Thursday, June 14, 2007

As The Anglican World Turns: Father Dan Martins on Recent Developments



Are you tired of the Anglican soap opera? I certainly am, and my sense is that most everybody--left and right--is also exhausted with this drama. That's a good thing. Maybe that means we can spend less time talking about the appropriate polity of the Anglican Communion, and more time focused on our mission as a Church in this world. You know--saving souls, spreading the Gospel, feeding the poor, and things like that.

Sadly, however, the soap opera continues. Yet another Primate (the Archbishop of Kenya) has decided to name a Bishop to a flock in the United States. He joins the Primates of Uganda and Nigeria in creating new Anglican denominations in the United States. It appears that the dissenting Episcopal congregations are now attempting to flee in many different directions. Whether these different organizations will ultimately coalesce into a single alternative Anglican province in the Unites States is yet to be seen.

As always, my colleagues at The Lead are on top of the story. If you want the rundown, read the Lead. I also thought, however, that the perspective of my favorite orthodox/reasserter priest, Father Dan Martins, was quite interesting (as is usually the case). Here are highlights:

I have neither the energy nor the acumen to parse all these events right now. Whatever I say would probably be rendered obsolete by tomorrow's news. I will only flag my deep concern over a trend that I see emerging, a trend that I find more troubling than anything else that has come down the road in my 30+ years as an Anglican. It's the rise of a "Who needs Canterbury?" attitude.

It is an attitude that is alive and well among the liberal Episcopal majority. Ever since the runup to last year's General Convention, there has been an unrelenting, if occasionally subtle, effort to position TEC, for PR purposes, as at the center of its own "international" communion. From bloggers to bishops, the intention has been expressed that, should the choice come down to continued full communion with the See of Canterbury by "throwing our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters under the bus," or doing without Canterbury, they will choose the latter. This attitude typifies the crux of the Anglican conflict between autonomy and interdependence. As a result of the American penchant for autonomy, the rest of the communion is being forced to more clearly define the nature of interdependence. They are doing so in ways that Americans tend to find annoying.

But today's events remind us that conservatives can play the same game. There seems to be an inexorable drive to circumvent the organic processes of the Anglican Communion, regulated--albeit informally and, one could say, haphazardly--by the Instruments of Unity, and confect a solution to our conflicts that the "instruments"--most palpably the Archbishop of Canterbury--will be asked to simply accept. Or not, as it may be. In which case--and here's where I break out into a cold sweat--there will effectively be civil war in the Anglican Communion, a schism that may not have the repercussions of the Great Schism of 1054, but which will be no minor tremor. We will be left with Canterburian and non-Canterburian Anglican churches. Only...will the latter actually be Anglican? Isn't communion with Canterbury of the esse of Anglican identity? Or is it only the bene esse...or, perhaps the plene esse?

Frankly, I find such a spectacle horrific in the extreme. The prospect of choosing between a Canterburian Anglicanism that is "ecclesiologically correct" but otherwise theologically and spiritually vacuous, and a non-Canterburian Anglicanism that is creedally orthodox and spiritually vital, but, lacking an organic continuity with a See that, if not apostolic, is at least ancient, and founded by the bishop of an apostolic See--and therefore essentially just one more Protestant denomination--well...this choice is too terrible to contemplate.

I feel like I have an Anglican soul, but it is a Canterburian Anglican soul. To be bereft of that vital organic link would be to surrender the very core of Anglican identity. I would urge my "reasserter" colleagues to exercise more patience. But I know that too many of them are way beyond the point of listening to such a plea.

Read it all.


My take? It is time for patience, and good will. It is time to find a way to keep a theologically diverse Anglican Communion together.

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