Anglicanism, ChurchNerd, Uncategorized

UnAnglican: How GAFCON’s Ecclesiology is Breaking the Communion.

It doesn’t surprise me when the mainstream media gets coverage of Anglican polity wrong. The Washington Post’s horrendous coverage of the 2016 Primate’s announcement has caused more consternation and than is necessary, and many in the Church are rightly pointing out just how wrong WaPo got it, and why we shouldn’t hail this as the end of TEC’s time in the Communion.

What I am seeing discussed in Church circles, by and large, are questions of Authority, How little or how much does this mean? What power do the Primates actually have?

The general consensus is; It hurts a lot, but doesn’t really mean much.

Bishop Curry has been wonderful in couching this in explicitly Biblical terms, and for the first time in my life as an Episcopalian I’ve been proud of the way we’ve borne the shocks of being called out on a worldwide stage.

I think that’s because we’ve stepped off the defensive. At this moment in our life together we are clearer than we’ve ever been about our vocation to extend the love of Christ unequivocally to all, and are articulating it in positive theological terms that speaks powerfully to the world around us. Suddenly we feel like a Church with a voice.

And we’re going to need to hold on to that voice, because I don’t think things are about to get easier for us, or for the Communion.

I sincerely encourage everyone interested in whats happening now to go back and read The Jerusalem Declaration issued by the GAFCON provinces in 2008. What it proposes is the clearest articulation of the ecclesiology that is being pushed by very vocal providences in the Global South, and we have done a very bad job of contending with it at all. To operate like there is at all a consensus about what Anglican ecclesiology does or should look like is to bury our head in the sand, and to ensure that what happened at this years Primate’s conference is something that keeps happening. 

Within the declaration, interspersed between benign language about the Lordship and saving work of Christ, are claims that need to be called out for what they are: Foreign to Anglicanism as it has existed as a historic Communion.

For example:

6.) We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture.

This runs against the fundamental concept of subsidiarity, with individual provinces abilities to formulate liturgy independently of one another. It invalidates the Book of Common Prayer in; The United States (Every book since 1789), Scotland, New Zealand, Mexico, and Chile among others…

The ability of independent Provinces to revise their own liturgies substantially predates the publication of the 1662 BCP, and to set a Communion-wide standard is an innovation that runs against what has been true since the 17th century.

It can’t be disputed that the 1662 was the Book of the British empire, and holds a dear place in the GAFCON provinces, the desire to set a standardized BCP across provinces betrays an impulse for standardization that I doubt few American (or Scottish, for that matter) Anglicans share.

The statement about the Ordinal follows the same lines. While the American Ordinal is built around the 1662, the differences are enough as to be profound.

The statement that, “We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation. The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading.” Implies another assumed norm that simply doesn’t exist. When read as a statement pointed toward concerns over Sexuality it has a bit of a firmer foundation, but taken as a stand alone statement it borders on being disingenuous that the Church is at all (or ever has been) remotely uniform in its reading of Scripture.

I would like to believe that the GAFCON primates wouldn’t be so naive.

The Jerusalem Declaration is an affirmation of an Anglicanism that has never existed. It assumes authority that hasn’t been exercised sense before the American Revolution, and it sets it as the sine qua non for Communion.

It isn’t Anglican.

It isn’t, but it could be.

We’re going to need to watch this like a hawk. We have to be able to call out this innovative and destructive ecclesiology whenever and wherever we see it, because letting it creep into our common life together is to see what happened this year intensify in years to come.

This means we have to stay at the table. And we need to fight like hell to retain our vote while we’re there.

When the Archbishop of Uganda left the Primates conference he did so because he was disappointed that the Primates didn’t exercise an authority that they did not have. 

Foley Beach is calling for more sanctions, when the Primates are unclear about their ability to give real sanctions in the first place.

GAFCON has been telling us that this is what they’re after since 2008. It’s time to call their ecclesiological claims what they are: Unfounded in history. Ungrounded in our common heritage. UnAnglican.

 

 

 

 

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