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TORONTO: Torn fabric of the Anglican Communion cannot be repaired

TORONTO: Torn fabric of the Anglican Communion cannot be repaired, say orthodox Primates
Archbishop Justin Welby spins problems in communion as "contextual"


By David W. Virtue
September 22, 2013

A group of archbishops and bishops from the Global South meeting in Wycliffe College
www.wycliffecollege.ca/‎ Toronto recently said there was little hope that an Anglican Covenant initiated by former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams would heal the conflict over homosexuality in the communion.

They gathered in the ultra-liberal Anglican Province of Canada to mark the 50th anniversary of the Toronto Anglican Congress just weeks before a second Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON II) is due to meet in Nairobi. Reconciliation now seems impossible.

Archbishop Ian Ernest, primate of the province of the Indian Ocean, said decisions by the Episcopal Church in the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada on issues involving homosexuality have torn the fabric of communion.

"These are sad events," he said. "Things will never be the same again."

Middle East and Egyptian president bishop Mouneer Anis accused current leaders for failing to deal with substantive issues. Successive archbishops of Canterbury have tried to hold the communion together, but failed to use their influence to bring cohesion to autonomous provinces, he said.

Anis said the recommendations of primates meetings have not been carried out. The Lambeth Conference in 2008 was characterized by what he called "divide and rule" tactics, with no decisions being made.

The ultra-liberal Anglican Consultative Council, which facilitates missional work of the various provinces in the Anglican Communion, is not representative of the communion, said Anis, because its members are drawn primarily from what he called "non-orthodox" voices, rather than the majority orthodox voices held by African and Asian churches.

While the Anglican Congress in Toronto put forth a manifesto calling for the communion to grow in "mutual responsibility and interdependence in the body of Christ," Anis said recent developments in the communion have delayed work on the proposed covenant, and "watered down" its content.

The vision the Egyptian archbishop sees as the way forward is to recognize a more conciliar communion, with more power for the regular primates meeting, more representation for the Anglican Consultative Council and a clear mechanism for dealing with what is acceptable diversity from the provinces of the communion.

A video linkup with the new archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, brought this response from the new Anglican leader. Welby said that in every generation, church members have thought their problems were "terminal."

"Churches are sinful," said Welby. "None of us are right. The trouble with the Anglican Communion will not be solved by focusing on one or two sins. All of us need to come to the cross."

He said in different contexts the problems may be different - sexuality, persecution, corruption, abuse of power, complacency, poverty.

Welby said Anglicans are called to be bridge builders, who will "find ourselves struggling with unity." He sees the future growth of the communion in mission and in reconciliation.

However, an Anglican observer noted that Welby appears to be determined to turn a blind eye to the disintegrating Anglican Communion placing his hope in "mission and in reconciliation". "Oddly, he seems to entirely miss the point that those who are 'focusing on one or two sins' are not conservatives but liberals: when a faction in a church - North American Anglicanism in this case - decides to bless something that is sinful - and Welby is acknowledging it is sinful - it is the faction that is doing the focusing."

The conference concluded with a reminder that even among more conservative Anglicans there is concern about the polarization in the church. Toronto Suffragan Bishop Patrick Yu said he is concerned about the lack of theological and geographic diversity among the speakers to the conference.

"We are always lumped with the Americans," he said. In the Diocese of Toronto, people are not "judged or driven out" on the basis of being traditional in their theology. "We do not persecute conservatives."

Yu said in spite of differences in the communion, there is hope for reconciliation and a new commitment of resources to mission and evangelism. "Our problems are not so intractable," he said.

One observer said that Yu is a tame faux-conservative Toronto bishop who suffers from what can only be described as a case of genetic predisposition to obstinate optimism in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence.

The facts are that that Anglican Church of Canada has repeatedly invited US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to General Synods where she has been lauded as a progressive thinker on the front line of inclusive Christianity.

It should be noted that not all Global South archbishops are on board with GAFCON II. Even so, some 1300 orthodox (read Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic Anglicans) will be in Nairobi next month to push The Great Commission and to make evangelism its keynote objective as a continuation of the East African revival.

[Sources for this story included RNS and Anglican Samizdat]

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