Anglican Identity

Keeping the Global Family Together

by Peter Toon

Preservation Press of the Prayer Book Society of the U.S.A.  2006

 

 

Contents

Introduction

1. An Anglican Crisis

2. An Anglican Doctrine of Reception

3. An Anglican Communion with Instruments of Unity

4. An Anglican Covenant

5. An Anglican Identity

Appendix: The Archbishop’s Panel of Reference

 

 

Introduction

      Anglicans are in search of an identity, one that is according to the will of God.  With the opening section of The Windsor Report of 2004, I believe that The Letter to the Ephesians contains a powerful message that Anglicans globally need to hear and obey.  It concerns both unity and truth, as twins joined together from conception and in birth.  Thus to set the context for the discussion of Anglican Identity, I begin with a meditation arising from this Letter.

      Imagine a group of people meeting together in a large house or a meeting place in the ancient city of Ephesus, the third largest city in the Roman Empire, with a population of around 200,000.  See the group as made up of both men and women and including Jews, Gentiles, slaves, and citizens of the Roman Empire.  And amazingly they all seem to be mingling and relating as equals as they greet one another in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Listen to them singing psalms together and praying to God in the Name of Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah and Savior of the world.

      Keep on listening as one whom they call a presbyter and/or pastor is reading out aloud a Letter sent to this fairly new and small congregation by the apostle Paul, who has written it to them — and probably to other local churches — from prison in the early 60s.  Allow yourself to be astounded by what the apostle states is the vocation of this congregation in the will of God the Father.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  (4:1–6)

      We ask: What is the vocation given to this people by God in this pagan city where they live and assemble as a congregation of Jesus Christ?

      Their vocation is obviously to be a truly unified people, who are joined together in the Name of the Lord Jesus and by the Holy Spirit, who comes from the Father bringing the graces, gifts and virtues of the exalted Lord Jesus.  Their genuine unity in sincere fellowship, that is so crucially important, is only possible by the exercise of the virtues which were seen in the life and ministry of Jesus, and which the Spirit makes available to those who are “in Christ.”  (In passing we note that these Christlike virtues would not be prized or commended at all by the learned professors of ethics in Asia Minor or Greece at that time.  They would be seen as signs of weakness as they probably are also in contemporary multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society.)

      “Humility” is the opposite of pride and haughtiness of spirit; “meekness” is the opposite of self assertion and self justification; and “patience” is long-suffering, the capacity to accept delay, trouble, tribulation or suffering without becoming angry or upset.  To these virtues is added that of “love,” the determination and readiness always to do for others what is truly for their good.  “Bearing with one another...” suggests that St Paul assumes that there are and will be frictions and strains and differences in this congregation (for after all he understands the presence of sin within even the baptized believer – see Romans 1–8), and thus each and all need to work hard at exercising the Christian virtues.  In fact, all need to have a blazing zeal, a profound eagerness, for true unity in Christ by his Spirit — a unity that is not only “in spirit and in truth” but is also really reflected in outward behavior, activity and signs.  That is, a unity which is bound together by the virtue of peace (which is not merely freedom from divisions and strife but is the presence of wholeness).

      The sevenfold formula — one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father — relates the unity of the local church to the unity of the whole catholic Church and to the unity of God himself.  The vocation of the mixed congregation in Ephesus to be one in faith, hope and love, and at peace, which the apostle so passionately believes in and asks for, is integrated by him into the purposes of God for the whole creation, visible and invisible.

      This takes us to “the calling” to which the congregation has been called and was described in that part of the Letter (chapters 1–3) read before we began to listen.  This calling is to be united in fellowship, worship and witness, and without internal divisions, but not because this is good in itself and provides less headaches for local leaders and visiting evangelists.  No, it is the amazing, hard to believe, vocation of this church to be a part of God the Father’s working out and fulfilling of his grand and vast design for ultimate unity through, in and by Jesus Christ, of the whole created order.  This people in this pagan city is called in their unity in the Spirit not only to prefigure the ultimate unity of everything in Christ but also to be its inception.  Surely this is a unique privilege and amazing vocation!  It is mind-blowing!

      The place which the Father has assigned to this congregation is a part of his plan of the ages — “according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (1:10).  To serve God in his plan requires that this local church, and every local church, reflect now that unity in Christ by the Spirit which is the perfect will of God.  Indeed, that which the Father through his Incarnate Son the Lord Jesus Christ shall bring to fullness of reality at the End time, he now requires be made visible in each local church through the real and true unity of all members as the one body of Christ, living by the Christian virtues as guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  This is the true vocation of the local church and out of it flow worship, mission, teaching, evangelization and discipline that are to the praise of the Holy Trinity.  Therefore, it is the vocation of the churches in the Anglican Family also!

      In this age and sinful world, this ecclesial vocation is completely and totally opposed by “the world, the flesh [human nature in its sinful state] and the devil.”  This is why Paul ends his Letter in this way:

Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might... Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.  Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.  In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one, and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.  (6:10–18)

      The context in which the local church is to become in practice, what it is called to be by God the Father, is one of constant battle, but one that the Lord Jesus has already successfully engaged in and been victorious.  And he is around to guide and strengthen now, for unity in Christ by the Spirit is not an option, but a necessary quality of the body of Christ, the household of God the Father, and the temple of the Holy Spirit.

 

CHAPTER ONE – An Anglican Crisis

      Probably most Anglican Christians around the world are virtually ignorant, or only minimally informed, about the depth and width of the crisis that is now affecting what we may call “the Anglican Family” as a global people.  In part, this is because the crisis is somewhat complicated and is apparently several degrees removed from the common round and daily tasks of most local Anglican parishes.  Yet those whom we refer to as “the leaders,” and those who seek to be informed about Anglican affairs, are very much aware that this Family faces a situation the like of which it has never faced before; and that the crisis is of such a nature that it may leave this Family permanently divided or severely maimed (unless God in his grace makes sure it is not).  It is a crisis over and about identity. Recalling that identity means “the fact of being who or what a person or thing is,” we shall see that this crisis goes to the very core — the very heart and the very soul — of the Anglican Way.  Thus, though now it may seem remote as far as parish life and finances are concerned, it will make a major impact at the local level sooner or later either to encourage and empower, or to discourage and depress, or maybe some of each!  In fact, we may say that in certain western countries this impact is now being felt.

      Although the crisis is closely related to the innovations in sexual doctrine and practice introduced by The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada at the beginning of the twenty-first century, it actually began before these innovations were in place, for it is much more than a debate and battle over sexuality.  Certainly there is major disagreement between those defending traditional sexual relations between man and woman in holy matrimony, and those advocating same-sex blessings and partnerships.  And, certainly, behind this disagreement there are real differences concerning the nature and authority of God claimed to be known through the Bible, tradition, reason, and contemporary experience.  And related to all this ferment, the question is being asked, “What kind of a Church is that of the Anglican Family wherein are such major differences of doctrine and morality?”  In short, the crisis is an intense, and at times a profound search for the identity and purpose of the Anglican Way of a Global Family in a diverse and changing world, which is both united and divided by modern forms of immediate, global communication, and which is challenged both by a militant Islam and an aggressive secularism.

      At Kigali in Rwanda in September 2006, there was a meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion belonging to the Global South.  In their public statement they declared:

We have come together as Anglicans and we celebrate the gift of Anglican identity that is ours today because of the sacrifice made by those who have gone before us.  We grieve that, because of the doctrinal conflict in parts of our Communion, there is now a growing number of congregations and dioceses in the USA and Canada who believe that their Anglican identity is at risk and are appealing to us so that they might remain faithful members of the Communion.  As leaders of that Communion we will work together to recognize the Anglican identity of all who receive, hold, and maintain the Scriptures as the Word of God written and who seek to live in godly fellowship within our historic ordering.

      Obviously they saw Anglican identity as in dispute and the need to clarify it.  Further, in a draft report entitled “The Road to Lambeth,” which the African Primates received and will study further in their Provinces, this ominous warning is found:

... we have concluded that we must receive assurances from the Primates and the Archbishop of Canterbury that this crisis will be resolved before a Lambeth Conference is convened.  There is no point, in our view, in meeting and meeting and not resolving the fundamental crisis of Anglican identity.  We will definitely not attend any Lambeth Conference to which the violators of the Lambeth Resolution are also invited as participants or observers.

      The next scheduled Lambeth Conference is for the summer of 2008 in Canterbury, Kent, England.

      So we do not have to look far to see that questions such as those printed below are being raised and that answers are being attempted, although as yet there are few clear or agreed answers in the West.  In contrast, for much of the Global South (with South Africa being an exception) there seems to be much greater clarity and unanimity as to Anglican identity.  But here are some of the questions asked all over the global Communion of Churches:

Who and what is an Anglican?

In what sense is an Anglican Catholic, Evangelical, or Latitudinarian?

What is the difference between the Anglican family being a Communion of Churches or a Federation of Provinces?  And which is to be preferred?

Where is authority in Anglicanism?

How can diversity in unity and unity in diversity be maintained in integrity in a changing world by over thirty different Churches/Provinces set within such different cultural contexts?

When major problems and intense difficulties arise inside or between Provinces, how are they to be faced and resolved?

Is there a special place for the Archbishop of Canterbury; and, if so, how much is this affected by his own theological stance and preferences?

Is there a need for “instruments of unity;” and, if so, how “strong” do they need to be to be able to maintain unity?

To what extent are individual Provinces to be mutually subject one to another in order to maintain unity?

Does the whole Communion or Federation require some kind of a binding covenant that each Province will sign and keep, in order to stay together through ecclesiastical storms?

Does the canon law of each Province need to be harmonized with that of the other Provinces? Is there need for a common core to Anglican canon law?

Is pursuit of truth to be valued above the desire and search for unity, or is it possible to have both unity and truth together in and between Provinces?

      From the standpoint of those who use one or another edition of the historic Book of Common Prayer for daily offices, public worship, personal devotion, and theological guidance, this urgent question also arises:

What place will there be in the future in the emerging, changing Anglican Family for what was once universally known and used by all its members (before the arrival of the never-ending series of “alternative services”) — the real, true, and authentic Book of Common Prayer?

And with it, this one:

What is and will be the status of the Anglican Formularies — The Book of Common Prayer, The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, and The Form and Manner of Making Deacons, Ordaining Priests, and Consecrating Bishops?

      In this essay it will be our task to look at the three major reports which have been produced by theological commissions appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury during the last decade or so.  From these we shall gain insight into, both what are generally recognized as the major issues facing the Anglican Family in the present crisis, and what are the proposed solutions that have been placed on the table for discussion.

      And as we think about these and seek to achieve some clarity, we bear in mind that Anglican bishops — maybe as many as nine-hundred — are scheduled, as we noted above, to meet at the next Lambeth Conference of Bishops, due to meet in England in the summer of 2008.  This meeting will be an opportunity to discuss and pray about, and then propose, answers to pressing questions and provide possible solutions to felt problems for some of the more urgent matters faced by Anglicans around the Globe in this twenty-first century.  On the campus of the University of Kent at Canterbury, the future shape and ethos of the Anglican Family could possibly (will probably) be indicated or even created.  Before they all meet together, there will also be at least one Primates’ Meeting (Tanzania, February 2007), where the Archbishops and Presiding Bishops of the thirty-plus Provinces will gather for a week to take counsel together.

      Before we get started with the reports in the next chapter, it may be helpful to state what the present Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, considers to be “Anglican Identity,” for we need to have some basic idea in mind of what we are considering.  In his “Reflection” of June 2006, prepared initially for the Anglican Primates as a response to the failure of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church of the USA to abandon its new doctrines and practice in sexuality, despite being called upon to do so by the whole Anglican Family, he wrote:

The reason Anglicanism is worth bothering with is that 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 pretend that we were a completely international and universal institution like the Roman Catholic Church.  We’re not.  But we have tried to be a family of Churches willing to learn from each other across cultural divides.... 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.... There is an identity here, however fragile and however provisional.

      Thus for the Archbishop there is an identifiable reality that is the Anglican Way and the Anglican Family; but, it is one that has always been minimal in structure and provisional not permanent in shape.  Thus when the storms blow, it is quickly revealed as fragile.  He continued:

But what our Communion lacks is a set of adequately developed structures which are 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 we’re 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 don’t 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.

      Dr Williams is describing a family that he obviously loves but which he knows is not in the best of condition and health in 2006 as it seeks through both calm and storm to find its true identity.

      Looking back fifty years or so, we can perhaps see that it was easier to define Anglican identity in the West then when there was a reasonably close relationship between the British Empire/British Commonwealth of Nations and the Anglican Family worldwide.  That is, before the arrival of the new shapes and styles of prayer books and liturgies in the 1970s, before the coming to maturity as autonomous provinces of former colonial churches in the 1960s and 1970s, before the push for the ordination of women and the claiming of a variety of human rights by many people in the 1970s, Anglican identity was reasonably clear.  Though it had variety, it also had a basic uniformity in that there was basically one Prayer Book in use and one Ministry (so that clergy of all three Orders from any Province were accepted in all other Provinces).  There was a basic unity existing in a comprehensiveness of language, style, and ethos.  Wherever you went in the world and found an Anglican church, it would be using the authentic traditional Book of Common Prayer (usually the edition of 1662) in either English or one of the one hundred and fifty languages into which it had been translated.  Then the Anglican Way was characterized by Prayer Book services, all using the same basic texts, even if in differing style, ceremonial, and churchmanship.  Along with this working unity of Common Prayer and Bible reading within it, there were of course also “bonds of affection,” and “tacit conventions” (as Dr Williams writes), and a united Episcopate as part of it.  In fact, at the Lambeth Conference of 1930, it was agreed that the Churches of the Anglican Communion stood for the very same Catholic Faith and teaching as the Church of England, as expressed in The Book of Common Prayer (1662) and its various overseas editions, and as safeguarded by the Threefold Order of The Ministry (see The Lambeth Conferences, 1867–1948 1948, p.246).  To look for the restoration of the working unity of the Anglican Family as it was in the 1930s or early 1960s is to look in vain.  However, what is probably not a false kind of imaginative hoping, is to look for the restoration of greater use of The Book of Common Prayer (with the other historic Formularies) in the future shape and style of the Anglican Family.

      Now, in search of identity, let us turn to the three reports which have had, and continue to have, important influence upon serious Anglican conversation, discussion, and decision-making — The Eames Report(s) [TER], The Virginia Report [TVR], and The Windsor Report [TWR].  The reports were written to address the consequences of major innovations in Anglican life — the ordination and consecration of women and of actively homosexual persons and to reflect upon what “Communion” is all about and how it may be maintained and enriched.

 

Note: The Kigali statements may be accessed at www.anglicanglobalsouth.org and those of the Archbishop at www.archbishopofcanterburv.org and at www.anglicancommunion.org

 

 

CHAPTER TWO – An Anglican Doctrine of Reception

      In the 1980s the identity of the Anglican way was modified by the ordination of women to the priesthood and it seemed as though it would be further changed by the admission of women to the Episcopate.  The Anglican doctrine of reception was created to face this identity-crisis.  In Anglican discourse before 1988, the expression “the doctrine of reception” pointed to a theological account of the benefits of eating and drinking in faith the Sacrament of Holy Communion.  Since 1988, the expression has also and more commonly pointed to an innovative Anglican doctrine of claiming to receive the ordained ministry of women in the Church in such a way that it is actually open to being ultimately rejected as not God’s will.

      The Anglican doctrine of reception originated in the preparation for the Lambeth Conference of 1988 and was intended to solve an acute problem.  There was the very real possibility then that The Episcopal Church of the USA would soon move to consecrate a woman as a bishop.  But why would the consecration of a woman as bishop potentially raise more problems for an individual Province and for the Anglican Family of Churches than the ordination of women as priests (which had already taken place in a few places and was causing impaired communion)?  The answer is straightforward.  It is generally accepted amongst Anglicans that the Bishop is the minister who maintains the unity of the Church on three levels.  He is the chief pastor, teacher, and minister of the sacraments in the diocese where he is a primary focus of unity.  He is also the one who, through his membership in the universal Episcopate (college of Bishops) unites his diocese with other dioceses, first in the Province and then in the larger Church; and, finally, he is the one who, through his consecration by three other bishops, maintains the continuity of the Episcopate in one place through time.  The ritual, ceremonial, and canonical process and act of consecrating a woman as a bishop is one thing; but her acceptance on all three levels is another.  For unless she is sufficiently recognized locally as a primary focus of unity, accepted by other bishops in the Province as truly a bishop, and seen as guaranteeing the continuity of the Church through time in a local place, then her consecration leads to division, not unity, impaired or fractured fellowship rather than full communion, and controversy not harmony.

 

Lambeth 1988

      In Resolution 1, the 1988 Lambeth Conference declared as follows:

i.    That each Province respect the decision and attitudes of other Provinces in the ordination or consecration of women to the episcopate, without such respect necessarily indicating acceptance of the principles involved, [and] maintaining the highest degree of communion with the Provinces which differ.

ii.   That bishops exercise courtesy and maintain communication with bishops who may differ, and with any woman bishop, ensuring open dialogue in the Church to whatever extent communion is impaired.

iii. That the Archbishop of Canterbury, in consultation with the Primates, appoint a commission to: a. provide for an examination of the relationships between Provinces of the Anglican Communion, and ensure that the process of reception includes continuing consultation with other Churches as well; b. monitor and encourage the process of consultation within the Communion and to offer further pastoral guidelines.

      The expression “the process of reception” may seem to come out of the blue, but in fact it comes from an important and influential report to the 1988 Lambeth Conference, under the title, Women and the Episcopate: The Grindrod Report (1988).  It had been chaired by the Archbishop of Brisbane, John Grindrod, and from his name it took part of its title.

      What The Grindrod Report did was to take from ecumenical discussion and dialogue the concept of reception (that is, Churches in ecumenical conversation receiving from each other new insights, practices, and teachings which are gradually absorbed or rejected).  Then it attempted to make this ecumenical doctrine into an Anglican doctrine for the purpose of dealing with the way in which the various Provinces were to relate to the innovation of the ordination (already in place) and consecration of women (soon to be).  The idea was that Provinces were to receive it, but not in the sense of accepting it lock, stock, and barrel immediately, but as a possibility, and then over time and with patience, consider whether it was an innovation in harmony with the Gospel and the will of God.  Later The Windsor Report (TWR) of 2004 would explain reception in these terms: “a way of testing whether a controversial development, not yet approved by a universal Council of the Church but nevertheless arising within a province by legitimate processes, might gradually, over time, come to be accepted as an authentic development of the faith.”  And it added (perhaps somewhat idealistically): “This process of consultation, designed to strengthen Communion, is the very opposite of confrontation, and leads to a shared discernment of God’s truth.  It is a key way of maintaining the unity of the Church through a time of experiment and uncertainty” (Para.68; cf. also TVR 4:14–21).  One gets the impression that the Lambeth Conference probably too quickly and easily accepted the notion of “a process of reception” and did not sufficiently consider that the novel doctrine of reception being created was in fact setting up an odd situation, where a novel doctrine/process was being invented to test and examine what all agreed was an innovation (ordaining women).  Further, it was allowing “experience” rather than Scripture ultimately to be the basis and test of truth.  Nevertheless, it was accepted and thus it was quickly seen as expressing “the mind of the Anglican Communion through the Lambeth Conference.”  And since then it has been generally accepted in theory and much mentioned in ecumenical dialogue but, regrettably, not always applied fairly in practical situations in Anglican dioceses.  Further, it has been taken to cover both the reception of women as priests and as bishops.  Interestingly the only Provinces where there are women bishops in 2006 are the two in North America, where, regrettably, reception is generally taken to mean “positively to receive women into all three orders of Ministry, with not the slightest possibility that this reception may need to be reversed” (see further Mark Chaves, Ordaining Women, Culture and Conflict in Religious Organizations, Harvard, 1997).

 

The Eames Commission and TER

      So it is not surprising that in the reports of the Commission set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury after Lambeth 1988, the notion of the process of reception is both taken for granted and only minimally developed as a theological construct from its initial statement in The Grindrod Report of 1988.  However, a variety of practical suggestions are drawn from it and we shall note some of them below.  But let us first observe that there were two publications containing the accounts of the work of the Commission — The Eames Commission: The Official Reports.  The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Communion and Women in the Episcopate (1994); and then Women in the Episcopate: Theology, Guidelines and Practice (1998).  The name “Eames” is that of Robin Eames, Primate of All Ireland.  There are four brief reports from different meetings of the Commission in the first publication, and the second book contains these, together with further reports of the meetings of the small Monitoring Group which met between 1995 and 1998.  We shall refer to the Reports as TER.

      First, let us get the sense of the practical advice given by the Commission, which is deeply imbued by the need to exercise the diplomatic (secular) virtues of courtesy and respect.

The fact that a synod has reached a decision [on women’s ministry] should not foreclose the matter.  Both sides need to work hard to ensure that the process of reception continues to be as open as possible, recognizing that synodical decisions may indeed come to be overwhelmingly affirmed or, on the other hand, equally as overwhelmingly rejected.  A real commitment to the maintenance of the highest degree of communion implies that there must be some limit to the expression of dissent in the life of the Church.  In the process of reception, bishops in particular have a special responsibility to be sensitive both to the mind of the synod and to the collegiality of the house of bishops.  (First Report, III. 44)

      And here is what the Commission wrote about their understanding of the meaning of “provisional” (meaning “arranged or existing for the present, possibly to be changed later”).  It suggests perhaps that as a group they were not wholly clear as to what they were writing about when the question was whether or not a woman who is ordained can think of herself as permanently ordained!

Our admission of a degree of provisionality to the development of the ordination of women has sometimes been misunderstood as saying that the ministry of women is unfruitful or that they have only provisionally been ordained.  This is not the case.  No judgment is being passed upon the ministry of ordained women as such.  What is being maintained is that within an open process of reception there is inevitably a provisionality about the development itself.  (Second Report, VI.43)

      Finally, here is how the Commission saw the process occurring in time:

Without predicting the outcome, the process of reception throughout the Anglican Communion is likely to last a very long time.  Thus as a Communion we need to become accustomed to living with ambiguities within our ministry.  Such ambiguities bring pain and confusion, but [they] are the work of a living, if suffering, church that remains bound by the dispersal of legislative authority through the provincial churches.  (Third Report, IV. 47)

      Nowhere is there any indication of what “to last for a long time” really means in practical terms.  Further, there is virtually no advice, based upon the teaching of the Lord Jesus and of his apostles as to how to live by true Christian virtues (rather than the best secular values) within the tensions of waiting and the pain and confusion of lack of certainty.  Indeed, the Fourth Report ends on a positive note, expressing the view that the process of reception seems to be working acceptably and developing in an open and tolerant way — again describing it as if the values required for fruitful life in a multi-racial secular society are those required by the Gospel for the churches to live in holiness, and avoid impaired or fractured communion.

 

Key words

      Perhaps here is now the place to notice and comment on the three key words found in The Grindrod and The Eames Reports – Reception, Testing and Discernment.

      Reception presumes that women have been ordained in a diocese only after decisions to proceed have been made by a provincial synod.  It becomes then the open and long-term process of attitude and action within that provinces at all levels in terms of approving and accepting (or respectfully not approving and accepting) the ministry of women as presbyters (priests) and/or bishops.  The acceptance is taken to be not minimal but real in genuine ministries of oversight and sacramental administration.  And, it is important to note that it is the synodical decision and not the ministries of individual women that is the subject to the open process of reception.  Testing is an ongoing process within a province at all levels.  It is composed of the informed responses by the faithful to the deployment of ordained women to serve in pastoral oversight, preaching, and administration of the sacraments.  Discernment is the exercise of intellectual perception and insight within the process of testing.  It should be guided by the Holy Spirit in order to judge whether this innovation in ordained ministry is from and of God, or is simply a sincere and well meant response to need and human aspiration.  To exercise discernment and to ensure that there is some common ground as the basis for discernment, it is necessary to have agreement on a set of criteria as well as how the criteria are applied to the evidence.

      Reflecting upon these three key words, one may say that it is, and has been, very difficult to set agreed criteria for the exercise of discernment, because the area of women’s ministry (like women’s rights) is often charged with much emotion.  Thus we approach it with fixed “frames of reference” or “mindsets” and associated feelings or passions.  We are not always clear as to whether we are informed in our attitude by the secular doctrine of human rights and full equality for women or by the biblical doctrine of male and female in the image of God.  When TER addressed the matter of criteria, all it could do was to offer a series of general questions (e.g., Does the ordination of women enhance the fidelity of the particular province involved to the Gospel?) as ways to suitable criteria; in fact its lack of provision of viable and workable criteria is one of its weaknesses.  Further, one may say that the word “reception” does seem to contain a built-in bias toward positive acceptance; for in ordinary speech “reception” implies that something is received, not rejected.  A doctrine of reception, unless one were specifically told otherwise, does not seem, in any natural sense, to include the possibility of refusal, rejection, and abandonment of the thing being tested.  Rather, it suggests that something will be eventually received — and this, it may be suggested, is most often how it has been understood by those in charge of admitting candidates to the ordination process.

 

Critical Reflection

      Here I suggest for consideration that it is possible that the Lambeth Conference of 1988 introduced into the Anglican Way, for what seemed to be the best of motives, a novel doctrine and process of reception which, in retrospect, may be judged to have been a major error.  (In making this statement I realize that TWR is very supportive of the Anglican doctrine of reception — para. 68–70.)  It is easy to understand why the Lambeth Conference supported this innovation.  The Primates and Bishops were under great pressure to preserve the Anglican Communion from breaking up over the ordination and consecration of women, and so they looked around for some respectable and theological way to keep everyone together, at least in the short term.

      They believed that they found this respectable and theological way in the current use of the concept of reception within the ecumenical movement.  This concept in this context has been defined as follows:

Reception refers to all phases of an ongoing process by which a church under the guidance of God’s Spirit makes the results of a bilateral or multilateral conversation a part of the faith and life, because the results are seen to be in conformity with the teaching of Christ and of the apostolic community, that is the Gospel as witnessed to in Scripture.  (William G. Rusch, Reception: An Ecumenical Opportunity, 1988, p.31.)

      This definition, by a well-known Lutheran ecumenist, recognizes that ecumenical agreements come from outside the specific history and traditions of the participating churches and make claims upon them.  It also acknowledges that the question raised by ecumenical reception in and by the Churches is this: To what degree is any given Church prepared to make authoritative within its own borders the results and conclusions of ecumenical dialogue and agreements?

      So responding to an ecumenical agreement by making resolutions in a synod to the intent that the agreement be studied is not reception as such, although it may be the beginning of the road to it.  Reception is the more demanding and comprehensive work and process wherein a doctrine or rite (which is new for the Church concerned) is finally received and made a permanent part of its life.  And it becomes so by an act of synod, the same synod that began the process of reception.  An example would be the reception of a comprehensive Lectionary or a Rite for Baptism.  Here, it may be noted, reception is only used of the process that actually leads to full acceptance.  It does not refer to a process that may go one way or another.

      Let us now return to the novel Anglican doctrine of reception.  Here the autonomous, provincial synod positively launches the ordination of women, after much discussion and debate, by a majority vote, as if what it were doing were truly a sound development of doctrine or extension of current practice.  However, it does so as its members are bearing in mind, in this particular case of a synodical vote and only this, the (remote?) possibility that over time this decision and development of doctrine will become null and void.  Why?  Because there will be no female candidates offering for ordination, since all the Church will have come to the conclusion that only men are to be priests and bishops.  One way of describing this form of reception, which amounts to the testing of a majority decision by a synod in a province, is “reforming forward.”  That is, it is not an appeal to the sureties of the past, or even to what has been in place before, albeit briefly.  Instead, it is an appeal to what might be someday, with the associated permission to test or experiment now with the proposed possibilities of the future.  Normally, as a cursory study of Church history will demonstrate, the way that the Church is reformed, or reforms itself, is by looking backwards to Scripture and antiquity (even as it looks up to the Holy Trinity in trust and obedience).  The New Testament constantly invokes the Old Testament to validate its account of Christ and salvation.  The test for inclusion of books in the Canon of the New Testament was apostolic authority, the past guaranteeing the present.  And St Vincent of Lérins only clarified this principle by his “test by antiquity” — that is, that we are to receive “what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all” (Commonitorium, 3:4).

      In terms of Anglican origins, the official documents of the English Reformation carefully invoke the authority of the past — Scripture and antiquity — as justifications for reforming actions.  They stipulated repeatedly that no departure from the true Catholic Faith was intended and that the changes being made were either clarifications of past doctrine or an actual return to ancient faith and practice.  Therefore, the novel doctrine of reception of 1988 is not in any sense a call for true reformation (an effort to achieve or recover the original pristine form).  Rather it is a novel “reformation forward,” implying that the true form of the Church may not have been seen or achieved yet.  It is an experiment to seek to determine what we will discover of Christ and of his body, the Church, as if he has not made known his mind already.  What is occurring is that the Church is acting first and deciding later, contrary to the natural order of deciding first what is right and then doing it.  The classic concept of reception (concerned with the reception of the doctrinal decrees of ecumenical councils at the provincial level in the patristic period) holds that whatever is proposed to be received must be entirely consonant with all that has previously been received; that is, it is elaborative and or supplemental.  In contrast, the modern Anglican doctrine of reception explicitly allows that whatever is proposed to be received may contradict, overrule, and supplant that which has been previously received.

      It may be suggested that Anglican identity has been, at least temporarily and perhaps permanently, changed by this adoption of this novel doctrine of reception, which has allowed the ordination of women as priests and bishops to proceed without, apparently, too much trouble and with little impairment of Communion.  One cannot now know what would have been the result, in the long term, if the issue had been allowed to be solved through vigorous debate in the realms of biblical theology and Christian doctrine.  Certainly there would have been much heat and maybe not to much light for a time, but the end result would probably have been better than the present situation, where a kind of pragmatism is temporarily keeping a truce, in which people of different persuasions are being asked to be civil and respectful to each other.  As things now stand, Anglican identity is confused for, while deploying a large number of women (especially in the West) as fully fledged clergy, it is saying (with tongue in cheek?) that it is still possible that they will be all out of a job eventually!  In other words, Anglican identity will only be known in the future when the process of reception is globally complete.  Meanwhile, the mother Church of the Communion is apparently pressing ahead with the canonical legislation which will allow for the consecration of women of as bishops, even though it is absolutely clear in England that the process of reception with regard to women priests is very much still in process.  What kind of an example of “reception” is this when there is not the patience to wait and see what the agreed mind of the Church will be?  There is, of course, the further point that in proposing or allowing that the ordination and consecration of women could be (or, possibly is) God’s will, and not trying to prevent it, the Lambeth Conference was knowingly going against (a) the classic Anglican Formularies (The Ordinal assumes a doctrine of headship and that only men are being ordained); (b) its own tradition (only men had been and were then bishops), and (c) the known fact that the Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholic Church were absolutely clear that women were not to be ordained priests, and even more emphatically, not consecrated as bishops.

      One wonders whether the Lambeth Conference — had its members been able to see down the road and know that the same cultural movement which pushed successfully for women’s full rights and dignity also went on to push successfully (in the West) for full rights and dignity for homosexual persons — would have adopted the Grindrod doctrine of Reception so easily and quickly.  A case can be, and has been, made that clearly connects both the innovation of the ordination of women (especially as bishops) and the innovation of the granting of full acceptance and rights to practicing homosexual persons in the churches.  From a traditional way of reading the Scriptures, both may be considered as the rejection of God’s order which He placed both in the creation and in the old and new Israel.  Thus to place a woman in the position of headship (or “Father in God”), and to allow and bless the sexual union of two persons of the same sex/gender, may be said to reject God’s revealed order for human relations and holy matrimony.  (See further, Peter Toon, Episcopal Innovations, 1960–2004, 2006.)

 

Note: for the relation of Reception to the ongoing debate in the C of E., see Peter Toon, Reforming Forwards, London, The Latimer Trust, 2004, www.latimertrust.org

 

CHAPTER THREE – An Anglican Communion with Instruments of Unity

      If Anglican identity seems to require the process of reception to keep different schools of thought and practice in fellowship, then it also needs a solid basis to maintain that fellowship and communion.  That basis is provided by The Virginia Report (TVR), which like TER, was produced in fulfillment of a request made at the Lambeth Conference of 1988.

As a matter of urgency, further exploration of the meaning and nature of Communion with particular reference to the doctrine of the Trinity, the unity and order of the Church, and the unity and community of humanity.

      So the Archbishop of Canterbury appointed a group of representative church leaders and theologians.  It met in December, 1991 at The Virginia Theological Seminary, and produced a report under the title Belonging Together.  This was widely circulated, and comments on it were made by some Provinces and individuals.  Then the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission was appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to take up this work.  It too met at The Virginia Theological Seminary in December, 1994, and then again in January, 1996.  Out of these meetings eventually came TVR, which was received by The Lambeth Conference of 1998 and widely read and discussed within the Provinces of the Anglican Family.

      Of TVR it may justly be said that it presents a significant, perhaps foundational, statement of the Anglican Way as transcending national boundaries and seeking to be, not a federation but, a communion of provincial churches and mirroring in some reflected creaturely form the plurality in unity and communion of the Holy Trinity as One God in Three Persons.  It is thus a pioneering work which we cannot expect to face all the right questions and provide all the right answers.  However, it does lead us in reflection and into action generally in the right direction, if we desire to see the Anglican Family (with its older and young family members now dispersed around the globe) truly united in common worship, faith, ministry, and mission and genuinely in communion one with another.  And in this context, TVR is correct in principle to claim: “There is merit in the Anglican approach of listening to others, of holding each other in the highest communion possible, with tolerance for deeply held differences of conviction and practice” (page 5).  However, it may be said (and more of this later) that TVR reveals a lack of full engagement with the Scriptures in their description of the human state, when it constantly suggests (as does TER alongside it) that moral and spiritual problems in the Church of God can be faced and overcome in part with the modern democratic values of respect and tolerance, rather than the godly virtues required by our Lord and taught by his apostles and clearly stated in the New Testament — as we noted in Ephesians 4.

 

The Holy Trinity and Communion

      The first dogma to be declared by the Early Church in Ecumenical Council and Creed was that of the Blessed, Holy, and Undivided Trinity.  And it did so because the living God, whom the Church worshipped and served, had made himself known as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  In explaining its Trinitarian approach, TVR states:

The Commission has centered its study on the understanding of Trinitarian faith.  It believes that the unity of the Anglican Communion derives from the unity given in the triune God, whose inner personal and relational nature is communion.  This is our center.  The mystery of God’s life calls us to communion in visible form.  This is why the Church is called again and again to review and reform the structures of its life together so that they nurture and enable the life of communion in God and serve God’s mission in the world (page 5).

      There is much to unpack here!  First, we hear of Trinitarian Faith – what the Church believes about God as The Trinity.  Then we hear the astounding claim that the unity of the Anglican Communion derives, not from this Trinitarian Faith, but directly from the Unity of the Holy Trinity, and the Communion of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as One God.  In fact “the Unity and Communion within the Trinity” is said to be the center of the Anglican Communion of Churches and in fact is the real reason why they should and can be truly a communion and fellowship with visible form.  So, it is claimed, there is to be constant review and reform of the structures within and between the member Churches/Provinces so that they make possible the life of communion (given by the Holy Trinity) and the outreach and mission to the world around.

      Here we may note that when we think and speak of The Holy Trinity, of the Lord our God as Three Persons, we do so in two ways that belong intimately together in our worship and reflection, but are conceptually different.  First of all, we speak of “God-as-he-is-with-unto-and-towards-himself in his own eternity, infinity and mystery of his Being as a Communion of Three in One and One in Three.”  This is known by theologians as “the immanent Trinity” before whom we prostrate ourselves in creaturely humility and reverential awe.  Secondly, we speak of “God-as-he-is-towards-us in creation, revelation, salvation, and redemption.”  Here, relying on the content of Holy Scripture, we speak of the Father who sends the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit into the world, and we come to know the Father through the Incarnate Son and by the Holy Spirit.  This form of doctrine is referred to as “the economic Trinity,” where God is known through what he does and says, and whom we also worship and adore.  In TVR these two ways of thinking and speaking of God are not always clearly differentiated and this makes understanding what is being presented there a little difficult at times.

      The thesis, that the Anglican Communion of Churches is grounded in the Communion within God as the LORD (Gk. Koinonia), which is presented in TVR (as well briefly in TER and TWR) may be summarized in the following way — if I have rightly grasped it:

Communion exists eternally in the mutual relations of the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity; that is, between the Father and the Son, the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Autonomy is not an appropriate word to use of any of the three distinct yet related Persons, because there is a basic, eternal, and infinite mutuality and intimacy between and amongst them.  In fact there is a co-inherence of the Three Persons within the Holy Trinity, which makes autonomy impossible and unthinkable.  The Father is in the Son and the Son in the Father and the Holy Spirit in both, and this eternal indwelling is for us deeply mysterious but absolutely real.  (Theologians have used the word perichoresis or circuminsessio to speak of this co-inherence.)  The family of Anglican Churches participates by grace in the koinonia of the Holy Trinity, so that there is actually a Communion of the Churches/Provinces that is grounded in and mirrors the Koinonia within the Holy Trinity.  In the Koinonia of the Trinity there is diversity (Three Persons) in unity (One God).  In the Anglican koinonia there is also diversity (in language and culture) in unity (common baptismal faith and heritage).  Each Anglican Church/Province is legally autonomous but is not to act as an independent unit ecclesially.  Rather, it is to act in ways which reflect the way each Person of the Holy Trinity acts, which means in inter-dependency and true koinonia, for the one common good.  Thus there should and will be diversity in unity and unity in diversity in the Anglican Family of Churches, even as there is Trinity in Unity and Unity in Trinity in God.

      Now from TVR itself, let us note in its own words an explanation of the Holy Trinity and the Anglican Communion of Churches as each in its own way possessing a “diversity in unity.”

The love with which the Father loves Jesus is the love which Jesus loves us.  On the night before he died Jesus prayed (John 17) that all who follow him should be drawn into that love and unity which exists between the Father and the Son.  Thus our unity with one another is grounded in the life of love, unity, and communion of the Godhead.  The eternal, mutual, self-giving and receiving love of the Trinity is the source and ground of our communion, of our fellowship with God and with one another.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are drawn into a divine fellowship of love and unity.  Further, it is because the Holy Trinity is a unique unity of purpose, and at the same time a diversity of ways of being and function, that the Church is called to express diversity in its own life, a diversity held together in God’s unity and love ( page 9).

      The last sentence perhaps reduces the glory of God and expands the glory of the Church!

 

Critical Reflection

      Let us begin our critical reflection with the meaning of the word “diversity.”  If used in a strictly neutral, value-free way it identifies a condition of unlikeness between or among things or people.  It reports this difference as a fact and thus by itself indicates nothing of the goodness or badness of the fact.  However, in contemporary thinking, diversity is celebrated as a good thing in society, culture, education, and government; and its presence is seen as providing credibility and authenticity.  So in this context is makes sense — if we are influenced by democratic and pluralist values — to celebrate the diversity within the Anglican Family of Churches, and to see as a good thing, not only the inescapable differences in race, ethnicity, and language, but also the changing differences in philosophy, theology, ethics, and liturgy.  And, if God can be brought in as the supreme Model of Diversity, then support and justification for the idealized human reality can become both heavenly and eternal!

      Here we need to remember that, as the dogma of the Trinity teaches us, the LORD as the Blessed, Holy, and Undivided Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, is certainly Three Different Persons, but each Person possesses wholly the One divine nature.  So the differences between the Three Persons are within the unity of Being and (as noted above) there is mysterious co-inherence of the Three.  Thus, while it is appropriate to see the unity of the members of the Body of Christ as reflecting, and even flowing by grace from, the unity between the Father and the incarnate Son in the Holy Spirit, it is much less appropriate to see the differences within and between Provinces as reflecting the holy plurality of Persons within the One Godhead.  Indeed, one can get near to irreverence, even blasphemy, if one pushes this claim too far!

      The identity of Anglicanism in terms of diversity in unity as presented in TVR is probably not a description that should be pursued.  Better to look for an identity of unity and communion that is realistic in biblical terms and takes into account that, while the Church on earth has already begun to enjoy the presence and gifts of the Holy Spirit, it has not yet come to enjoy them in fullness and in the plenitude to be enjoyed in the life of the age to come.  That is, on earth the Church cannot escape from its own sinfulness, lack of trust, disobedience and faithlessness, and thus it will always be striving to maintain communion.  After all, the Lord of the Church is not yet returned in his glorious Parousia to consummate his Father’s purposes and to make the Church to be “without spot or wrinkle” and holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).  He certainly is ascended and exalted, and he sits at the Father’s right hand sending gifts, graces, and virtues to his Church on earth; but, that Church is not yet without blemish and is pressing on to maturity not yet mature.  TVR reads at times as though it were possible for the Church to be now what it shall be at the Parousia of Christ Jesus!  The Church is still living in an evil age, being sanctified, learning the will of God, and striving for holiness; and thus it cannot in this present time and situation truly reflect, except dimly, the profound Beauty and Glory of the Communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit.  Any description of the identity and vocation of Anglicanism has to take this biblical and sober reality into consideration.  When the Lambeth Conference called for exploration of the meaning of communion with reference to the Holy Trinity, it did so in part because at that time there was in western theological circles a lively interest in what may called “the social doctrine of The Trinity,” emphasizing the Threeness of God and the mutuality of the Threeness.  Whether more than a few bishops at the Lambeth Conference had thought long and hard about the precise relation or connection of the inner life of the Trinity to the inner life of and between Churches, I do not know.  However, talk of “The Trinity” and “Communion” were in the theological and ecumenical air (as also was the doctrine of “reception” in ecumenical circles), and they decided that these were the themes to pursue, but, as we can now see, not the very best exploration and use were made of them.

      It may be noted that the Lambeth Conference resolution cited above contains, in the same sentence as the call for work on the relation of The Holy Trinity to Communion, the expression, “the unity and order of the Church.”  One may speculate what kind of report would have been produced had the commission looked at The Holy Trinity in terms, not of “the social Trinity,” but of order (taxis) — The Father together with his only Son and his Holy Spirit, Three Persons in an ordered relation where the Father is always first and the Son is begotten of the Father before all ages is second, and the Holy Spirit is “breathed out” (spirated) by the Father through the Son, and is third.  And further, one may speculate concerning the result for their report had they also looked at man in terms of order: “God made man in his own image, male and female made he them.”  Here there is order with equality before God, where the male is first and the female is second in order, so that the male is given headship.  Finally, in terms of ordination and ministry, had they looked at the hierarchy of the ordained ministry (Bishop, Presbyter, and Deacon), where the Bishop is “Father in God” and the Bishop with his presbyters exercise headship of the flock of Christ for the sake of Christ and the glory of the Father.  Of course, such an approach based on order in God and placed by God in his creation and his Church would have questioned the Anglican-Lambeth doctrine of reception and also would have proposed a different kind of koinonia as the communion/fellowship to be enjoyed and practiced in and between national Churches.  After all, koinonia was first taught and commended by the Apostle Paul, who was also very much committed to order (taxis).  For St Paul, both the noun itself, koinonia, (used 13 times) and verbal forms related to it (used 8 times) point to a new reality for forgiven sinners, and that reality is incorporation into the [Body of] the Lord Jesus Christ, into his death, resurrection, and exaltation and thus into intimate fellowship with him, and through him in the Holy Spirit with the Father.  It also importantly includes incorporation into fellowship with all others who are also united to Christ Jesus in and by the Holy Spirit and faith.  Yet it is membership of the Body of Christ, where Christ is the exalted Lord and Savior, our Prophet, Priest, and King, but not yet our returned King and Judge!

 

Scripture, Tradition, and Reason

      TVR proclaims that “Anglicans are held together by the characteristic way in which they use Scripture, tradition, and reason in discerning afresh the mind of Christ for the Church in each generation” (p.15).  In response, it may be pointed out that this statement is one of optimism rather than fact.  For it is the very different ways that Scripture is read, tradition is invoked, and reason used that lie behind the current differences within the Anglican Communion of Churches in terms of sexual morality; and underlying this, the nature and vocation of man as the disciple of Christ and child of God the Father in this world in preparation for the age to come.

      The primary way that Holy Scripture is (or should be) authoritative for Anglicans is in its impact upon them daily in Morning and Evening Prayer (where OT & NT are read, Psalms are prayed and Canticles sung or said) and whenever The Order for Holy Communion is celebrated and the Epistle and Gospel are heard.  Anglicans are thus, through their use of Common Prayer, a people who stand, sit and kneel daily under the authority of God as he speaks to them in the daily hearing of the Bible, his Word written.  Arising from this, and within this context of worship and meditation, Scripture is used to create doctrine and to state morality, as taught by the Chief Pastors and as agreed in synod.  In this exercise the Scripture is read and studied by the use of reason (reason that is being sanctified) and within a tradition of passing on the Faith and offering teaching and providing the moral guidance developed over the centuries.  Thus there is (or should be) an accumulation of wisdom and knowledge passed on, even as there is also the possibility of renewal and insight for each generation when the faithful reading of Scripture continues.

      Of course this tradition of prayerful reading can be disrupted and even turned upside down.  And this has happened in parts of the Anglican Communion in recent decades by the intrusion of novel ways of reading the Bible; e.g., seeing its teaching on faith and morals as belonging basically and only to the original situation into which and for which it was given or provided.  When such a radical change occurs, then of course reason is active in finding ways to discount the biblical teaching for the contemporary church and to substitute for it other teaching based upon what is often called “experience”; e.g., the “experience” of people in western society as they have enjoy the benefits of civil and human rights and the results of the scientific findings of the social, behavioral, and anthropological sciences.  It is clear that justification of and defense of both the ordination of women and of homosexual persons in same-sex partnerships, not to mention of the ordination and deployment of divorced and remarried persons in the last twenty years, owe much to theological methods which allow much space for the authority of modern “experience.”  Those who propagate them usually claim that they have a “prophetic” role in the Churches of leading them into new and liberating truth and practice.

 

Inderdependence, Subsidiarity, and Instruments of Unity

      In 2006 it is becoming increasingly common to hear or read the claim that the Anglican Communion of Churches is becoming conciliar in structure; that is, the national Churches and Provinces are recognizing — or should recognize — that they belong to a system where some decisions, which affect all, can only be taken by the agreement of the whole, while other decisions can suitably be taken at the local levels.  Also, reference to “instruments of unity,” once never or rarely heard, is now much heard.  When the Anglican Churches around the world were — with few exceptions — extensions of the Church of England within the British Empire, unity was maintained by the fact of the Empire being there!  However, when the wind of change blew across and through the British Empire to remove colonialism and there eventually emerged a British Commonwealth of Nations, there also developed what came to be called the Anglican Communion of Churches, where the member Churches were mostly the new national Churches of the former Church of England branches in the colonies.  One major exception to this was, of course, The Episcopal Church of the USA, which had been in communion with the Church of England since 1789 as an autonomous Province.

      Since the 1960s there have emerged the “instruments of unity,” charged with the vocation of maintaining and strengthening fellowship in the Anglican Family.  Existing before the 1960s were the See of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference of Bishops (from 1867), and these were joined in recent times by the Anglican Consultative Council (1971), which was brought into being by a vote of the Lambeth Conference in 1968 and contains clergy and lay representatives from all the member Churches, and the Primates’ Meeting (1979) authorized by a vote of the Lambeth Conference of 1978.  TVR explains how these “instruments” emerged and provides a careful explanation of how they had been functioning prior to the 1990s in the context of the legal and practical fact that each of the Provinces or constituent Churches of the Anglican Family is autonomous in terms of being self-governing.  This background provides the basis for discussion concerning the different “levels” of Communion, and following this of the themes of subsidiarity and interdependence.

      In terms of “levels” (parochial, diocesan, provincial, and international), TVR tells us that each is to be regarded as important and none is inferior.  However, some decisions are more appropriately taken at one level than other, and some major decisions are only appropriately taken at the point where all Provinces are together in “council” in the Primates’ Meeting and the Lambeth Conference; e.g., whether the doctrine of the Trinity and the Creed can be amended by dropping the Filioque.  Thus, any individual Province cannot be wholly independent in terms of teaching faith and morals, for the simple reason that in basics and essentials it needs to be able both to advise others and to be advised by them.  So it is better to think of each Province as being autonomous in terms of deciding what is appropriate at the parochial, diocesan, and provincial levels, but interdependent at the same time, recognizing that the fact of interdependence (which suggests both mutual sharing and mutual subjection for the good of the whole) will modify or nullify the exercise of autonomy in substantial matters.  In fact, if there is truly a desire for koinonia, modeled on the perfect Communion in and of The Trinity, then each Province will work hard to practice subsidiarity and interdependence, knowing that without them, koinonia amongst Churches will not become a practical reality.  However, in the last analysis, and in a legal sense, each Province is autonomous and can act totally independently even in major matters (to cause, however, in the long term, serious problems for itself and for all).  The theory of TVR of the relation of the “instruments” one to another is succinctly stated in the following words:

Three instruments, the Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates’ Meeting and the Lambeth Conference have their own distinctive characteristics and potentially hold in balance and tension three aspects of the life of the Communion.  The Lambeth Conference focuses the relation of bishops to bishops and therefore dioceses to dioceses.  The Primates’ Meeting focuses the relation of Primates to Primates, and therefore Provinces to Provinces.  The Anglican Consultative Council, which is the most comprehensive gathering, represents the voice of the inner life of the Provinces, with representatives of laity, clergy, and bishops.  These three instruments of interdependence are presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury, thus focusing the unity and diversity of the Communion (p.50).

      Not part of the “instruments” but very important to their working is the General Secretariat of the Anglican Communion, which provides staff for each of them and can give, it may be noted, the appearance of exercising more influence than is appropriate to a secretariat.

      TVR ends with these “final reflections” which present an idealized picture of the Anglican Communion functioning in a conciliar way.

A deeper understanding of the instruments of communion at a world-level, their relationship one to another and to other levels of the Church’s life should lead to a more coherent and inclusive functioning of oversight in the service of the koinonia of the Church.  When the ministry of oversight is exercised in a personal, collegial, and communal way and imbued with the principles of subsidiarity, accountability and interdependence, then the community is protected from authoritarianism; structures serve the personal and relational life of the Church; and the diverse gift of all is encouraged in the service of all.  The Church is thus opened up to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit for mission and ministry and is enabled to serve more effectively the unity and community of humanity (page 51).

      What is missing here — and is generally absent from TVR — is the other side of the coin to the idealized koinonia.  That is, true unity and real fellowship are not easy to achieve and maintain, and the various Provinces have to work hard, guided and empowered by the grace of God, to move in the right direction towards this goal.  And this is so because of the frailty of human nature and the further fact that this frail human nature is also infected with sin, which manifests itself in many ways from pride through strife to divisiveness.  It is also so, as the debate over the ordination of women has shown, because even well-intentioned people, with apparently the best of motives see things differently and can be very determined to press their position.

      So it must be said that the identity of Anglicanism is both clarified and also confused by TVR.  It is presented as a Global Communion, a real part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, with emerging instruments of unity to help it practice a genuine conciliar polity.  Also a strategy of time is called for which allows the truth to be spoken in love, evil to be exposed and reconciliation occur, while the Churches pass on the faith once delivered to the saints by Word, Sacrament, and example.  Yet — and here is the confusion — Anglican identity is also presented as existing in a somewhat different moral and spiritual reality to that in which the Church in the apostolic age lived.  Instead of the evil world and demonic spiritual forces seeking to harm the Church, TVR seems to envisage a situation like that which exists in modern democratic pluralist societies.  Here what is needed for survival, unity, and peace are such “secular” virtues as tolerance, understanding, negotiation, and reasonableness, which are presented in TVR as if they were the Christian virtues.

      Not long after the Lambeth Conference of 1998, where TVR was received, its vision of the ideal functioning of the Communion of Churches was severely challenged by decisions made in two Provinces of the West.  In North America it was arrogantly claimed that the principle of subsidiarity included the right at the diocesan and provincial levels to develop doctrine and practice concerning sexual relations between persons of the same gender/sex, even though the innovation was in fact in open violation of what the Lambeth Conference of 1998 had stated to be right doctrine and behavior.  So these actions in Canada and the USA were the basic cause of the appointment by the Archbishop of Canterbury of the commission which produced The Windsor Report (TWR) in 2004; and to this report we turn in the next chapter.

 

Note: The Virginia Report was published in 1999 by Morehouse Publishing Harrisburg, PA.  For a variety of essays on the Anglican Communion by Ephraim Radner and Philip Turner go to www.anglicancommunioninstitute.org and the full title of their most useful book is The Fate of Communion. The Agony of Anglicanism and the Future of a Global Church, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2006.  For the doctrine of the Trinity see Peter Toon, Our Triune God, Regent College, Vancouver, 2003.

 

CHAPTER FOUR – An Anglican Covenant

      In terms of Anglican identity, the most important proposal in The Windsor Report (TWR) relates to the creating, agreeing, and signing of an Anglican Covenant.  This “would make explicit and forceful the loyalty and bonds of affection which govern the relationships between the Churches of the Communion” (para. 117–118).  A model Covenant is supplied which has five parts: common identity, relationships of Communion, commitments of Communion, exercise of autonomy in Communion, and management of Communion issues (Appendix 2).  The commission believes that the case for adoption of an Anglican Covenant is overwhelming and thus supplies several reasons for this strong belief.  One is that the Communion of Churches cannot afford the crippling prospect of worldwide inter-Anglican conflict, and another is that covenants have been working well in ecumenical relations between different denominations (para. 119).  The discussion of a Covenant ends with these words: “Whilst the paramount model must remain that of the voluntary association of Churches bound together in their love of the Lord of the Church, in their discipleship, and in their common inheritance, it may be that the Anglican Consultative Council could arrange full participation in the Covenant project by each Church by constructing an understanding of communion membership which is expressed by the readiness of a Province to maintain its bonds with Canterbury and which includes a reference to the Covenant.”

      Since the publication of TWR, and the General Convention of The Episcopal Church in June 2006, there have been significant moves toward the creation of an Anglican Covenant, which a large majority of Anglicans seems to think is a good thing to aim for.  In a September 15, 2006, letter to the Primates, the Archbishop of Canterbury announced:

The Joint Standing Committee [of the Primates’ Meeting]... asked me to appoint a small Covenant Design Group to take forward the work.  I have asked Archbishop Drexel Gomez to chair this and would now welcome your suggestions for membership before I proceed to nominate people who might serve.  We are envisaging a small number of full members (perhaps no more than ten in the core group) with a wider circle of “corresponding members,” and in the first instance I shall be looking for nominations representing expertise in ecclesiology, missiology, ecumenical relation and canon law.... I hope, as I wrote earlier, that this will be a major and serious focus for the Lambeth Conference, and the work now commissioned will be a vital task in preparation for the Conference.

      In their communique from Kigali, Rwanda, September 22, 2006, the Primates of the Global South explained that they were making real progress in the writing of a draft covenant;

We recognize that because of the ongoing conflict in the Communion many people have lost hope that we will come to any resolution in the foreseeable future.  We are grateful therefore, that one sign of promise is the widespread support for the development of an Anglican Covenant.  We are delighted to affirm the extraordinary progress made by the Global South task group on developing an Anglican Covenant.  For the past year they have labored on this important task and we look forward to submitting the result of their labor to the rest of the Communion.  We are pleased that the Archbishop of Canterbury has recognized the exemplary scholarship and leadership of Archbishop Drexel Gomez in asking him to chair the Covenant Design Group and look forward with anticipation to the crucial next steps of this historic venture.  We believe that an Anglican Covenant will demonstrate to the world that it is possible to be a truly global communion where differences are not affirmed at the expense of faith and truth but within the framework of a common confession of faith and mutual accountability.

      Presumably the suggestions for what an Anglican Covenant should say, together with draft suggested texts, will be considered by the Gomez panel in the next year or so leading up to the Lambeth Conference, scheduled for the summer of 2008.

      What many traditional Anglicans of North and South, East and West, think should be central to an Anglican Covenant is a commitment to the classic Anglican Formularies: the Book of Common Prayer, Articles of Religion, and Ordinal (as found in the BCP 1662 and translations of it), establishing the nature and character of the Anglican Way in terms of Reformed Catholicism, wholly based upon the authority of sacred Scripture.  Regrettably, “the Proposal for the Anglican Covenant” in TWR does not anywhere specifically commit the Anglican Communion to the historic Anglican Way whose liturgical, doctrinal and ministerial order are specifically in harmony with the Formularies (which are already in the Constitutions of most Provinces and are perhaps unnoticed).  While it will probably not be easy to frame an Anglican Covenant, to which all the Primates agree, it will be even harder to get the Covenant, when agreed, approved within the synodical structure of some Provinces.  Yet right now the exercise of patience and fortitude are needed in order to give this exciting but challenging proposal the space and time to develop into a viable reality and thus help to promote and maintain truth with unity and unity with truth.

      Talk of, and work on, a covenant opens up the possibility — perhaps probability — that some Provinces will choose not to enter into it but will remain outside it yet in some kind of friendly relation to at least some of the Provinces inside the new circle.  The Archbishop of Canterbury raised this possibility in his Text for Reflection of June 27, 2006 (which was before the Steering Committee of the Primates had met to authorize the creation of the Panel to write a draft covenant):

The idea of a “covenant” between local Churches (developing alongside the existing work being done on harmonizing the church law of different local Churches) is one method that has been suggested, and it seems to me the best way forward.  It is necessarily an “opt-in” matter.  Those Churches that were prepared to take this on as an expression of their responsibility to each other would limit their local freedoms for the sake of a wider witness, and some might not be willing to do this.  We could arrive at a situation where there were “constituent” Churches in covenant in the Anglican Communion and other “churches in association,” which were still bound by historic and perhaps personal links, fed from many of the same sources, but not bound in a single and unrestricted sacramental communion, and not sharing the same constitutional structures.  The relation would not be unlike that between the Church of England and the Methodist Church, for example.  The “associated” Churches would have no direct part in the decision making of the “constituent” Churches, though they might well be observers whose views were sought or whose expertise was shared from time to time, and with whom significant areas of cooperation might be possible.

      Possibly The Episcopal Church of the USA and The Anglican Church of Canada will be “associated Churches,” since they are in 2006 “walking apart” from the other Provinces in their commitment to innovation in doctrine and morals in sexuality and they do not seem intent to make a major change in direction.

 

The USA & Canada

      There would have never been a TWR produced by “the Lambeth Commission on Communion” appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury in October 2003 at the request of the Anglican Primates, had not the General Convention and certain Bishops in The Episcopal Church USA and the Diocese of New Westminster in The Anglican Church of Canada deliberately acted against the godly advice and common mind of the “Instruments of Unity.”  In Canada, it was the issue of the blessing of same-sex unions, and in the USA it was the consecration of a bishop (Gene Robinson), who was both divorced and living in a same-sex union with another man.  These innovations, and the refusal of the Americans and Canadians to pay any attention to many pleas and requests to cease, set in motion what can only be called a crisis, which has lasted until the time of writing, and looks like it is going on, at least until the next Lambeth Conference in 2008, and perhaps beyond.  When TWR appeared, it received a warm welcome around the world in the Anglican Family, and it has been publicly accepted and commended by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting.  In Anglican terms this has given to it a strong moral authority and thus it has been widely read and studied.  In fact, responses to it are now being described by such phrases as “Windsor-compliant” and “in the Windsor process.”

      During a week in mid-June 2006, the eyes of the world were upon the Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio, where the triennial General Convention of The Episcopal Church met.  On the agenda were both the task of making a response to those parts of TWR specifically addressed to The Episcopal Church, and also the electing a new Presiding Bishop.  I was present to watch and listen; and what I saw and heard — and will not easily forget — the world now knows. In short, the General Convention did not respond in either a truly positive or genuinely humble way to that which the Communion of Churches asked of it; and, further, as if to state that it wished to walk apart from other Provinces, the House of Bishops chose a radical progressive woman as the new Presiding Bishop.  She is wholly supportive of the innovations in doctrine and morals pursued by The Episcopal Church over the last five years or more.

      Apparently there has been widespread uncertainty as to the adequacy of the response of General Convention.  A number of statements by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Archbishop of York signalled concerns that it was not sufficient.  However, the final decision will lie with the Primates’ Meeting in Tanzania in February, 2007.  In preparation for that meeting, the Archbishop of Canterbury asked for reactions from Primates and Provinces to General Convention’s decisions; and also the Joint Standing Committees of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) created a committee to advise the Archbishop of Canterbury.  On it are the two Primates who had been on the Lambeth Commission (Barry Morgan of Wales and Bernard Malango of Central Africa) and two laywomen from the ACC (Mrs Philippa Amable of Ghana and Mrs Elizabeth Paver from England).  It met in early September and the Archbishop’s letter to the Primates of September 15 described their work:

Now that the Episcopal Church has had opportunity for detailed consideration of the requests from the Primates at Dromantine last year, based on the Windsor Report, it is important that we develop a unified and coherent response as a Communion to the situation as it is developing.  The report of this advisory group has not yet been finalised but will be available at our meeting in Tanzania next February.  In the meantime, the group agrees with me that it might be helpful to offer some indication of the direction of its initial thinking.  It is clear that the Communion as a whole remains committed to the teaching on human sexuality expressed in Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, and also that the recommendations of the Windsor Report have been widely accepted as a basis for any progress in resolving the tensions that trouble us.  As a Communion, we need to move forward on the basis of this twofold recognition.  It is also clear that the Episcopal Church has taken very seriously the recommendations of the Windsor Report; but the resolutions of General Convention still represent what can only be called a mixed response to the Dromantine requests.  The advisory group has spent much time in examining these resolutions in great detail, and its sense is that although some aspects of these requests have been fully dealt with, there remain some that have not.  This obviously poses some very challenging questions for our February meeting and its discernment of the best way forward.

      Certainly the questions are very challenging, but the answers — however painful — will possibly help to create a solid basis for the future of the Anglican Way!

      The Primates of the Global South in their communiqué of September 22, 2006 stated:

We deeply regret that, at its most recent General Convention, The Episcopal Church gave no clear embrace of the minimal recommendations of the Windsor Report.  We observe that a number of the resolutions adopted by the Convention were actually contrary to the Windsor Report.  We are further dismayed to note that their newly elected Presiding Bishop also holds to a position on human sexuality — not to mention other controversial views — in direct contradiction of Lambeth [Conference, 1998] 1.10 and the historic teaching of the Church.  The actions and decisions of the General Convention raise profound questions on the nature of Anglican identity across the entire Communion.

      There are those in the American House of Bishops who have declared that they intend to be “Windsor-compliant” and thus have made it clear that they will not allow the blessing of same-sex couples in their dioceses, that they will not ordain any practicing homosexual persons and that they will not vote for or take part in the consecration of any person to be a bishop who is an active homosexual.  And also there are several dioceses which object so strongly to the radical theology and/or the sex of the new Presiding Bishop/Primate, that they have actually appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury to be given a different Primate than their “legal” one.  They claim that they cannot receive her, since she is certainly not “Windsor-compliant” although she insists, as do many other Episcopal Church bishops, to be in the “Windsor-process” (ready to talk!).

 

Support from Primates meeting in Rwanda

      In this request for a different Primate, the conservative American dioceses, which are all part of an association known as The Anglican Communion Network, have been strongly supported by the Primates from the Global South, who in their communiqué from Kigali on September 22, 2006 stated:

We are, however, greatly encouraged by the continued faithfulness of the Network Dioceses and all of the other congregations and communities of faithful Anglicans in North America.  In addition, we commend the members of the Anglican Network in Canada for their commitment to historic, biblical faith and practice.  We value their courage and consistent witness.  We are also pleased by the emergence of a wider circle of “Windsor Dioceses” and urge all of them to walk more closely together and deliberately work toward the unity that Christ enjoins.

      We are aware that a growing number of congregations are receiving oversight from dioceses in the Global South, and in recent days we have received requests to provide Alternative Primatial Oversight for a number of dioceses.  This is an unprecedented situation in our Communion...  After a great deal of prayer and deliberation, and in order to support these faithful Anglican dioceses and parishes, we have come to agreement on the following actions:

a.   We have asked the Global South Steering Committee to meet with the leadership of the dioceses requesting Alternative Primatial Oversight, in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Network and the ‘Windsor Dioceses’, to investigate their appeal in greater detail and to develop a proposal identifying the ways by which the requested Primatial oversight can be adequately provided.

b.   At the next meeting of the Primates in February 2007 some of us will not be able to recognize Katharine Jefferts Schori as a Primate at the table with us.  Others will be in impaired communion with her as a representative of The Episcopal Church.  Since she cannot represent those dioceses and congregations who are abiding by the teaching of the Communion, we propose that another bishop, chosen by these dioceses, be present at the meeting so that we might listen to their voices during our deliberations.

c.   We are convinced that the time has now come to take initial steps towards the formation of what will be recognized as a separate ecclesiastical structure of the Anglican Communion in the USA.  We have asked the Global South Steering Committee to develop such a proposal in consultation with the appropriate instruments of unity of the Communion.  We understand the serious implications of this determination.  We believe that we would be failing in our apostolic witness if we do not make this provision for those who hold firmly to a commitment to historic Anglican faith.

      Perhaps some, even all, of those who wrote TWR are not happy to see the apparent lack of patience displayed by the Primates of the Global South in their readiness both to support “Alternative Primatial oversight” (a wholly new category and phenomenon for the Anglican Family) and to call for the setting up of a new Anglican Province in North America (without waiting at least until the Lambeth Conference of 2008).

      What seems fairly sure is that consultation with the “instruments of unity” will not occur quickly and that there is little chance of anything even being set in motion before the Lambeth Conference in 2008.  However, what this kind of statement and action from the Global South appears to reveal is that the mindset of the leaders is that there can only be true unity and real fellowship if there is first biblically-based, orthodox doctrine and morality.  For them the confession of “the truth” and submission to “the truth” goes before any duty to search for unity, after a reasonable period has been given for talking and reconciling.  Further, it suggests that the future membership of the Anglican Communion (if this Family survives the present crisis and is also influenced by the Global South) will not be identical with what it is now and it will have a more explicit confessional basis!  One strange fact, which seems not to worry the Global South leaders, is that some or all of the Primates of the Global South, and not a few of the Bishops in their Provinces, seem not to be (to use the in-phrase) “Windsor-compliant” themselves.  Intervening in provinces other than their own by Primates and Bishops is condemned (para. 155) and a moratorium on this practice is called for.  However, intervention in dioceses of The Episcopal Church and The Anglican Church of Canada has apparently not ceased in late 2006 by those who (in the order of things) put unity before truth; and, furthermore, the Anglican Church of Nigeria has recently set up a diocese in North America and consecrated a priest of The Episcopal Church as its first Bishop.  The logic of these actions is apparently based upon the declaration of “impaired” or “fractured” or “broken” communion with the North American Provinces by the intervening Primates and Bishops, together with the perceived pastoral needs of both those groups in dioceses with “apostate” Bishops and also immigrants in the USA from countries where they have been used to a faithful and orthodox local Anglican Church.

      In fact, some of the Anglican Provinces in Africa are very much aware that they are not “Windsor-compliant” and are not so because of deeply held principles.  Their position is explained in “The Road to Lambeth,” a draft report commissioned by the Primates of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA) in February 2006; and received with gratitude by the CAPA Primates on September 19, 2006 at Kigali, and commended for study and response by them to the Provinces.  In “The Road to Lambeth” they say:

The Churches in Africa, while grateful for the overall judgment of the Windsor Report, felt that it often did not go far enough in spelling out the needed steps of repentance and return.  In various responses to the Windsor Report, member Churches made the following points:

1.   That full repentance in word and action is called for by those who have violated God’s holy will in Scripture;

2.   That this repentance would include the resignation or removal from office of Gene Robinson and the passage of legislation which would bar any similar ordinations of priests and consecrations of bishops;

3.   That this repentance would include a reaffirmation of the biblical standard of marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman and the exclusion of all other configurations as a violation of that standard;

4.   That responses from our Provinces to requests for alternative oversight from churches in North America are of an emergency order and not to be compared to the full and blatant violations of biblical morality by the Churches of North America.

      We in CAPA want to say clearly and unequivocally to the rest of the Communion: The time has come for the North American Churches to repent or depart.  We in the Global South have always made repentance the starting point for any reconciliation and resumption of fellowship in the Communion.  We will not accept cleverly worded excuses but rather a clear acknowledgement by these churches that they have erred and “intend to lead a new life” in the Communion (2 Corinthians 4:2).  Along with this open statement of repentance must come “fruits befitting repentance” (Luke 3:8).  They must reverse their policies and prune their personnel.  It is clear from the actions of the recent General Convention of The Episcopal Church in the USA, including electing a Presiding Bishop whose stated position on sexuality — not to mention other controversial views — is in direct contradiction of Scripture and Lambeth 1.10, that that Province has refused to repent.  Accordingly, we commend those churches and dioceses in the USA that have renounced the actions of the Convention and sought alternative oversight.

      The current situation is a twofold crisis for the Anglican Communion: a crisis of doctrine and a crisis of leadership, in which the failure of the “Instruments” of the Communion to exercise discipline has called into question the viability of the Anglican Communion as a united Christian body under a common foundation of faith...  Due to this breakdown of discipline, we are not sure that we can in good conscience continue to spend our time, our money and our prayers on behalf of a body that proclaims two Gospels, the Gospel of Christ and the Gospel of Sexuality.

      It grieves us to mention that the crisis is not limited to North America.  The passage of the Civil Partnerships Act in England and the uncertain trumpet sounded by the English House of Bishops have made it unclear whether the mother Church of the Communion is fully committed to upholding the historic Christian norm.  We note, for instance, that it appears that clergy in the Church of England are obliged legally and without canonical protection to recognize the immoral unions of active homosexual church members and may soon be forced by law to bless homosexual “marriages.”  Recently, the British media reported that a senior clergyman, supported by his bishop, “married” his same-sex partner, also a clergyman.  So far as we can see, the Archbishop of Canterbury as Primate of All England has failed to oppose this compromising position and hence cannot speak clearly to and for the whole Communion.  In light of the above, we have concluded that we must receive assurances from the Primates and the Archbishop of Canterbury that this crisis will be resolved before a Lambeth Conference is convened.  There is no point, in our view, in meeting and meeting and not resolving the fundamental crisis of Anglican identity.  We will definitely not attend any Lambeth Conference to which the violators of the Lambeth Resolution are also invited as participants or observers.

      This is about as clear as one can get.  Even if it is edited at a later stage to be less direct and forceful, this document is likely to stay as a strong statement of the dominant convictions of the leadership in Anglican Churches, north of South Africa.  It certainly expresses in writing what many African Anglicans have said during the last year.  So strong have been their convictions that they have spoken and written believing that like the prophets of Scripture their word is “Thus saith the Lord.”  This document raises the question as to whether there will be a Lambeth Conference in 2008 which is truly global in membership, if the bishops of a dozen or more Provinces are not present.  It also raises the more fundamental question as to whether the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is being presented as the first and seemingly irreplaceable “instrument of unity” in TVR and TWR, can be such any longer for any more than half of the Anglican Family, unless he becomes more explicitly orthodox and his Province, the Church of England, ceases to follow in the path of The Episcopal Church USA and The Anglican Church of Canada in adopting a modern radical agenda.

 

Light from Ephesians

      Let us now return to TWR.  This document wisely begins, not with the crisis of Anglicanism, but with “the communion we have been given in Christ” — as we noted in the Introduction.

      TWR proceeds directly to Scripture, and its first short paragraph sets the tone:

God has unveiled in Jesus Christ his glorious plan for the rescue of the whole created order from all that defaces, corrupts, and destroys it.  The excitement and drama of that initial achievement and that final purpose pervade the whole New Testament and set the context for understanding why God has called out a people by the gospel, and how that people is to understand its identity and order its life.

      Then it turns to The Epistle to the Ephesians, followed by a glance at 1 Corinthians, in order to be encountered by the themes of unity and communion, with radical holiness.

      Certainly Ephesians contains what is a most timely and urgent message to the Anglican Family at the beginning of the second millennium, for it assumes and proclaims that unity in Christ is never without God’s truth and God’s truth is only truly present when there is true unity.  Truth and Unity belong together in the Body of Christ where all members are to be dedicated to holiness before the Lord.  In fact, Ephesians presents the whole Christian mystery as the mystery of God’s unification of all things in Christ (1:10), which takes form most concretely in the reconciliation of Jew and Gentile in one body through the cross (2:16).  This reconciliation, which already has taken place in the Person of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus (1:20–23; 2:4–7; 2:13–16), demands that Christians live in a way conformed to this reconciliation. Christian mission is the building up of a new community of people in which those who were divided are now reconciled as a temple in which God may dwell on earth (2:21–22).  Thus this Epistle sketches an amazing cosmic vision in which the real meaning and destiny of creation are displayed in the life of the small Christian assemblies in which Jew and Gentile struggle to live together with and in Christ, who is their peace.

      It is within this biblical vision that TWR places the call to genuine unity and communion in the Anglican Family.  As such it reminds one of the vision for unity declared by the New Delhi Assembly of the World Council of Churches in 1961 (before this body became politicized).  Speaking of “the unity we seek” the Assembly stated that this unity

is being made visible as all in each place who are baptized into Jesus Christ and confess him as Lord and Savior are brought by the Holy Spirit into one fully committed fellowship, holding the one apostolic faith, preaching the one Gospel, breaking the one bread, joining in common prayer, and having a corporate life reaching out in witness and service to all and who at the same time are united with the whole Christian fellowship in all places and all ages, in such wise that ministry and members are accepted by all, and that all can act and speak together as occasion requires for the tasks to which God calls his people.

      The assembly rightly and importantly recognized that there is no true gain without pain, and even stated that “the achievement of unity will involve nothing less than a death and rebirth of many forms of church life as we have known them...and nothing less costly can finally suffice.”

      Relevant to the present situation of global Anglicanism are the fundamental elements of unity in this statement: (a) Unity in faith and doctrine (“holding one apostolic faith, proclaiming the one Gospel”); (b) coordinated life of service of witness and service (“having a corporate life reaching out in witness and service to all”); and (c) reciprocity of membership and ministry in continuity with the Church throughout the centuries (“united with the whole Christian fellowship in all places and all ages, in such wise that ministry and members are accepted by all”).  Also very relevant to global Anglicanism and to TWR is the message of New Delhi that unity in faith and mission in true fellowship does not come without great cost or without sustained effort.  In fact, the Epistle to the Ephesians states this both with clarity and divine authority. Within its glorious vision of God’s purpose for cosmos and Church, it recognizes that the Church in this world and age is called to holiness but not yet holy, called to be without sin but still sinful, and called to be saints but not yet either fully mature or sanctified.  The full truth of what the Church (as God the Father looks down) is in and with Christ belongs in its fullness to the time of his glorious return to this world and to the life of the age to come.  Now, it is at best by grace and mercy advancing to this goal and all its members struggle daily against those forces traditionally called “the world, the flesh and the devil,” knowing that in Christ they are surely on the victory side, even if engaged in a pitched battle against deathly enemies.  So there is much exhortation in this Epistle (see the many calls to radical holiness and walking in love from 4:17 ff.); and its very existence reminds us that, in and of themselves, baptized Christians are weak and prone to fall.  In fact, this fullness of exhortation draws to a close in 6:10ff. where the whole armor of God is described both in its parts and the purpose of each part.  This powerful picture of the Christian soldier and army rightly equipped and motivated makes it abundantly clear that, at both the corporate level and the individual personal level, the way of Christ is most demanding and can only be truly embraced if both the nature of human sinfulness (along with the evil in the world and testing from Satan) are realistically assessed and God’s rich provision for dealing with them is utilized humbly and faithfully.

      Regrettably TWR (following TVR and TER) only minimally states this reverse side of the divine coin concerning the presence of sin within the baptized and within the Christian fellowship in this evil age.  It is good to be inspired by the cosmic vision and unity and communion; but, it is also good, and necessary, even if painful, to be made aware of the real barriers to unity in truth that exist (a) in the souls and sinful natures of baptized human beings in the churches; (b) from the invisible but powerful testing and temptations of the devil and demons; and (c) from both the seemingly attractive cultural and social forces of the world and its darker ethos.  As we have noted, the tendency in all three reports is to see the basic problems of disunity in cultural, political and social forces and to look — at least in part — to the virtues of democratic and pluralist society to make unity work.  This seems to reveal a lack of recognition of that full doctrine of sin, which is so clearly stated in the collects and prayers of the traditional Book of Common Prayer and stated in clear, propositional terms in The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, because it is so clearly presented in Holy Scripture.

      The people of the Anglican Way, wherever and whoever they are, need to receive the great vision of the regenerated cosmos and perfected Church to encourage them to press on towards maturity in Christ and in his Body; at the same time they need to have a realistic knowledge of how difficult is this pressing on, and what are the means of grace to assist and guide them through the problems and difficulties.  It seems that now there are those (perhaps mostly in the West) who emphasize unity and neglect the call both to hold the fullness of truth and to recognize that the real problems are caused by human sinfulness (which are not strictly identical with problems caused by cultural, political and ethnic differences).  Also it seems that there are those (mostly in the Global South) who value truth above unity and who fail to see that human sinfulness affects at all levels even those who believe that they are orthodox.  In short, it seems that the chastisement of God the Father is being felt everywhere in the Anglican Family and that only by carefully and humbly listening to, and then humbly following, the whole teaching of Ephesians will this heavenly but real chastisement be removed. Strengthening the instruments of unity and agreeing on a covenant are in of themselves good and will be helpful; but, unless the armor of God is worn by all (especially leaders) then unity in communion and in truth will always be a vision not a reality in the making.  “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (6:10ff.)

 

Note: The Windsor Report was published by Morehouse Publishing in 2004.  The documents from Kigali of September 2006 may be accessed at http://www.globalsouthanelican.org  There is a fine chapter on the TWR in Radner & Turner, op.cit.

 

CHAPTER FIVE – An Anglican Identity

      The expression, “The Anglican Communion of Churches,” suggests two aspects or dimensions.  One is “Communion,” which has been addressed in previous chapters, and which is obviously much more than “a Federation” or “the practice of mutual hospitality and aid.”  The other is the adjective “Anglican,” upon which we shall reflect in this chapter.  The one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ is not known by us in the perfection of its glory and unity which shall be in the age to come after the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus.  We know it as existing in an evil world and as containing in its life not only signs of holiness but also many aspects of human sinfulness and also, of necessity, as wearing, as it were, varying cultural and linguistic dresses.  The Anglican Way is only a part of the whole Church and is thus, by this very fact itself, imperfect in nature, even though, at certain times and in some places, excelling in maturity and holiness.  This imperfection it shares with all Churches and denominations, and it is something that we must never overlook when thinking of the identity and vocation of the Church through space and time.

 

Anglican dimensions

      The Anglican expression of the One Church of God is similar to, but different from, both the Roman Catholic and the Lutheran Churches.  Its distinctive characteristics arise from its origins as Ecclesia Anglicana, which in the sixteenth century began to use its English title, The Church of England.  At this time it ceased to be “Roman Catholic” and became “Reformed Catholic,” with the monarch not the pope as the supreme governor of this national Church.  It eventually became a global Church when branches of it grew in the colonies of the British Empire and in countries where missionary societies worked.  Following the proclamation of the Good News from the Father concerning salvation through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, converts gathered and worshipped God in congregations in a distinctive style and with a specific content.  The Book of Common Prayer (1662) in English or in the vernacular was everywhere used for daily Morning and Evening Prayer, for The Order of Holy Communion, Baptisms, Confirmations, Weddings and Funerals.  And in these services was a major place for the public reading/hearing of the Bible, again either in the KJV version or in the vernacular.  Thus from North America through the Caribbean, across the Atlantic and on through Africa, and then across the Indian Ocean to the Far East and Australia, the use of Prayer Book and Bible (often with familiar hymns) characterized the Anglican Way as its people met in stone or mud buildings to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

      Further, all the men ordained for service in the Church of England at home or overseas, in colony or independent nation, were ordained through the use of the forms of ordination services printed in “The Form and Manner of...,” and found at the back of most printings of The Book of Common Prayer (1662).  There was a Common Ministry for this Global Anglican Church and whatever differences in preparation for ordination and then in ceremonial at ordination were found, there was a Common Ordinal and thus a Common Ministry.  Further, like The Book of Common Prayer itself, The Ordinal places great emphasis upon the authority of the Word of God written in Holy Scripture.  It requires that Deacon, Priest, and Bishop live both by scriptural standards and proclamation of scriptural truth.  For over four hundred years it was the only “Form and Manner...” used to make Deacons, ordain Priests, and consecrate Bishops.

      Regrettably, the unity in the Anglican Church(es) found in Common Prayer and Common Ministry and based upon the One Bible began to shatter from the late 1960s as Churches, especially in the West, insisted on producing hastily (encouraged in part by the Lambeth Conference of 1968) what were intended to be “Alternative Forms of Service” to those in The Book of Common Prayer and in the Ordinal.  The key word here is “alternative” which does not mean “replacement”!  There was a variety of trial services produced and used before the books of these services began to appear in the late 1970s.  For example, the Church of England produced, An Alternative Service Book 1980 which lasted for twenty years, when it was replaced by Common Worship (2000–2006).  Neither of these was intended to replace the doctrinal authority and use of The Book of Common Prayer (1662).  What the Church of England did, so did also the Anglican Churches in Australia, Canada, South Africa and elsewhere.  However, The Episcopal Church took a different approach and wholly contrary in spirit to the heart-beat of the Anglican Way.  It called its new “Book of Varied Services” by the old title of “The Book of Common Prayer” (1979) and, in so doing, sent off its genuine edition of The Book of Common Prayer (1789–1928) to the archives.

      Thus in the 1980s, as we noted earlier, a traveler looking for an Anglican church did not know what kind of service to expect and what prayer book, if any, it would be based upon.  He found no uniformity within dioceses and provinces, and no uniformity across and between provinces except where the classic Book of Common Prayer was used.  Though liturgists and bishops usually find it hard to admit and accept that this speedy imposition of a great variety of forms of worship (primarily in the West but a little in the Global South) from the 1980s onwards has been (at best) a mixed blessing, there is little doubt that liturgical variety (often of poor quality) has been a contributing factor to the centrifugal forces deeply felt in the Anglican Way since the 1980s.  After all, the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Churches and the Mass of the Roman Catholic Church are much the same everywhere, and so is a service of Southern Baptists, and this basic uniformity is a centripetal force for good in their experience.

      To be genuinely “Anglican” (rather than “imitative R.C.” or “imitative Orthodox” or “generic Protestant” or “charismatic Evangelical” or whatever) at least means having in a suitably humble and faithful way what have been and remain Anglican characteristics.  Of these, the use of the services in The Book of Common Prayer and The Ordinal, with the centrality of reading and hearing the Word of God written, surely have prime place!  Thus, in terms of doctrinal authority, and as a minimum, the Prayer Book and Ordinal need to be recovered as living authoritative documents to guide the Anglican Way.  Better still, they need to be reinstated for regular use (especially in the West) either in their original form, in the classic English language of prayer, or in translation, or in a reasonable contemporary English form.  Too much was ditched in the post 1960s in the West, and this had knock-on effects for the rest of the Anglican Communion.  Now, in a time of crisis, it is important, as a centripetal force for good, to recover what has been lost or forgotten or neglected — again especially in the West, for the Prayer Book in many different languages is in daily use in large parts of Africa (see The Oxford Guide to the Book of Common Prayer, 2006).  Modern attempts by liturgists to define “Common Prayer” in terms of “common elements” used in services (e.g., the Lord’s Prayer, the Gloria and the Sursum Corda) or in terms of “services authorized by a provincial synod” are attempts to avoid what is so clear to anyone who has made any study of the Anglican Way or the history of the English language.  Let there be Common Prayer, and, if necessary, well prepared Alternatives to Common Prayer, but let not the latter be confused with the former or called by the name of the former.

      The Book of Common Prayer and The Ordinal are known as Formularies of the Church of England and of many Anglican Provinces.  With them goes a third Formulary, The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion (which, like The Ordinal is also usually printed inside the covers of the Prayer Book).  There is perfect doctrinal agreement between The Articles and the other two Formularies (for after all they all came from the same design and editorial team led by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer); but where doctrine is expressed doxologically in the public services of worship of the Prayer Book and Ordinal, it is expressed propositionally in The Articles.  What The Articles make exceedingly clear are the following: the authority of the Word of God written within and for the Church; its clarity in proclaiming the message of salvation in and by Jesus Christ; the sinfulness of man and his clear need of redemption; the critical importance of the message of justification by faith as guarding the message of God’s salvation offered to repentant sinners; the foundational character of the dogmas of The Trinity and the Person and Work of Jesus Christ; the necessity of three Creeds; the nature and authority of the visible national Church; the necessity and nature of the two dominical Sacraments; the necessity of an ordained Ministry and the importance of The Ordinal.

      Regrettably there is in some quarters unreasonable prejudice and opposition to The Articles, usually on the basis that they are “too Protestant” or “too geared to the controversies of the period of the Reformation” or even “not sufficiently modern.”  We need to remember that this brief Confession of Faith is a form of signpost, a kind of map, or a kind of circle with barriers on the perimeter, and that it is designed to state the character of Reformed Catholic Faith, based on Scripture and guided by the doctrine and practice of the Early Church, as the Church of England received and professed it.  If we take from it the few Articles which relate to specifically English matters, the principles and doctrines that it contains and commends remain those of Reformed Catholic Faith.  To deny any of the major dogmas or doctrines set forth in The Articles is to begin to cease to walk in the Anglican Way.  Let us recall that the first commentary on The Articles by Thomas Rogers had the title, The English Creede (1585), which was changed in later editions to The Catholic Doctrine Believed and Professed in the Church of England (1607).  Right up to the 1970s, commentaries on The Thirty-Nine Articles produced by theologians of varying churchmanship were used as the basis for “Christian doctrine” courses taught in Anglican theological colleges and seminaries.  And further, the well-known Professor G.W.H. Lampe of Cambridge University stated in 1964: “If a person cannot assent to these Articles as being agreeable to the Word of God as this was best understood at the time of their compilation, and so, by implication, reject the opposing contemporary claims of [the R.C. Council of] Trent or of the Anabaptists, he cannot be recognized as standing within the Anglican tradition” (The Articles of the C. of E., ed. H.E.W. Turner, 1964, p.97).

      Although, as already noted, there is reference to the three Formularies — or two of them — in most constitutions of the member Churches of the Anglican Family, there is an obvious need to put them also in a central place within the proposed Anglican Covenant.  Regrettably, they are not in the Draft Covenant provided by TWR, but if they are inserted into it, then it immediately becomes a much better document!  If there is to be an Anglican Covenant, the most obvious (from the beginning) signs of the Anglican Way of Reformed Catholicism should be clearly and obviously in it.  The content of the Anglican birth certificate needs to be printed in full.  After all, the creation of An Anglican Covenant is not an opportunity to redefine the Anglican Way, but a moment for recovering its major characteristics in an appropriate way for a Global Communion of Churches, where there will be, as God’s gift, genuine comprehensiveness in basic unity, believing, teaching, and confessing the Truth as Anglicans have received it.

      One final word is in order on the Formularies: In Canon A5 of the Church of England, the essence of what has been presented above is put in clear and precise form:

The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures.  In particular, such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.

      If this is amended to read “the doctrine of the Anglican Communion of Churches,” then the Anglican Way is at least recognized to possess, or is given, a clear foundation and direction, even though it will always have to face questions and problems, not to mention crises and emergencies, as it worships and engages in mission in space and through time in this fallen world and evil age.

 

What is an Anglican Christian?

      A short answer could be something like this:

An Anglican Christian is a person, who has been baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and then confirmed by a bishop, who reads/hears the Bible as the message of salvation from God, believes the Creed, seeks to follow Christ into holiness, attends public worship where Common Prayer is used, receives Holy Communion regularly (but at least at Christmas and Easter), and belongs to the fellowship of a parish, which is part of an Anglican diocese.

      A longer answer, taking into account TVR and TWR, anticipating an Anglican Covenant, taking seriously the Anglican heritage, and hoping that the Anglican doctrine of Reception somehow works, could be something like this:

An Anglican Christian is a baptized and confirmed person, who belongs to a parish which both uses Common Prayer and is subject to the Word of God written.  This parish is part of a diocese that is itself within a Province, composed of several or many dioceses.  The Province is not only autonomous but also deliberately interdependent, being in Communion with, and in mutual subjection to, other Provinces of the Anglican Family of Churches worldwide.  The shared Communion originates in a Common Faith and heritage and is maintained by continuing commitment to that same Faith (sealed in a common Anglican Covenant), and a Common Ministry, as well as by other longstanding and practical means (e.g., cooperation in medical, educational, and evangelistic effort) in bonds of affection.  When there are tensions and difficulties, the “instruments of unity” (the See of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference of Bishops, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting) exist to help resolve these in a timely and godly manner.  The Common Faith is based primarily upon the authority of Holy Scripture which is, in part, refracted through the Anglican Formularies (The Book of Common Prayer, The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion and The Form and Manner of Making Deacons, Ordaining Priests, and Consecrating Bishops), which have a secondary and dependent authority.  So the Anglican Christian has been known, and can be known again, as the person who brings to public worship, and lives under the authority and guidance of, two books, The Bible and The Book of Common Prayer (in which appear also The Articles and Ordinal).  Both books are needed for the biblically-based worship, doctrine, mission, and order of the Anglican Way.  Further, the Anglican Christian does not expect his faith to change in substantial and essential beliefs but to mature in understanding, commitment and holiness as he lives fruitfully and trustingly in the world as God’s faithful servant.

      The renewal of the Anglican Family may actually provide a real opportunity to heal the many divisions within the Anglican Way especially in North America, and to allow the variety of jurisdictions of “Continuing” and “Extra-Mural” Anglicans (who have retained the Formularies) to rejoin their original Family, which will then be well on its way to recovering from that illness (TWR’s word) which was a major factor in their decision to leave it.

      O Lord, we beseech thee, let thy continual pity cleanse and defend thy Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without thy succour, preserve it evermore by thy help and goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

Note: visit www.anglicansatprayer.org for meditations and suggestions for intercessory prayer for the people of the Anglican Way.

 

 

The Archbishop’s Panel of Reference

      Anglicans in and around Vancouver in British Columbia had been waiting a long time for the publication of the findings of “The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Panel of Reference for the Anglican Communion” when they were made available on October 12, 2006.  They related to the request made by some parishes in the diocese of New Westminster for alternative Episcopal oversight and jurisdiction.

      In its assessment, the Panel had to take into account (a) what was happening within the Province of Canada — including the upcoming General Synod; (b) the fact that the Church of England is in communion with the whole Anglican Church in Canada, including New Westminster; (c) the recommendations in TWR, and (d) basic principles of canon law.

      TWR is critical of the erring diocese of New Westminster, which had approved the use of public Rites for the Blessing of same sex unions.  Further, it states that the diocese had acted in ways incompatible with the Communion principle of interdependence and that fellowship had suffered immensely thereby.  In the diocese not a few of the churches believed that the blessing of same-sex couples was wrong, contrary to God’s will.  Thus they were in serious dispute with their Bishop, Michael Ingham, and unable to receive his Ministry.  Some clergy and laity followed their consciences and left the diocese.  Out of these groups was eventually formed a Network of churches (ANiC) which is now under the pastoral supervision of the Archbishop of Rwanda.  Others remained in their parishes and missions and appealed for help to the newly created Panel of Reference.  In effect, this minority (composed of evangelical churchmen) was accepting the reality of an emerging conciliar polity and appealing to the primary Instrument of Unity, the See of Canterbury, through his Panel of Reference (chaired by Archbishop Carnley of Australia) to provide alternative oversight.

      Following the guidelines of TWR for reconciliation, and accepting the classic distinction between the jurisdiction and oversight of a diocesan (territorial) bishop, the Panel presented recommendations which make real demands on both sides (but greater upon the petitioners than the diocese), as well as on the Province of Canada.  At the center of the recommendations are these two:

(a) In the present temporary situation, the Panel recognizes that an agreed scheme of extended episcopal ministry needs to be offered to a number of clergy and parishes within the Diocese, which will both provide for their spiritual needs and offer assurance of continuity for their distinctive theological tradition.

(b) Such a scheme should be achieved within the Anglican Church in Canada itself, at national or provincial level.  The bishop of a diocese is subject to the general ecclesiastical law of the church or province concerned, and one would look to the Anglican Church of Canada for action to be taken in the first instance.  The provision of a scheme of Shared Episcopal Ministry [SEM] by the Canadian House of Bishops in 2004 offers a model which we believe to be appropriate, with some additional safeguards designed to take account of the special circumstances prevailing in this case, given the protracted and deep divisions which exist.

      It is also recommended that the emergence of this working situation — of an Episcopal Visitor being deeply involved in the parishes — be strengthened and protected by various safeguards made on both sides, by the diocese and the protesting parishes.  For example, the diocese will eradicate from its records all charges against the clergy and parishes, and the latter in turn will pay their diocesan quotas and conduct themselves in such a way as to be obviously members of the diocese.

      In terms of Anglican identity, what we see operative at first in this case is a clash of two identities — a progressive liberal versus a traditional evangelical identity.  Then there is a distinction within the traditional identity, with one form, as exhibited by the Panel, seeing identity expressed in relating to classic, western definitions of a diocese and its Ordinary, and the other, as represented in comments made by Global South leaders, seeing identity expressed in relating to an orthodox bishop who is well placed to give right support, even if he is outside normal canon law arrangements of the province concerned.

 

Use Back Button to return.