On June 17th The Rev. Canon Gregory Cameron delivered the Hellins Lecture in the Diocese of St. Asaph (Wales) on the subject of Anglicanism and the future of the communion. Read it all here (12 pages). Thanks go to Ruth Gledhill for making the lecture publicly available.
Cameron is Deputy Secretary of the Anglican Consultative Council and has been deeply involved in the development of an Anglican covenant. He served as Rowan Williams’ chaplain before Williams became Archbishop of Canterbury. Who knows; perhaps it gives some hint of the Lambeth agenda.
His lecture is a call for self examination by partisans on both sides. Without explicit citation of the biblical references, Cameron channels some of what Williams said in the closing paragraph of his response to the GAFCON statement to “wait for one another” (I Cor 11.33) and to remember the parable of the wheat and the weeds (Matt. 13.29). Of course those determined to find see in it support for their view, or ammunition to use will do so.
The lecture preceded the meeting in Jerusalem, but shows insight into what would be forthcoming:
Increasingly, the Churches of the South have asserted their identity in the Anglican Communion, and this is an identity which is uncompromising in its commitment to the supreme authority of the scriptures as God’s Word written; which is content to see the Thirty-Nine Articles as the benchmark of contemporary Anglican life; and which sees itself contending for the salvation of souls in the face of a lively Pentecostalism and a militant Islam.
At the end of this week roughly 280 bishops of the Anglican Communion, almost half of whom make up the Episcopal College of the Church of Nigeria, will be joining eight hundred or so other Anglicans in Jerusalem for the Global Anglican Future Conference, which will attempt to map out a future for an Anglican Communion, whose compass rose points firmly to the South, acknowledging the vitality, enthusiasm and remarkable witness and faithfulness of the Global South churches. For those who gather in Jerusalem, the Anglican Communion stands at a critical point in its life when it can either choose to seek the blessing of God, faithful to the apostolic Faith revealed in the holy Scriptures are, or it can turn aside for a mess of pottage served up by western liberalism and relativism.
(The lecture includes several telling tweaks of both liberals and conservatives such as the remark “almost half of whom make up the Episcopal College of the Church of Nigeria”.)
On the West and the South:
It has been said, with a certain sense of irony, that in the Anglican Communion, the Africans pray, the Americans pay, and the English write all the documents. Put like that the idea is almost laughable, but the dark side to the life of the Anglican Communion is that too often the theological graduates of the seminaries of the NATO alliance do unconsciously adopt an air of educational superiority, while many American church leaders do not even seem to notice, even while they often unconsciously rely upon, the implicit obligations which they place on the recipients of their largesse.
It should not be surprising therefore to discover that the twenty-first century has brought a growing impatience with the cultural and financial dominance of the NATO aspects of Communion life, and with it, a growing critique of the Churches of the West. Not only are we in the West shrinking in numbers unlike the growing Churches of the South; for many critics, the Churches of the West are losing a sense of their identity as they get lulled into the liberalism and relativism which are presumed to be the hallmarks of the modern Western society.
It can too often appear these days that we Anglicans are busy making the issue of homosexuality a shibboleth. Unless you can articulate your views in exactly the desired way, be it adapted towards a conservative or a liberal agenda, then you are likely to get cut down. The very nature of your Anglicanism, of your orthodoxy, of your Christian faith, the very value placed upon your membership in the body, is made to depend on one particular articulation of one particular understanding of one particular moral issue, and your position on this matter is used to read back into the whole of Christian faith and discipleship as the way for it to be understood and evaluated. If you’re found wanting, then you are liable to be treated as a sinner and tax-collector.
Faced with the levels of anger, political subterfuge and almost histrionic rhetoric that seem to swirl about our Communion, I can understand those who say that perhaps the time has come to let the Communion go. If it stands on a precipice already, why not administer that little shove to put it out of its misery?
To those who argue such, I offer two comments.
First, let us not believe that by externalising the issue and demonising those parts of the communion, either liberal or conservative, with which we find ourselves most in disagreement we can resolve the issue. Differences over the moral teaching of the Christian faith are not new to Christianity (there are after all several examples of controversy over sexuality in the Scriptures), neither are they located solely in North America or in Africa….
Secondly, I have already mentioned in passing the fact that the true bonds which hold the Communion together not bonds of constitution and canon law, but the bonds of affection. Ultimately we are called an Anglican Communion because we believe that the profession of our Anglican faith, and common initiation into the Anglican heritage brings us through Christ into a very real fellowship with the other millions of Anglicans across the world. The heart of our life is not history or heritage or even ecclesiastical politics, but the reality of lived and shared discipleship.
On the covenant, not withstanding the last paragraph quoted above (note the tweak of the Episcopal Church below):
There have been many that have criticised the concept of covenant on the grounds that it is something new to Anglicanism; on the grounds that it is a mendacious use of the scriptural imagery of covenant; and on the grounds that it introduces a new centralisation into the life of the Anglican Communion.
I have already mentioned in passing the five or more covenants made by the Episcopal Church with its former missionary provinces….
The role of the covenant proposal in Anglican life therefore is to articulate the boundary stones of Anglicanism, not as something new or alien, but as a clear statement of those fundamentals which we hold as central to our expression of Christian faith, both in its content and the distinctive patterns of relationship and tolerance which have been the hallmark of Anglicanism in its history.