Why We Should Care about Canterbury

Why We Should Care about Canterbury

Note: Anglican Pastor covers issues facing pastors, laity, churches, leaders from an Anglican perspective.  Occasionally, something happens in a larger Anglican context that deserves mention.  The gathering of Primates in Canterbury next week is one such occasion. These are my own thoughts and perspectives as I think about these issues and pray for our leaders. -DHR

In only a matter of days the Primates of the Anglican Communion will have a gathering in Canterbury. The agenda has not been set but the purpose has been made apparent from the outset.  Welby’s invitation was clear and bold:

“Our way forward must respect the decisions of Lambeth 1998, and of the various Anglican Consultative Council and Primates’ meetings since then. It must also be a way forward, guided by the absolute imperative for the church to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, to make disciples and to worship and live in holiness, and recognising that the way in which proclamation happens and the pressures on us vary greatly between Provinces. We each live in a different context.

“The difference between our societies and cultures, as well as the speed of cultural change in much of the global north, tempts us to divide as Christians: when the command of scripture, the prayer of Jesus, the tradition of the church and our theological understanding urges unity. A 21st-century Anglican family must have space for deep disagreement, and even mutual criticism, so long as we are faithful to the revelation of Jesus Christ, together.

“We have no Anglican Pope. Our authority as a church is dispersed, and is ultimately found in Scripture, properly interpreted. In that light I long for us to meet together under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and to seek to find a way of enabling ourselves to set a course which permits us to focus on serving and loving each other, and above all on the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ.”

So the purpose of the gathering is to find a way forward; to find if there is a way forward together…either as a full communion or as former pieces of it; either as one Communion trying to rebuild a relevant structure for mission as a global community of Anglicans or as separate entities that will live with a common heritage but without common links.

Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America has been invited to attend this gathering. This is a very hopeful sign that a new kind of future might be possible. I hope so. In addition, this gathering might mean that some kind of official recognition of ACNA by the entire Anglican Communion could be a near-term reality for the Anglican Church in North America. We should want this. This would be good for the ACNA and for our mission; it would be good for GAFCON; it would be good for the Anglican Communion and the Gospel work we can do.

I know that there are others who vehemently disagree or discount the importance of this.  Some say we already have this recognition by virtue of our provenance; we are a child of GAFCON and they are in the Anglican Communion, so therefore we are. Others would maintain that the Anglican Communion is a theological fellowship made of those who subscribe an orthodox set of beliefs; it is not structural but theological and missional.  And some would say that until the Anglican Communion is willing to discipline its errant members we should not have anything to do with it. However, I think we should have everything to do with the Anglican Communion. Now.

Here are 10 reasons why we should care about Canterbury and the Anglican Communion worldwide and the possibility for formal recognition.

  1. Reform: It is consistent with our GAFCON vision to bring reform and renewal to the Anglican Communion. Our participation in the Anglican Communion will strengthen GAFCON’s identity as a legitimate movement for reform. But you can’t reform what you do not belong to.
  2. Vision: It must be remembered that remaining apart from the Anglican Communion was never the endgame for our movement. We always envisioned that we would be part of the worldwide fellowship.
  3. Mission: TEC cannot demand exclusive territorial rights to America. Overlapping boundaries are the future of any global church. Immigration patterns and globalization have changed the meaning of borders. TEC may want every worshipping member of the Anglican Communion to worship exclusively within a TEC church in a TEC Province, but try telling that to the thousands of Nigerians and immigrants from India that are attending ACNA churches in the US. They are members of the Anglican Communion worldwide and in their minds and hearts they are attending a legitimate Anglican Church.
  4. Heritage: We share vast resources in the treasures of the Anglican Communion.  They enrich us and provide the beauty and framework for liturgy that we so treasure.  Many, if not most of our theological heroes were and are members of the Anglican Communion. Cranmer, Ridley, Jewel, Hooker, Andrewes, Whitfield, Wesley (ironically!) and the modern luminaries Lewis, Stott, Packer, etc. This is our heritage; we are would be very much poorer without it.
  5. Witness: Our bishops, clergy, and congregations have been sued by members of our former church (TEC).  They have been deposed and property has been confiscated. Some litigation is still pending.  This is tragic and shameful on so many levels. It must stop and the wounds must be healed. We must surely forgive but we must also join with others around the Anglican Communion to insure that TEC is held to account for these actions. That is a solemn duty.
  6. Fellowship: As the post-modern age turns more and more against Christianity, we should welcome broad church partnerships and relationships. In addition, the easiest and most ecumenically stable link to the Roman Catholic faith is through Canterbury.
  7. Confidence: We should not let the fact that TEC is a member of the Anglican Communion dissuade us from our full place at the table.  Why should they prevent us from the benefits of this global network. In fact, our participation can counterbalance their progressive agenda.
  8. Lifeline: A significant part of the Anglican Communion was a lifeline to us when we needed it ten years ago.  We can be there for other members in the future.
  9. Ministry: The Anglican Communion is one of the most effective agencies of support and protection for beleaguered and persecuted Christians around the globe. We should know…we were once persecuted and prosecuted ourselves. Through the provincial structure of the Anglican Communion we can send help, aid, prayer and hope to others around the world.
  10. Hope: A formal recognition of ACNA within the Anglican Communion would be a prophetic rebuke to the Western progressive forces within the Church itself. It would hearten many around the world to know that the Anglican Communion is standing for the faith once delivered to the saints.

For these reasons and others, we should regard the opportunity before us now as a God-given opportunity to link ACNA to a broader element within the Anglican Communion.  We should pray for all Primates of the Anglican Communion and most especially our Primate Foley Beach.

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