"The Archbishop of Canterbury: Dissolving the Anglican Church to Save It"
"Justin Welby will reportedly try to preserve the group of churches, shaken by fights over homosexuality, by loosening its ties."To which the world yawns and asks, "Who cares?"
To be honest, being "in communion" with the worldwide Anglican Communion has never been all that important to me during my lifetime in the Episcopal church. Perhaps that feeling is common in Episcopal circles, and perhaps this is one of the reasons why the Episcopal church has strayed so far from its erstwhile communion partners around the world: they and their opinions have not been felt to be important, which is not the way we are supposed to feel now is it?
Just what is this Anglican Communion supposed to be anyway? Anglicancommunion.org puts it this way,
"The 1930 Lambeth Conference described the Anglican Communion as a 'fellowship, within the one holy catholic and apostolic church, of those duly constituted dioceses, provinces or regional churches in communion with the see of Canterbury.'" - Colin Buchanan, Historical Dictionary of AnglicanismNow:
"Today the Anglican Communion is 38 autonomous national and regional Churches plus six Extra Provincial Churches and dioceses; all of which are in Communion - in a reciprocal relationship - with the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the Communion's spiritual head.The four attributes of the Church, "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic", are things that Lambeth 1930 and we claim to believe each time we recite the Nicene Creed.
There is no Anglican central authority such as a pope. Each Church makes its own decisions in its own ways, guided by recommendations from the Lambeth Conference, Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates' Meeting and the Archbishop of Canterbury." (the so-called instruments of communion - UGP)
For the sake of argument, try to answer the following questions,
I would answer that the church is no longer one when its regional churches become so autonomous that significant differences in doctrine appear and false teachings become part of their formal structure.
- When is a church no longer one?
- When is a church no longer holy?
- When is a church no longer catholic?
- When is a church no longer apostolic?
I would answer that a church is no longer holy when it rejects one or more of the teachings of Christ.
I would answer that a church is no longer catholic (universal) when its autonomous churches start acting as though they were each their own universe, and these universes collide.
I would answer that a church is no longer apostolic when it rejects one or more of the teachings of the apostles.
Unfortunately, a few of the churches in the current Anglican Communion have lost one or more of the attributes of the Church, and I will leave it up to the reader to figure out which ones I am thinking about.
Looking again at the 1930 Lambeth Conference definition, I conclude that the Anglican Communion, as it is currently constituted, is a fellowship, outside the one holy catholic and apostolic church.
Even using the looser modern definition, the Anglican Communion is not a communion. For example, when was the last time the Episcopal church made a decision that was guided by recommendations from the Lambeth Conference, Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates' Meeting and the Archbishop of Canterbury?
So, the myth of an Anglican Communion probably should go the way of the Gods of Olympus, and maybe Archbishop Welby's meeting will mark the beginning of its end.
If only Edith Hamilton were still around to write the story in a more entertaining way for future students of Anglican mythology, otherwise it is going to read more like a Shakespearean tragedy which will be entertaining but in a different way.