Graham Kings reads the straws.

Casting an eye to the future of the Anglican Communion, Graham Kings has written an essay, "Reading and Reshaping the Anglican Communion" that is intriguing and challenging. Read it in its entirety HERE.
Photo of Graham Kings

His reading of the straws leads to a rather complicated suggestion as to how to reshape the Anglican Communion using a new jurisdictional invention, the notion of a continental metropolitan, in order to give voice it would appear to regional viewpoints. In his reading of a possible future, there would be the following: The Provinces, Coordinating Primates, Continental Councils, Coordinating Primates Groups, Continental Anglican Communion Office, Anglican Council, Primates' Meetings, Lambeth Conference, and the Archbishop of Canterbury. The interplay among these Anglican Communion entities are described by Kings in some detail. I must say I find it a rather complex system and I am not sure the scheme is any real help in and of itself.

The fact that Graham Kings is willing to think in new ways about how to collect and gather the sense of various parts of the communion is what is most helpful. It is a creative effort where what we have mostly seen is a rehash of old models.

Perhaps the most delightful part of this essay is the diagram he has produced that relates various players and parties on a grid involving the Windsor Report and the 1998 Lambeth 1.10 resolution. I have copied it here only because the comments I want to make really require the grid to be visible. To get the full meaning of the grid PLEASE read the whole article.

Here is the grid:

Communion Liberal
Liberal on sex, Communion based

Desmond Tutu, former Abp Cape T
Peter Lee, Bp Virginia
John Saxbee, Bp Lincoln
Ian Douglas, Prof at Epis Sch Div

Affirming Catholicism
Changing Attitude
Inclusive Church (parts)



Communion Conservative
Conservative on sex, Communion based

Tom Wright, Bp Durham
John Chew, Abp SE Asia
Mouneer Anis, Primate Jerusalem
John Howe, Bp Central Florida
Michael Poon, Dir CSCA, Singapore

Anglican Communion Institute
Global South Anglican (parts)

T h e W i n d s o r R e p o r t

Federal Liberal
Liberal on sex, Federation based

John Chane, Bp Washington
Marilyn McCord Adams, Prof Oxford

Integrity USA
Inclusive Church (parts)
Modern Church Union



Federal Conservative
Conservative on sex, Federation based

Peter Jensen, Abp Sydney
Bob Duncan, Bp Pittsburgh

Anglican Mainstream' (parts)
GAFCON (parts)
Global South Anglican (parts)

Non-Canterbury Federal Conservative
Conservative on sex,
Federation-without-Canterbury based

Peter Akinola, Archbp Nigeria
Martyn Minns, CANA
Stephen Noll, Prof at Mukono, Ugan

Anglican Mission in America
Anglican Mainstream (parts)
Global South Anglican (parts)
GAFCON (parts)

As with many efforts to group matters in this fashion the really important differentials are between the opposite quadrants. He gets it about right, I think. The opposition between the "Communion Liberal" and the "Federal Conservative" is on target, as is that between the "Federal Liberal" and "Communion Conservative." The Liberals on the one side and the Conservatives on the other form a much different opposition, one in which there is a good bit of movement possible between quadrants.

Another way to read the straws here is to identify those persons and groups with which you have some affinity. For example, I find an affinity with the Liberal side of the aisle but mostly find myself in the Communion quadrant. There are times, however, when I am ready to say the Anglican Communion is not central to my position, and I slide over into a "Federal" posture. Mostly, however, I am in that upper left quadrant.

The grid is a fascinating effort. In an odd way it reminded me of a grid exercise that BabyBlueOnline checked out, one in which the quadrants were Left, Right, Libertarian, Authoritarian. BB comes out as a Right Libertarian, reasonably near the center of the grid. I took the test and came out in the Left Libertarian, but rather further from the center lines. It was an interesting exercise. You can take the test HERE.

It would be interesting to overlay the two grids. When I did so I discovered that I was more Federal than I thought (Federal being more libertarian than authoritarian) and certainly as left as I supposed. I have wondered just why I find BabyBlue a delight to read, in spite of the fact that she annoys me at times. It is because we are both in the libertarian side of the grid, separated by the old left / right divide.

It would be interesting if Graham Kings would devise a test as well for his grid, but until that day it is perhaps telling when we look at who we find ourselves identifying with, following, reading, and agreeing with in his grid.

As for the general scheme Kings presents, take a look at where Fulcrum is placed in his grid: it is in the upper right (Communion Conservative). He wants the Communion to survive and is willing to build a rather complex relational community in order to maintain "the highest level of communion possible." That level would include the possibility that areas of disagreement and difference might be themselves territorial (continental). Thus the complex reading.

He may be right, although I rather hope not. Complex schemes are ripe for complex scheming, and we have had quite enough of that already with the Primates meetings becoming a star chamber in the making, and the ACC being transfigured in some readings into a programmatic agency rather than a representative voice. More levels does not easily make for better governance.

But I have to hand it to Graham Kings. He is willing to take a stab at a reading, and willing to suggest a way forward. We need more, not less, of this sort of thinking.


  1. Hmmm.... while Kings' analysis is an interesting read, it begins with the presupposition of GAFCON --that the Communion needs to be redone. Where is the beginning of the presuppostions? While many are openly and covertly trying to break and destroy the Communion, it doesn't mean that the model of the Communion which we have exercised is itself broken or in need of change.

    And besides, where on the grid is the facet for the great tradition of Anglican mystics and poets?

    The more we try to institutionalize to relieve the pressures upon us, the more we walk into traps which have divided the Church (and I mean the whole Church) in the past.

    All this Covenant stuff, this striving for the institutionalization, for clean lines, good grids etc... --it's kind of like seeking a factual definition of wedding vows and asking for a prenuptual agreement after decades of marriage.


  2. One of the problems that I see in King's proposal, is that it leaves clerical and lay participation in the Communion decision making processes out in the cold. Under the current circumstances, it would leave the vast majority of the AC's membership (Women!) relegated (once more) into oblivion.

    Further, I can't imagine one person being graced enough to be able to represent the rich texture of our province and nations-- All the way from the highly educated and moneyed elites to the mostly isolated indigenous communities, and from the strong protestant-flavored Anglican churches to the high-churches and all-the-way-up-the-wall liberal groups (or Charismatics for that matter!)

    I would suggest that one of the key strengths of Anglicanism is its healthy distrust of bishops acting on their own. And King's proposal, as it stands, unfortunately has the effect of handing over the keys of the chicken-coop to the wolves!

    One way around it -- may be -- would be to add to the Coordinating Primate (CP) office one cleric and two lay persons, all of which should not be either from the same diocese or province as the primate.


  3. Mark+,

    I know what you mean when you say we need more of this kind of thinking, but in another sense I think what we need is less of this kind of thinking--that is to say, less thinking that the solution to the problem lies in the episcopate. I have been ruminating (a favorite word of the monastic, as opposed to Scholastic, medieval readers) over the whole business of "the distinctive charism of bishops," +Cantuar's recent paper of St. Sergius, and the discussion of whether he (a) just doesn't get the American idea of bishops or (b) gets it but just doesn't approve. Though I have said it before, I can't escape the conclusion that what he doesn't get, or doesn't approve of, is the English Reformation. The "distinctive charism" of Bishops in any ecclesiology that actually pauses to glance at the Henrician reformation is to be subordinate to the laity in governing the Church: to the King-in-Parliament, in England, and to General Convention, here. Of course, this is still true today in England (just the other day we saw a news item about Parliament allowing the CofE to do something or other), and I take it that helps to explain reports that +Rowan would like to see the end of Establishment. If Kings were proposing, even, that every continental group of churches be jointly headed by a bishop and a lay person, his idea would be somewhat more Anglican than it is; but this (and other) prelatical vision of the future ought to be brought to a quick and unceremonious end.

  4. FWIW, one of the ironies I see is that things like the Draft Covenant, while using the language of "communion" are actually a move towards a more "federal" structure -- as that word is commonly understood. After all, federations provide for the departure of members -- but does a communion?

    The grid is interesting, and does seem to say a good bit about where one stands. I consider myself a "communion liberal" but only if communion is understood as what we've got now or a communion better articulated (by putting some things on paper) but most definitely without the appendices and exclusionary clauses of the current SAD 3.2.5 et seq. which to my mind move away from communion to federation.

  5. Grandmère Mimi has been getting a very homogeneous group of responses to the Political Compass Test over at her blog:


  6. I agree with the comments that question the value of Graham Kings proposal. What I was hoping was that readers would see the effort as a challenge to envision some sort of scheme.

    Margaret...your comment is right on...it may very well be that the model of communion is not broken or in need of change. It is changing, however, broken or not, and we might well need to consider how and why it changes and attempt to guide those changes so that we don't loose the core spirit of Anglicanism.

    As to the mystics and poets, they are everywhere, thank God. The quadrants in his paper are all able to be occupied by poets and mystics, but not able to bind them.

    Margaret...thanks for your thoughtful posts these past weeks. Wish I had time to respond to each.

    In a world of more strident voices, I try to make this blog a gentler sort of thing. It doesn't always work, but in giving other voices a bit of the benefit of the doubt I may come across less forceful than I need to be. Hopefully there are times when readers are absolutely clear about where I stand.

    We shall see.

  7. Mark,

    Thank you for your kind comments. I truly enjoy your perspective, and your insights have helped form me.

    And, yes, the Communion does seem to be changing. And I rejoice and at the same time, I grieve. And I am confident that at the end of the day, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. At the same time and in the meantime, I just hope we don't write ourselves into a silly hole.

    And please do continue to give us ALL the benefit of the doubt--but don't lose your edge, Mark!


  8. I like it, actually. And it does speak of lay representation as part of two groups, BTW - which is more representation than we get now.

    I think that something like this is the right way forward. There is going to have to be a fairly radical restructuring after everything that's happened, and anyway: it's time. I like the point about "geography" as well as "tradition." This would seem to be a way to allow both "sides" to maintain a certain distance from each others' policies, which is, unfortunately, necessary at this moment in time. I don't know how we can go continue on without something like this at this point - and it allows us to stay together, too, in a looser sort of way.

    It's the 21st Century now, and things have changed; it's time to move on.

  9. Grahan Kings has not the remotest idea what Bishop John Chane's views are on the Anglican Communion. He and the arrogant Fulcrum crowd have the nasty imperial habit of pretending to know our thinking better than we know it ourselves. One must always answer the question "In what way is this prelude to a power grab?" before reading anything he writes.

  10. Jim,
    Whenever someone attempts to lay out a plan of something as complicated as the Anglican Communion, there is some sort of power grab, often unconscious.
    Forming opinions about people on other continents - and I am on a different one to you - is always difficult.
    So if Graham Kings has Bishop Chane wrong send him a comment and put him right. I don't always agree with him, but he does welcome suggestions to improve his understanding.

  11. Setting him right would be a full time job. He writes frequently about the Episcopal Church based on very little knowledge. If he were actually interested in understanding the Episcopal Church, rather than subjugating it, he would take greater care.

  12. In the councils of international power, it is necessary to consider the episcopate the speaker. That is simply true because in so many places, central Africa, Southern Cone, England at least to some extent, and Sydney, laity are not voiced. We can only talk to their bishops.

    President Anderson cannot speak to the president of the Nigerian lay women, her owner/husband/bishop wont let her speak independently. And any conversation that might take place would merely be background. No empowered laywoman will change Nigerian policy.

    The question, then becomes the one Dr. Wiliams in a rare moment of actual leadership, asked at the conference in Egypt. Can we at least achieve what he called, "holy friendship?" Not perhaps full communion, as much as we think that desirable, not federation with all its boundaries and rules, but at least can we be friends?

    Friends would give and receive gifts without qualification. Friends would not steal from each other. Friends would not demand that friends believe the same things they do. Friends might pray together, but not necessarily agree. Friends may be the best we can hope to be.

    My little congregation is a big fund raiser for the diocese of Renk. We do not ask that the church in Sudan do anything but assure us the money we send goes to the best possible purposes. We impose no test of orthodoxy, no expectation that the Sudanese bishops act in any way at Lambeth or anywhere else. We simply try to act as friends. We are blessed with an abundance they have needs. Not a lot of politics in that.

    Archbishop Daniel might, on a good day, recognize me. He has drunk my water and eaten my food. I would know him anywhere. He has no illusion that I am a conservative, nor do I that he is a liberal. We have a small holy friendship that is enough.

    (Neither the presiding bishop nor the bishop of Chicago could spot me. I think that a good thing. I avoid bishops when I can.)

    It may be that the extreme edge of communion on the grid is where we will land. If we can make that a place of holy friendship, it may be enough. Holy Friendship wont get us a lot of invitations to tea with the Queen perhaps. But it may be what we can have.


  13. Mark and all,

    While this does provide a very interesting analysis of all the basic factions - and their view of what the Anglican Communion will be - I don't think this comes close to solving the basic issue at hand.

    Some people just want severely defined rules and interpretation of religion, and some absolutely find that incompatible with Scripture. It's just basic personality types, some people just like more rules.. We won't know in this life who is right or wrong about their approach to religion, but the two ways are incompatible.

    I have always found that the larger a hierarchy - particularly those with no genuine regional and local authority - the less likely it is to get anything accomplished. The stalling on the bottom rungs and the overload on the top just doesn't work. There isn't any way that wouldn't happen in a religious organization, too - and of course, it doesn't.

    There are real advantages to having things slow down on some things, too. Of course, the big newsy issues have been discussed for quite a while now, and the half-measures don't seem to please anyone. And the only thing "new" about them in Western society is that talk has moved from whispers in the front parlor to the press.

    That said - I do treasure our common bonds and ties. Any time someone makes a real effort to come up with a solution, it's worth a read and a listen in my book.

  14. Off-topic, buy Stand Firm is doing an outstanding job with its coverage of the Bennison case. Readers should look at the documents they have posted. What a horror story.

  15. There is a fundamental dishonesty about Graham King's article. It contends that we covenant-skeptics are seeking to change the Anglican Communion into a looser federation than it currently is.

    That is, of course, utter crap.

    The Covenanters are the ones trying to recreate the Communion in their own authoritarian image. And one of the potent weapons in their arsenal is the pretence that 'twas ever thus - that the Anglican Communions has always had juridical structures, that the Lambeth Conference has always had binding juridical authority, that Cantuar has always been a mini-pope and the primates a quasi-curia.

    The Covenanters need to be called on this dishonest - even Orwellian - distortion of Anglican history and polity.

  16. It seems to me that the four quadrants we see in the political test that Mark alludes to at my site and elsewhere is closer to the truth then Graham Kings' quadrants, or what I might describe as Silos.

    In the four quadrants you have degrees, it's not a done deal. Above the horizontal axis you have what I might call those who primarily desire Order and below the axis you have those who I might say primarily desire Freedom.

    What Graham Kings' graph doesn't account for is the fact that orthodox Episcopalians and those who have separated from TEC remain in Communion with one another - both ecclesiastically and relationally. For example, I took communion at the Diocese of Virginia's Diocesan Council. I've taken Communion several times in Episcopal Churches this year, including other churches in the Diocese of Virginia and the Diocese of Washington. But this is understandable, not from Graham's quadrants (or what I call Silos) but because politically I'm below the horizontal axis. I am more politically libertarian than authoritarian. And I am surprising close to the center with the progressive libertarians - though of course I don't cross the line! ;-)

    The events of recent days in London of the marriage between two ordained men in the COE Church was done by those who are also probably below the horizontal axis, though over on the far left. Their actions are more akin to exerting their freedom than in upholding Order, as the terse statement that came from Canterbury and York illustrates. In fact, it appears to be their intention to explode the retreat - not only to those who have opposing theological views - but those who in fact hold the same theological view but retreat into Order - like Rowan Williams.

    Rowan Williams is on the left politically, but is an institutionalist so is above the horizontal axis. In fact, he's diagonally across from me. He will frustrate all of us - conservative or progressive who are below the horizontal axis, whether we are aligned with Integrity on the Left or GAFCON on the Right.

    It is then no wonder that those who are conservative but above the horizontal axis - like Graham Kings - would do all they can to support Rowan Williams because they are both devoted to Order. That makes them natural allies, even if they are theologically opposed.

    I find this way of thinking - as much as I often grieve over the politicization of the church - as frankly a more accurate - and creative - way of understanding not only our differences, but how we can sometimes surprisingly find ourselves allies or at least friends when we least expect it. In my case, the enemy of my enemy may also be my enemy.

    It was a discovery to see that Mark is also below the horizontal axis and closer to what I might term the "Freedom" side then the "Order" side. How close we find ourselves to the vertical line might denote that we have some common ground - as I know we do since we both support Five Talents, for example.

    The preaching of hierarchical structures by 815 has been a big surprise to me since I assumed that that all the progressives were below the horizontal line - that they were more aligned to freedom than order. But this has not been the case - where at least in the legal and canonical theatre, those aligned with 815 are in the upper left quadrant, politically liberal but authoritarian. They are preaching structures over relationships, they are not political libertarians. This is quite illuminating.

    It helps explain why they can find John Howe a useful ally since he is also above the horizontal line, but on the right. He too craves Order over Freedom. That can come in handy if imposing Order is your primary concern. But it can cause tremendous rebellion as well.

    It is clear then that if you are above the horizontal line, you will want to gain security by pitting the two sides below the line at each other. That would mean you have a battle in the streets between what I guess we could call the Integrity lobby (and all their many facades and umbrella organization) and GAFCON. If these two wings fight with one another into oblivion (blessings vs border crossings) then those above the line step back and watch the rest implode and pick up the spoils.

    In that way, 815 could be encouraging the political antics of the left - hoping it will inflame those on the right so that those above the line can rise above the fray and impose Order. But that may not be what those who desire freedom will want in the long run. At some point, all the orthodox will be gone and then what? How much will those who desire Order first tolerate those who desire Freedom first. Getting the marriage certificate and the consecration may not be everything one bartered for, to coin a phrase.

    For those of us who continually pray and seek a peaceful resolution - or even a peaceful pause - it's clear that if Order is your primary focus, that's not going to happen. It can't - because Order is the dominant value. Seeking peace means tolerating a certain amount of creative chaos. It will not be neat - it will be messy. It seems that those in the upper quadrant of the left cannot so easily handle creative chaos. They ultimately want Order.

    But for those of us who value freedom (I'm using shorthands here - as in the test there are level of degrees, but this is having to do with a prominent value) we can think creatively of how we might be able to live in tension (the good kind) with one another as we try to find resolution. For us, it is not ordered structures but relationships built on trust that would hold us together. It's Jefferson and Adams banding together - and those two were so different, spent most of their time fighting, but in the end they found peace and America is built on both their ideals. Thank God they didn't kill each other.

    The structures of TEC are imploding and imposing more stringent Order (new canons to discipline the laity, more lawsuits, more defrockings and inhibitions) does not solve the problem! The grip tightens which lessens freedom - freedom to be creative and to love and risk failure. There can be no growth, spiritually or as a church, if we are not free to risk failure.

    I maintain that for all the ConCom's protests - many of them find themselves slipping under the horizontal axis. And what Rowan is realizing if our sources are correct is that those who are below the horizontal line on the left are not loyal to the institution. They are using the institution for their political agenda and that's not lost on him. The events of this past month went too far. Or as Janis Joplin sang, freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose. I am not that far from the horizontal line to discard the importance of order and of institutions. I am not an anarchist. But the actions in London was a form of ecclesiastical anarchy. There is no alternative form as we find in the Gafcon allies.

    Again, where Graham Kings analogy breaks down is that it does not grasp that there are many in the Common Cause Partnership and Gafcon allies that desire order, but it's order based on a common vision of scripture and the trinity and the place of common worship not on propping up old broken structures. The Church does not save us either - Jesus does.

    It is for freedom Christ came to set us free. He didn't bring us authoritarian order, he brought us freedom in Christ. I would maintain that the freedom we enjoy informs our reading of scripture = to read scripture is not as rule book of a Cranky God, but as the autobiography of God our Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and of His people. The scriptures are alive as He is alive and they breathe into us freedom, a freedom born in Jesus. It's one of the great paradoxes. "He that loses his life for My sake, finds it." That's not holding tightly, as we would when we crave order, but by letting go - which seems to be the last thing we think of to do these days. Let go.

    Our nation was founded on a document that spelled out freedom - not order. The Declaration of Independence was not about imposing authoritarian structures on the American colonies but about being set free from them - including the Church of England. We in Virginia used to remember that.

    This is why many of us call what's happening to us in the Anglican Communion the "realignment." We have to think differently about ourselves, about our structures, about our relationships to one another, about smashing the silos and tearing down the walls. The Episcopal Church wishes to live in a Silo of their own making, while many of us - surprising allies perhaps - wish to tear those Silos down and be set free.


  17. There may be another axis in play here. Arguably both Peter of Nigeria and Katharine of the US assert a centralized authority. Peter, however, wants it exercised at the level of the Communion, while Katharine wants it exercised at the level of the autocephalous provinces.

    Speaking only to ecclesiology, Katharine's position seems the more consistent with historical Anglicanism.


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.