In the space of a few short years The Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes became first The Anglican Communion Network and is now changing again. But to what? THE NACDP is still the legal name for the organization aka the ACN. The NACDP was an inelegant name, but it was descriptive. The network was indeed made up of dioceses and parishes that belonged to the Anglican Communion. ACN was shorter, sweeter, and gave the hint that this was somehow an official network of the Anglican Communion, just as say, the ACEN (Anglican Communion Environmental Network). NACDP/ ACN often tried to show that it was suggested by and approved of by the Archbishop of Canterbury, but to little effect.
In recent days, however, the Moderator of the Network has begun to distance the ACN from some of the "Instruments of Communion," in particular the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference. Since it is these sources that gave rise to the idea of having an Anglican Consultative Council and Primates Meetings (the other "instruments") this distancing is particularly important. Dr. Ephraim Radner thought enough of the Moderator's distancing comments to distance himself from the Network's new stance.
The Anglican Communion Network is undergoing another change: It is now working for the federation and embodiment of a new ecclesial entity that will include members of the actual and real Anglican Communion and Anglican-like ecclesial entities (The Traditional Anglican Communion, The Reformed Episcopal Chuch, etc). These "continuing" and breakaway churches are joining with the ACN folk in a new thing which the ACN Moderator suggests will replace The Episcopal Church as the Anglican entity of value in North America. ( I say it in this awkward way because I don't know if there will be any attempt to suggest that this entity will be part of the current-and-real Anglican Communion or part of some new-and-improved Anglican Communion.)
At the last ACN annual meeting, the Moderator's address included this video presentation of the hopes and dreams of the ACN/ CCP.
Note the video's contention, that The Episcopal Church is going to fade away, and that this new entity, formed from the federation of groups will merge and take its place. While the video is simplistic, its graphics are an astounding confirmation that the former role of the ACN as "inside" and the American Anglican Council and other groups as "outside" is collapsing into one movement, predicated on the failure of the ACN to move TEC. This movement is "outside."
The current name of this up and coming federation is The Common Cause Partnership (CCP). As it slips into place, with the Moderator of the ACN as the moderator of the CCP as well, a new entity is in the process of being born. What its name will be we do not know, but we can be sure it will be named with a great name befitting the usurpation it is proposing to enact.
But the name is already there for the picking: It is clear, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the one characteristic held in common by all the groups making up the CCP is that they are dissenters – people who have refused to sit at the table.Dave Walker has a fine cartoon example of the dissenters among the Primates in action.
This has been acted out in a variety of ways. The bishop members of the Network have on occasion absented themselves from meetings of the House of Bishops and from the reception of communion with others of that house. Archbishops to whom some in the CCP and ACN have expressed loyalty or oaths of obedience have refused to receive communion in a place where all Primates of the Anglican Communion have been seated. And, in less symbolic and more practical ways, the members of CCP have each separated themselves out from the Anglican Communion or one of its member churches over a variety of issues – divorce, ordination of women, the "direction" of the church, the lack of discipline, the full inclusion of gay and lesbian persons, etc - and over basic principles having to do with the proper understanding of coherency in the faith via the bible and the 'undivided' church's witness.
This crowd of folk constitutes a community of dissenters. Assuming that the regular-and-real Anglican Communion continues and the CCP continue in the practice of dissent, not only with the Anglican Communion, but among themselves, it becomes apparent that the name for the continually transmogrifying ACN might well be The Anglican Dissenter Network. ADN would be what it realistically is: a group of people who consider themselves Anglican but are dissenters.
There is a long and honorable history for dissenters. They chew on the bone of their various contentions with great conviction and hold on. They are also convinced that it is raining on them in some particular way that makes their dissent all the more powerful as a witness.
Here is Dave Walker's cartoon "my hypochondria is keeping me awake" is, in all its Eeyore gloomy splendor, a fine example of them hypochondria-gloomy-"I am a martyr" blues. It is, it appears, how dissenters feel most of the time. It is not very contusive to a Gospel larger than suffering.
Still, dissenters have an important role to play, if for no other reasons than to tone down the sometimes triumphalism ways of the folk still at table. With an empty chair here and there the remaining guests have to think that maybe there is a better party elsewhere, or that perhaps there are new guests coming, or that perhaps one of the chairs is for Elijah, who might be in a really sour prophetic mood on arrival. Empty chairs are signs – signs of anticipation. One thing we know for sure: the chairs will be filled, and those who come will change the conversation every bit as much as the dissenters might have done, had they stayed.
Unlike Walt Kelly's comment in Pogo about trespassers, "trespassers will be not be missed, if they leave or if they stay," dissenters will be missed "if they leave or if they stay." If they leave we will miss them. If they stay we will miss knowing who might have filled their seats. Then again, we could simply bring in some new chairs.
Meanwhile, the ADN is more likely what the ACN will become, and not what it wishes to become- the true Anglican ecclesial presence in North America.