Skip to comments.Anglican Identity, according to Dr Rowan Williams: A call to Common Prayer
Posted on 06/28/2006 6:05:49 PM PDT by sionnsar
The Archbishop of Canterbury is facing the present, major crisis within the Anglican family of Churches with wisdom and courage. He does not have the authority and power of a Patriarch or Pope. His authority is basically moral and relies on long-formed bonds of affection.
Following the failure of the American Episcopal Church to provide the totality of positive response asked for by The Windsor Report and the Primates Meeting, Dr Williams is making a tremendous effort to guide the discussion and debate within the Anglican Communion in both reasonable and responsible ways, true to the Christian heritage of the Anglican Way. In this he ought to be supported by the prayers of millions of Anglicans, for unless wisdom and grace prevail over the next few months or so, the Anglican Way may be split into several ways, never to be re-united.
Dr Williams has written to all the thirty-seven Primates and sent to them a REFLECTION, which has the purpose of sharing with them how he would like them to consider a way through the present crisis so that a maximum unity is preserved, a maximum truth is confessed, and the least harm is done to churches and pesons.
Everything he writes in this REFLECTION is worthy of careful thought, but here I wish to invite my reader to consider what Dr Williams says about Anglican Identity and whether the Anglican Way is worth preserving, and belonging to at this stage in its history and development.
Whether or not to remain Anglican is a live question in North America, where the Episcopal Church seems to have walked away from its Anglican heritage into a radically progressive religion and where Anglicans outside the Episcopal Church (Continuing, Extra-Mural or otherwise named) seem unable as yet to find real and practical ways of uniting in a common cause and faith. So the temptation is great for many people in despair and tiredness to go either to the supposed safety of Orthodoxy or Rome on the one side or to non-denominational evangelicalism (i.e., to the Church invisible) on the other. (And let us admit that God may be leading some people in these directions for their true good.)
In his REFLECTION the Archbishop is telling us to take a broad not narrow perspective and to see the fullness of the Anglican Way within the fellowship of a world-wide family of Churches:
The Anglican IdentityWe are all coming to see that the special characteristics of the Anglican Way as a worldwide family make it the more difficult to keep it as a united Way and family. So the Archbishop is prepared to support, in order to gain the maximum unity possible: (a) the continued slow work of bringing into harmony the canon law of the thirty-eight provinces; (b) the moving toward a covenant wherein individual provinces freely restrict their own right to act independently in order to act in concert with other provinces in major matters; and (c) an association of provinces unable to sign the covenant as such but who are nevertheless loosely related to the Communion of Churches bound by covenant ( a kind of circle within a circle). This long-term view of the Archbishop may be called visionary for to see it become a reality will be a miracle.
The reason Anglicanism is worth bothering with is because it has tried to find a way of being a Church that is neither tightly centralized nor just a loose federation of essentially independent bodies a Church that is seeking to be a coherent family of communities meeting to hear the Bible read, to break bread and share wine as guests of Jesus Christ, and to celebrate a unity in worldwide mission and ministry. That is what the word Communion means for Anglicans, and it is a vision that has taken clearer shape in many of our ecumenical dialogues.
Of course it is possible to produce a self-deceiving, self-important account of our worldwide identity, to pretend that we were a completely international and universal institution like the Roman Catholic Church. Were not. But we have tried to be a family of Churches willing to learn from each other across cultural divides, not assuming that European (or American or African) wisdom is what settles everything, opening up the lives of Christians here to the realities of Christian experience elsewhere. And we have seen these links not primarily in a bureaucratic way but in relation to the common patterns of ministry and worship the community gathered around Scripture and sacraments; a ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, a biblically-centered form of common prayer, a focus on the Holy Communion. These are the signs that we are not just a human organization but a community trying to respond to the action and the invitation of God that is made real for us in ministry and Bible and sacraments. We believe we have useful and necessary questions to explore with Roman Catholicism because of its centralized understanding of jurisdiction and some of its historic attitudes to the Bible. We believe we have some equally necessary questions to propose to classical European Protestantism, to fundamentalism, and to liberal Protestant pluralism. There is an identity here, however fragile and however provisional.
But what our Communion lacks is a set of adequately developed structures which is able to cope with the diversity of views that will inevitably arise in a world of rapid global communication and huge cultural variety. The tacit conventions between us need spelling out not for the sake of some central mechanism of control but so that we have ways of being sure were still talking the same language, aware of belonging to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ. It is becoming urgent to work at what adequate structures for decision-making might look like. We need ways of translating this underlying sacramental communion into a more effective institutional reality, so that we dont compromise or embarrass each other in ways that get in the way of our local and our universal mission, but learn how to share responsibility.
Keep, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy Church with thy perpetual mercy; and, because the frailty of man without thee cannot but fall, keep us ever by thy help from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
LORD GOD, guard your Church with your perpetual mercy, and, because in our frailty we cannot stand without your support, keep us always from all that may harm us, and lead us to all that is profitable for our salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Wait - Rowan Williams - isn't he Mr. Bean?
Regardless, he should excommunicate the losers who run the ECUSA.
In all of this, I cannot help but to think of how Rowan has been personally changed by this crisis, and whether the Archbishop, like so many others who have come from the left, has been rudely awakened by the experience of attempting to deal with leftist factions in good faith only to discover that good faith, reasonableness, and tolerance have nothing to do with leftist reality.
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