Friday, February 11, 2011

The Anglican Communion: What Went Wrong?

Fr. Dale Matson
In the days following the Primates Meeting of the Anglican Communion in Dublin there seems to be an awakening to the reality of two Communions. The one Communion is led by Rowan Williams the Archbishop of Canterbury and is located in the historic center of Anglicanism in Canterbury England. The other Communion consists of a cluster of Primates from the Global South and those willing to follow them. The latter group has less Bishops and more Anglicans.

At this point it is time to break through the denial of putting Humpty Dumpty back together. There is no plan, document, dogma or covenant that can rejoin these two Communions. Strategies based on current schemes or wishful thinking will not mend this fracture. These two Communions do not share the same world view or even the same gospel.

After a divorce there is a tendency toward what is called rebound and lacking insight the cycle will be reenacted. The break in the Anglican Communion is a matter of irreconcilable differences but that is not the problem. It is a symptom of a problem. How did one Communion become two Communions? That is the question that must be addressed after the requisite numbers of leaders finally agree that there is in fact a permanent schism and no reconciliation.

There will be many opinions offered in attempting to explain what happened including original sin. Some will say Protestantism itself has within it the seeds of schism. Some will point to the enlightenment, science, individualism or humanism. Some will blame Women’s ordination, Prayer Books, undisciplined rogue Bishops and advocacy of the homosexual lifestyle in the church. Others will point to organizational structural weakness. Some will say it is a failure of the Communion to adapt to social change and others will say the reverse; that it is the Communion adapting to and adopting the culture in which it is embedded.

Any reasons advanced that attribute outside forces to the fracture of Anglicanism must also explain why this has not occurred in the Church in Rome which has remained unified in spite of internal difficulties and external pressures throughout its history.

My understanding of this schism is that one Communion continued to heed the command of the Great Commission. “Go and make disciples”. The Great Commission is ultimately no different than God’s command to Adam Eve in Genesis. “Be fruitful and multiply”. The willingness and obedience to heed this call is emboldened and empowered by God the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, the body of Christ, the church cannot exist. Without God the Holy Spirit, we are simply fearful people, gathered together and locked in an upper room. We are called to be fruitful and multiply. We are called to win souls for Christ and to equip the saints for service and to prepare them for death so that Christ may be formed in them. This Communion is alive because the Holy Spirit dwells therein. It is a church willing to suffer. It is a church willing to be fruitful and multiply. It is a church embracing life. It is a church willing to be salt and light. It is not ashamed of Jesus the Christ and His name is as a hot coal on our lips. Amen

1 comment:

peter said...

The church of Rome has had schism. The first major one was the break with the eastern church and the next was protestant schism of the 16th century, both which the papacy had the negative role involvement. Today, there are informal schisms in the R.C. especially silly here in America. The papacy has not resolved that. Anglicans are at least more honest in their fractures.