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What is the future for the Anglican Communion?

What is the future for the Anglican Communion?
Image via Wikimedia Commons

Since his tour of 38 province visits earlier this year, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has been wondering aloud about the future of the Anglican Communion and its internal relationships. The Huffington Post  and the Religion News Service both report today on an interview that the Archbishop gave recently to The Times of London, in which he is quoted as saying

I think, realistically, we‘ve got to say that despite all efforts there is a possibility that we will not hold together, or not hold together for a while. I could see circumstances in which there could be people moving apart and then coming back together, depending on what else happens.

Welby cited differences of opinion over the ordination of women as bishops, and the full inclusion of LGBT people in ordained ministries and marriage rites, as issues challenging to the Communion. Of his visit to the Episcopal Church in the USA, the article concludes,

He described a visit to the U.S. as “a real gift in terms of communication. At least there was understanding why we disagreed with each other when we disagreed rather than simply disagreeing and not understanding each other.”

The full interview can be found in The Times online, but continues behind a paywall.


Posted by Rosalind Hughes


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Lionel Deimel

Obviously, different churches have different ideas about how the Anglican Communion should work. Perhaps the prior question that all churches should be able to answer this: What is the Communion for?

JC Fisher

I wish ABC Welby had said something about the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, the still-existing “Anglican Covenant” which SHOULD HAVE kept us together.

Chaz Brooks

The quadrilateral was formulated as a “lowest common denominator” basis for unity between Protestant Churches. It hasn’t functioned as a basis for unity within Anglicanism because it can’t and wasn’t intended to.

Rod Gillis

I’m the second person on this site you accused of making a cowardly reply. It could be construed as a tendency towards cheap shots, but only if you demonstrated greater command of the subject matter.

Chaz Brooks

At any point are you going to stop talking about my character and make a proposition that can be proven or disproven? However cheap my shots might be, at least I made some objective propositions first.

Chaz Brooks

Projection? It’s what you said. “Before deciding to get into it, based on your previous posts, I wanted to gauge whether a rejoinder was worth my effort. ”

If you want to talk about the issues, then right ahead, but don’t blame me for your pompous attitudes.

Rod Gillis

More projection. In general, the more invested an interlocutor is in an issue, the more I find the responses do keep coming. Worked in your case. cheers, -Rod

Chaz Brooks

Karma indeed: you post as if people have to earn respectful, substantive engagement from you, and inevitably people can’t be bothered.

Rod Gillis

Projection is a lot like bad Karma, don’t you find? As we used to say in the old days, here endeth the lesson.

Chaz Brooks

You made a “dismissive” reply containing nothing to argue with whatsoever and then blamed me for dismissing you in return? You’re right. This discussion is not worth the effort.

Rod Gillis

I pointed out that there are several inaccuracies in your take on the quadrilateral. Before deciding to get into it, based on your previous posts, I wanted to gauge whether a rejoinder was worth my effort. You wrote, ” I’ll just assume you didn’t point them out because you can’t.” Now if you had asked me more nicely, like say with “Do enlighten me”, I likely may have obliged. Or, you could have replied by expanding on the sources upon which you base your claims, thus providing something to work with. I don’t know from nothing about your character, I’m just measuring my reply based on your attitudinal approach. As for attitudes, I’d suggest mine is more dismissive than pompous in this case, but hey, who can tell, its social media.

Rod Gillis

There are several inaccuracies in this statement.

Chaz Brooks

I’ll just assume you didn’t point them out because you can’t.

Chaz Brooks

What a pompous and cowardly dodge. Back up your statements and tell us all what I have wrong here.

Rod Gillis

I’ve done my homework, you can do your own. Do let us know the results. I only have your posts to go on; but I suspect your background on the issues is not all that in-depth.

Rod Gillis

Archbishop Welby’s comments in the press are on the same wave length as those he made in his charge to the Church of England General Synod. He obviously has a much better vantage point than we posters do here, in terms of the future of the Communion. Here are a few words from his address in the section titled, A flourishing Communion:

“First of all, and this needs to be heard very clearly, the Anglican Communion exists and is flourishing in roughly 165 countries. There has been comment over the last year that issues around the Communion should not trouble us in the Church of England because the Communion has for all practical purposes ceased to exist. Not only does it exist, but almost everywhere (there are some exceptions) the links to the See of Canterbury, notwithstanding its Archbishop, are profoundly valued. The question as to its existence is therefore about what it will look like in the future. ”

The past and present are, of course, prologue to the future. There are strong cultural components to the conflicts within the Communion, perhaps no where more so than in the areas of gender and human sexuality. The Communion has been a Victorian Era structure and is now trying to find its way in a post-colonial situation. It is interesting to look down the lists of Communion bishops in the successive Lambeth conferences over the past century. With each successive Lambeth the number of expatriate western bishops in Africa and Asia has declined in favor of indigenous bishops. This positive development has consequences. National churches want to express Christianity in a way that makes the most sense in their own cultural context. The cultural issues around gender, sexuality, and authority vary greatly across the Communion. Western churches are dealing with the consequences of the sexual revolution. At the same time there is a recognition that imposing western values in other jurisdictions in a way that is a throw back to colonialism is not right.

The Canadian Church is something of a microcosm. There is a strong push in urbanized areas for full GLBTQ inclusion. However, Canadian Anglican aboriginal groups have a different set of voices on this issue. The Canadian church is still working out its repair of relationships with aboriginal peoples after its long history of complicity with racism, including, especially, its involvement in residential schools. The dynamics, in terms of justice, are not one dimensional.

One major problem that concerns me in terms of contending with cross cultural conflict, whether at home or at the Communion level, is who is involved at decision making levels. The Archbishop’s address to the GS in England has a wealth of perspective, but the one thing he could perhaps be faulted for is the lack of attention in his address regarding the future and laity in general and the role of The Anglican Consultative Council in particular.


“The Episcopal Church in particular has adopted a policy of doing whatever it likes regardless of how it makes the rest of the Communion feel.”

I don’t recall any Global South Anglicans checking with TEC about whether their national legislatures should, or should not, criminalize homosexuality.

[Jeremy Bates – added by Editor]

Chaz Brooks

I don’t know why they would, since none of the “Global South” Churches constitutes a national legislature.

Lionel Deimel

The Anglican churches in Uganda and Nigeria have urged the passage of draconian anti-gay legislation. The Episcopal Church hasn’t complained about that, but not because we think it is a particularly Christian thing to do. Our churches can maintain a certain arm’s-length distance or we can perpetually be at one another’s throats. Which attitude do you think is more productive?

Chaz Brooks

You both know you’re basically agreeing with me, right? Well, except for me finding the end of our unity a matter of at least a little regret, but otherwise…

Chaz Brooks

We could possibly come to a consensus of what the Christian Gospel is, but not if we are so paranoid as to think of such a conversation as coercion. We used to have something of a consensus, we’ve lost it for sure, but I don’t see why we couldn’t have one again.

Jeremy Bates

No, I don’t know that, especially when you throw around phrases like “the end of our unity.”

What kind of “unity” do you think the Communion ever had? It is and always has been a family of independent churches. Nothing more.

You seem to think the Communion should still be trying to “hammer out a common identity.” That’s a fool’s errand.

The Communion cannot be used as a tool to force one province to be more like another. Such attempts are doomed to failure.

[Jeremy: please remember to sign your full name – added for you today]

Marshall Scott

Two things I find troubling about this, looking at the (apparently identical) report in HuffPo and RNS. The first is the apparently casual reflection of the leader of Reform that one divisive issue is somehow more powerful than “believing more or less the same things.” Somehow, that seems to me sad at best, and contrary the Gospel at worst.

The second is the closing comment from Canterbury. After all this time, and with all that has been written and reported, is he still just now learning “why we disagreed when we disagreed?” That, really, is more disturbing to me than the rigidity of the leader of Reform.

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