Monday, July 8, 2013

Ah, the Anglican Communion -- Again

Finally surfacing again after a long spell of litigation, I came across two blog posts that deserve juxtaposition. Both have to do with the perceived future, such as it is, of the amorphous entity known as "the Anglican Communion." Since I am an Anglican Curmudgeon, it seems fitting to weigh in.

The first post, by the Rev. Canon Mark Harris, follows a theme he has sounded on several earlier occasions. Entitled "GAFCON II: will it spell the end of the Anglican Communion?", it treats the question it poses as purely rhetorical. All churches who remain in communion with the See of Canterbury will remain in the Anglican Communion, Canon Harris says, and neither ECUSA nor the Anglican Church of Canada have any plans to withdraw from that communion. And if the members of GAFCON do so, well -- too bad, but it won't mean the end of "the Anglican Communion."

Contrast to this the second post, by the Rev. Dale Matson, entitled "GAFCON II: a Way Forward for Anglicanism." In contrast to Canon Harris, Fr. Matson views the picture from the standpoint of one who is in ACNA. He sees the group that will be gathering at GAFCON II this next October in Kenya as the true future of the Anglican Communion. While the Archbishop of Canterbury is trimming his Church's sails so as to remain abreast of Britain's popular culture, the Archbishop of Kenya (who heads up GAFCON's Primate Council, and who is hosting the conference) is sailing against the popular winds, and holding fast to traditional Anglican teachings on marriage, priests and homosexuality.

As a side note, it may have been simply fortuitous that the Anglican Archbishop of Kenya was backed up in his stance by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Nairobi, Cardinal John Njue, who told President Obama in no uncertain terms that his ideas on same-sex marriage were a non-starter among Africans:
“Those people who have already ruined their society…let them not become our teachers to tell us where to go,” said Njue in response to Obama’s statements promoting same-sex marriage. “I think we need to act according to our own traditions and our faiths.”
There is clearly a division among faiths occurring, which is based on a similar division among cultures. The Anglican Communion, such as it was, was a brave attempt to bridge cultures under the banner of one faith, ultimately stemming from the Church of England. But with that Church now splintering over the issue of women in the episcopate, and the majority's treating the issue as one of straightforward "civil rights," can the admission of openly noncelibate gays and lesbians to the Church's episcopate be far behind? After all, that issue will be debated in the Church on that same ground of "civil rights," which the English Archbishops recently cited in Parliament to support the measure allowing same-sex civil marriages.

And there you have it. For America, Canada, Britain, and many other European countries, it all boils down to "equal civil rights" for all, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, and their country's churches feel bound to mirror, and thus to honor, in their own structures that which the legislatures (or judges, as in America) have decreed.

But for traditional Anglicans, including those in GAFCON, the Church is the keeper and guardian of the faith, and is not free to jettison Holy Scripture in an effort to accommodate the society in which it finds itself. For them, the concept of "civil rights" has no meaning in the context of the Church, where God's laws, and not man's, are paramount. No one has any "civil rights" before God, and consequently changes in Church doctrine and worship are not a simple matter of majority vote, as I explained at length in this earlier post.

As I observed in the post I just linked, ECUSA, ACoC and perhaps soon the Church of England, are following the steps to differentiate themselves from the broader stream of the faith, much as the churches in Syria and Egypt did in the fifth century: "it's déjà vu all over again," as Yogi Berra would say.

The Anglican Communion is no longer a functioning group; its "Instruments of Unity" are broken. To be sure, the Anglican Consultative Council still meets, and maintains on its Schedule of Members even those Provinces who no longer send delegates. Likewise, the Primates' Meeting is now attended only by those who side with the "let's keep pace with society" crowd; the same was largely true of the Lambeth Conference of 2008, and no doubt will be even truer of the next one (if it even takes place).

The majority of churches in the fifth century went on without the Syrians and the Copts; the majority of the former Anglican Communion will do the same today, without ECUSA and her allies -- and if need be, without the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Church of England. I am not sure that the continuing group will even want to call itself by the name "Anglican," since they may prefer to leave that word to characterize those who have pulled apart to remain behind. If the group no longer is headed even nominally by the Archbishop of Canterbury, then what would be the point of keeping the name?

We are in a time of fracture and transition, but these events are nothing new. They have happened before, and doubtless will happen again. The final stages of separation will have been reached when all in the one group -- and not just some outspoken bloggers -- say "goodbye and good riddance" to those in the other group.

I am not sure how the Church Catholic -- the one Jesus and His disciples bequeathed to us -- will manage to overcome this latest setback to its unity. But because it is the Church, I am certain that it will. I may not be around to see what emerges from the turmoil, or I may not recognize it immediately, if I am there. Those who are so fortunate will know it by the fruit it bears, in being guided by the Holy Spirit, and may draw their strength from its survival against all the forces arrayed against it.


  1. There is a clash of views on so many points that these disparate groups of Anglicans will never agree. For Revisionists, the Church has a responsibility to innovate. They ignore that historical evidence that all innovations lead to division. For the true Church, the responsibility is to preserve Holy Tradition and the Biblical teachings.

    Women priests is one of the more serious innovations of Anglicans. Why did you not mention it?

  2. I intended to include that subject when I wrote of "traditional Anglican teachings on marriage, priests, and homosexuality ...", Alice L. I suppose I could have been more explicit, but what more is there to say? There are no civil rights at stake in God's ministry, but that is the wedge argument which the supporters of WO used -- followed closely by the LGBTs. Let them have that ground, and you have lost your Church to the present-day culture of "It's all about me!"

  3. We are not so far apart in our read of things. Thanks for this blog entry.

    I am not for "goodbye and good riddance." Goodbye, perhaps, realism being what it is, but good riddance, no. We all have too much of God with us in us to ever want riddance, good or otherwise.

  4. You are right, Fr. Harris. I should better have said "Goodbye, and Godspeed." That would have sounded the more Christian note.

    Please note, however, that our own ECUSA continually fails to do its part towards setting such a Christian example. Where simple letters dimissory would suffice to remove the departing clergy from her rolls, ECUSA insists instead on deposing them from the ordained ministry. That is not saying "Godspeed", but rather "Good riddance -- may you never celebrate Communion anywhere, ever again."

    The point is that true separation will not come until each of the groups realizes, among each of their members, that it is not possible to maintain two such diverse views of Scripture under one denomination, and that it is better to part company than to try to sustain a fiction that satisfies neither side. However, "parting company" need not entail such one-sided recriminations.

  5. Wow...Harris might need some aloe.

    I'm glad to see someone who is recognized as a sane commentator and trend-watcher sound the alarm on the necessary correlate between WO & LGBTQ activism. There is no body that has adopted indifference to sex in ordination that has not also adopted indifference to sex in matrimony, either de facto or de jure.

  6. It is my opinion and understanding that the Choirs of Angels, all the Saints, our ancestors, and the Holy Ghost were never concerned that women should wear the collar. They cared more that women should have good souls, and that they increased in the dedication to Goodness and Righteousness throughout their days.
    It is the same wish that above convention of Souls and Mysteries have for men, and other such misguided creatures.

    I know that all those who profess and call themselves Christians, and who love their neighbour as themselves, and who follow the beliefs and Creeds will arrive at a better place, in the Life after Life.
    The Church was to be a refuge and not sword. It would be so much better if the progressives would allow the Holy Ghost to move men's souls, and cause their will to be the will of God Almighty and the Holy Mother and her Son.

    Social change for the sake of social change and some odd notion of the nature of "progress" does not heal the injured souls among us. The Abolitionists solved all the problems, leaving several hundred thousand American (and Irish) soldiers dead....only to have one of their own, 60 years later, determine that the problem of having too many Black African ancestried people was to Planned Parenthood them into extinction.
    Margaret so loved the German solution to things.

    Now the Progressives have them living in ghettoes while they, the Progressives, live in the Hamptons and Chappaqua, and they blame us for the problems that they, the Progressives, caused. They have used the Episcopal Church as another practice target for their cultural wrecking ball practice. Successfully.

    I am comforted by my Guide, Mr. Haley, and his efforts and understanding. I pray for his continued stamina as he trods through the trenches of treachery, this lengthy labour that precedes whatever birth we are now witnessing.

    El Gringo Viejo

  7. It should be remembered that at present in England, not to mention Ireland, Wales and Scotland, there are traditional Anglicans like myself who face very few choices. Both the Anglo-Catholic and Conservative Evangelical wings of the Church are being ignored and effectively, sidelined. We know that our institutional Church is lamely aping popular culture, having lost its saltiness, but until the foreign missionaries arrive we are totally outnumbered. As parishes and particularly individuals like myself, in a largely liberal diocese, we struggle to survive spiritually. The situation is far from homogenous.

  8. Aw, man! No updates from my favourite curmudgeon in over a week! :)

  9. In the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) the New Church age is to begin among the Africans beginning in Ethiopia. The revelation of the literal (clouds) and spiritual (glory) meaning of the Word that is falsified will cause those in the current Church age to weep and wail in recognition of being in falsity and evil. The Established Church profaned the Nicene Creed of A.D. 325 by Order of Emperor Theodosius I for his selected bishops in/after A.D. 381 and imposed first as an Oath for the Legion by Imperial Decree. LATER, the Emperor's pseudo-Canon law was published first at Calcedon in A.D. 451 along with the two natures of the Anointed. In Isaiah, And it shall be in that day, his burden shall be removed from on thy shoulder, and his yoke from on thy neck; and the yoke shall be destroyed on account of the (chrism ed.) oil. x. 27

    The Last Judgement is completed in the Heavens and the Heavenly City the New Jerusalem is descending. Mankind is becoming more enlightened and the evil must be separated from the good through ceremony. The return of the Sacrament of Baptism according to Apostolic tradition in the disciplina arcani is the mystery of an induced spiritual experience of the Divine. Apostolic succession and authority is through this returned or Second Coming mystery in the religion of the anointed ones (Christianity). Truth of doctrine is manifested as the holy grail for mankind. A Sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace.

    What will this New African Church then look like? Apostolic in practice and Church Order in worship and obedience before the Divine Human manifesting Divine Truth through these Heavenly doctrines.

  10. If there were none of those dastardly progressive churches, I would have long ago rejected Christianity. As a woman, it makes no sense to belong to a religion that believes in inerrant scripture dictated by God Himself that requires females to be subservient, LBGT's to repent of their nature and either live a lie or remain ceilbate, and the mentally ill to submit to de-demonizing. At least the church doesn't condemn left-handedness, promote slavery, or insist that the Earth is the center of the universe any more.

    So, what's my point? Not Good Riddance -- but more Farewell until we reunite again.