Friday, April 04, 2008

Keeping track of these times

A brief overview of what these times mean for our fellow Anglicans is here offered for the sake of perspective. This is not nearly as exhaustive as my upcoming Special Report for the next issue of the Christian Challenge, nor is it meant to cover all the same ground. Rather, this overview is simplistic and brief, and intended mainly for Continuing Anglicans.

We all should know, by now, that the crisis over the Homosexualist heresy has created an explosion that may finally divide the Anglican Communion. And, although, as I have reported, the whole realignment of TEC dioceses into the Southern Cone began because the three Forward in Faith bishops (of San Jaoquin, Quincy, and Ft. Worth) sought a way to avoid having women's "ordination" forced on their respective dioceses, it is the Homosexualist heresy that has been the major wake up call, both in America and throughout the world. If there is a major geographic dividing line, it is between the North and the global South.

At this time, Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, is seeking a way to smooth over completely irreconcilable differences between those who are called "Traditionalists" (by very minimal standards) and the most way out liberals. His approach is based on the idea that they can overcome differences by, in my words, negotiation and compromise. As I stated recently, this approach seems to come from some idea that Christ has established a republic instead of the Kingdom of God. What is supposed to be a subject of negotiation is nothing other than God's commandments, about which there is no room for negotiation and political solutions.

The result of the Archbishop of Canterbury's efforts is that two major events are coming up this year instead of one. In July, the once every decade Lambeth Conference is scheduled. One month before that is GAFCON, the Global Anglican Futures Conference, in Jordan with a pilgrimage to Jerusalem as one major event on the schedule. Many of the bishops, including Primates, who refuse to attend the Lambeth Conference will attend GAFCON. The Archbishop of Canterbury could have prevented GAFCON, and could have counted on full attendance in Lambeth, by sticking to the plan in the Windsor Report and the Communique from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. This would have made it necessary for the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in Canada to repent from having "gay" bishops, blessing same sex unions, and lawsuits against "fellow" Christians, or lose their place in the Anglican Communion.

In early 2006 the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote (to a source whom I cannot name) that he saw no way to keep the Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion. The problem seems to be that he was actually trying to find a way, when he was morally obligated instead to cut it loose and let it drift (after all, the Episcopalians themselves had decided to "walk apart from the Anglican Communion" rather than repent. It was their decision). But, despite the fact that the response from TEC was not acceptable to most of the primates, Rowan Williams has allowed the matter to be treated as unresolved, and something to be discussed at the Lambeth Conference itself.

The main players in GAFCON are, as a result, also planing to boycott the Lambeth Conference. These include The Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Most Rev. Peter Akinola, The Most Rev. Peter Jensen, Archbishop of Sidney, The Most Rev. Kolini, Archbishop of Rwanda, The Most Rev. Gregory Venables, primate of the Southern Cone, and others.

(The Bishop of Rochester, Right Reverend Dr. Michael James Nazir-Ali, has also made it clear that he, a Church of England bishop, will not attend the Lambeth Conference. The Most Rev. Mouneer Anis, Primate of the Middle East, will attend GAFCON.)

Dr. Rowan Williams may very well become the Archbishop of Canterbury known to historians for having failed to hold together the Anglican Communion. Although the GAFCON is supposedly not intended as a rival event to the Lambeth Conference, we have every reason to expect that it may become that and more. It has the potential to launch a new Anglican Communion headquartered in the global south, most likely in Nigeria. The leadership of Archbishop Akinola might transfer into a place for his See as a new Canterbury.

Our response

Such a new Anglican Communion would have a multitude of conflicting ideas even within its relatively conservative understanding. It would have within it those who oppose women's "ordination," those who reluctantly tolerate it, and those who champion it. It would have other peculiarities, such as the Diocese of Sidney refusing women's "ordination," but practicing "Lay Presidency" under the leadership of a very Calvinist archbishop. But, what it would not have is people who mean to rebel against the authority of the Lord because they simply don't believe in him.

We have every reason to give these leaders the benefit of the doubt, granting to them that theological confusion and ignorance have been the result of long association with the modern Anglican Communion, despite their sincerity and good faith. We need to support their realization that the Anglican Communion (as such) no longer deserves the endeavors of their goodwill, and that like us, they do not really need Canterbury in its morally compromised spiritual condition. We ought to hope and pray that as their clouded understanding clears, the light will break through about those other matters of doctrine and practice that continue to divide many of them from us.

However, unless our own house finds better unity (including a reconciliation between the TAC and the ACC), all of our orthodoxy will not help us rise to this occasion with the kind of force that these, our Anglican brethren (more importantly, they are our Christian brethren) need from us. We know that we can teach them a better way; but to be heard, we cannot allow ourselves to appear as an insignificant group on the fringe (which, indeed, we are not). We need to declare that we are the pioneers who have already staked out the territory for them.

After thirty years of "walking apart" from the See of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion, we look around us and see fellow Anglicans bending over backwards to stay within that Communion while trying to be faithful to Jesus Christ. We want to call out to them and say that we have learned that we can be the Church, and be faithful to Anglican beliefs and practice, without Canterbury; to say to them, if the situation proves hopeless, then keep your hope anyway. For the structure we call the Anglican Communion is not essential to the Holy Catholic Church. The Faith, however, is essential.


Warwickensis said...

Just to give an extra piece of information, the Synod Church of Wales has failed to obtain the necessary majority to get the go ahead to "ordain" women as bishops.

It was passed unanimously by the five bishops, and the house of laity managed to give the two thirds majority, but the house of clergy failed to give the majority by 3 votes.

However, the reason that it failed is probably because of the unpopular provision for orthodox Anglicans who know that women cannot be ordained.

Anonymous said...

It is also worth noting that the pro-female ordination lobby supported by the high-profile campaigning Welsh Archbishop Barry Morgan, has called this an unfortunate setback but declared that it was not the end of the matter. "Like this bill, the bill to ordain women to the priesthood (in Wales) was initially defeated but it came back to the governing body, and was passed 11 years ago.

What an dreadful state of affairs in the Church that any decision or cannon is only valid so long as no one votes against it, and as he promised to come back again and again until they get their way, there is no doubt that without any single apostolic defining authority they will, eventually.

This crucial vote was lost because it failed to get a necessary two-thirds majority in one of the three chambers of the church’s governing body. And it was the clergy failed to back the measure.

The House of Laity backed the bill by 52 votes to 19 but the House of Clergy only voted 27 to 18 in favour, three votes short of the majority required in all three chambers for the measure to become canon law.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

there is no doubt that without any single apostolic defining authority they will, eventually.

Well, that is one way to prevent the problem, mainly because that authority, in the person of John Paul II, had the humility to remember the limits placed on that authority. He said the Church had been given no authority to ordain women.

But, the Orthodox have never come close to this either. So, simple fidelity also keeps heresy away.

Anonymous said...

Abp Morgan's reponse to the vote is on Virtue Online. It is pathetic.