Anglican Communion on Hold: Sleep, Restart, Shut Down

Its hard to know just what they drink down there in AnglicansDownUnder, but they have taken a mashup of ideas from several other blogs and picked out of what was found a core notion that is challenging and worth thinking about. 

"So here is the idea, which extends the concept of suspension. Let's suspend the whole Communion: all committees, all Communion wide roles. Let no committee meet and no primates travel on 'Anglican Communion' business. Say for twenty years."

Those of us using Macs know about this: Its on the list, just after "Force Quit."  It includes the options, "Sleep," "Restart.." and "Shut Down."

The idea would be to put the Angican Communion (as an institutional entity with various committees, instruments, etc) on hold for twenty years. Then, one supposes, one could "restart" or "shut down" as wished. 

There is considerable merit to the idea. Of course, given our polity (such as it is) some of the instruments of communion would have to decide themselves not to meet. So ACC would need to first meet and then suspend meeting. Others, like the Primates and Lambeth, are invitational. So one supposes the Archbishop of Canterbury could simply determine not to invite.  As for the work of the Anglican Communion Office, that could be temporarily disbanded and its work taken up by whatever province or network that might wish to do continue talking and working together.  

Peter then goes on to say, 

"During that time Anglicans will make choices about meeting together, about inviting this one and that one to preach and to preside, and about conferences of various kinds. Choices will also be made about ordinations and liturgical services. After twenty years some clarity will emerge about which Anglicans want to be in a formal relationship with each other and which do not. Or, indeed, clarity may emerge about never again attempting to maintain a formal "Communion". During those twenty years the evolution of global Anglicanism will take place without current stresses and strains, and without displays of pique and hurt about who is in and who is out.

In short: rather than a Communion polity in which a few are suspended because our formal life cannot contain our diversity, how about suspending Communion polity itself?"

The plus side is the rather attractive notion that we could let it all shake out. Anglican folk would do what they are more or less doing anyway.  The question of what would happen to the dialogues with other churches and with other faiths would continue on the one level that counts - church to church. There could still be other agreements on intercommunion, recognition of ministries, and so forth, but they would be, as they are now between specific Anglican Churches (CofE, or TEC, or ACoC) and other Churches (The Methodist Church in England, the ELCA in the US, etc).  

What about the breakaway folk of the Anglican Church in North America, which sets out to be the Anglican "voice" in North America? Well, in twenty years they will be what they will be. My sense is that they will top out at about 90,000 and then slowly decline as younger people wonder what all the shouting was about. That will lead to a split up of the various groups in ACNA. The sub groups will remain on friendly terms, but Bishop Minns and Bishops Schofield and Iker will find themselves in different camps, AMiA will go its own way, the Reformed Episcopal Church will discover its own reason for being.  They will work together perhaps, but they will not be together.  The African Churches who came to the rescue will lose interest.

So maybe the evangelical voice of New Zealand is on to something.

But I think not. The temptation to think that world-wide and unified somehow equates with honoring the possibilities that we all may be one is too strong for some in high position. The ecclesiastical wars are likely to move forward into the next round, pitting progressive and fundamentalists parties against one another in new world wide Anglican groupings.
I want none of it.

There is a good bit of talk about the next twenty years. The Changing Attitude and Pluralist Speaks are both writing about this. I will write more on this, but right off, if there is to be a strong Anglican voice in the general Christian conversation in twenty years there will need to be churches  that fairly immediately do three things:

(i) Affirm the union of theological work towards agreement and the work of the whole people of particular Anglican communities - that theology and politics be understood as one, and good theology and politics be understood as about living into God's justice, which is, I might add, living into the Word.

(ii) Commend the world of social, economic, artistic and sexual and other social intercourse as the environment in which vocation is lived out, and encourage and enliven people to find the holy in such enterprise. That is, to practice resurrection.

(iii) Live a conscious discipline of common prayer, in which we find with others joy in the praise, honor and adoration of God, and live that out with all the tradition brings and all the moment requires. That is to practice the presence of God.

Living the Word,
Practicing Resurrection,
Practicing The Presence.

Of course all sorts of people do these things. Anglicans are then really a sort of large untidy religious community of folk who learned to do these things by the peculiar people from those islands off the coast of Europe. I think we have learned well enough to ligthen a fire again.

But we will not if we bog down in the idiocy of attempting to be a world church. Better we Shut Down and Restart. The Word, the Vocation to Resurrection and the Presence are always local, and their meaning is always universal. So we will talk to one another, but we will work it out in fear and trembling where we are.

Little Gidding calls, and the local parish calls, and the tolling of bells calls, and we are called. Let's cut to the chase: We all need the Word, Resurrection and the Presence. All this other stuff is so much grass, which will dry and whither in the days to come.


  1. And around the world LGBTs will be oppressed and/or KILLED w/o a *peep* out of us in TEC or the AngChCanada?

    NO DEAL!

    We're stuck w/ each other, for better or worse.

    We're going to KEEP following Jesus, preaching (practicing) the Gospel of Justice&Mercy, no matter what. No matter that other Anglicans don't want to hear it. [And if they don't minister TO (not AT) ALL of their own people, then we have to think about picking up that responsibility, too.]

  2. I quite like drinking orange juice, Lemon Lime and Bitters, and coffee :)

    Seriously: Mark I do not actually understand your post. At one point you seem to be saying my suggestion has merit but, in the end, is wrong. At the end you seem to be agreeing with me: 'Shut down and Restart.' But maybe I am missing an obvious point of clarification?

    Your three recommendations sound like the core of a covenant :)

  3. JCF... we are stuck with each other and as you say, "We're going to KEEP following Jesus, preaching (practicing) the Gospel of Justice&Mercy, no matter what. No matter that other Anglicans don't want to hear it. [And if they don't minister TO (not AT) ALL of their own people, then we have to think about picking up that responsibility, too.]"

    The "hold" would be not on the work we have to do but the debilitating effort to accomodate and compromise whatever justice and mercy there is in our churches to some notion of unity at any cost.

    As you will see form Peter's comment already posted, he finds my post confusing as well. I will try to work on that later today.

  4. This may seems like a good idea to those dioceses and places not still in conflict. What is happening in the communion at large is still happening in the Diocese of VA --writ small.

    And, we can't just quit meeting and discussing the issues before us... --as much as people would like so to do, even to the point of squashing the debate of resolutions at our Diocesan Council... yes. really.

    We don't need to stop talking, stop meeting --we need to continue to press in to the wounds by which we are healed.

  5. Necessary to keep in mind that theology is not the root cause of the widening "split" in the Anglican Communion; rather it is the question of power.

  6. Anglican Time Out

    I think I understood you clearly enough Fr. Mark. Perhaps I have the same predispositions as you. Being a Church is not the same as being a worldwide organization. We haven't needed a covenant to BE as church. And no covenant will make a church. I understood your suggestion as continuing the work of the church, but without the worldwide organization.

    I think one of the problems with the covenant is that it did not arise out of a need to practice the resurrection, but a desire to inhibit that very practice. We didn’t need a framework to live into the word; we strive together and individually to practice resurrection, we all pray, fuss and struggle to be is relation to God in Jesus Christ; we even do this in groups!

    No, the covenant was designed as an instrument of chastisement. And a “mommy dearest” sort of chastisement at that. I have yet to see a loving relationship built on the threat of punishment.

    As an organizational document, the proposed covenant works just fine. And, if Anglicans were just staring out, it might be the way to go. But, I have never gotten over the feeling that when parties seek to memorialize a long standing relationship, something has already gone wrong (or is about to).

    Yes, TEC is guilty of changing an understanding, PTL! Unless things change, they become brittle and fragile and break up. However, as I see it, TEC determined that practicing resurrection required the end of a particular practice in how we talked about and acted on sexuality, especially in office of bishop.

    Don’t pastors of all manner advise a couple to diligently work out their differences? Married folk have worked through seemingly irreconcilable differences. In the end, don’t they just work through the problem?

    Are covenant proponents telling me you would suggest a mid-marriage agreement as the way to go? Even in the one jurisdiction where this may be permitted, it is enforced only if the agreement is fair and equitable at the time of its entry and remains fair and equitable at the time of its sought enforcement.

    To continue this tormented analogy, if the covenant were presented as a pre-nuptial agreement, all parties would be free to walk away from the marriage that hasn’t occurred.
    Sometimes, couples need some time apart to realize they are stronger together. FWIW, let’s take off an entire generation, say 25-30 years.

    Perhaps I am hoeing the same row, but the problem with the covenant IS the covenant. This is not the time, nor is there any reason for it.


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.