Author Archive

How Shall we Hope for the Anglican Communion?

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Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

As we move into a new year, there is a special spur to pose the question, “what hope is there for the future of the Anglican Communion?”. To which I would answer: “from God, there is much hope indeed; but not from women and men”. With mortals, it is impossible, but with God all things […]

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January 04 2011 | Articles

Left Behind? The Church of England and the Covenant

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Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Too much is being made, in the run up to the General Synod, of the fact that the Anglican Covenant’s future is tied to the Church of England’s vote on the matter: if the Synod does not vote to take the Covenant up for further diocesan approval, the Covenant’s own life, many say, will be over. Well and good, according to some, because the Covenant is a bad idea.

In fact, though, what is at stake in the upcoming Synod vote on the Covenant is the Church of England’s own future as part of the Anglican Communion: will she continue to be an integral part of a Christian common life and mission that has now encompassed the globe (due in no small part to the Church of England’s own past witness), and that represents one of the most adaptable forms of Christian life in a reordered world, or will she lapse further into the eddies of Western self-concern, diminished by the thousand cuts of her own identity politics?

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November 24 2010 | Articles

Same-sex Blessings, Toronto, and the Anglican Communion

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Saturday, November 13th, 2010

The Bishop of Toronto recently issued a set of “Pastoral Guidelines for the Blessing of Same-Gender Commitments”. Some of the basic theological contradictions and destructive pastoral confusions involved in these guidelines have been pointedly disclosed by Catherine Sider Hamilton and F. Dean Mercer (see their “Response”, posted on the ACI website on November 9, 2010). In what follows I want to address a particular matter: where does the issuing of these Guidelines now place the Diocese of Toronto with respect to the Anglican Communion?

This question arises, obviously, because only recently and on the basis of a long string of official declarations by various Communion councils and groups – including the so-called Instruments of Communion – the formal adoption of rites of same-sex blessing has been declared to be incompatible with Communion teaching and discipline. In May of this year, representatives from The Episcopal Church (USA) were asked to withdraw from Communion groups dealing with matters of faith and order just on the basis of The Episcopal Church’s rejection of Communion teaching on matters of same-sexuality, including widespread and formally authorized use of such blessings. Since this requested withdrawal was viewed as a precedent, one must wonder if and how the new Toronto Guidelines might affect the diocese’s, and perhaps the Anglican Church of Canada’s standing on similar Communion councils.

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November 13 2010 | Articles

Can the Instruments of Unity Be Repaired?

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Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

When the turmoil surrounding Gene Robinson’s consent and consecration arose in 2003, everyone knew that the Anglican Communion was in for some rough times. But even more pessimistic observers believed that these times would be relatively limited, and that somehow the Communion would muddle towards some stabilizing resolution. Few could have imagined how quickly and how completely the organizations that held the Communion together would fragment and crumble. Yet this is where we have arrived: a seemingly single incident in one small corner of the global church’s reach has managed to unravel centuries of common bonds and shared witness to Christ.

At this point, all the so-called Instruments of the Unity for the Anglican Communion are broken, some, it seems to me, beyond any hope of repair. What can be done about this? The four Instruments – the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) and the Primates’ Meeting (in order of their founding) – have each, in different ways and together, been key means by which Anglicans around the world, drawn from their various migrational and missionary origins, have grown into a vital communion of churches. And this Communion has been characterized by elements unique, admired, and even desired still by many non-Anglican Christians. With the demise of the Instruments of Unity, the question of the Anglican Communion’s survival and vocation is necessarily raised.

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October 05 2010 | Articles

Owning one’s own actions with grace: Presiding Bishop Schori and the Archbishop of Canterbury

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Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Over the past few weeks, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (TEC), Katharine Jefferts Schori, has responded pointedly to the removal of TEC’s members from Anglican Communion commissions dealing with ecumenical relations and matters of the Communion’s “faith and order”. The removal itself was announced at the end of May in a letter to the Communion by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. It was later explicated by the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Canon Kenneth Kearon, during visits to the Canadian church’s General Synod, and TEC’s Executive Council. At issue, of course, is TEC’s decision earlier this year, to go forward with the consecration of a partnered lesbian, Mary Glasspool, as a bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles. And this decision, according to Achbishop Williams and Canon Kearon, is one that goes counter to a consistently articulated position by Communion councils. These councils have, over and over, insisted that church affirmations of same-sex partnerships are, on the basis of Scriptural teaching, contrary to the “mind of the Communion”, and therefore that e.g. the consecration of partnered homosexual bishops and church-administered same-sex blessings should cease among member churches.

Presiding Bishop Schori’s response has criticized Archbishop Williams’ decision on several grounds. Here, let me address just three of her objections: first, that the Archbishop’s actions represent a move towards “centralization” within the Communion, viewed especially in terms of the application of “sanctions” against member churches; second, that in removing TEC members from the Communion commissions in question, the Archbishop has somehow acted as if the proposed Anglican Covenant now before the Communion’s churches were already in effect when it is not; third, that a proper understanding of the Communion’s life would entail the maintenance of diversity among Anglican churches, rather than the (punitive) pursuit of “uniformity”.

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June 29 2010 | Articles

Ten Years and a New Anglican Congregationalism

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Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

It is ten years since Anglicanism’s current travails were formally inaugurated with the formation of an alternative “Communion” church in North America, the Anglican Mission in America. Not the cause, it was nonetheless the first major sign that “communion” was no longer a given in Anglicanism, but something to be variously asserted, antagonistically claimed, and built up or torn down as the case may be. And after ten years, I think it necessary to say that most of the work thus far has been one of tearing down. Tearing down, but also of exposing new things and clearer lines of calling, so that what had been emerging as a communion might now be seen as demanding deeper commitment for its flourishing than anybody had imagined. The work that many of us have been doing out of a commitment to the traditional Christian faith as Anglicans (and others) had received it has been worth the effort, and continues to be demanded. But what we are seeing, especially as Christian communion is being assaulted not only from within the Church, but more importantly by a rapidly dissolving Christian culture in the West, is that there are deeper roots to put down and nourish than we had perhaps first thought.

The tearing down, in any case, is what is most obvious, perhaps, to outsiders or onlookers from within. One by one, for instance, the so-called “Instruments of Unity” for Anglicans around the world have been eroded in their perceived integrity, and certainly in their effectiveness.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, over the past decade (from Lord Carey through Rowan Williams), has issued pleas, statements, constructive ideas, hopes. But when, last month, a schedule conflict, not to mention in any case the ash of an Icelandic volcano, kept him from the South to South Encounter of non-Western churches in Singapore, the transient and quivering video image of his unfocused greeting was symbolically all that was left of his presence to an increasingly estranged majority of world Anglicans. For whatever reasons – the constraint imposed on Lambeth’s voice by America’s money monopoly on Communion bureaucracy, loyalties divided between Britain and Communion, mixed convictions within his own mind, an under-appreciation of the demanded influence of his own witness? — ten years of people all going their own way has rendered the moral authority of his voice almost inaudible.

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May 25 2010 | Articles

“The Anglican Covenant: Where Do We Go From Here?”: A further comment

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Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

There is general agreement, I would guess, amongst more traditional Anglicans, that the current set-up for the implementation of the Covenant is flawed, and that especially the ordering of the ACC’s Standing Committee in this implementing process is so confused and liable now to engendering such further distrust amongst churches as to demand rethinking.  That […]

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February 02 2010 | Articles

The New Season: The Emerging Shape of Anglican Mission

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Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Advent now shifts into the manifestation of God’s good will in the Nativity feast. So too the church takes its self-scrutiny and penitence, and turns in hope to the gift of God’s own and new life among us.

The final text of the Anglican Covenant has now been sent out for adoption by the churches of the Communion. The slow process by which this text and its official dissemination for action has occurred has frustrated some, yet its persistent progress forward to this point at last puts the lie to the naysayers and early eulogists of the Covenant’s purpose. Joined to the restarting of the Anglican-Roman Catholic international dialogue, to be focused on substantive matters of ecclesiology and moral decision-making, what seemed merely slow now appears to be the visible sign of a tectonic shift in global Anglicanism and Christianity itself. It is one in which the Episcopal Church in the United States has placed itself on the far side of a widening channel separating the ballast of Christian witness, Catholic and Pentecostal, from marginal spin-offs of liberal Protestantism in decline.

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December 22 2009 | Articles

The Organizational Basis of the Anglican Communion: A Theological Consideration

Written by:
Thursday, July 9th, 2009

The proposed covenanting of Anglican churches that is embodied in the Covenant “process” now before the Anglican Communion has brought to the fore an important question: what is the appropriate “church” body to adopt the Covenant? Is it a province or a diocese? The question has already stirred acrimony in debate, because it is seen to touch at least two current sore spots in the Communion’s life: that is, the status of churches who a.) have left TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, gone “under” the temporary jurisdiction of non-North American provinces, and are now forming a “new” North American province (ACNA), and b.) those dioceses within TEC whose bishops would like, if necessary, to covenant directly with other Anglican churches around the world, independently of their province’s decision on the matter. The issue of ecclesial status within the Communion raised by these cases is potentially fraught with legal and property implications, and therefore the theological issues behind it have been only partially examined in their own right. Yet the theological aspects are wide-reaching, touching not only on local and Communion ecclesial ordering, but on the character and shape of ecumenical vocation.

It was the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who personally pointed to the theological matter. In a letter of October 14, 2007 to Bishop John Howe of Central Florida, designed to be made public, the Archbishop made a more political point regarding the need for congregations to remain bound to their diocese. But he upheld this advice with an ecclesiological claim: “The organ of union with the wider Church is the Bishop and the Diocese rather than the Provincial structure as such…[there is a …] need to regard the Bishop and the Diocese as the primary locus of ecclesial identity rather than the abstract reality of the ‘national church’.” Here the Archbishop makes several important assertions: first, ecclesial unity is given directly through a bishop and diocese, not a province; second, by consequence, provincial “structures” are not organs of unity “as such”; thirdly, “national churches” are somehow equivalent in this regard to “provinces”; and fourthly, the “abstraction” of a national church may even therefore apply, in its lack of ecclesiological concreteness, to provinces.

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July 09 2009 | Articles

BLESSING: A Scriptural and Theological Reflection

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Thursday, June 18th, 2009

In May, 2007 the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada issued a Pastoral Statement on same-sex blessings. At the end of the statement, the bishops made the following request:

“Looking ahead, we ask the Primate and General Synod for a report on:

1. The theological question whether the blessing of same-sex unions is a faithful, Spirit-led development of Christian doctrine (St. Michael Report)
2. The implications of the blessing of same-sex unions and /or marriage for our church and the Communion (The Windsor Report)
3. Scripture’s witness to the integrity of every human person and the question of the sanctity of human relationships.”

The reflections that follow are a contribution to the discussion that this requested report has engendered. Rather than look broadly at the question of same-sex blessings, my remarks concentrates on the Scriptural meaning of blessing as it has been taken up by the Church, and provides some preliminary evaluations of how this meaning applies to the question of same-sex blessings.

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June 18 2009 | Articles

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