Thursday, December 14, 2006

Anglican Fellowship

Curious developments in the Church of England (taken from Anglican Mainstream website read here.):

A small group met with the Archbishop of Canterbury on Tuesday December 12 and presented A Covenant for the Church of England on behalf of a wide group of Evangelical and Charismatic members of the Church of England with the support of a number of Anglo-Catholic leaders.

The Covenant is the fruit of an ongoing process reacting not to a few local or immediate difficulties but responding to widespread concerns in the national and global church.

The group were listened to carefully and as a result of the meeting it was agreed that there would be further discussion of the issues raised in the Covenant to find a way to maintain the unity in truth of the Church of England.

Click here for the covenant itself.

After a quick read, the covenant seems pretty direct and is a very welcome development as far as I'm concerned. And I am supportive of what my brothers and sisters (who are older, wiser and more godly than I) are trying to do in making this important (perhaps historically significant?) move.

But, as always for me with questions regarding the CofE, one thing nags at the back of my mind. And it's this phrase:

...with the support of a number of Anglo-Catholic leaders...

Call me uncharitable (and yes, I don't know the individuals Anglo-Catholics involved or what they believe etc. etc.), but I find it very difficult to be satisfied with a rallying call which fails to address the differences between Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical theology. I'm totally unconvinced that the problem in the CofE is only with liberalism. I'm not prepared to say that the matters over which Anglo-catholics and Evangelicals are often divided are of no consequence to fellowship. But that's maybe one of the reasons I'm not a CofE ordinand (although I am currently a member of a CofE congregation).

Maybe I'm reading too much into the covenant but talk of a developing two-way division in the Church seems to me to be a papering over of the other major division(s?). Said enough now, better shut up.

(It strikes me that these posts and comments are sort of relevant to this issue in some way)


Big Pete said...

That same issue has been worrying me over the past few weeks, particulalry after Bishop of Winchester came in to college.

However, I think we do have more in common with the anglo-catholics than the liberals and I think it is fair to say there are more Christians in the anglo-catholic world than in the liberal one. But you are still correct we are papering over the differences (which are large) with the Catholics.

It's an exhausting thought that once we split into 2 churches (which I am sure will happen) then we will be left battling with the anglo-catholics which we have been doing for the best part of 450 years!

Pete said...

You are right, we do have more in common with Anglo-Catholics than with Liberals. We have more in common with many conservative Roman Catholics too than with many liberals.

Your last paragraph highlights for me the nature of the potential problem with the covenant. If the covenant seeks to assert anglican orthodoxy and call all like-minded to rally under that banner, and this includes anglo-catholics, then evangelicals are effectively giving away the right to 'battle' (as you say) with the anglo-catholics at least in the near future since they've been included under the banner of acceptable orthodoxy. To turn attention to matters of crucial difference with anglo-catholics after a split with liberals would make the covenant with anglo-catholics now look rather opportunistic and even manipulative (gaining their support in the fight against liberals only to turn on them afterwards).

Neil said...

You are, of course, right Pete. If the CofE/Anglican Communion was to split properly, then there would be no advantage joining with Anglo-Catholics. However, in terms of encouraging that split or restraining current levels of damage within the church...

At NEAC in 2003, Colin Buchanan (former Bishop of Woolwich, not Aussie kids' song writer) was asked whether in an ideal world liberals and anglo-catholics should be part of the CofE, he seemd to reply that Anglo-Catholics were welcome, but liberals not (he referred to them as "parasites" - in a diagnostic, not hateful, way).

The other difficulty with a split, is that I think it unlikely that even all the 'evangelicals' could hang together. At least in General Synod, we have even less in common with some of the so-called evangelicals, than with Anglo-Catholics!

Pete said...

Thanks Neil. Shrewd comments about evangelical disunity in particular.

With due respect to him as an older brother in Christ, I think however that Colin Buchanan's remark is symptomatic of the problem here. He was, of course, involved in writing 'Growing into union' with Dr Packer and two Anglo-Catholics in 1970ish.

Is such a covenant as this the best way to restrain 'current levels of damage in the church' or does it merely add to the confusion down the line?

Big Pete said...

Slight addition to this discussion. I might be wrong but I don't think any anglo-catholics signed up to the covenant they were basically just in favour of it and are planning to do something similar themselves. (Got that from the Telegraph website -

Pete said...

Thanks for that Big Pete. That does seem to be rather different. I'm not convinced political alliances of this sort are the right thing, though this is admittedly different from producing a covenant for the anglo-catholics to 'sign' as well.

It is interesting that the article says the Anglo-Catholics are considering a similar move regarding women bishops. Obviously it would be difficult to rally an evangelical consensus on this issue.

I hear there are two churches in the US who might be about to come under Peter Akinola's oversight. They vote today apparently.

Dave Williams said...

Which is why I think it probably best to collapse the whole thing at some point. Tell the Anglocatholics to go make up with the pope, let the liberals join the Methodist Church -which will probably extend its shelf life for another 5 years.

And the Evangelicals, decide what your priorities are. Some won't care tuppence for episcopal oversight and probably are eager to stop baptising babies -they'll feel at home with much of the FIEC. A lot of the charismatics will feel fairly comfortable in something like NFI -It's practically an episcopal system just an even fancier title for the top bod. Some will want to keep some form of episcopal system and paedobaptism and that will be fair enough.

We have wasted too much effort on these structures and the gospel is not being honoured.

Let's escape the rot and then we can start enjoying the true benefits of real Anglicanism, genuinely Evangelical, scholarly without being over intellectual, rich in liturgy....