12 February 2009

Alexandria Communique though the eyes of a seminarian and Honors Fellow

"Are we a global church, or are we a federation of local bodies?" So begins the best analysis of the recent primates' meeting that I've read. It comes from First Things, a Journal of Religion, Culture, and Public Life - a publication for academics and clergy in institutes of higher learning.

Seminarian Jordan Hylden, a graduate student at Duke Divinity School, has given us his interpretation of what the Alexandria meeting means to the future of the Anglican Communion. In my opinion, he is spot on. Hylden tells us that the answer to the above question is "A global church, there there's a lot of work to do before we get there."

Hylden, who describes himself as "an Episcopalian interloper studying at a Methodist seminary", does not see the Communion as a lost cause.
To be sure, Orombi did not change his mind about the deep theological differences separating his church from more liberal Anglican churches; communion for him as for other conservatives, was still very much broken.

But that is not the same thing as saying that the communion does not matter, and is not worth working towards. For Orombi and his compatriots, it would seem that a genuinely Anglican communion, stretching around the globe, rooted in Canterbury, and united in the truth of the Gospel, is indeed worth fighting for, and even now is far from out of reach.
That, in a very real way, is bad news for the progressives in the Communion, in my opinion. "United in the truth of the Gospel" is t he troublesome part of the above statement. What that means is that "there is hope for a global church as long as the fundamentalists are in charge of that church. And it will not be inclusive."

That is the real message of the Alexandria conference. That is why the GS cohorts were seemingly so congenial.

He also comments on the WCG Report

The report of the Windsor Continuation Group, commissioned for the meeting and released alongside the primates’ communiqué, frankly acknowledged the deep and widening divisions in the Anglican world. While most Anglicans agree that there simply must be “some limit to the extent of the diversity which can be embraced” regarding faith and morals, there has not yet been any agreement reached as to where those limits are found or who decides what they might be. “What,” the report asked, “are the sources that need to be brought to bear on any [disputed] issue? What are the structures through which discernment takes place?”

The answers to those crucial questions, as has become embarrassingly and painfully obvious in recent years, are simply not clear. Anglicans do not agree on the content of the faith, the authority of Scripture, or the loci of ecclesial authority. In fact, Anglicans do not even agree on how far or whether it is necessary to agree on such matters.

It is just this, the primates argued, that Anglicanism needs to change if it is to survive as a genuine communion. Although Anglicans have historically been jealous of their autonomy, the primates contended that their emphasis ought to shift from autonomy to “communion,” “accountability,” and “interdependence.” They signaled that these points must be made concrete in terms of binding doctrine and institutional authority.

He is correct about that. It is a matter of greater importance to the GS primates than it is to the primates of the rest of the communion.

Commenting on William's statement that "Unless the covenant is robust and accepted the federal model [of communion] does loom on the horizon" Hylden has this to offer.
But it is precisely the “federal model”—Anglicanism as a federation of autonomous, doctrinally diverse local churches—that did not fare well at Egypt, just as it found disfavor last summer at Lambeth. We have seen, in both cases, something of a consensus emerging. The great majority of Anglicans worldwide seek a “deeper communion” with each other, and are prepared to cede a certain amount of their autonomy to achieve it.
Again, he is correct, but it is many primates who are willing to cede a certain amount of autonomy. It is not the people in the pews. The primates represent the pinnacle of the polity of each province - a presidents' meeting, not a meeting of the Communion members. I continue to submit that ninety percent of the world's Anglicans do not care about the "schism" -- the schism is a leadership obsession.

Hylden concludes
All of these issues and then some remain to be worked out in due time. “There is,” as the WCG report said, “a fundamental ecclesiological question” at stake: “do the churches of the communion wish to live as a communion?” No doubt some do not, but in Egypt as at Lambeth, it has appeared that most of them do. For their part, the primates in Egypt showed a remarkable willingness to work together for the good of the communion, rejecting both the easy disunity of atomized purity and the false, surface-level harmony of smiles and happy feelings, determining instead to seek the unity in fellowship that comes only in the truth of the gospel and at the foot of the cross.
But, for me, the question that remains is, who will be sacrificed for that unity?

Please take the time to read Hylden's article The Anglicans in Egypt: A Deeper Communion. You should also read his article Anglican, or Episcopalian. It is worth the time to read.