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13.1.16

The Primates

So the Primates are meeting to discern the future of the Anglican Communion. And we are praying. But I do have some thoughts.



Catholic or Reformed?


The Anglican Church is both Catholic & Reformed. Catholic in Order (Bishops, Priests and Deacons) and Sacraments (with ecumenical agreements and disagreements) and Reformed (and reforming) in its expression of the Catholic faith. Obvious statement - different Anglicans understand this differently. But so do different churches within the communion.

In particular what we will call the 'Episcopalian' tradition from Scotland and the United States has a different history and spirituality to the 'Anglican' tradition found in England. The churches in the communion which have these roots have had fewer people who look towards the Reformed Presbyterian model of church, and have far less historical attachment to the 39 Articles, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, Commonwealth and Monarchy!


Gender or Sexuality?


Although the debate in the communion is framed in terms of Liberal vs. Conservative this is not entirely accurate.



Amongst those who are either Anglo-Catholic or 'Episcopalian' (and they are not entirely the same thing) recognition that ordination to Bishop Priest and Deacon should not be limited to Men (which is reforming) tends to be accompanied by a belief that lifelong committed loving relationships blessed by the church (which we have tended to call marriage) should not be limited to only male/female couples. The question is one of Gender,

Amongst those who are either Evangelical or 'Reformed' (and they are not entirely the same thing) those who support the ordination of women are not broadly in favour of opening marriage to same sex couples.  The question is one of Sexuality.

This is not universal. There are inclusive Evangelicals (a growing number) and some Anglo-Catholics who are uncomfortable with ordaining women but supportive of same sex relationships (perhaps a decreasing number). But it seems obvious to me that amongst Anglicans who profess the creeds, seek to uphold the faith of the apostles, are rooted in scripture and seek to see the Church grow and transform the world there are not just very different theological views but very different theological methods.

Liberal or Supernatural?


Liberalism does play a part in the debate. C.S.Lewis spoke of liberalism -
'It excludes any real supernaturalism and thus ceases to be Christian at all.' 
To deny the supernatural, in Scripture, in the Sacraments, in the work of Spirit and in the life of the individual Christian is the essence of Liberalism. I fear there is 'Liberalism' of this kind on both sides of the debate. Although that work of the Holy Spirit needs to be measured against the witness of Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition it still needs to be sought, longed for, recognised and celebrated. Not denied out of hand.

If the Anglican Communion is to survive it must do so on the basis of God at work in the world.