Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Whither the Anglican Communion? (Redux)

One year ago today, in the midst of the 2008 Lambeth Conference, I put up a post entitled "Whither the Anglican Communion?" Following General Convention 2009, and the reflections in response to it by the Archbishop of Canterbury, it is time to bring back that post for a second look at the success of its prognostications to date. (Besides, some of the links are outdated, and need refreshing.) Below is the original post, in blue, with my new commentary interspersed.

Whither the Anglican Communion? (07/29/2008)

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?

Comment: (Note that Father Kimel has rearranged his Weblog. To read the piece just linked, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page to the last post, numbered "XVIII" and dated July 29, 2008.)

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.)

Comment: All still true. The failure of Synod to make adequate provision for its Anglo-Catholics has resulted in dire warnings and foreboding statements from that group's leaders. While the ordination of women to the episcopate in the Church of England is not yet a fait accompli, it is still very much on track.

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.

Comment: All has turned out as predicted.

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.

Comment: The full bill for the Presiding Bishop's disastrous litigation strategy has yet to be presented. General Convention 2009 swept it under the rug, and allocated $4 million to litigation and "discipline" proceedings over the next triennium --- an amount that will undoubtedly be revised upward by the Executive Council in the next year or two. On top of the $4.7 million already spent, this will represent a probable total of over $10 million in just six years. Litigation takes time --- a long, long time; but the Presiding Bishop's term runs until 2015. There is thus still plenty of time for this prediction to be fulfilled.

Even if she does [serve out her term], 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.

Comment: This is still true, as far as I can see. The Queen's Mum lived to the ripe old age of 101, and Elizabeth II shows no sign of withdrawing any time soon.

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.

Comment: And last Monday, the Archbishop reaffirmed the two-tiered structure he envisions occurring as a result of some churches in the Communion adopting the Covenant and of others rejecting it.

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.)

Comment: There will not be any final action by ECUSA on the Covenant until at least 2012, so this part of the prediction (that the Church of England could splinter before the Communion does) may well come true. However, another big factor in the picture will be what kinds of revisions are proposed to section 4 of the Ridley Draft at the Joint Standing Committee meeting this next December.

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.

Comment: (Remember how to find the link to the post I was referencing --- scroll to the bottom of the page. However, the posts that precede and lead up to it are all worth your while, as well.) In the time between now and 2012, the separatist tendencies of these two churches will only increase. They will never give up their views of "justice" (about which, see this post) as the price of remaining (what they see as unjust) Anglicans.

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.)

Comment: It would be sad if this turns out to be true. But as Fr. Kimel observes (in post XIII at this link), "church division is intrinsic to Protestant Christianity."

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 . . .

Comment: It looks to me as though the decline of the Communion is on track to fulfillment. One final striking observation from Father Kimel comes to mind:

Pontificator’s Fourth Law: A church that does not understand itself as the Church, outside of which there is no salvation, is not the Church but a denomination or sect.

With this abandonment of an exclusive sense of being Church, must be appended Anglicanism’s rejection of the historic Episcopate as belonging to the essence (esse) of the Church. One can find, beginning with Archbishop Laud and his colleagues, various bishops and theologians arguing for its essential necessity, but such views have always remained the views of individual churchmen, not of Anglicanism. The historic Episcopate may be commended in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral; but it has never been formally asserted as essential to Church polity, and in recent decades Anglican practice has witnessed to the tacit abandonment of such views.

And of course more recently Anglicanism has embraced the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate, a move denounced by Catholicism and Orthodoxy.

Pontificator’s First Law: When Orthodoxy and Catholicism agree, Protestantism loses.


  1. I like your essay, but I would retitle it to 'Wither the Anglican Communion'. Ten years from now Africa will be even larger in the AC and Britain and North America will have diminished greatly.

  2. I grant you unrestricted rights to that title, Matthew --- it's very good. A year ago, I was not so bold.

  3. I understand (from several good sources) that if the vote that FtW will take in October/November to join ACNA were by secret ballot, the motion to do so would undoubtedly fail among the Order of Clergy, precisely because of WO remaining an "open question" among them, and maybe even if the vote were an open one. God grant them the courage to do so!

    Being in England as you are, you should become aware how little interest Anglo-Catholics have in remaining in one body with Evangelicals should the CofE split. I have this not only from my friend in Oxford, but from others in FIF/UK, including more than one of its bishops.

    And finally, whence your understanding that the Queen would side with "an Anglop-Catholic Church of England?" Her mother, as a Scottish Episcopalisn, had such sympathies, but the Queen's, since her girlhood, has inclined in an Evangelical direction; and when the Prince of Wales was a Cambridge undergraduate, tried to discourage him from attending Anglo-Catholic venues in favor of the stongly-Evangelical (but very establishmentarian) Round Church (the Cambridge equivalent of St. Ebbe's in Oxford).

  4. Dr. Tighe, perhaps I did misread Andrew Lillico on what the Queen might do. On re-reading his article, he could be interpreted as saying that she will side with the conservative evangelicals, who he thinks will align with their counterparts from Australia, while the Anglo-Catholics will be off on their own. The main point he makes is that as she goes, so the official CoE will follow. One way or another, he says, the liberals and the conservatives will not be able to stay in the same church:

    "In a similar way, I believe that there will be an 'Anglican Mission to Britain' (let's call this the 'AMB'). The key difference, I expect, will be that the AMB will not regard the Church of England as apostate. Instead, the AMB and the Church of England will be sister churches, and may well cooperate in many matters.

    "The only 'if' left relates to whether, as alluded above, it will be those of us that are theologically conservative that will have to join the sister church and leave our current buildings and privileges as part of the State Church, or whether, instead, it is the liberals that will have to leave. Even if the conservatives leave, it is not obvious that it will be sustainable for the liberals to be the Church of England. For example, if and when the AMB forms, an interesting question will be which church the Queen will want to belong to. I think that it is clear that her theological sympathies will lie heavily with the AMB. If the conservatives were to leave to form an AMB and the Queen were to adopt the AMB as her church (which I don't think should be 100% ruled out - she is known to have strong theological convictions and it is very likely that her personal decision would be politically decisive), then it is all-but certain that, in fact, the AMB would be known as the Church of England and the Anglican church of the liberal rump would be called something else."

    It's definitely complicated, because I do not see things going in Australia quite as he anticipated. The issues of lay presidency there may well prevent an alignment with conservative CoE evangelicals along the lines he envisions. But I think he believes the CoE will inevitably split regardless of whether or not there forms what he calls the "AMB". And doubtless the motion to recognize ACNA, to be heard next February at Synod, will only sharpen the divide.