Time was when thinking of the Anglican Communion as "just a federation" was verboten. The Anglican Communion, it was said, was a communion, a strange beast not quite a world wide church, not quite simply a fellowship of churches, but you know, a communion. Well, times change.
The collection of organizations working together for realignment, or for the faith once delivered to the saints, or some other effort to be the true church and the real voice of Anglicanism in America have put together a Common Cause Partnership (CCP), a theological statement and covenant and articles of federation. There are ten groups in the CCP. Nine of them have signed on to the articles. From the CCCP there has been developed a Leadership Council of the CCP. That Council has just finished meeting in Orlando, Florida.
December 18th was touted by the Anglican Communion Network as "the formal beginning of a "separate ecclesiastical structure" in North America. Following this meeting," they said, "Common Cause will be in a place to seek official recognition from the Primates of our Communion." (From HERE)
December 18th has come and about gone. Christmas is close at hand. The work of the CCP Leadership has produced very little new: They have written a Communiqué. They have a new website, prepared for this moment and now up and running. It is no surprise, but the CCP Leadership Council elected Bishop Robert Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh, as their Moderator. They have made a variety of promises to continue in the work outlined in the CCP covenant and articles of federation. They are now a "federation," whatever that means.
Here is their communiqué. (I myself could be just as happy without every group writing a "communiqué", but there it is.)
"We, the gathered bishops, priests and lay representatives of the Anglican bodies federated in Common Cause held the first annual meeting as the newly formed Common Cause Leadership Council of the Common Cause Partnership on December 18th, 2007, in Orlando, Florida.
We created the structure called for in the Articles of Federation now adopted by nine of our partners. We elected officers of the Federation and formed an executive committee, as well as other committees and task forces. We have also begun work to harmonize and strengthen our common call to Christian education and mission. We expect these committees and task forces to begin work early in the New Year. We are beginning to explore the expanding possibilities for ecumenical contact with fellow Christians in North America and around the world.
Our actions today dramatically reversed the fragmentation and separation of the past. We stand committed to the "faith once delivered to the saints" as expressed in our now ratified theological statement. The Common Cause Partnership is united in faith with the vast majority of members of the worldwide Anglican Communion. We are especially grateful for the support and recognition given to us by the provinces of the Global South that have encouraged us to come together in common cause for the Gospel. We are particularly thankful for the presence with us of Archbishop Yong Ping Chung, the recently retired primate of the Province of Southeast Asia and one of the earliest supporters of the rebirth of orthodox Anglicanism in North America, representing the Anglican Coalition in Canada.
Each Common Cause Partner will continue to live out its unique role, maintaining its distinctive ministry and character, noting the provision of the Articles of Federation that "the autonomy of the individual Jurisdictions and Ministries, and their constituent bodies, is in no way restricted or superseded by membership." In the months and years ahead we anticipate a growing number of joint mission initiatives that will strengthen our witness as united and faithful Anglicans in North America. "So in Christ, we who are many, form one body..." (Rom. 12:5). To God be the Glory.
The Communiqué assures the world that they are about the business of structuring the Federation with the needed committees, staff, etc, so that they can get about their business. Interestingly there is no mention in the Communiqué of "the formal beginning of a separate ecclesiastical structure in North America" nor about seeking "official recognition from the Primates of our Communion." One supposes that will come later. But at the end of the day there was no trumpeting of a new unified structure, rather there is the federation in which "the autonomy of individual jurisdictions and ministries, and their constituent bodies, is in no way restricted or superseded by membership." So much for a separate ecclesiastical structure.
Rather than talking about "official recognition from the Primates" the Communiqué talks of "beginning to explore the expanding possibilities for ecumenical contact with fellow Christians in North America and around the world." Perhaps wiser minds prevailed and it was thought that now is not the time to pull the Primates back into the spotlight.
The Leadership Council suggests that its actions in forming a federation are a dramatic reversal of the fragmentation of the past. But that was always the argument against federation… that it allowed for fragmentation and division in ways that a single unified presence did not. What they have done is not so dramatic as it is practical. The internal divisions among the Common Cause Partners makes federal action possible, but not decisive action as a unitary whole. Bishop Duncan is a moderator, not of a Church, but of an organization. He is in no way a Primate or Moderator in the Anglican Communion.
How are we to read all this?
It would be too easy and perhaps unjustifiable to say that the CCP Leadership Council failed in its promises. It does appear that it promised more than could be delivered. What we have now is a federation of organizations working for something they don't yet have – the longed for separate ecclesiastical structure. That structure is what they believe they are empowered to seek, given the Kigali Communiqué. But they don't have it yet.
On their way to achieving that goal they will continue to shout that The Episcopal Church has lost its way. There will be wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth, but if The Episcopal Church continues in its own madding and slow way to try to take on the Gospel agenda as this time and place require it will endure and will bloom anew. Meanwhile those who have ground their teeth will perhaps find themselves less fretful, or if not may need to find relief elsewhere.
The CCP Leadership Council may eventually give rise to a separate ecclesiastical structure that looks like a church, acts like a church and walks like a church. But for the moment it looks like a federated duck.