ANGLICAN CONCILIARISM – The Church Meeting to Decide Together, by Canon Phil Ashey

Aug 27, 2017 by

Book Review by David Virtue, VOL:

Conciliarism was a reform movement in the 14th-, 15th- and 16th-century Roman Catholic Church which held that supreme authority in the Church resided with an Ecumenical Council, apart from, or even against, the pope. The movement emerged in response to the Western Schism between rival popes in Rome and Avignon.

Fast forward to the 21st century and Canon Phil Ashey would like to see an Anglican conciliar council to sort through the mess that has become the Anglican Communion.

The question now is can the Churches of the Anglican Communion find each other around a common confession of faith and doctrine in a coherent way that is Biblical, apostolic, catholic and classically Anglican. The premise of Ashey’s book is simple: Conciliar decision-making (placing final ecclesiastical authority in church councils) has never been practiced at the international level of the Anglican Communion. To date the Communion has been united by “bonds of affection” with only a nod towards a shared faith and doctrine.

Since the middle of the 19th Century we have seen the Church’s departure from its conciliar past. The Lambeth Conference’s deliberate choice to call itself a conference (with no power to guard its teaching) rather than a council or synod having authority to set and enforce limits.

As Paul Valliere’s book on Conciliarism notes, that from the original call for an Anglican Council came a conference, and from a conference (came) consultative “instruments,” and from a covenant came a committee.

A true consensus collapsed during the 20th Century, so that very survival of the Anglican Communion is now in question.

But Ashey asks the question “What would it look like if, at the international level, Anglicans were to make decisions together in the same conciliar way of decision-making that is found among the national Anglican Churches and their sub-jurisdictions?” He begins by examining and “extrapolating from below” the laws of various Anglican Churches to identify the common principles and practices of the “Church meeting to decide together.”

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