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Friday, February 23, 2007

A New Communion: Is it Wanted?


Of course it is wanted if anyone cares about the real catholicity of the Church. If there is ever going to be any further discussions with our ecumenical partners with Catholic ecclesiology then it must be wanted and it is desperately needed. The global Anglican Communion cannot go on with every province doing 'what is right in its own eyes' regardless of the 'standards' of the Communion as a whole. This remains one of the greatest weaknesses of Anglicanism of which the formation of the Covenant is seeking to correct. Our provinces are a part of a whole and one province cannot go against the explicit teaching of the Communion on something like sexuality and expect to maintain its rightful place in the Communion. This means that the entire Communion and each and every province must begin to learn to police itself and hold one another accountable to the same standard across the board. That goes for us in the C of E as well as any other province in the global communion. It will take time to work this out but it is kingdom work nonetheless.

Church Times Editorial
AS “GOOD NEWS” stories go, it has scope for improvement: Anglican leaders avoid split. The Primates’ conduct in Tanzania was not good enough to set an example of Christian charity to the world — the absence of seven Primates from the Sunday eucharist put paid to that. None the less, the news from the Primates’ Meeting was much better than many had feared. Whatever the reasons, whatever the explanations, a formal split in the Anglican Communion would have been a disgrace.Just how successful the Primates were in avoiding schism remains to be seen. Much rests on how the new pastoral council is viewed: as a welcome contribution to healing within the Episcopal Church in the United States, or as the imposition of a clumsy structure that can only formalise division. Will the proposed pastoral scheme draw the secessionists back into the fold? Or will it create a separate fold of its own? Before these questions need to be answered, the US House of Bishops must produce a clear, unambiguous statement eschewing gay bishops and same-sex blessings. If it fails to do so, all bets are off. The immediate questions, though, serve only to mask the bigger question that lurks behind them. Because the Anglican Communion has existed without rules or boundaries for so long, individuals and congregations have belonged to it by accident of birth or geography. The adoption of a covenant would turn the Communion into an intentional Church. If one wanted to invent a global church structure, this is one relatively gentle way of doing it: lots of definition, a bit of process, and very few sanctions. But Anglicans have arrived at this point without in any way committing themselves to a global Communion. Many churchgoers find it hard to accept that any power resides outside their parish. The suggestion that they might be prevented from doing something, or encouraged to do something else, by an overseas body is still a novel one. Dr Williams and the Primates have been working on the premise that Anglicans are willing to slide from the old form of Anglicanism to the new one. Even those who would agree, probably the majority, need to see a better model of how this greater accountability would work. Three of the four instruments of unity — the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, and the Primates’ Meeting — are entirely episcopal. Only the Anglican Consultative Council contains priests and lay people. The de facto arbiter of Anglican polity is the Primates’ Meeting. Its functioning in Tanzania has not greatly enhanced its reputation. Indeed, it might single-handedly scupper the Anglican experiment, if churchgoers see only tense wrangling ahead. The workings and supervision of the pastoral council in the US, if it is accepted there, will be a serious test of how a new Communion might work on the ground.

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    O God, most glorious, most bountiful, accept, we humbly beseech thee, our praises and thanksgivings for thy holy Catholic Church, the mother of us all who bear the name of Christ; for the faith which it hath conveyed in safety to our time, and the mercies by which it hath enlarged and comforted the souls of men; for the virtues which it hath established upon earth, and the holy lives by which it glorifieth both the world and thee; to whom, O blessed Trinity (+), be ascribed all honour, might, majesty and dominion, now and for ever. Amen.
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