Listening to the BBC this Sunday morning around 7.30 a.m. on the divisions amongst the Primates, I meditated. Here is the result:
Unto what shall we liken "the Anglican Communion of Churches"? What image helps us to understand it as it actually is today and what it may be after the Primates' Meeting on October 15/16?
Here is one possibility. I offer it as a discussion and prayer starter!
The Anglican Communion of 38 Churches is like a great Mansion or House. This Building has a large, stately front entrance and other less dramatic entrances on each side. Inside are large and small rooms with corridors and staircases uniting all the rooms.
Let us say that until the latter part of the twentieth century the Mansion was filled with people of different backgrounds and languages who all managed to be on speaking terms with each other, and usually they all sat down together for at least one communal meal daily. Naturally, different parts of the House were the special preserve of one group but there were no closed doors and all the corridors and staircases were open. All agreed upon what was the basis of the Anglican Way and where differences could be held without breaking communion.
Then let us say that with the ordaining of women in the 1970s tension came into the House and eventually some corridors and staircases were given "fire" doors which were not kept open and also certain rooms were labeled as "private, no entry". However, all the leaders of the various types of Anglicans agreed that they should seek to live together and share at least common refreshments if not full common meals. The basis for living together was called "the doctrine of reception" (see The Eames' Commission Reports) and there was much emphasis upon koinonia, fellowship based upon Baptism. All still used the large front door, even though they also made use of the side doors.
Finally, let us say that with the arrival of the blessing of "gay" couples and a tolerant attitude to homosexual unions, the tension increased and not only were the fire doors closed and rooms entitled "private, no entry" securely locked, but also the majority met together to find ways to expel from the House the minority. Also, many people began only to use the entrance next to their suite of rooms for they were not sure about the "Canterbury" or "Lambeth" door. Therefore, while all lived in the same Mansion and gave the same address, it was in practice that each group had its own apartment or suite of rooms and its own key to a side door, and only had refreshments with a limited number of people of like mind in the other apartments.
The Anglican Communion of Churches is right now as a House that is divided against itself and is a Communion only in a minimal sense; further, it looks as though this situation will become more obvious after the Primates' Meeting. To get back to the situation of say thirty years ago when the Front Door was used by all and there were no barriers in the corridors and on the staircases seems impossible. But with God we are told "all things are possible" (when according to his will).
We await news about the HOUSE on the evening of October 16th, around 6.p.m. London time! (D.V. I shall be at the Press Conference to hear about the House and how the Primates see its future.)
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.)