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 The Anglican Communion

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PostSubject: The Anglican Communion   Mon Jul 14, 2008 12:48 am

Many of here will have in recent weeks the crashing pace at which the Anglican Church appears to be splitting itself at the seams. This is an issue which I hold a keen interest in and have followed it developing over a period of years. Whilst not a member of the Church of Ireland (the Anglican Church in Ireland) I do have intimate engagement with that Church owing to the close ties between it and my own (the Methodist Church) as well as many family links.

Wars within the Anglican Communion are nothing new. In fact the current situation can really be traced to the ordination of of women in the early 1990s and back further to the 1970s when the debate on the ordination of women first reached the attention of synods, the governing parliaments of Anglican Churches. The issues presently facing the Anglican Communion today are the continuation of the debates surrounding women ordinands and particularly these days, bishops. As well as the public arguments over the ordination of homosexual clergy, particularly practising homosexual clergy.

However, the above issues often act as a proxy to underlying issues within Anglicanism. The Anglican Church has often been a paradox, far more so than most Churches. Whilst many denominations have morphed through various stages, often splintering into sets and subsets, Anglicanism has somehow managed to keep it together. The peculiar nature of Anglicanism can really be traced to its historical roots. It is of course, not a true reformation Church, when one examines its roots. It was the construction of a devoutly Catholic - in terms of most of his belief and practise - king who had a falling out with the Vatican. It entered internal reformation and counter reformation throughout the ages, possibly the most significant being that under Edward when the Book of Common Prayer was introduced, a far more Reformed, than Catholic publication.

The Anglican Church then progressed as a two pronged body, somewhat Catholic, yet somewhat reformed. That was of course, complicated further by latter Reformations within Protestantism, by revivals of various nature, by 19th and 20th century movements and thinking, particularly the development of the 'evangelical movement', by immigration and the establishment of pentecostalism and so on. What might be considered remarkable is that the Church managed to hold it together at all. Each of the above, and indeed more, had its influence on the Church. Of course this influence was not in a homogenous manner, whereby the Church came together as one but rather with the development of sets and subsets within the Church itself.

It has tempted to bubble to the surface many times in recent decades, but now seems to be somewhat of a turning point. This year is the year of the Lambeth Conference, a once a decade symposium of Anglicanism. All the Primates, Archbishops and many Bishops do - or at least traditionally did - descend on Lambeth, the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury in London to discuss, debate and share the future of their Communion. However, much has occurred since the last Lambeth Conference. In particular, moves in certain provinces (countries) towards the ordination of women as bishops and in particular, the controversy regarding the consecration of Gene Robinson, an openly homosexual clergyman in a homosexual relationship, as bishop of New Hampshire.

In response to this ordination a number of new organisations have been developed, most particularly GAFCON, an organisation fronted by the Primate of Nigeria and the Archbishop of Sydney, Australia. This organisation, highly motivated and resourced, has in recent weeks, virtually declared war on the Anglican Communion as it stands. They are preparing a situation whereby Anglican Churches which are not comfortable within their diocese or province, might withdraw from it and put itself under the protection of 'foreign' bishops. Essentially, imagine your local Church of Ireland Church of Ballygabackwards, Diocese of Lagos. GAFCON claims to have the support of a large percentage of Anglicans worldwide and all the bishops etc associated it have boycotted the Lambeth Conference - despite the Archbishop of Canterbury already removing invitation from Bishop Gene Robinson. However, despite this boycott, the Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, is currently swannig around England - his intention, who knows.

This is an interesting development and one wonders how it will pan out, nobody really knows - certainly not until the conclusion of the Lambeth Conference, or what is left of it. What effect it will have on the Church of Ireland? Who knows really. All the Church of Ireland representatives who are eligible to attend have stated that they are attending, though there were murmours of discontent from Harold Miller, the Bishop of Down and Dromore. The COI has been, for the most part, a fairly homogenous group. There is certainly a different dimension between the Church in the North and in the Republic. However, this has been fairly well contained. That is up to now, there are now, various factions at work, many with links to the Archbishop of Sydney, who are well resourced and are brewing behind the scenes in the COI.

The ultimate outcome for the COI? Unclear at this stage, there may be some defections and alignments with GAFCON, but I predict as a whole, it will hold together and probably follow the same route as its English counterpart does, whatever that is.

-----

Some may be interested in witnessing the veracity of this debate within the Anglican Church in the form of a heckler at a church service, carried out by Gene Robinson in London this very evening. It is major news on the television, BBC and Sky.

Embedding has been disabled from the youtube clip but you can view it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syPxdrxne-o
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglican Communion   Mon Jul 14, 2008 12:53 am

Very interesting johnfas. It makes me think for some reason of Sarko's EuroMed. Do you think the whole high and low Church thing will end in schism?

There was a reference on a news I was watching last night ( I think a US station) that said the Pope had ticked off the Church of England for allowing ordination of women. It concluded somewhat wryly "The Church of England left the Catholic Church 400 years ago".
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglican Communion   Mon Jul 14, 2008 1:04 am

I think the Pope has a duty to tick off, merely as an expression of protecting his faith. I noticed at the time of the vote to accept the consecration of Women Bishops (a move already made in many of the Anglican Provinces, Ireland included) the Vatican stated that it would be a stumbling block to ecumenical engagement. That may be the case, but I would highlight that the Methodist Church has no bishops, we ordain women and we have no block on them attaining the highest office within our Church. Despite that, we have excellent relations with the Catholic Church, particularly on a local level, but also on a macro level. A personal friend of our family - a female - in fact heads the worldwide Methodist committee for engagement with the Vatican. She gets along great with Benedict!

I think the issue runs deeper than high and low Church cactus. It is that, on a some levels. However, how do you define the 'Evangelical' wing of the Church, which is as 'low' as the liberal wing, yet seemingly entirely opposite. I don't think we're going to see a schism along the lines of the Henrician Reformation, what has the potential to emerge is far more complicated. A hotch potch of different groupings, half in, half out of various Communions. It would, in my opinion, render the Anglican communion, useless in terms of proactively engaging on the world stage. That said, so much of Christianity is local, so I am quite sure that aspect would continue!

I don't see the COI splitting, it is one of the more homogenous Anglican Churches. I do see congregations within the COI fragmenting and causing an awful lot of hassle though - aligning themselves with foreign provinces and so on.

I would say though, that whilst the Anglican Church appears a complete mess, partly because of the manner in which they approached the various subjects - these are issues though which are going to have to be debated in all the Churches.
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglican Communion   Mon Jul 14, 2008 1:25 am

A report from C4 is now available to embed

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PostSubject: Re: The Anglican Communion   Tue Jul 15, 2008 2:54 am

Thanks for that C4 clip Johnfas, missed the news this evening. (was that Revd Giles Fraser of Putney and the Guardian in the background of Bishop Robinson's speech?).
I am not particularly religious, so really won't comment on any of this, though of course, can't escape daily reports of the CoE happenings here.

(... Do you happen to know where the film mentioned in the report is being shown? will google in the morning anyway, but if you know more about it. Would be interested in attending tomorrow night if it is open to the public, but presumably it isn't. )

I also watched The Quran on C4 tonight, dunno if any of you guys saw it. I think most religions experience all kinds of ongoing debates / disagreements / divisions. The Shia / Sunni divide seems particularly lethal and I think we Westerners are now caught up in that. It's funny though how the same two issues - women and homesexuality - seem to be such major issues for a lot of religious denominations - I was going to say for all religions, but I don't know if that's the case so I won't say it. Certainly for the monotheistic "Abrahamic" religions anyway. I think this Liberal / traditionalist tension is present in all 3 at the moment - Christianity, Judaism and Christianity. I guess this globalised world has just gone way too fast for a lot of people in recent years? Certainly, in all 3 faiths, it seems ( I can only go on what I read in the media ) that "the force" so to speak is with the traditionalist impulse at the moment. I could go on about different methods of interpretation etc but that's for a different thread.

( PS - I love English (ie CoE in 99% of cases) churches. They are not like Catholic churches in Ireland. Yes i mean it from a touristic / historical sense but anyway, I always visit the local church and churchyard, wherever I am in England . Was in Somerset recently, ah Wells, Chedzoy, 13th century pews, so much history...The brochures on the table and the posters on the wall spoke of their missionary work in Africa, fair trade , a Farmers Help Line for those people in the local rural community who might be in distress and a new Security telephone number which related to the current massive outbreak of robbery of copper and lead from churches. )

How do you think the Archbishop has handled all of this Johnfas? Could anyone really have handled it any better? I rem. my paper, the Guardian, practically wetting itself upon his accession, but that all looks pretty parochial in retrospect.


Last edited by Atticus on Tue Jul 15, 2008 3:17 am; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : spelling)
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglican Communion   Tue Jul 15, 2008 1:23 pm

I suppose Christianity displaced a lot of angry goddesses Atticus. We will be avenged ! Very Happy

Mariolitry is a poor substitute.
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglican Communion   Tue Jul 15, 2008 1:41 pm

Atticus wrote:
(was that Revd Giles Fraser of Putney and the Guardian in the background of Bishop Robinson's speech?).

The very man. Decent chap.

Atticus wrote:
(... Do you happen to know where the film mentioned in the report is being shown? will google in the morning anyway, but if you know more about it. Would be interested in attending tomorrow night if it is open to the public, but presumably it isn't. )

I hadn't heard of it actually, though I would be interested in seeing it. Google is your best bet.

Atticus wrote:
How do you think the Archbishop has handled all of this Johnfas? Could anyone really have handled it any better? I rem. my paper, the Guardian, practically wetting itself upon his accession, but that all looks pretty parochial in retrospect.

I really do feel terrible sympathy for Rowan Williams at the moment. He is such a gentleman and he is a truly excellent academic. However, being the leader of the Church is as much about politics as it is about theology and faith. Perhaps unfortunately. I believe that is his downfall. There are forces at work in the worldwide communion which are adept at playing the Church politics game - at using him when they want to and then brushing him aside when they don't.

Rowan's primary aim seems to be to keep the Anglican Communion together. It is certainly a noble aim and it demonstrates his deep commitment to the Communion. However, it is winning him no favours on either side. Perhaps that is a good thing, it places him above the partisan politics of the Communion. Perhaps however, schism is actually a good thing as it would draw a line under the whole situation.

Time will tell, but I think the archbishop deserves all the thoughts in the world, quite honestly.
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