Comments: ecclesiastical autonomy

My initial, ungenerous reaction to Pearce's article was that it was stating the obvious: i.e. he takes sixteenth-century concepts of ecclesiastical sovereignty, applies them to twentieth-century concepts of ecclesiastical federation, and concludes (surprise, surprise) that the two do not fit comfortably together. If canon law hasn't adapted itself to the modern realities of the Anglican Communion, then that is not a problem for the Anglican Communion, it is a problem for canon law.

But on second thoughts I decided I was being unfair. There is lots of fascinating stuff in here. In particular, it should cause liberals to look more warmly on the established status of the Church of England, since one implication of the article is that establishment could be used to prevent more conservative forms of Protestantism from being imported into the English Church. (Incidentally, I wonder what J.C Fisher thinks of that? She has repeatedly argued, in comments on this site, that the English bishops are parking their tanks on the Americans' lawn; whereas the implication of Pearce's article is that it is the other way round, i.e. it is the Church of England whose ecclesiastical autonomy is being threatened by the aggressive tactics of other churches.)

And in the final analysis, maybe Pearce is right: maybe the only solution is to go back to a sixteenth-century system of autonomous national churches, even if this does involve the collapse of the Anglican Communion as presently constituted. Let the Church of England legislate for the Church of England, and leave the Americans to settle their own schisms.

Posted by Andrew Conway at Monday, 7 March 2005 at 3:03pm GMT
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