Thinking Anglicans

A better future for the Anglican Communion?

Ekklesia has published a detailed analysis of Rowan Williams’ recent Reflections paper, written by Savi Hensman.

See A better future for the Anglican Communion?

Here’s the abstract:

Rowan Williams has recently proposed major changes in the way the Anglican Communion is organised. Because of growing willingness in the Episcopal Church (TEC) to recognise the status and ministry of lesbian and gay people, and the global disagreement on this issue, he is putting forward a “two-track” approach. Provinces such as TEC in North America would not be able to carry out certain functions such as representing the Anglican Communion in ecumenical circles, while those which signed up to a Covenant would have a more central position. This research paper describes the background, examines the evidence on which the Archbishop’s main points are based, discusses their implications, and corrects some mistaken assumptions about history and practice. Inter alia it tackles a number of key theological issues. It suggests that a two-level Communion would be practically and spiritually harmful and suggests a different approach, less focused on institutional structures, that could be more effective in addressing divisions and ultimately enabling Anglicans to move towards a deeper unity.

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Marshall Scott
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I have only had time to skim the paper, but it seems remarkably comprehensive. I only hope Canterbury will read it himself.

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

“Indeed it could be argued that TEC has shown greater commitment to the Anglican Communion than many of its accusers, whose enthusiasm for a Covenant is largely based on the belief (from the actions of the Archbishop of Canterbury, among others) that they themselves will be able to continue to do more or less as they please. [25]” – Extract from Article by Savitri Hensman – In a lengthy, wide-ranging article, Savitri Hensman has given the Anglican Communion a great deal to ponder on in our present situation of stand-off between rival groups in the Communion. The actions of TEC… Read more »

badman
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badman

This is a careful, thoughtful, thorough and fair presentation, which allows those whose views the author disagrees with to speak in their own words, through extensive quotation.

I do believe that this is the way forward. Patience is one of the great Christian virtues, but much of the dialogue on these matters has been characterised by great impatience and (if the contributions of Bishop N T Wright are anything to go by) the level of impatience has increased the more destructive or, at best, ineffective it has been.

Murdoch
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Murdoch

Ecumenism is now about as irrelevant as the religious bodies it sought to bring together. If Christian organizations could heal their divisions today, they’d still be losing members to “None of the Above.” Richard Holloway believes that the Christian church is entering a new age, one in which the old traditions will no longer figure. (The next four paragraphs are his, from the Radical Faith website.) “If something no longer works, it’s in our human remit to discard it. The capacity to move on from what is failing to what works better is a cardinal virtue upon which our very… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

Well I’ve hovered around the edge, and I’m still visible, but I am definitely outside and don’t take communion anymore and now sit out of that and creeds (just as a personal marker). I’d like to see the Unitarians do well, and I attended a local meeting where there is money for a new minister, but attendance in the area is resisted across the board. It is fascinating to hear how, with a culture of attendance still, and I would add an air of modernisation, the Dublin Unitarians are doing very well indeed as a clear alternative in the well… Read more »

BillyD
Guest

“Well I’ve hovered around the edge, and I’m still visible, but I am definitely outside and don’t take communion anymore and now sit out of that and creeds (just as a personal marker). “

What *do* you find attractive about Anglicanism? It must have some attraction for you to hover around the peripheries, but I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by you on that subject.

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

Truck loads of gratitude to SH and Ekklesia for making this reflection so widely available. I’m an Ekklesia sort, I suppose. One of the best things about this article is its careful scholarship: going to a wide variety of actual sources, instead of presuppositionally glossing things to spin and tilt from the start. A model of reasonably good reflection habits then. Kudos to SH too, for deliberately including the three engines that are driving believer changes in Anglican situations, i.e., science, critical scholarship, and actually knowing-listening to real world queer folks in daily life as family members, friends, coworkers, neighbors.… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

BillyD, I, too, have been puzzled from time to time about ‘Pluralist’s continuing fascination with Anglicanism – especially as he is now an avowed non-communicant. Without the support of Eucharist his one-time commitment has naturally eroded. However, don’t frighten him away. I believe his heart is good. And he does have some very amusing drawings and commemntary on many of the awkward situations we still encounter around Communion rivalries. For instance, if you haven’t yet seen it, do go to his parody on the recent bombastic announcement on the election of the new Primate of All Nigeria – to which… Read more »

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

I agree with Fr. Smith, I love those cartoons Pluralist!!!!!

Pluralist
Guest

Two things I appreciate about Anglicanism: one is the worship in settings of quality and effort that do enhance a spiritual path and the other is the theological tradition that does have genuine search in it. I think both of these are under some threat. I think the boundary has moved inwards too much, and I am giving a presentation still to a few folks for discussion but if you read it you can tell that I am on the ‘other’ side of the choice that I present at the end. The fact is that you go to a Unitarian… Read more »

drdanfee
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drdanfee

Thanks Pluralist for neatly summing up two main themes that keep me inside Anglicanism as a progressive believer. Quality worship which opens and nourishes a spiritual path (individually, communally); and big tent theological traditions which genuinely have real search with real science and scholarship innate to them, in so many instances. Conservative global Anglican realignment will naturally undermine both dimensions; but neither blessing arose from strict policing/punishment, so the fact that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely is hardly the good news, the high sign of God’s Reign, that the conservative Anglicans would preach it to be – including… Read more »

Rev L Roberts
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Rev L Roberts

I am a Pluralist fan too ! I thought the original question to him rather impertinent.

Your statement of what you value is telling. I share your appreciation of it.

Worth bearing in mind that most members of the CofE rarely, or never ‘take communion’. They are none the worse for that.

BillyD
Guest

“However, don’t frighten him away.”

I wasn’t trying to, Father Smith. Even if I were minded to, I haven’t gotten the impression that he’s easily frightened, have you?

“Two things I appreciate about Anglicanism…”

Thank you for answering, Pluralist.

“I thought the original question to him rather impertinent.”

Oh, no – not impertinence! How veddy veddy upsetting!

“Worth bearing in mind that most members of the CofE rarely, or never ‘take communion’.”

Well, it’s not that they’re coming to services and then staying in the pews while everyone else is coming to the communion rail, is it?

“They are none the worse for that.”

Remarkable…

Rev L Roberts
Guest
Rev L Roberts

‘Worth bearing in mind that most members of the CofE rarely, or never ‘take communion’.” Well, it’s not that they’re coming to services and then staying in the pews while everyone else is coming to the communion rail, is it? ** “They are none the worse for that.” Remarkable…’ ** No. It has always been so. The BCP envisages Communion services 3 times a year. There are many services at which Communion is not served – MP and EP., All age services, weddings, funerals, Harvest Festivals, Remembrance Day services, Carol services,Keep Britain Tidy Sunday, etc. And yes, they are none… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“most members of the CofE rarely, or never ‘take communion’. They are none the worse for that.” In which case, why do you bother? If being a Christian makes no difference, why do you get up into a pulpit and talk about it every Sunday? Say for the sake of argument I am not a Christian. What do you have to offer me? Secular organizations do far better social justice work than you, with not nearly so much baggage. You have a history of oppressing gays, women, Jews, anyone who doesn’t toe the line, and when it is pointed out… Read more »

BillyD
Guest

“The BCP envisages Communion services 3 times a year.” Really? Then why would it provide an Epistle and Gospel for every Sunday, plus Feasts? Why would there be a rubric that says, “And in Cathedral and Collegiate Churches, and Colleges, where there are many Priests and Deacons, they shall all receive the Communion with the Priest every Sunday at the least, except they have a reasonable cause to the contrary.”? “There are many services at which Communion is not served – MP and EP., All age services, weddings, funerals, Harvest Festivals, Remembrance Day services, Carol services,Keep Britain Tidy Sunday, etc.”… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“We haven’t yet deteriorated into a eucharistic sect you know ! (though some folks are working rather hard at it ).” – Rev L Roberts – It depends on what you mean by *deterioration*, Rev L.R. If this is meant by you to categorise your view of the frequent celebration of the Eucharist, then I think you may not represent too many of us blogging on this site. As a ‘Daily Mass’ priest when I was in charge of a parish, I have to say how I came to depend on this discipline for the grace necessary to carry out… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

_You change your doctrines when secular society forces you to and fool yourself into believing it is somehow the guidance of God. You can’t even agree with each other about what your religion is about._

When was that then? If this was so, I might have stayed and participated more.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Ford
“”most members of the CofE rarely, or never ‘take communion’. They are none the worse for that.”

In which case, why do you bother? If being a Christian makes no difference, why do you get up into a pulpit and talk about it every Sunday?”

But that’s a non-sequitur.
When I grew up in the Lutheran church we had Communion twice a year, at Christmas and at Easter.
I would resent the implication that Lutherans are not Christians just because they don’t share your Eucharistic theology.

BillyD
Guest

“But that’s a non-sequitur.
When I grew up in the Lutheran church we had Communion twice a year, at Christmas and at Easter.”

Huh. Most Lutheran groups with whom I’m familiar have it much more frequently. What Synod was this?

“I would resent the implication that Lutherans are not Christians just because they don’t share your Eucharistic theology”

Wow, talk about your non sequiters, Erika.

I think that most Lutherans would vehemently disagree that the reception of Holy Communion does them no good. And for the record, Lutherans seem to have at least as high a Eucharistic theology as most Anglicans.

BillyD
Guest

“_You change your doctrines when secular society forces you to and fool yourself into believing it is somehow the guidance of God. You can’t even agree with each other about what your religion is about._ When was that then? If this was so, I might have stayed and participated more.” Well, with things like charging interest on loans, or whether or not slavery is a sin, the Church decided that God had changed his mind after secular society had already made the decision for her. It’s pretty obvious that Christians don’t agree about what Christianity is all about. Sometimes I… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“I would resent the implication that Lutherans are not Christians just because they don’t share your Eucharistic theology.” Pardon? Lutherans have a Lutheran Eucharistic theology, Methodists have a Methodist one, etc. The Anglican Church has come to significant agreement with Lutherans on the Eucharist, so much so that we are in communion with Lutherans in this country. But even within Anglicanism, there are several different understandings. We have moved to frequent communion in the majority of parishes because we in general believe there is spiritual benefit in frequent communion. I find it disturbing, honestly, that an Anglican priest, whose faith… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“When was that then?” What BillyD said. Are you actually implying that the Church hasn’t changed at all in the past couple of centuries? And why would the Church changing Her doctrines in response to changes in society inspire you to remain actively involved? I respect that the “insights” of modern society might well be inspiring to you, and perhaps you even perceive them as permanent advances in the human condition. Fine. I think you are ignoring the evidence of history, but that’s just me. But the Church, pretty much by definition, looks to a different arbiter of things than… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Billy
I grew up in Germany.
And I’ve responded to Ford’s astonishing criticism of L Roberts, who merely said that people who don’t participate in the Eucharist often do not seem to be harmed by that.

Just because someone doesn’t go to Eucharistic services does not mean they’re not spiritual, that they don’t see any value in being a Christian, and that their faith makes no difference to their lives.

Pluralist
Guest

No no, there’s no resentment. Grrrrrrrr.

Yes, OK, those changes were made, as towards a banking system run by Gentiles when your society has removed the Jews, as England had up to Cromwell and company, or want the profits.

I was thinking more on the lines of altering doctrines to be consistent with biblical criticism and contemporary theologies.

BillyD
Guest

“And I’ve responded to Ford’s astonishing criticism of L Roberts, who merely said that people who don’t participate in the Eucharist often do not seem to be harmed by that.” You seem to have read only part of Rev L’s comment. He wrote, “”Worth bearing in mind that most members of the CofE rarely, or never ‘take communion’. They are none the worse for that.” What I found astonishing was not Ford’s comment, but the statement of a priest of the CofE to the effect that Christians who never receive the Eucharist are “none the worse for that.” The question… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“…that they don’t see any value in being a Christian, and that their faith makes no difference to their lives.”

More non-sequiters, I’m afraid. “

Quite, that’s my point. I was quoting Ford here.

As for receiving Communion – we’re expecting children to come to faith and get to Confirmation without having received Communion, so why should it be an absolute 100% necessary thing for anybody?
For me personally, it is absolutely vital. But I would not want to be so presumptious and simply insist that others must be like me.

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“As for receiving Communion – we’re expecting children to come to faith and get to Confirmation without having received Communion, so why should it be an absolute 100% necessary thing for anybody?” – Erika Baker – With respect, Erika, but with the current lack of insistence on ‘Confirmation before Communion’ -at least in the N.Z. Anglican Church – children ARE being admitted to Holy Communion, after proper instruction (post-Baptism) on the importance of participation in the Eucharist for spiritual nourishment. The current practice – at least here – is that Admission to Communion is important enough, not to have to… Read more »

Peter of Westminster
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Peter of Westminster

I found Savi Hensman’s counter to Williams’ “two track solution” deeply persuasive — so much so that I find it hard to credit that any reasonable person could read it and not be similarly persuaded.

Here in the States, we discovered decades ago that riding at the back of the bus was not a stable or just solution to another kind of conflict. Turned out the effective tactical response was boycotting the transit system.

BillyD
Guest

“Quite, that’s my point. I was quoting Ford here.” Yes, I realized that. I thought your application of them was mistaken. “As for receiving Communion – we’re expecting children to come to faith and get to Confirmation without having received Communion, so why should it be an absolute 100% necessary thing for anybody?” To quote Ford on another thread, “In the words of the martyrs taken in North Africa in the time of Diocletian “Because it’s what we do.” Besides what Fr Ron said on the subject, I point out that in the East children receive Holy Communion from the… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

BillyD “But on another level, I think your question is a little odd.” I know! And Fr Ron was “respectfully disagreeing” with me too! Thing is, I am not interested in how many people take commuion and whether we are progressive in allowing children to take it or not…. My whole point is that I believe there’s some kind of spiritual arrogance in saying that “my way is the only way because…” because we all convince ourselves that there are very valid reasons for our way being the only way… Fact is (for me!), that no spiritual practice in itself… Read more »

BillyD
Guest

“Or are you and Ron and Ford really saying that without a Eucharist there is no hope of getting to God?”

I guess I’m saying that a Christianity without the Eucharist seems eviscerated. A spiritualized, non-sacramental, non-incarnational Christianity seems just too airy-fairy for me. I don’t doubt that it could be lived with if necessary, but given the fact that there *is* a Eucharist, I don’t see that there’s any benefit in trying out that theory.

“Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood you have no life in you” (Jn 6:53).

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“Or are you and Ron and Ford really saying that without a Eucharist there is no hope of getting to God?’ – Erika, on Saturday – NO, Erika, we (or at least I) are not saying that. What I am saying is that, for Christians, who believe in God through the mediation of Jesus Christ God’s incarnate Son, Jesus left us with a concrete means of establishing his presence among us – in the Eucharist. The Gospel of Mark, chapter 14, verses 23 to 25 (for instance) gives us the story of the Institution of the Eucharist, wherein Jesus describes… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“My whole point is that I believe there’s some kind of spiritual arrogance in saying that “my way is the only way because…” “ Erika, I never said this, I never, I didn’t think, even implied it. I was saying that, while the Anglican Tradition is quite broad, the Eucharist is now more concretely central in the life of Anglicans, something that we always paid lip service to anyway. You have made it into me trying to deny other people’s Christianity, or saying that Eucharistic worship is the only way to God! Rev L is, I believe, an Anglican priest.… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Ford Apologies. I never meant to imply that you thought people were not Christians. It came out wrong and I should have corrected it and apologised sooner. I know you did not mean to say this, and you are rightly offended. I still struggle with the assertion that the Eucharist is the central part of Christian worship – there are many evangelical strands within Anglicanism that do not place such great value on it. And I still think you misrepresent L Roberts, who did not say that the Eucharist has “no spiritual value”, merely that he knows many do not… Read more »

BillyD
Guest

“Fact is (for me!), that no spiritual practice in itself is enough to guarantee a spiritual faith, and none is indispensable. God is bigger than all our ideas about him, and he can break through wherever he finds himself.” Erika, for me the problem here is in viewing the Eucharist as a “spiritual practice” that one can take up if it suits, or leave off if it doesn’t, like meditation, or the rosary, or journaling. At the risk of sounding like a fanatic, or in claiming “my way or the highway,” it is not such a “spiritual practice” – it… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

Erika, BillyD and Ford, This has been a delightful forum of discussion about the efficacy of the sacrament of Eucharist, Holy Communion, or the Mass. As a priest and an ex-Franciscan brother, I can vouch for the Mass as having provided me and many of my companions along the Way with the basic energy, grace and motivation for the journey of life – as it hits one at every point along the road. Possibly – for me, at least – this has been because I have for a long time now believed that Jesus is ‘truly present’ in the sacrament.… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Erika, I feel as Fr. Ron does above. The sidelining of the Eucharist, to me, embodies Protestant rejection of the goodness of Creation and the materialism of the Gospel. For me, sidelining or focussing on the Eucharist is something of a political statement, actually. It may not be all that overt, though I don’t think it’s all THAT obscure. I try not to make it political, personally, but one’s attitude to the Eucharist, in the Anglican context, has been political for a very long time, long before the Oxford Movement. Those within Anglicanism who see no spiritual benefit in the… Read more »

BillyD
Guest

“between the kings of France and Spain”

To quibble over something of no importance, other than the fact that it has to do with my area of interest, it was the kings of Portugal and Spain. That’s how we ended up with Brazil speaking Portuguese (of a sort) – after they adjusted the line once or twice.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Ford “But to suggest that the central act of Christian worship has no spiritual benefit “ I think this conversation has probably run its course now. To say that Anglicans who find spiritual growth and a connection with God through other pathways than the Eucharist are politically motivated sounds extremely odd to me and completely removed from the reality of the people I know and respect. How many Anglicans from different traditions than your own do you know, and how many of your friends would recognise themselves in this statement? To continue to insist that L Roberts has said that… Read more »

BillyD
Guest

“To continue to insist that L Roberts has said that the Eucharist has no spiritual benefit, when he has said absolutely no such thing, is bemusing.”

I’m not sure what other spin you could put on the statement that those who never take Communion are none the worse for missing it. Maybe Rev. L Roberts could explain?

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Billy, please, we’ve talked about this! Those to whom it matters deeply benefit. For those to whom it doesn’t matter there are other spiritual pathways. It’s really quite simple, and it’s miles removed from pretending that someone had said there was, by definition, no spiritual benefit to be derived from taking Communion. We’re not all Anglo-Catholics, you know. I’d like to ask you the same question I’ve asked Ford – how many people of a different Anglican tradition to you actually know very well and how many would recognise themselves in the statement that their spirituality is suffering if they… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“How many Anglicans from different traditions than your own do you know, and how many of your friends would recognise themselves in this statement?” The majority of Anglicans here are relatively middle of the road. We are the only AC parish. There are a few Evangelicals, mostly in Central diocese, a diocese where aumbrys aren’t allowed. We, the only AC parish in Newfoundland, are still called “the Micky church” though it’s far more joking than it was. Some still react with suspicion and bemusement when we call our priests “Father”. People have left our parish over ashing on Ash Wednesday,… Read more »

BillyD
Guest

“Billy, please, we’ve talked about this!” Which is different, you must admit, from “It’s all settled, then.” “Those to whom it matters deeply benefit. For those to whom it doesn’t matter there are other spiritual pathways.” I thought we talked about this, Erika? 😉 This isn’t one spiritual pathway among many we’re talking about. We’re talking about the Eucharist, not maze-walking, or saying the Daily Offices. “It’s really quite simple, and it’s miles removed from pretending that someone had said there was, by definition, no spiritual benefit to be derived from taking Communion.” Again, rather than you being the interpreter… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Erika, let me put it this way. You have never had the experience of sitting on a beach, using a wooden spoon that you whittled from driftwood to eat fish and brewis cooked in an iron bakepot over an open fire from codfish that two hours before was flopping in the bottom of a boat. You probably don’t even know what half of that means. Yet, I can tell you that you have missed something very, very special. It’s a small thing, granted, but still. Extending that to the spiritual, I have no idea if I am missing some great… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“There are Low Church parishes in the States that don’t schedule the Eucharist as the main service on Sundays and Feasts, contrary to the rubrics of the American BCP.” – BillyD – There is also one parish in my own N.Z. Diocese that does not even advertise the Celebration of the Holy Communion on Sundays on its web-site – this is a parish that identifies closely with the proclamation of the GAFCON Church gathered in Jerusalem of recent days. But that is not to say that we don’t know members of that parish in our own Anglo-Catholic parish. It’s just… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Fr Ron I didn’t say the church had talked enough about the Eucharist, I simply said that this thread seems to have run its course. Ford I’m glad that whittling spoons on a beach is an amazing experience for you. Believe me, I’ve tried craft and it does absolutely nothing for me. We keep making this mistake of believing that that which is most moving to us would have the same effect on others if only they tried it. And, for the last time, I insist that you are misrepresenting L Roberts, who has never said that there is no… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Why on earth believing Christian….the literal words of the Bible… by-pass the commandment of Jesus to ‘Do this in remembrance of Me”….has always been a matter of wonderment to me” You’re an Anglican. Is it really “wonderment” you feel, and not a mixture of amusement, frustration, (and a slight frisson of superiority that we will, of course, deny), and a weird quirky kind of pride that you belong to a Church where such a huge difference in attitude and politics could have existed in one form or another, relatively comfortably, for roughly 500 years? I mean, as an Anglican, you… Read more »

BillyD
Guest

“We keep making this mistake of believing that that which is most moving to us would have the same effect on others if only they tried it.”

Ah, but are the Sacraments, or Christianity in general, all about how it makes us feel? Not only do I believe that that’s a misconception, but I think it’s downright dangerous.

BillyD
Guest

“…I really don’t understand why you’re doing this.”

Welll, it *could* be an honest disagreement between people of good will about the meaning of a written statement…No, that can’t be it – Christians *never* disagree about what written statements mean. It has to be something more mysterious…

Yeah, Ford – why *are* you doing this? [*steps back, narrows eyes and looks out of the corners of them at Ford*]

😉