Tick, tock.... Midnight coming.

Peter Carrell over at Anglicans Down Under, has written a piece drawing on the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists clock. It is titled, Five Minutes to Midnight. The image from the Bulletin is that it is damn close to fini. The implication is that the same is true for the Anglican Communion. The Clock is ticking, and we need to step back - in this case from the horrors of being an association.

Here is the body of Carrell's text:

One way to think about the Anglican Covenant is that it constitutes a measure of our willingness to be autonomous Anglican churches in communion together in the face of the possibility of formal schism or schisms occurring across the Anglican world. With one measure of the closeness of the world to nuclear conflagration in the background, I suggest that if midnight is the point when we are in schism, then we could assess the arguments for and against the Covenant in terms of minutes before midnight.

In my reading of criticism of the Covenant, most of the criticism stems from an unwillingness to let go of even one iota of autonomy. So when criticism waxes rather than wanes, the likelihood is that Anglican churches, in the end, will go their own way and schism will take place. Right now my assessment is that we are five minutes from midnight!

There is an alternative to schism (as I have been pushing in recent posts): we agree on one thing together, that we are not in fact a Communion and so we will call ourselves something else ... the World Anglican Association, perhaps.

Peter is on the mark in one respect. We Anglicans belong to a fellowship of churches, not a Church. He is wrong, I believe, to suggest that we are not a Communion but rather an Anglican Association.

The problem is, of course, is what we mean by a "Communion." At its core it must such a title must have something to do with communing, with sharing sacraments, understandings of the faith, etc. It is the "etc" that gets us in trouble. Does Communion mean that we must agree on the race of who is ordained, or at least on the separation of those ordained by race? Does Communion mean we must share understanding of whether or not women can be ordained? Does it mean we must share in liturgies that do not deviate from a model, in some cases the 1662 BCP? Does it mean we must all share in the same understanding of divorce and the possibilities of remarriage after? Does it mean that we must all agree not to ordain gay and lesbian clergy who are not celibate, and most particularly bishops?

Well, no. In reality that has not been the Communion from its outset. The notion of unanimity of voice is without merit as a reality in the Anglican Communion. The pissing contest that goes on in TEC and elsewhere as to who is suffering the most is a sad example of the reality that people on one side or the other of this or that snit-fit feel the pain. But pain is not a sign that Communion does not exist, rather it is a sign that the Communion is struggling with real and substantive issues.

We are the Anglican Communion, a fellowship of national and regional churches. No one said it would be easy, or without breakdowns here and there, or without differences in actual practice. But on the other hand, no one told us how wonderful it could be to relate to others across all sorts of divisions and still remain firm friends, sharing bread and wine and the conviction that Jesus Christ is Risen.

We are not just an Association, although we at least that. We Anglicans are more together than that. We are a Communion.


  1. I should be glad to find that you are right and I am wrong!

  2. Peter... I enjoy your blog, and appreciate your position on matters Anglican. It is even a pleasure to be at odds on some things. You are a gentle man, it seems to me, and I am glad we are checking in on one another's work from time to time. Thanks.

  3. "Communion" shares roots with "Community." I live in a town, in a county, in a State and a country that has never thought all its people have to agree on everything. In fact from our earliest days we have allowed people to disagree on very important things -- like who runs the place, and our religions. Illinois' divorce law is different from Indiana's and yet neither seeks to toss the other out of the community. (OK, maybe when IU its playing UIUC basketball games -- but that is different.)

    The communion is not a government. Those determined to force it to be one, to make the North Americans behave as they have decided we should, will kill it. I fear it is later than Fr.Carrell thinks.

  4. As far as I'm concerned. the schism clock is at 1AM.

  5. A critical difficulty, of course, is that Archbishop Williams has made clear that "a federation" is less than he envsions. That is to say, not only that he isn't satisfied with the Communion as it is, with our current arguments, but that in fact he wasn't satisfied with the Communion as t has been, even when we weren't arguing. When that dissatisfaction was a matter of academic discussion, his ideas of what catholicity and unity might mean were interesting (if perhaps not widely enough actually understood). When his dissatisfaction is shaping a model of what the Communion might be, what he thinks it should be, the influence inherent in his office makes his ideas more than interesting: it makes them powerful.

    What isn't clear, of course, is whether, no matter how influential they are, his ideas are widely shared.

  6. In a lecture at EDS this week, Thomas Ferguson urged us to demthologize our church history and crticized the Windsor Report's assessment of how irenic and orderly was the process that led to the ordination of women. Relationships within the Anglican Communion have always been messy, from the refusal of English bishops to ordain Seabury, to the initial reluctance of the Arbp of Canterbury to invite American bishops to the first Lambeth Conference, to the process by which women came to be ordained, to the current struggles with our differences on same-sex unions. We can deal with the messiness by retreating into enclaves of like-minded people or we can work at being a communion. I opt for the latter, as messy as it is.

  7. I'm with Counterlight. The schism has already happened; when certain Global South bishops refused Holy Communion with Westerners with whom they disagreed.

    Kurt in Brooklyn

  8. Those Global South Primates would probably tell us that it happened a bit earlier than that, when they said (unanimously as a body)that our proposed actions would tear at the fabric of the communion, and we went ahead despite the warnings and pleas.


  9. "Those Global South Primates would probably tell us that it happened a bit earlier than that, when they said (unanimously as a body)that our proposed actions would tear at the fabric of the communion, and we went ahead despite the warnings and pleas."

    I can only imagine the reaction if the shoe was on the other foot, and we pleaded with Global South Primates to refrain from certain proposed actions. I'm sure they would listen patiently and considerately to the reservations of affluent Westerners who once colonized them, and refrain from any actions that we might find offensive... only in our dreams! They'd tell us all to go climb a tree.
    They did just that when they told us to take our "listening process" and our ecclesiastical autonomy and go stuff it.

    I find the Church in Uganda's latest report suggesting that it will support the draconian anti-gay legislation before the Ugandan parliament deeply offensive, and I'm not alone. Since I'm not a right wing billionaire with piles of money to pour into the ambitions of any aspiring Prince of the Church, my opinion doesn't count for much.
    But I will keep it anyway.

    I'm confident that the Christian Faith will survive, but I think the Church is about to shipwreck on the gay issue.
    By clinging to a position on sexuality that is rapidly becoming as obsolete as the Ptolemaic cosmic model, the Church once again faces a sharp loss in its moral authority in the larger world. Most of the Western World (and a larger part of the Non-Western World than most people imagine) has already moved on and sees gay folk as healthy fellow human beings and citizens. The recalcitrance of church hierarchies and fundamentalist movements on this issue will ghettoize the Church into a community of self-isolating fanatics that has nothing to say to people or to their experiences. The Church won't have anything to say to people, and they will conclude that the Church doesn't care about them or their lives.

    LGBTs see that hierarchs from the Pope to the Archbishop of Canterbury require that they loathe themselves and their sexuality as the minimum price for admission to the Feast. Most LGBTs shook the dust of the Church off their feet a long time ago. That there are still any openly gay Christians at all is testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Perhaps there is a big theological and ethical question ecclesiastical hierarchs must ask themselves if they wish to remain so contrary on what many see as a moral issue of human dignity and human rights. If the Church no longer wants to be a friend of humanity, then can it remain a friend of God who created humanity?

    --a deeply frustrated gay Christian pewsitter.

  10. Ah, I get it , Counterlight. I will strike others on the cheek before they have the opportunity to strike me. Thanks for the clarification.


  11. JB,

    Ah I get it.

    I will come back with something glib and smug (true or not to what was written doesn't matter) and then feel so superior.

    You guys on the right just embarrass me with your humility.


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.