Reflections upon what is claimed in the Communiqué issued after the Primates’ Meeting.
It is stated:
12. We as a body continue to address the situations which have arisen in North America with the utmost seriousness. Whilst there remains a very real question about whether the North American churches are willing to accept the same teaching on matters of sexual morality as is generally accepted elsewhere in the Communion, the underlying reality of our communion in God the Holy Trinity is obscured, and the effectiveness of our common mission severely hindered.
13. We are persuaded however that in order for the recommendations of the Windsor Report to be properly addressed, time needs to be given to the Episcopal Church (USA) and to the Anglican Church of Canada for consideration of these recommendations according to their constitutional processes.
Over the last decade, it has become increasingly common for Anglican leaders and theologians to claim that the communion (koinonia) enjoyed within the Church of a Province and between the Churches of the Provinces is grounded in the Holy Trinity.
The usual line is that there is unity and diversity in the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity and this unity and diversity is mirrored and reflected in the unity and diversity of the Churches of the Provinces. Further, as there is Communion in God between the Three Persons so there is communion between the differing Churches of the Provinces so they can be called a Communion of Churches.
Let us reflect upon this claim.
At the best of times, when there are not only bonds of affection between the Provinces but also substantial agreement in doctrine and practice, to claim that the unity and diversity of the 38 Churches mirrors the Holy Trinity is an exceedingly bold and high claim. Indeed, it is an excessive claim, and very difficult to justify in the biblical and patristic use of Communion and Fellowship. So when there is a major crisis in relations between the Churches of the Provinces and they are not in eucharistic communion one with another, as is the case in 2005, it is bordering on the blasphemous to speak of the claimed unity merely being “obscured.”
The fact of the matter is that even if there is in the very best of times a hint of the mirroring of the unity and diversity within God in the relations of the Anglican Churches, there is certainly no trace of such right now! The Primates recognized this in their Meeting in February 2005 by not having a Common Corporate Eucharist but meeting only together for daily prayers and Bible study. (The daily Eucharist conducted by a chaplain was optional.)
In particular, the Episcopal Church of the U S A and the Anglican Church of Canada actually deny in practice the received, classic and historic doctrine of the Holy Trinity by their adoption of what can only be called, in traditional terms, heresies and immoralities. And they have caused the cessation of eucharistic communion in a big way!
The Primates of the Anglican Churches would be well advised to cease claiming to mirror in their unity and diversity the Blessed Trinity for their unity is an ideal not a reality, and much of their diversity is caused by sin and error. Meanwhile they would be well advised to study the use of koinonia in the New Testament and as used by the Early Church and conform their claims to that usage.
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.)