Monday, January 01, 2007

The Anglican Way in 2007. Is OPTIMISM appropriate?

Since we do not have a sure word of prophecy from the contemporary equivalent of Elijah or John the Baptist, we cannot say with certainty what is going to happen to the Anglican Way worldwide during the coming year of 2007. All we can do is to look at what has happened in recent years, seek to understand it, and suggest on the basis of this knowledge, and other accessible knowledge, what is likely to happen. And if we do this then what we suggest will necessarily have many qualifiers built into it.

In terms of the global situation, we can say with reasonable certainty that what the Archbishop of Canterbury says and does month by month, and what The Primates’ Meeting in February says and does, will have enormous effect upon the ethos and stability of the Anglican Way. We can also say with reasonable certainty that what the Canadian Anglican Synod decides in July 07 with reference to The Windsor Report and what the American Presiding Bishop (with the Executive Council and House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church) continue to say and do on the same topic will have some general effect upon the Anglican Way globally, as well as in N.A.

It is difficult to be optimistic about the effect globally of words and actions of the persons and groups mentioned above, because they are apparently deeply divided amongst themselves by what seems to be a major chasm, for they hold differing doctrines of Who is God, Who is Jesus?, and What is salvation? So their words and actions at any given time tend to strengthen the cause of their supporters and to alienate their opponents. Thus the likelihood of major, solid moves being made by these parties towards the creation of genuine, reconciled and permanent conciliar structures which recognize autonomy and require interdependency of provinces seem to be slim, very slim—despite the work on "The Anglican Covenant" and towards a common core of canon law for the provinces. So the global situation seems to be ripe not for general unity on sound principles, but for the continuing evolution of a variety of groupings based on ideology and geography—at best, ripe for the evolution of a large traditional grouping and a smaller liberally progressive one (as the A of C has indicated).

In North America, where the Anglican Way is so dysfunctional, divided and desperate, it is nearly impossible to be optimistic in any direction at all—except perhaps from the limited perspectives of (i) an individual parish which is managing to grow in numbers and maturity despite the context of confusion around, (ii) an Anglican society which is having temporary success in its mission, and (iii) individual Christians who are maturing in faith and love in this ongoing crisis.

On the ground we find Anglicanism is made up of (a) a rich variety of "continuing" Churches, small or very small, and little cooperation between them; (b) offshoots from African and Indian Anglican provinces—e.g. AMIA & ACAC, small but growing; (c) around 100 break-away congregations from ECUSA temporarily tied to overseas bishops as their acting Episcopal Visitor; (d) dioceses and parishes within ECUSA claiming not to be of the same faith and practice as ECUSA; (e) the majority of ECUSA dioceses and parishes, wholly or partly in support of the modern agenda, and (f) much the same in Canada but on a much smaller scale; and (g) other manifestations. Then we have various societies and networks and councils seeking to work with all or most of these expressions of Anglicanism, sometimes together and sometimes in opposition. Further, we find a lot of movement and activity from North America to other places in the Global Communion and back again, often creating false hopes and confused information. Thus while the amount of news and the flow of adrenalin is rich (see the quality and health of the Anglican Way in North America appears to deteriorate daily in a corporate sense, despite the energy, noise and God-talk.

Let us be honest. From the perspective of the American supermarket of religions, the dividedness of the Anglican Way poses no problems—it adds to the color and size of the growing supermarket and the pages in "Yellow Pages"! Yet from the perspective of the vision of the Anglican Way as a Communion of autonomous yet interdependent national Churches/ geographical provinces the dividedness is a tremendous burden causing great agony and seemingly permanent crisis.

So pessimism for the health of the Global Communion and for the future of the Anglican Way in North America seems to be required by the evidence available to us. A house divided cannot stand and a house built upon sand will fall down.

At the same time, optimism seems in order for those Anglican Provinces, virtually all in the Global South so-called, where the church is growing in maturity and numbers, despite the real difficulties caused by poverty, the aids epidemic, militant Islam and the profusion of sects. All these churches are traditional and wholly opposed to the western, liberal progressive agenda.

Happily the wisdom, will, power and mercy of the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are not limited by and to what is presently the case or what we think will be the case tomorrow. With God the impossible is possible—if he wills; thus, "Let us pray…"

Don’t go to Rome or Orthodoxy or classic Protestantism yet!

Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus the Christ, January 1, 2007
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)

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