Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Guess who's idea it was to form the Anglican Commuinon ...

Dr. Robert Prichard is professor of church history at Virginia Theological Seminary. He writes a fascinating overview on how the Anglican Communion was actually created and how the surprising leadership speerheading the birth of the Communion came not from England but, yes, from The Episcopal Church in the United States.


Dr. Prichard writes:
Dr. Bob Prichard
There may be good reasons for opposing the adoption of the proposed Anglican Covenant but an appeal to the perpetual independence of the Episcopal Church and a characterization of the Anglican Communion as an incursion of ambitious archbishops of Canterbury seeking to snare unsuspecting Americans certainly is not one of them. On the contrary, American Episcopalians should look with pride on the role that they have played in the creation of the Anglican Communion. The repeated American initiatives over the middle decades of the 19th century have much to do with the existence of the Anglican Communion. And the idea that Anglican Communion bodies might be appropriate fora in which to discuss matters of common theological concern is hardly a new concept created in order to combat American views on sexuality; it was an idea already present in the thinking of some American Episcopalians well before the first gathering of the Lambeth Conference in 1867.

Please read it all - very much worth the read!!  Read it all here.

4 comments:

jschwarz42 said...

[Part 1] An interesting and informative article. But as to seemingly its main point...

"There may be good reasons for opposing the adoption of the proposed Anglican Covenant but an appeal to the perpetual independence of the Episcopal Church and a characterization of the Anglican Communion as an incursion of ambitious archbishops of Canterbury seeking to snare unsuspecting Americans certainly is not one of them."

Agreed (particularly about there being good reasons to oppose the Covenant!). But I don't know ANYONE opposed to the Covenant, actually within TEC as opposed to journalists, who is arguing this. No one wants "independence" - in the sense of being separate, not talking with one other or sharing mission, or denying a sense of mutual inter-dependence as parts of the Body of Christ. What many of us object to, mainly, is the punitive nature of the proposed Covenant (in ALL its drafts, including the most recent), and its fundamental assumption that a majority should be able to gang up on a fellow church and limit its AUTONOMY - and "punish" any reluctance to bend to the "majority will". That is incompatible with Communion and is (I would suggest) incompatible with any true sense of "Covenant". (Autonomy is not the same as "independence").

It is now quite apparent that those parts of the AC who are now in GAFCON have valued the Covenant, not for its potential as an "instrument of unity", but for its potential as another hammer with which to hit the wicked Americans and Canadians. This is apparent from the fact that so many of these bodies have themselves rejected the latest form of the Covenant, on the basis that it was insufficiently "punitive" for their tastes - and would afford insufficient opportunity to bring the Americans and Canadian Churches to their knees and "repent"! [cont. Part 2]

Peace,
John

jschwarz42 said...

[Part 2] "On the contrary, American Episcopalians should look with pride on the role that they have played in the creation of the Anglican Communion." (And in the financing in recent years, come to that!) I again agree. And I (for one) do have pride in this role played by TEC historically, and in its contributions - not just in the creation but in bringing with it to the Communion the sense of democratic values that TEC has always distinctively shown in its own Anglicanism.

And I also have pride in the role that TEC is playing, and the contribution that it is offering, TODAY: namely, prophetically showing and offering to the rest of the AC community, through developments in our own corporate life together as church, new insights and ways for understanding things like the God-given value of human relationships, sexuality, and marriage - even if, as in earlier areas of democratic values and and the proper role of women, many (maybe even most, though in decreasing numbers) parts of the AC churches are (i) slow to appreciate the value of these contributions (which is their prerogative) and are (ii) still talking too loudly themselves in their own self-certainty to want to listen or engage in real conversation with anyone who has found the Spirit leading them in a different way.

"And the idea that Anglican Communion bodies might be appropriate fora in which to discuss matters of common theological concern...." Well no one ever denied that AC bodies would be "good fora" to DISCUSS theological issues. It is indeed through mutual, respectful and honest discussion, "conversation" and listening to one another that we move forward in the Spirit-led path of Truth together, and come to learn from each other through the interplay of one another's own differing, finite, limited and imperfect truths.

The problem comes when some AC "bodies" start talking, not about "discussion", but about being given the power, in some so-called "Covenant", to destroy the very conditions of possibility for true communion and community by exercising a veto-power over the internal spiritual and ecclesiastical life of other national churches - and by "punishing" any such churches that are "disobedient" to the imposition of the others' will (which the Covenant, with all its modifications, still does in the final analysis). The basis for true "communion" lies, not in enforced conformity, but in respectful mutual love, and conversation, and necessarily includes valuing one another's autonomy.

Peace, John

BabyBlue said...

Sounds like your issue is with the Archbishop of Canterbury - the vision for the Covenant is his. He is attempting to help bring TEC back into the fold of the communion, but that is proving difficult, and perhaps impossible. It's hard to have conversation with anyone who believes that what they are doing comes from a direct pipeline to God so that if one disagrees, one is disagreeing with God. I am rather astonished by the fear the Anglican Covenant has sparked in some parts of the leadership of TEC, so much so that there are calls for a Constitution Convention to rewrite the constitution.

bb

jschwarz42 said...

BB: You may say that the "vision is his". But the original idea came from the very conservative Windsor Report group. And I think it would be naive to think that Rowan Williams would have come up with or pushed the idea, except as a desperate way to "hold things together" by TRYING to placate traditionalist forces within the Communion who were mad at the Americans and Canadians. So basically it is THEIR "concerns" that were always the driving force behind it.

The problem is that, in reality, TEC (and the Canadian church) never left "the fold" of the AC - so we really do not need to be "brought back into it"! What happened was that several national church leaders throughout the Communion (as well as several traditionalist factions in the US and Canada) choose to INSIST on VIEWING TEC as "outside the fold" - and DEMANDING that Rowan++ and the other instruments of AC agree to gang up and do something to punish and to stop TEC from doing what TEC (through its own internal processes as a church, even if there was some internal dissent among 10-15% of the membership) had faithfully (whether or not one agrees with it) discerned God to be calling it to do. Now to make those kind of demands and apodictic judgments against the path that another part of the Body of Christ has (after much reasoned and prayerful discernment and listening) faithfully found itself called to follow, THAT is what, to me, shows signs of a faction that "believes that what they are doing comes from a direct pipeline to God so that if one disagrees, one is disagreeing with God"!

There has been a lot of arrogance and posturing on both "sides" over the years. But, throughout, what I have seen in TEC leadership is primarily a constant, respectful desire to explain and to engage in dialogue - a desire which seems mostly to have been routinely rebuffed by other Anglican leaders who clearly do not want dialogue, but just want TEC, like a small child in a dysfunctional family, to "shut up and do what you are told"! No one in TEC has seriously suggested that TEC is not, or that it does not fervently wish to be, still "in the fold" with the rest of the Communion (although one does occasionally hear some frustration with AC among those in the pews!). And Resolution 2009-D025, in its first 3 clauses, strongly affirmed TEC's desire to remain "within the fold" (and to continue its financial support!) The problem is those factions within AC (and within breakaway factions in this country) who insist on seeing "being within the fold" in a narrow way that mostly seems to require unquestioning "obedience" and conformity.

Peace, John