Skip to comments.Anglicanism - its new divisions in 2006
Posted on 03/30/2006 6:57:51 PM PST by sionnsar
Since the mid nineteenth century, there have always been differences in churchmanship and style in church services of worship and related activities - from low-church Latitudinarian and low-church Evangelical to high-Church Latitudinarian and Affirming Catholic; from low-church Charismatic to high-church Charismatic, and from high-church Anglo-Catholic to Romanizing Anglo-Catholic, and so on.
Yet the differences within the Anglican Communion in the first decade of the twenty-first century are only minimally related to churchmanship as such. The response from around the world to the innovations of 2003 in sexual doctrine and practice within the Episcopal Church of the USA reveals differences of mindset which cross churchmanship lines. This response has been both sharpened and diversified by the publication of The Windsor Report which itself makes proposals for maintaining in practical terms of the unity of the Anglican Communion of Churches.
At the right end of the spectrum are those who believe that there can be no compromise over sexuality: the church's doctrine is that sexual intercourse and relations are between one man and one woman in holy matrimony as one flesh and every other alternative is wrong and sinful (fornication, adultery etc.). A very large number of bishops and laity in the global South hold to this position.
At the left end of the spectrum is a very small number, found almost exclusively in the North and West, who believe that a new day has dawned, new revelation has been given and received, and that covenanted, same-sex faithful relations are to be blessed by the church, for this is the will of Jesus the Saviour. They see the implementing of this vision as a prophetic duty and task. Because of their dedication and skill in communication, they have been able to make their agenda into the major talking-point of the Anglican Communion. There are no signs of their slowing down.
Left of center are a majority of bishops of the North and West. They suspect that, in a culture of human rights and new insights from psychiatry, some forms of homosexuality and lesbianism are probably inevitable and even good, but they are not yet prepared to say so clearly and unambiguously. They certainly want to keep the doctrine of Christian marriage between a man and woman in place; but they also want to be able, in principle, if circumstances allow and people agree, to implement a limited form of same-sex blessings. They do not want to see the ECUSA have to leave the Communion and will work hard to find ways to keep it in, but they will accept this loss if that leads to peace and quiet amongst the remaining 37 provinces.
Right of center are many bishops, priests and laity around the world, who do not want to see any acceptance of the homosexual agenda but yet who do not want to see the Anglican Communion torn apart or split by this hot topic. So they look to the proposals of The Windsor Report as a way forward to keep a minimum but practically effective form of unity within and amongst the 38 provinces. They see the creation of a Covenant with teeth and signed by all as one good way of maintaining reasonable unity. And they are prepared to see the departure of the ECUSA if that is necessary.
And, of course, there are those who have feet in two camps!
It would seem that for "moderate" Anglicans (who basically run the show in the West) unity in communion should no longer be based on "sound" doctrine but rather on what will work practically. A doctrine or practice is now deemed to be wrong not because Scripture says so but because a majority is not ready emotionally and intellectually to accept it. That is, God is seen to be in process, involved in the act of becoming, and the people of God are to move with him/her, which will mean catching up for most of the time with what God is revealing through the developments within human society and culture!
Just how long the right end of the spectrum can live in this world where Christian truth is seen to emerge with the full development of human rights and the sure results of the behavioral, sociological and psychological sciences is impossible to predict. In their present mindset the Global South leaders seem fired up to stay where they are in terms of faith and doctrine, but - a big but - their own countries are experiencing the rush of human rights and the effects of modernity and, perhaps, they too may gradually change.
Perhaps the best that can be hoped for is the creation of a covenant for the Provinces (38 or 37) - as suggested by the Windsor Report -- that maintains much of the received Faith and Morality, and that effectively binds Provinces to each other in a way that will prevent any of them moving ahead with innovations which embarrass the others and bring shame in the ecumenical sphere to the name of Anglican. However, let us be clear, there is no long term solution for, even with a covenant in place, there will be no real central authority to keep the autonomous units in check. With a covenant the Anglican Communion may begin to function a little like the Orthodox Churches do, but it will still be a universe away from the way that the Roman Catholic Church is organized and functions.
What I believe we all need to be clear about is that the sexual innovations which were the immediate cause of the present "crisis," are not truly the real problem. To reverse them will not change the basic dilemma. As I have sought to explain in my essay, Episcopal Innovations 1960-2004, the innovations of the second half of the twentieth century represent a basic rejection of (a) the creation order/law of God for male and female, (b)the basic morality of the New Covenant and (c) Reformed Catholicism (the religion set forth in the classic Anglican Formularies). Unless these are truly addressed, then fixing the sexual innovations of 2004 will be merely a temporary achievement.
The Anglican Way is a jurisdiction of the one Church of God which has yet to find a sound and practical way to exist in the modern, fast world and in existing to serve the Lord with holy fear and consecrated love.
Visit www.anglicansatprayer.org and bring all these and other concerns to the Head of the Church at the Throne of Grace.
For a copy of Episcopal Innovations 1960-2004, visit www.anglicanmarketplace.com or call 1-800-727-1928; to download as pdf file visit www.episcopalian.org/pbs1928
---The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil ( Oxford ) is president of the Prayer Book Society. He lives in Seattle. Washington. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.episcopalian.org/pbs1928
Of course, this position is totally against the teachings of the Bible and tradition. If the Episcopal Church continues down this road, it is dead. Actually, as far as I'm concerned, it's dead already. I've "crossed the Tiber" to the real Church--the Catholic one.
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