Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Whither the Anglican Communion?

There is an important new post by Dr. Andrew Lilico, whose profile you may peruse here, on what the future split of the Anglican Communion will look like, and on how the coming split is inexorable. In contrast to the rumors and speculations you can read at the mainstream media sites, this writer gives informed specifics, broken down by each interest group, and also analyzed against the peculiar background of the Church of England's Erastianism.

After you have absorbed Dr. Lilico's post, go and read Cranmer's additional thoughts on how there will always be a Church of England---at least, so long as there is a reigning British monarch.

Then, for dessert, read this piece at Fr. Al Kimel's blog: Is The Episcopal Church Truly a Catholic Church?

Each of these articles is pertinent to my title, especially in light of the second Lambeth address given last night by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Dr. Lilico sees most clearly what I think all the fuss and bother at Lambeth about sexuality--- now we'll discuss it, now we won't---is obscuring: the Church of England is coming apart right under Archbishop Rowan's nose. The refusal of General Synod to make continued provision for its Anglo-Catholic wing means that they will not be able to stay in the same Church with women bishops: they regard the latter as an invalidation of the historical apostolic succession. The evangelicals, meanwhile, will not tolerate the election of practicing homosexuals to the episcopate in clear violation of Scripture, as I explain in this post; with the Anglo-Catholics gone, there will be no means of halting the inexorable trend that begins, as TEC has seen, with the ordination of women, and the Church of England will have at least one openly gay bishop before Lambeth convenes again. Dr. Lilico foresees a two-thirds reduction in the number of CoE priests when these two groups take their leave. At the same time, however, he does not predict that the separate groups will fall out of Communion with each other, but will remain as "sister churches"---because of the incredible complexities of property ownership going back to medieval times. (He also believes that the departing evangelicals and the Anglo-Catholics will maintain their present alliance. I am more skeptical that they will both make the break at the same time, and so think that they will end up separate because they will break off that way.)

As for The Episcopal Church, does anyone doubt that it will be a return to business as usual once the September meeting of the House of Bishops convenes? Will our bishops' experiences at Lambeth cause them to change course, to drop the phony deposition threat against Bishop Duncan, and to work with him, San Joaquin and Virginia on a way to end all the litigation? I have seen nothing from the remarks of our Presiding Bishop thus far to indicate that. Thus if the bishops "depose" Bishop Duncan in September, the Diocese of Pittsburgh will follow the Diocese of San Joaquin out of The Episcopal Church, and the Dioceses of Fort Worth and Quincy will leave shortly after that. There will then be enough of a critical mass to organize a new North American province for those who have left TEC.

That new province will receive immediate recognition from the GAFCON Primates' Council, but to be accepted as a province of the Anglican Communion will require action by the Anglican Consultative Council and all the Primates of the Communion, and the process would have to begin with the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, as explained in this article:
Since the geographic United States is already a province, it would have to be split in some manner for another province to be formed. This has never before happened for doctrinal reasons.

The ACC requires the presiding officer or primate of the original province to request it to begin the process leading to division. That could be the first formidable hurdle for a theoretical new Anglican province in the United States. "I don't envision the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church requesting such a division," Sessum said.
Indeed---nor do I, so long as it is Katharine Jefferts Schori whom we are talking about. However, once the total bill for her disastrous litigation strategy comes due, I predict that she will not serve out her full term in that position. Even if she does, then the person elected to replace her will have different marching orders, because by then the entire Anglican Communion will look very different from what it is now. As Dr. Lilico foresees, the Church of England will follow the Queen. (It probably does not want to wait for Prince Charles to assume the throne, because he has long intimated that he would regard himself in that post as the "Defender of Faith", not the "Defender of the Faith.") So, presumably, will the Archbishop of Canterbury. And if the Queen decides for the traditional Anglo-Catholic wing, then the liberals in the Church of England will have to call themselves something else, to say nothing of the evangelicals if they are then separate.

Having an Anglo-Catholic Church of England would facilitate rapprochement with the GAFCON group, and in a short time after the dust settles, we could have a new Anglican Communion, surprisingly along the lines currently envisioned by Archbishop Rowan in his plans for a Covenant. There would be the core national Churches who signed onto the Covenant, presumably including the new North American province, which would be part of the compromise reached with GAFCON. (Once there are two or three different Anglican churches in England, all objections to two separate Anglican churches in the territorial United States will become meaningless.) Then there would be the non-covenantal, or "affiliate" churches like TEC and ACoC, still nominally "in communion" with the Archbishop of Canterbury, but preaching an entirely different, "inclusive" Gospel, as described so well by Fr. Kimel. Finally, there would be those on the fringe, not in communion, but preserving the Anglican faith in various forms, just as we have with the Continuing Churches today. (The new North American province may also splinter in time, between its own Anglo-Catholics' views on the ordination of women, and its evangelicals who are not opposed to women priests. If that happens, the United States will end up mirroring what happens in England.)

Against all these interacting currents, the two weeks of Lambeth 2008 will seem like the calm where interfering waves temporarily cancel each other out. The turbulence will emerge beyond, just as though there had been no interference. Anything of significance that is accomplished at Lambeth will be whatever is done to advance the draft of the Covenant. For if all turns out the way envisioned in the articles above and in my own added comments, it will be around such a document that the core of the New Anglican Communion coalesces---and quickly. (Already the voices in TEC are saying that they will not be able to take up the subject of a covenant at GC 2009 because of the timing, and that its consideration will have to wait for GC 2012. That is exactly right, and by 2012 any contribution to it by TEC will hopefully have become irrelevant.)

Sic transit gloria Communionis anglicae . . .


  1. If the TEC consideration is to include a "no" to the Covenant, and thus implying a "no" to Anglican Communion "membership", then General Convention will need to find some way to adjust the Constitution accordingly (the simplest option being to remove the phrase "constituent member" of the Anglican Communion. Some might want to play amendment games to "leave their options open."

    But in any case it will take two General Conventions to change the Constitution, and the Preamble is an integral part of the Constitution. If it took two GC's to get the constituency phrase into the preamble, then it will also take two to get it out.
    No sooner than 2012 (without a specially called Convention).

    The "Lets make our OWN Communion" proponents will certainly WANT to get out of the AC at the next General Convention, but they will not be able to do so officially, i.e. Canonically. My own experience tells me they won't let a little Canon get in the way of making assured pronouncements. On the other hand, to be smart they will want to keep any action at GC 09 as quiet as possible during the triennium -- they wouldn't want to wake anybody else up to the idea of choosing to be separate from our ecclesial heritage.

  2. The current leadership of TEC is such that they would probably see no need to amend the Constitution in the event of TEC's being relegated to "affiliate" status. To their way of thinking, nothing would have changed, except that a few conservative churches went off and formed a group of their own. But hey! we're all still Anglican . . .