Sunday, September 20, 2015

20 September 2015 A.D. GUARDIAN: Dissolving the Anglican communion would simply be a recognition of reality

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWFgqnisSsk



20 September 2015 A.D. GUARDIAN: Dissolving the Anglican communion would simply be a recognition of reality 

Brown, Andrew. “Dissolving the Anglican communion would simply be a recognition of reality.” The Guardian. 17 Sept 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/17/dissolving-anglican-community-archbishop-canterbury-anglicanism. Accessed 18 Sept 2015. 

Dissolving the Anglican communion would simply be a recognition of reality

One good way to understand Justin Welby is to think of him as the most Marxist archbishop of Canterbury we’ve had for decades. This isn’t because of his economics, nor his view of religion, but because he has completely internalised Marx’s apophthegm that freedom is the recognition of necessity. Only by giving up the make-believe can anything real be made to happen.

Archbishop of Canterbury plans to loosen ties of divided Anglican communion 


Justin Welby is to suggest reorganising worldwide body as a group of churches no longer linked by a common doctrine
The Anglican communion has been a fantasy for at least 30 years. The term suggests there are Anglican churches outside of England grouped into a spiritually and politically significant whole with agreed beliefs and some kind of chain of command, but there isn’t. The idea proposition is theologically mysterious and ontologically nonsensical.
Historically, however, it is easy to explain. There are Anglican churches everywhere that the British once ruled, and beyond that in countries where Anglican missionaries were active in the 19th and early 20th centuries. By the end of the 20th century, there were nearly 40 such churches, which claimed on the basis of some extremely dodgy figures to have 80 million members in all. Most of these members are supposed to be in Africa, even though more than 20 of the Anglican churches around the world keep no centralised figures at all, and painstaking research by Daniel Muñoz in Madrid suggests that the official figures for church membership are overstated by a factor of eight.
From the very beginning, the Anglican communion had no central authority. It never really had a founding moment, though the closest thing would be the Lambeth Conference of 1867, called partly to solve a dispute in the South African church. That summoned all the Anglican bishops of the world to Canterbury, but on the basis that the conference as such had no authority to bind any of its members.
Successive archbishops of Canterbury had been absolutely clear that no foreign church might tell the Church of England what to do about matters of doctrine or anything else, and had extended this liberty as a matter of courtesy to the other churches. Of course, at the Victorian high noon of empire, they did not need constitutional or legal arrangements to tell other churches what to do, so it cannot have occurred to them that they were giving up any actual or potential power. By the time the possibility was obvious it was far too late.

The constituent churches of the Anglican communion were almost all in countries that had been British colonies. They had also inherited the internal rivalries of the parties of the Church of England, so that countries such as Nigeria or Uganda, missionised by the evangelical Church Missionary Society, grew up with fiercely Protestant churches that abominated homosexuality, while those, such as South Africa, where the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel got there first, grew Catholic churches, full of ritual, incense and men who felt comfortable in lace. Those two branches still had a certain unity. They agreed on what they disagreed about. Wider and more chaotic disagreements would shake the communion when the Americans started to ordain women in the 1970s.

That there was no communion from which the American liberals could meaningfully be kicked took a long time to sink in

That is where it became obvious that the communion could not agree on vital matters. The American Episcopal Church was a curiously mixed body: immensely rich, and with great social cachet, but divided in ways that would soon become familiar across the wider American culture wars. The southern conservatives were, at least to start with, bewildered by even the possibility of change. The northern liberals had an evangelical zeal, a conviction that their democratic and progressive church was a divinely inspired improvement on the creaking hierarchical stateliness of the Church of England.

After they lost the fight over women, conservatives in the USA sought allies elsewhere: partly in the UK, and partly in Africa. The next round of struggles over sexuality were fought out by almost exactly the same cast of characters, and this time – at least on paper – the conservatives won. An overwhelming vote by the more evangelical African churches led to the adoption of a hard line against gay people at the Lambeth Conference in 1998. When the American liberals ignored this, huge efforts were made to kick them out of the communion. The fact that there was no communion from which they could meaningfully be kicked took a very long time to sink in.

Rowan Williams, who took office in 2002, decided that the solution to the problem was to produce some legally binding form of organisation that would be coherent enough for people to be thrown out of it. The Church of England rejected his efforts entirely in a series of votes in 2010. The conservatives had already left (while still calling themselves “Anglican”).
All that Justin Welby has done is to give up the pretence that he heads any kind of global organisation. Only in the light of the sustained unreality of the last three decades could this appear a revolutionary act.

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