News from the Anglican Communion has been non-existent, largely because it is no longer functioning as a Communion (remember what the Primates warned in October, 2003?), and because developments in the Church of England (as it slowly goes to pieces in the same way that ECUSA did) have left little that can still be called Anglican.
So it comes as a welcome surprise that the Archbishop of Canterbury has called for a gathering of the Anglican Primates in London next January to discuss the future of the Communion. The agenda will not be dictated beforehand, but will consist of topics suggested by individuals and agreed upon by consensus.
In a nod that acknowledges the collective will of the GAFCON primates, the Archbishop of Canterbury has already extended an invitation to ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach to attend for part of the gathering. According to the Secretary of the Anglican Communion, the Most Reverend Josiah Idowu-Fearon, “nearly all the Primates have indicated support for this meeting” — since Archbishop Welby’s invitation shows that he listened to what the GAFCON primates had to say in his individual conversations with them.
Another factor that no doubt is facilitating a fresh attempt to strive for consensus is that the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (USA) attending will be the newly elected Most Rev. Michael Curry, rather than his predecessor, who managed repeatedly to give offense to many of the Global South’s primates at their previous meetings, and who was indifferent to the consequences of her conduct for the communality of the Communion. Bishop Curry will take office November 1, and will come to the meeting with a clean slate (insofar as any representative of ECUSA is able to do so). At least there are signs that he will meet his colleagues from an initial position that reflects more of a personal, evangelically-based humility than of an intellectually-based self-assurance or arrogance. If so, that will go a long way toward helping the Primates’ conversations recover lost ground, and perhaps even move forward.
Nevertheless, neither ECUSA nor the Anglican Church of Canada have shown the least sign of moderating their separatist stances, and so there can be no return to the pre-2003 Communion. At the same time, their self-inflicted decline in members will lessen their ability to throw their weight around: can you imagine Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori agreeing to attend a meeting at which Archbishop Robert Duncan would also be present? The challenge to Archbishop Welby and the gathered Primates will be to find a path that will allow the greatest possible number of shattered relationships to heal, and so in time (perhaps) to move the Communion to a new consensus.
But for that to happen, the Anglican Communion Office (through both the Archbishop of Canterbury and its Secretariat) will have to distance itself further from financial and ideological dependency on ECUSA and its wealthy constituents, such as Trinity Wall Street. For too long now, from GAFCON’s point of view, the revisionists have been calling the shots, but now there are signs that they at last are weakening. That is why Archbishop Idowu-Fearon will play a key role, along with Archbishop Welby, in resolving how best to start realigning the Communion at the upcoming Primates’ Meeting, if that process is to begin at all.
If they try to help ECUSA and ACoC retain their erstwhile roles of influence, they will hasten the eventual disintegration of the Anglican Communion. Likewise, if they listen only to the voices of modernity, according to which each church’s or denomination’s view of Scripture needs to get in step with the culture, then they will seal that disintegration, by recognizing it as a fact that has already occurred. But if they actually listen to the voices that are seeking to hold the Communion in line with its traditional understanding of Scripture — an understanding that stems from the very beginnings of the Anglican Church — they may yet hope to call a halt to the disintegration, and to lay the first firm paving-stones for a Communion that will, one day and once again, derive its strength from its collective faith in the good news of Christ crucified.
The decision is in God’s hands. Pray for the Primates, and (if you still treasure what once was there) for the lost Anglican Communion.