[I note Dr Carey’s words that as a person who has invested much time in ecumenical affairs he is “very conscious that once Christians separate the chances of reconciliation are daunting indeed…” In the limited area of the Anglican Way in North America we have seen this with the Continuing Movement which began its exit from the ECUSA in 1977 and since then has moved a long way from the Anglican Communion and has sub-divided itself into what seem to be irreconcilable divisions with separate episcopates, organizations and the like. On the global scale the problem is indeed daunting… and may not be solved this side of the ESCHATON…though we must as Carey says try and try again and be patient… --P.T.]
In an address in which he traced the conflict and crisis that have shaped Anglicanism throughout its history, former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey urged patience as the Communion’s leaders strive to create an effective covenant.
Speaking Feb. 7 in Goodson Chapel at Duke University, Dr. Carey noted that while Anglicanism’s structures and theology don’t bear the hallmarks of a confessional church, “it has subscribed to various confessional statements, including the Prayer Book, the 39 Articles and the Lambeth-Chicago Quadilateral.” He said that the “the abandonment of these norms, together with a serious weakening of the scriptures as our definitive and authoritative guide, has led conversely to the strengthening of structures, but these, as we have seen, were not strong enough to deal with the current crisis which Anglicanism faces.”
Dr. Carey hailed the “impressive part” that The Episcopal Church has played in the “distinctive ways our Communion has been a blessing to the very poor of the world and our incarnational ministry in education, health and much else beside.” But he said it was also important to recognize that General Convention’s 2003 decision to allow the consecration of the Rev. V. Gene Robinson to the episcopate “put an end to the debate” on the ordination of homosexual persons. “A decision had been made by one of the most senior of our provinces and discussion was now ‘dead in the water’ because it had been pre-empted by General Convention’s unilateral act.”
While holding out hope that a covenant could strengthen the Communion, Dr. Carey warned that “an overly rigorous covenant is likely to be rejected by provinces in the West, but a bland and unchallenging one will leave the growing churches of the Global South unpersuaded.” He also noted that “as someone who has invested a great deal of time in ecumenical debate I am very conscious that once Christians separate the chances of reconciliation are daunting indeed.”
In concluding, Dr. Carey issued a plea for patience.
“The establishment of an Anglican covenant is a task that may take years rather than days, weeks and months,” he said. “The duty of leaders is to stay at the table, contributing to the debate as long as it takes.
“If we in this present challenge cannot give an example to the world around us of how Christians behave when we disagree violently, we disgrace our Lord who remains the reconciling God, in spite of what his Church gets up to.”