "Change that can open the church up to new experience of grace normally comes from below, from the willingness of Christians on the ground to live out their experience of "God's goodness in ways that may seem startling at first to others."[19] Indeed, Bishop Paul Marshall of Bethlehem has argued that it has been the particular vocation of Anglican provinces in North America to break new ground (from below) in the common life of the communion. So he writes, "For good or ill, the North American churches have had the peculiar ministry of leading change in the Communion..."[20])


I grant that the picture I have painted of the developing position of the "progressive" voice within the Anglican Communion is no more than a collage. In a collage of the sort I have presented, I cannot hope to do justice to the various forms of the argument presented. As will become clear in the final sections of this address I believe that (should they prevail) the progressive arguments spell both the evisceration of any credible view of communion and the end of the Anglican Communion as such. Nonetheless, the advocates of the progressive position have marshaled real arguments that are worthy of serious responses. Though I wish it were not so, the same thing cannot be said for most defenders of a more traditional view. In response to the actions rather than the arguments of progressives, a significant number of traditionalists have recently put forward a very different view of the basis and nature of communion, but with woefully inadequate argumentation. The traditionalist response has, sadly, been a classical example of "reaction" and not a balanced and well argued form of conservatism.

The view presented in this reaction is rooted in neither the centralization of authority nor the deployment of the virtues of love, service, respect, and hospitality, nor, as in ECUSA's constitution, communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Rather it is based in compliance with the traditional formularies of Anglicanism, namely, The Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal, the Articles of Religion, and Canon Law as locally adopted. There are two recent and noteworthy expressions of this point of view. One is to be found in the fourth appendix of To Mend the Net entitled "The Formularies and the Limits of Diversity,"[21] and the other in the recent change in the constitution of the Anglican Church of Nigeria.

The author of "The Formularies and the Limits of Diversity" contends that formularies of two sorts, one general and the other particular, serve both to give the Anglican Communion its identity and to indicate the acceptable limits of diversity within. The general formularies are the dogmatic decrees of the General Councils; the writings of the Fathers as the record of the mind of the Church in reading Holy Scripture; and the common law of the Christian Church. The particular formularies are the four mentioned previously-Prayer Book, Ordinal, Articles of Religion and Canon Law. From these formularies, the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Anglican Communion are to be derived. The bishops, priests, deacons and lay persons within the communion are to exercise their ministries in accordance with this doctrine, discipline, and worship.

It seems fair to say that according to this view, communion is properly defined by accord with creedal and confessional statements, participation in common forms of worship and community discipline, and an ordered ministry sworn to uphold these common beliefs and practices.[22] If the view of communion espoused by progressive voices focuses on its moral nature, the one appearing in this article focuses on what might be called its creedal/confessional/liturgical/legal content. This view surfaced in a powerful way quite recently in the revision of its constitution by the Anglican Church of Nigeria. The constitutional changes approved deliberately exclude communion with Canterbury as a defining feature of Anglicanism and substitute for this relational definition one based on loyalty to the traditional Anglican formularies.


My own view is that though each of these positions contains some truth, each is in fact seriously flawed. The flaws are best made clear by comparison with a more adequate account of communion, and in a moment I hope to give a sketch of what I believe to be a more excellent way. First, however, it will prove helpful to indicate what the flaws in these two positions are. In respect to the progressive view, it seems to me passing strange to say that one can have communion within the body of Christ and yet be in a state of intractable disagreement about the meaning and requirements of such common participation. It also seems odd to say that the various members of the one body are autonomous to such an extent that they are not subject to any form of discipline even though that discipline is designed to insure a unity of witness and purpose in the working of the body's various parts. In respect to the more traditional position I have identified, it seems to me both strange and unworkable to drive a wedge between loyalty to particular forms of doctrine and liturgical practice and the particular human agents who are charged with their interpretation. How can creeds, confession, liturgies, and laws function to procure communion apart from human instruments of accountability that in fact provide the links that hold together the various parts of the body? If the agents who provide these links and the nature of the relationships that bind them are not part of the definition of communion, one is left only with autonomous agents of interpretation. One is left, in fact, with but another form of the autonomy valorized by progressive voices. In one case there is commitment to God's open future and in the other dedication to God's sacred past.

So the question is this. Is there a better way to understand Anglicanism as a form of communion? I believe there is and its lineaments are to be found in the Windsor Report. In a moment, I will trace those lineaments, but first a word of caution. What I have to say calls to account yet another group among us, and challenges a basic commitment and strategy that is common among them. Many, if not most, of the bishops and clergy of our church simply wish these issues would go away. Their focus of attention is neither on the progressive program nor the traditionalist reaction. Rather, it is on their own diocese and their own parish. They have decided to hunker down and ride out the storm. I believe this strategy is wrong on two accounts. One, it is unrealistic to think that the storm will leave any of us unharmed. The other is that the strategy is, for reasons that will I hope soon appear obvious, disobedient.

That said, what is the view of communion present in the Windsor Report, and how adequate is it? Here is my reading of the answer to these questions contained in the report. To begin with, communion is not a peripheral matter-one that Christians can take or leave. Rather, it lies at the center not only of ecclesiology but also of soteriology. The focus of God's action in history is not, in the first instance, the salvation of individual souls (as evangelicals tend to say), but the creation of a people who will be a sign of God's purpose for the entire creation. If you will, it is not God's primary purpose to cherry pick individual souls off the withering tree of humanity. God is after the redemption of all things and the "unity, communion, and radical holiness" of his people are, as it were, the first fruits of this redemptive plan. (WR #1-3) The Anglican Communion is part of a sadly divided church; but, according to Windsor, it is called to understand itself within such a universal vision of the nature and calling of the church. Painful as it may prove to be, the Anglican Communion and within it ECUSA are, because of God's plan, called to follow the hard road and the narrow path that lead to unity rather than the wide and easy one that leads, as if by magic, in a direction chosen by any one who sets a foot upon it.

Fidelity requires us, therefore, to ask how the Anglican Communion ought to understand its own fellowship? The Windsor Report provides a far more fulsome and adequate answer to this question than any of the positions cited above. As progressives insist, Windsor holds that communion "is all about relationships." (WR # 49) Again, as with the progressive voice Windsor insists that these relationships are "expressed by community, equality, common life, sharing, interdependence, and mutual affection." (WR #49 Thus, communion cannot be understood, as some traditionalists would argue, simply in terms of loyalty to creedal and confessional statements. Nevertheless, Windsor does not defend a purely relational, moral definition of communion. Its authors insist that communion in fact requires more than moral cement. It requires also a common set of beliefs, namely, those of the universal church. Consequently, communion cannot be understood, as progressives tend to do, in univocally moral or relational terms.

Though it contains both, the view of communion present in the Windsor Report is far more complex than either the moral or confessional views outlined above. Thus, communion is said to "subsist" in the following: "visible unity, common confession of the apostolic faith, common belief in scripture and the creeds, common baptism and shared Eucharist, and a mutually recognized common ministry." (WR #49)

Windsor goes on to assert that, though communion demands uniformity of neither theological opinion nor devotional practice, it does demand that "each church acknowledges and respects the interdependence and autonomy of the other, putting the needs of the global fellowship before its own." (WR #49)

Let us pause for a moment and note just how complex the notion with which we are being presented in fact is. Communion is relational in that involves an interdependent common life in which the good of the parts are subservient to the good of the whole and the good of the whole depends upon the good of the parts. It subsists in a common confession that accords with the apostolic faith. This faith is derived from Holy Scripture, sustained by common sacramental life, and given expression in common creeds. Further, common belief and life are sustained, furthered, and protected by a mutually recognized common ministry.

Of course, here we have what amounts to an exposition of the Chicago/Lambeth Quadrilateral. However, Windsor also speaks of the "Bonds of Communion"-those practices and institutions that do more than stipulate points of reference for any discussion of church unity. The "Bonds of Communion" address the actual processes and institutions by means of which space is provided within the passage of time for the achievement, preservation, and furtherance of communion. Unlike the progressive view, Windsor insists that communion requires common confession and common practice in respect to matters that might, if inadequately articulated, compromise the gospel with which the church has been entrusted. Unlike the traditionalist position, however, Windsor recognizes that unity in these affairs is a matter of constant challenge rather than an existent state against which one can measure more or less exactly the compliance of a given province, diocese, or parish with catholic belief and practice.

Thus, among the Bonds of Communion Windsor gives pride of place to the reading of scripture within the common worship of the church. It does not turn first to formularies or creeds, but to the source of both, namely, the bible. It does not give in to an inevitable pluralism of interpretation but calls in stead for a shared reading that takes place across the cultural and historical divides that so often threaten communion. (WR # 62) The report's authors are fully aware of what a formidable task shared reading might prove; but in aid of this necessary bond they turn to the teaching authority of Bishops and the moral authority of the various instruments of unity that have evolved in the history of the Communion. These instruments are the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Meeting of the Primates.

When disputed matters arise, the report calls on the various provinces of the communion to wait upon one another in mutual subjection through a process of reception. During the process, they are to restrain themselves from taking actions that are either precipitous or run contrary to what is plainly Anglican teaching. In this process a common reading of the bible is sought, and idiosyncratic action is impeded by both Episcopal authority and the mind and moral authority of the various instruments of unity.

Here we find no curial form of church polity and no confessional stringency. Here we find also more than a moral definition of communion. What we do find is recognition of both the fundamental importance of communion and its precarious condition prior to Christ's return. We find a thick definition of communion-one involving common belief, worship, witness, and order. We find also openness for the adaptation of this thick understanding to local conditions. Finally we find the articulation of a process that will prevent schism as the necessary processes of discernment go on over time. Here, in short, we find the tracing of a hard road and narrow way that mark a long journey through the temptations I have identified above- trimming the notion of communion either by reducing it to a set of ethical demands or a set of confessional agreements, or dismissing its importance by forms of pragmatic congregationalism (parochial, diocesan, or provincial).


I have in no way done justice to the complexity of this report. Further I have not registered my reservations about it. The criticisms I have are neither few nor inconsequential. However, with the lineaments of its account of communion and its discussion of the bonds which hold communion together within the vicissitudes of history I am in agreement. The point of this address has simply been to point out the alternatives now in the field and indicate their inadequacy. All represent forms of what Dante called "trimming," and we should not forget that Dante placed "trimmers" in a very uncomfortable circle of hell. Given the time I have, this is as far as I can go with this project, but it does leave a question that must not be avoided. The question is this. Given the fact that our next General Convention is likely to give the support of resolutions to what I have termed the progressive view, and given the fact that many traditionalists for this reason either have or soon will leave what we know to be ECUSA, and given the fact that many will be tempted to deal with situation by ignoring it and hunkering down in the comforts of their own place where everything still seems to function, what ought those who see Windsor as the way ahead for both ECUSA and the Anglican Communion to do?

I could say many things in response to this question, and have included some of them in an Appendix to this address. In closing, however, I want to draw but one conclusion. The first step along the hard road and the narrow path that lead to communion is for a group of Bishops and clergy within ECUSA to link arms and make clear to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Meeting of the Primates, and their fellow Episcopalians that they hold the view of communion contained within the Windsor report. In doing so they will be called upon to make clear also that they believe the alternatives now in the field trace a wide and easy road that does not lead to communion. If they are serious in these representations, they will be called upon also to undertake any task and pay any price required to restore and preserve the communion of Anglicans both in this country and throughout the globe.

It is my belief that should such a group come into existence, the positive results would be numerous and fast in coming. But that is to speculate about God's providence-a practice that is highly doubtful if not disobedient. The primary point is not success. It is rather, by a plain witness, to (as it were) "out" the false alternatives. In making a witness to the fulsome nature of communion, it would become clear that progressives, traditionalists, and "know nothings" are (to use the words of the Windsor Report) each in their own way "walking apart" from Anglicanism as a communion of churches and down the wide and easy road that leads to various forms of sectarianism. Of these forms of sectarianism, one is based upon ideological conviction and thin moralism, another on confessional agreement and premature, exclusionary discipline, and another on slothful limitation of the boundaries of God's people to one's own stamping ground.

The hard road and the narrow path that lead to communion lead away from the wide paths of trimming, avoidance, or departure. If I may say so, ACI has for the past decade tried in various ways to map this hard road and the narrow way, and my hope and prayer is that what we say and do here will, for us all, mark the first steps taken along this way. Thank you.


As an appendix to these remarks, allow me to list in a fairly wooden way a number of additional small steps that might serve to take those who wish to follow it further along the hard road that leads to communion. These steps neither trim the notion of communion nor do they provide an escape pod for leaving ECUSA.

1. Recognize that "communion" is a hard won reality rather than a steady state.

2. Hold onto the central importance of "communion" and refuse to trim the notion either by moralizing it or identifying it with confessional agreement.

3. Don't contribute to further division by leaving the parish, diocese, province, or communion of which you now are a part. Rather stay the course by making both a truthful and charitable witness.

4. If you are a Deacon, Presbyter or Bishop, recognize that it is part of your responsibility to make clear to the people in your charge just what is going on and just what is at issue in our present conflict.

5. If you are a Deacon, Presbyter or Bishop, do not remain a de facto Congregationalist. Come out of your local den and give appropriate amounts of energy to being part of a communion.

6. If the General Convention of ECUSA and/or your diocesan authorities decide, in the words of the Windsor Report, "to walk apart" from the rest of the communion, make it clear that it is not your intention to do so.

7. Link arms with other people, both lay and clerical, who are what might be called communion people, and seek common ways both to resist and reverse the way in which ECUSA has decided to walk.

8. If you are a Bishop, make it clear that your diocese is a communion diocese and take the steps necessary to preserve it in such a state.

These steps might include:

1. Making it clear that clergy who are involved in sexual relations other than within the state of matrimony will be disciplined

2. Refusing to allow same gender blessing in the diocese and making clear that violations of the policy will result in disciplinary action.

3. Refusing to allow clergy to serve in the diocese who will not abide by this policy.

4. Recruiting and educating a new generation of clergy whose vision of the church and whose focus of ministry is oriented toward membership in a communion of churches.

5. Linking arms with other Bishops whose commitments are similar and working out common ways of responding to what is now the 'national church.' Chief among these should be representation to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Meeting of the Primates that

(a) you intend to remain in ECUSA and (b) that you espouse the Windsor Report as the way ahead for the Communion.

6. Making strong and working links with dioceses and provinces outside the United States.

7. Calling your diocese to a season of fasting, prayer, and repentance during which time one's diocese searches with others for an obedient way ahead for our church and our communion.

9. Whether you are a Bishop, Presbyter, Deacon, or lay person, cultivate the virtues apart from which communion cannot endure. The big ones are faith, hope, and love. But, as I have argued so many times before, the big ones need the compliment of the little ones that make up the small change of Christian Charity. They are lowliness, meekness, patience, forbearance, eagerness for unity and peace, kindness, tenderheartedness, and most of all forgiveness. These little fellows seem to be missing in our common life, and apart from them, neither scripture, creed, canon, nor instruments of unity will put the Humpty Dumpty of our church back together.


[1] Marilyn McCord Adams, "Faithfulness in Crisis" in Andrew Linzey and Richard Kirker, Gays and the Future of Anglicanism: Responses to the Windsor Repor: (Ropley, Hants: UK, 2005), pp. 74-75.

[2] Andrew Linzey, "In Defense of Diversity," in Ibid. pp. 176-177.

[3] Ibid. #4.11.

[4] William Countryman, "Politics, Polity, and the Bible as Hostage" in Gays and the Future of Anglicanism, p. 7.

[5] Michael Peers, "Power in the Church: Prelates, Confessions, Anglicans," The Arnold Lecture, 2000.

[6] Andrew Linzey & Richard Kirker, Gays and the Future of Anglicanism: Responses to the Windsor Report, OBooks, 2005.

[7] Ibid. pp. 568.

[8] Ibid. p. 586.

[9] William Countryman, "Politics, Polity, and the Bible as Hostage," p.7.

[10] Ibid. pp. 7-8.

[11] Ibid. pp. 160-187.

[12] Ibid. p. 179.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid. pp. 17-29.

[15] Ibid. p.25.

[16] R. William Carroll, "Restoring the Bonds of Affection," ATR Fall 2005: 620.

[17] Ibid: 628.

[18] George Pattison, "The Rhetoric of Unity of Unity," in Gays and the Future of Anglicanism, pp. 138-148.

[19] William Countryman, "Politics, Polity and the Bible as Hostage" in Ibid. p.8.

[20] Paul V. Marshall, "A Note on the Role of North America in the Evolution of Anglicanism" in ATR Fall 2005: 551

[21] Drexel Gomez and Maurice W. Sinclair (eds.) To Mend the Net: Anglican Faith and Order for Renewed Mission, (Carrollton, TX: The Ekklesia Society, 2001), pp. 93-105.

[22] See especially, Ibid. pp. 102-103.

Copyright Copyright The Anglican Communion Institute, All Rights Reserved


TOPICS: Mainline Protestant

1 posted on 02/13/2006 5:55:12 PM PST by sionnsar
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To: ahadams2; axegrinder; AnalogReigns; Uriah_lost; Condor 63; Fractal Trader; Zero Sum; ...
Traditional Anglican ping, continued in memory of its founder Arlin Adams.

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2 posted on 02/13/2006 5:56:03 PM PST by sionnsar (†† | Libs: Celebrate MY diversity! | Iran Azadi 2006 | Is it March yet?)
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To: sionnsar

For later study

3 posted on 02/13/2006 7:13:32 PM PST by SES1066 (Cycling to conserve, Conservative to save, Saving to Retire, will Retire to Cycle.)
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