Wednesday, October 26, 2005

anglicanism's three options, routes & destinies -- by fr. peter toon

The Anglican Way is no longer an unified way and looks like it will soon end up in three parts, with a lot of messiness around the parts!

Since the ordination of women entered into the practice of Anglican provinces twenty or more years ago, the Anglican Family has been suffering from increasing internal strains, crises and divisions. These problems and pains have been exacerbated by the multiplication of liturgies and rites, and the setting aside of the classic Formularies of the Anglican Way by provinces in the West (e.g., USA, West Indies, Wales & Ireland). The Formularies served as identifiers and unifiers of Anglicanism. And the internal dysfunctionality has been much increased and polarized in the last few years by major differences over sexual ethics and practice and what the Scriptures and tradition have to say in these matters.

The so-called Instruments of Unity (Archbishop of Canterbury, Lambeth Conference, Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting) are seemingly powerless to do other than make statements and call for actions. They cannot heal the divisions but may serve to make them worse.

What are the three routes being taken?

First of all, there is the route to the Vatican City in Rome. A growing number of Anglican groups such as the Forward in Faith Movement of the UK and the Traditional Anglican Communion are pressing for a uniate status with Rome. They wish to maintain an Anglican identity that is doctrinally at one with Rome and to be under the protection of the Roman See and thus in communion with all parts of the Roman Church. It seems likely that more and more Anglo-Catholics (e.g., the diocese of Fort Worth) will be drawn into this movement. It already has a basic Liturgy approved by the Vatican and used in a dozen or so parishes in the USA and so it seems all set to move forward with many converts in the next five or so years. Will the Vatican receive it?

Secondly, there is the route into progressive liberalism, which is currently the position of the majority of the synods of the Anglican provinces of the West/North. The ecclesial center will be the See of Canterbury but the leader of this attempt to make the Anglican Way conform to the “enlightened” culture of the West will be the Episcopal Church of the USA, followed by the Church in Canada, Churches in the UK & Ireland, the Churches in Australia and New Zealand and so on. Churches in Latin America and in Southern Africa will probable also opt for this route. So this association is and will be a mixed bag but united in efforts to be relevant and contemporary and to avoid at all costs to be traditionalist and old fashioned. And since it will hold the title-deeds to much property and financial trusts, it will be able to continue in existence even where those attending its places of worship are few..

Thirdly there is the evangelical route already being taken by Churches in Africa (e.g., Nigeria and Uganda) and Asia. In terms of numbers this association, which claims to be based upon the Bible and the Formularies of the Anglican Way, is and will be the largest of the Anglican identities. From the West it will have only small numbers of adherents (those who have separated from the progressive liberal provinces) for its vast membership will be African and Asian. Financially, it will be the poorest of the three routes but it will be very evangelistic, ever looking to grow in maturity and numbers. It will develop a center somewhere in a city of Africa to hold its minimal organization.

Around and between these three basic associations and routes, there will be a lot of confusion, pain and mess, individual, family, congregational and corporate. A few provinces (e.g., West Indies) will not be sure which route to take for they are internally divided over the issues. People in the progressively liberal provinces will feel a great pull to stay where they are because of long and deep ties to sacred buildings and local cemeteries and burial plots. Then clergy in these same provinces will think a lot about their retirement plans and the like. Not a few Anglo-Catholics will feel torn between going with their fellow believers to Rome and remaining as Anglicans but in a charismatic or evangelical ethos. Evangelical Episcopalians will hesitate at the prospect of being under an African bishop on a permanent basis. And so on!

In summary. It seems that the centrifugal forces evident in what was the Anglican Communion of Churches are now so strong that no centripetal forces exist to counter them. A falling apart seems inevitable and many cracks are visible now. To predict the result of the demise of the centripetal forces and the triumph of the centrifugal ones is dangerous, but I have suggested that there will be three identifiable pieces of Anglicanism with a lot of little bits around them! My prediction will probably be proved to be wrong. After all, only God the Omniscient One, knows.

From the Prayer Book Society Blog.


Thorpus said...

This is a trenchant analysis. I haven't heard anyone else thinking along these lines, but Fr. Toon seems to have hit the nail on the head. But what a tragedy if this prediction comes true! What will be the hope for Anglican reunion or renewal? Where will be the strongest claim to historical continuity with the Church of England, whence comes our historical Catholicity? One could do an end-run around that problem, of course, by going to Rome. But what then will be the ecclesiological status of the other two remaining churches? Is it enough to be staunchly Evangelical if you are thinly Catholic; or to be staunchly Catholic (in following the ABC whomever he may be) if you are thinly Orthodox; or to be firmly Catholic and firmly Orthodox and thinly Anglican? It is this messiness that strikes me as most prophetic in Fr. Toon's prediction. Since schisms are scarcely ever clean-cut, there may be some truth to the Ockham's-razor-like assertion that the messiest prediction, at this point, will tend to be the most accurate in the long run.

And would any of these resulting churches have a claim to indefectability?

father wb said...

My attitude has always been that there is no point in being Anglican (or anything else) unless it enables one to be Catholic. Part of the point of this blog, initially, was that I thought - but now hope more than think - that Anglicanism was a viable context for authentically catholic Christianity, perhaps the best context out there. Given the ecclesio-theological playing-out of GC 2003 (to say nothing of the moral playing-out; and I'm not just talking about sexuality), this assumption is looking less and less justified. I guess we'll see as early as June, but certainly by Lambeth 2008. Maybe catholicity is impossible apart from Peter's heir, the Patriarch of the West. I'm thinking more and more that such is the case.

Becca said...

Peter Toon has always had a discerning eye in the church and I fear his analysis may be true. It is a very sad state of affairs ... and if Toon is right, the evangelical option for us is somewhat disturbing. I have no contention at all, in fact have a great deal of sympathy, with Anglican Catholics and I have few arguments with what we used to call Broad Churchmen; so, it will be a loss not to stand together ... side by side for the Gospel ... rather than in separate camps.

Anonymous said...

Sorry WB,

You are not Catholic. To be Catholic you have to be in Communion with Rome. All Anglicans orders were voided with Apostolicae Curae in 1896.

A Concerned Catholic Hoping for WB's Conversion

W.M. said...

Rut, Rut, Rut

Richard said...

Our anonymous friend said:

"All Anglicans orders were voided with Apostolicae Curae in 1896."

which would suggest that they were valid beforehand. Given that, thanks to the Dutch Touch, they've been valid again since the 1930s, it would seem that Anglican orders were void for 40 years. Ah well!