The New Anglican Maps: The Anglican Communion and the Confessing Anglicans.


Two new essays regarding the Anglican landscape come to the same conclusion: The fractures in the fellowship of churches called The Anglican Communion have reached the point where two different “maps” of relations are required. In Individualism, communalism, and the Anglican Covenant, published on Episcopal Cafe, Marshall Scott writes:

“I fear …that the Communion cannot stand. I am among those who have note that we have already lost “the-Anglican-Communion-as-we-have-known-it,” beginning with the assertions expressed not first but most widely in the Windsor Report about the roles of the Primates’ Meeting. However, I fear it goes deeper than that. This is not, at least in theory, an insurmountable difficulty. However, it would require a generation of thoughtful conversation to really understand one another. … So, words will be said, and actions taken, and lines drawn; and the Communion will divide…

But right now, we are where we are, and who we are. We see the world as we see it, including how God is working in it. I will mourn when things fall apart; but I cannot see how it will not. We can love one another, and talk to one another as best we can. I just don’t think we’ll be able to address this difference soon enough to change our trajectories.”

Marshall Scott is a highly thoughtful and engaging writer. Go read the whole thing, HERE.

From the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FOCA) and GAFCON, the General Secretary of GAFCON, Archbishop Peter Jensen, also has written on the matter. The article,FCA General Secretary responds to the Global South to South Encounter maps out his observations of where thingsare headed. Some excerpts (but go read the whole thing.)

“The crisis moment has now passed. Many of the Global South provinces have given up on the official North American Anglicans (TEC and the Canadian Church) and regard themselves as being out of communion with them. They renew the call for repentance but can see that, failing something like the Great Awakening, it will not occur. The positive side to this is that they are committed to achieving self-sufficiency so that they will cease to rely on the Western churches for aid. That is something the Global South has been working on for some time, with success.”

“In my judgment, the assembly was unresponsive to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s video greetings. I don’t think th
at what he said was obscure. It just seemed to be from another age, another world. His plea for patience misjudged the situation by several years and his talk of the Anglican covenant was not where the actual conference was at. He seemed to suggest that the consecration of a partnered lesbian Bishop will create a crisis. In fact the crisis itself has passed. We are now on the further side of the critical moment; the decisions have all been made; we are already living with the consequences.”

“Right action demands that we understand our own times accurately. If I am correct, that we now belong to the post-crisis phase, we need to know what such a moment requires. Action in this phase is no less demanding. One thing is for sure: those who wait and do nothing will be playing into the hands of ideologues who have had such a triumph in the west.”

Two different readings, two similar conclusions: The Anglican Communion is broken. The crisis has not been averted and the consequences are at hand. The failure to communicate across cultural, social and theological boundaries is too great for the moment. Distrust makes the notion of a viable Anglican Covenant impossible or irrelevant. The Anglican Communion as we know it is no longer. It is time to get on with the work God has given us to do – no matter that now we cannot do it together. That is their conclusion and I believe they are probably right.

If so, where do we as members of The Episcopal Church go from here?

My sense is this:

There will continue to be “The Anglican Communion”…”a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces, and regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.”

It remains to be seen if The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada continue as “regular” members of that fellowship. Being part of the Anglican Communion in that sense does not require TEC and the ACoC to be part of the Anglican Consultative Council or the Primates Meetings or even invitees to the Lambeth Conference. It requires only that we be in communion with Canterbury and be understood (presumably by the ABC) to be upholding and propagating historic Faith and Order, via the BCP.

The “map” of the Anglican Communion will, in that sense, be inclusive of strained fellowship and incomplete communion – there will continue to be occasions when a bishop or clergy from one church is not welcome to officiate, much less take up a post, in another. The map will have warning signs posted over certain areas, warnings that some form of quarantine or embargo has been put in place. Perhaps the map will indicate that TEC and ACoC are “areas of danger.” Other spots will also be so marked. Zimbabwe and Malawi will be so marked. But on the whole the map would look more or less like the map of the Anglican Communion does now. The difference is there would be no-fly zones, hazard and quarantine postings and generally greater passport control. There will be messy efforts to come to the aid of parishes and dioceses “suffering” one way or another. There will be areas of hazardous duty pay. (The map is only roughly predictive.)

But there will also be a new map and a new Confessing Anglican world: A map that points out places of safety and commonality throughout the world for those who wish to form a more perfect union of Confessing Anglicans.

This map will be a “safe haven” map, and while it will show whole churches in the Anglican Communion as safe, there will also be areas where the listing of safe places will get much more specific. All of Uganda will be safe, but Australia will have hot spots where only this or that parish is acceptable. In some places, notably North America, a new church will arise that is safe, and the map will simply overlay the “real” collection of dioceses and national or regional churches, as opposed to the ones in place in the Anglican Communion.

People will be told, when in North America you know you are safe when you are in a ACNA parish. Such a map might also include trusted companions – parishes and dioceses that have signaled their trustworthiness by an oath of conformity (in this case signing on to the Anglican Covenant or its successor documents).

This map will consider all non Global South provinces missionary territory, and North America particularly hostile territory. The support of ACNA will then be viewed as support of mission in a field hostile to the Gospel.

Now both of these maps will be world maps and there will be significant overlay, but the one – the Anglican Communion map – will be a map of regional bodies, some in full and others in partial fellowship, and the other – the Confessing Anglican map – will be a safety map. Readers of the AC map might note that gay people might not be welcome in the Church of Uganda and Ugandan Anglicans would not feel particular dioceses or churches in the US were welcoming of them, but these would be seen as limitations on fellowship, not reasons for complete breaks in communion. The Confessing Anglicans map would not include churches that were not sufficiently confessing. In those areas instead there would be a network overlay of safe places, or in the case of North America a new entity in the place of the old. The new map is a mission strategy map, the old map is a map of a community of churches.

On a practical level all this would mean the following:

Most of us, most of the time, are highly local in our practice of the faith. Depending on which map we use we might more often pray for churches or church leaders who are shown on the map we normally use. We might give for mission work with the intention that our moneys support mission in the world as we see it. Hopefully relief work would know no boundaries, but even there the agents of relief work might be different. But otherwise, at home, which map we use will not be very central except when church leadership wanted to do or say something locally and gather such support as might be possible from friendly quotes.

Many would be saddened that fellowship is broken, but we would simply have to live with it. About the Anglican Communion, Ed Rodman said, “It is what it is.” It is what it is, and, about the Confessing Anglicans, they are what they are. Sad, but true.

My sense is that the Archbishop of Canterbury is not ready to declare that TEC and the ACoC are not in communion with the See of Canterbury. It may be that the various “instruments of communion” might suspend inclusion of TEC and ACoC in their meetings. It might be that the ABC would not invite Bishops Robinson or Glasspool or their supporters to the next Lambeth Conference. All of which would be very very untidy. But there is sometimes beauty to be found in the midst of such ugliness. As Bishop Robinson discovered at Lambeth 2008, exclusion opened doors to conversation and engagement well beyond the tent of meeting. But communion with the See of Canterbury would remain.

As for the Confessing Anglicans, the links between western / northern evangelicals and the Anglican churches in the “global south” are to some extent the product of western / northern evangelical engineering for its own purposes. It remains to be seen if there is any long term value to the relationships or if these are relationships of convenience. The Confessing Anglicans map may finally be less interesting to the Global South than it seems at the moment. And for those realignment folk who believe communion with Canterbury to be a touchstone of Anglican engagement, the Confessing Anglicans will be less attractive, particularly if they break communion with Canterbury over matters of ordination and blessing.

But for now it appears that the mapping has been done. We are in a “post crisis” period when there are now new maps and we have to continue navigating as well as well can in an increasingly more and more interconnected world.

In that light it is interesting to reread the Pew Forum interview with Phillip Jenkins in 2007 on the Global Schism in the Anglican Communion. Towards the end of his opening remarks he says,

It is quite likely that by 2050 or so there will be three billion Christians in the world; the proportion of those who will be non-Latino whites, people like myself, will be somewhere between 15 and 20 percent. Imagine a map of the Christian world as of 2050: Where are the largest Christian populations? It’s an interesting list. Heading the list is the United States, though, of course, a lot of the Christians will be of Latino and Asian and African descent. Where next? Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, Nigeria, Congo, Ethiopia and China. What are the names that are not on the list? Oh, Germany, France, Italy, Spain – maybe the people in this room are old enough to remember something called Western Christianity – (laughter) – well, it died in our lifetime.”

We shall see.

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