Who will save the Communion?

Jan 14, 2016 by

Vinay Samuel and Chris Sugden Church of England Newspaper January 15
Media reports prior to the Canterbury gathering heavily trailed as a resolution to the current crisis that churches might remain in communion with Canterbury while some were not in communion with others.
Our hope and prayer is that the Communion will take a firmer line than this in support of the settled Christian teaching on marriage which has stood the test of time.
TEC and Canada will never return to Lambeth 1.10. They cannot do so. The changed culture in the west will not go back. The key issue is not waiting for them to change or acting in such a way that will facilitate their change. The key issue is how the communion should continue if it is accepted that they should not be asked to leave.
African and other provinces have been faithfully ministering to the poor, to Ebola victims, to those who live with same-sex attraction and behaviour, to those persecuted in the Middle East and Pakistan, struggling to maintain faithful witness. Now they are being made the villains of the piece for strongly objecting to the heresies of TEC. Yet TEC has created the problem. Their churches are declining in numbers, their leaders espouse heresy, and they insist everyone become like them.
If TEC remains we do not see how it will be possible to contain them. That will put increasing pressure on the orthodox including members of the Global South that will more likely lead to their exit sooner rather than later. TEC and Canada must be told plainly that the future of the communion is in their hands. Since they have created the problem, they must come up with a solution. They are making it look as if the Orthodox provinces have created the problem. If TEC wishes this historic communion to survive they must be prepared to make sacrifices. They need to give undertakings that satisfy the rest or withdraw from the Communion. GAFCON must be willing to say what will enable them to accept the continuing membership of TEC and Canada in the Communion, short of them becoming orthodox which is now impossible. The future of the communion is in TEC’s hands. The Archbishop of Canterbury should put much pressure on TEC to come up with a viable solution.
Work with the GAFCON Theological Resource Team which prepared for and followed the Jerusalem Conference between 2008 and 2012 showed clearly that non-western ( mainly African) members of the team approached doctrinal matters very differently from some western members for whom doctrine was about how far truth in propositional statements was faithful to the text of the bible or of the creeds and formularies. The primary focus for non-western theologians was on the practical discipleship implications of any doctrine: doctrine was primarily performative and not propositional. That is why the issue of same-sex marriage has caused such distress for the non-western churches. They are not much interested in the endless debate on how biblical that proposition is, but on what it means for Christian discipleship and witness in their context.
Anglican Identity is rooted in the injunction to Timothy to “Guard the deposit (What has been entrusted to his care)” I Timothy 6:20. The apostolic faith is entrusted to Timothy who is the anointed guardian of the faith. The focus is on both and not just the deposit. One focuses on the purity and safety of the doctrinal formulation and the other on the apostolically anointed leadership that ensures it from generation to generation. The early fathers saw it that way, as did John Stott.

Anglican orthodoxy is affirmed by commitment to biblical authority and the creeds and formularies of the Church as the normative expressions of the apostolic faith. The Jerusalem Statement is a contemporary document by which orthodox, biblical and apostolic faith is reiterated.

Anglican identity is an ecclesial and historical identity, distinct from orthodox identity. The Church’s catholicity is expressed in several historic streams, Roman. Anglican, Orthodox, Lutheran etc. Anglican identity comes from the historic stream of Anglicanism that originated with the Anglican Reformation. It can trace its history to the Apostles and its connection to the Church from its beginning. We are not free to set up our own biblical, orthodox identity without connecting it with something historically apostolic. The apostolic tradition should not be reduced to just creeds, texts and formularies. That is focusing solely on the deposit and setting aside the role of the guardians of the deposit.

If guardians clearly depart from the faith and fail to protect the deposit, they are to be rejected. The Church of England has not done that so far. Its agreed doctrines and practices are orthodox and so Canterbury still affirms Anglican identity. That may change if the Church changes its doctrine.

Related Posts


Share This