Anglican Communion: Long Term Solutions not Dissolution

A paper written just prior to the Primate's Meeting at Lambeth

Dr David Jenkins, a former Bishop of Durham, is disillusioned with the Anglican Communion and suggests its dissolution (The Times, 13 October 2003). He considers that the churches should concentrate on mission and serving the flock within their national boundaries.

This emphasis on nationalism is unhelpful for several reasons. Firstly, international mission support. On 22nd April 1989 there was an assassination attempt on the life of Dr David Gitari, Bishop of Mount Kenya East. He had taken a courageous stand on issues of local, national and international justice. Within a day, support for Dr Gitari came flooding in from around the Anglican Communion and it became clear that he did not stand alone. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has told of similar crucial support in his battle against apartheid. Dr Robert Runcie commented: "It told the regime, touch Desmond Tutu and you touch the whole Anglican Communion."

Secondly, limits to mission inculturation. The good news does need to be earthed deeply in local cultures, so that people feel at home and that they know that the good news comes from God rather than from another country. However there are limits, and often these limits are best seen by outsiders. A woman once entered a committee room where people had been smoking for many hours and said: 'It's smoky in here'. She was asked: 'how do you know, you've only just come in?' In engaging with gay cultures in the USA, it is appropriate that Anglicans from other cultures, as well as from the USA, question whether the consecration of an actively gay bishop goes beyond the limits of inculturation.

Thirdly, we have need of each other fully to discover the whole gospel. Paul says to the Corinthians: "the eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you.'"

If dissolution is not right, what about two other solutions to the present crisis which have been offered? Dr Tom Wright, the current Bishop of Durham, has already criticized the setting up of a third province: it would marginalize those who entered it, weaken the mainstream body and split evangelicals. Finally, a formal 'traditionalist' schism would be fissiparous, for splits lead to further splits. There have already been nearly 40 splinter groups amongst traditionalists who have split from ECUSA over the ordination of women.

There is an important difference between 'urgency' and 'hurry'. Anglican ecclesiology should not be worked out 'on the hoof' in a couple of months. There have been serious problems surrounding the Act of Synod concerning women's ordination. If it were announced from Lambeth Palace that Gene Robinson would not be invited to Lambeth 2008, nor any other bishop consecrated under similar circumstances, then that would be a major discipline and challenge to the Episcopal Church in the USA and allow time for serious theological work.

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