In my free time (?!) I have been trying to read more about the Anglican Church. I have regularly blogged about my adventures in Anglicanism, capsule and how much I am enjoying the liturgy, online and most importantly, the practice of taking communion every week. But, as much as I like St. Aidan, I look past the local congregation to the Anglican Church of Canada and the global communion and it seems that what is happening at the national/international level is so disconnected from what I see at the local level of the little parish in Moose Jaw.
So, I’ve been reading three books. First, is Anglican Essentials: Reclaiming Faith Within the Anglican Church of Canada. Though this book is now 17 years old, the issues that it wrestles with are still the same issues that the Church is wrestling with today. Topics include, What does it mean to be Anglican in a pluralistic country? Who is Jesus? What authority does the Bible have in the Anglican church? What does Anglican worship look like? What does the Anglican Church say about sexual ethics? How does the Anglican Church do evangelism and mission? These essays are from a conference that was held in 1994 to address the future of the Anglican Church of Canada. George Eggerton writes this in opening chapter:
‘The theologies and praxis of liberalism and progressives have not brought renewed mission or cultural relevance to Canadian mainline churches. As institutions they at best remain in survival/maintenance mode and at worst face Bibby’s predicted demise. Bibby’s studies demonstrate the low levels of Christian faith, knowledge, practice, and participation in Canada…Further accommodations of cultural liberalism will result in deepening theological division, polarization, and probable schism. As with our sister denomination, the United Church, many will leave, or separate to form dissident congregations. The result, God forbid, would leave the Anglican Church of Canada mortally wounded and ill-equipped to face a new century.’ (23)
Second, is The Fate of Communion: The Agony of Anglicanism and the Future of a Global Crisis. This book has been extremely helpful in laying the groundwork for understanding the Anglican Covenant that has been proposed (and it looks like defeated?). Ephraim Radner and Philip Turner look at the actions of the Diocese of New Westminster and the Episcopal Church in the US and how their decisions impacted the larger Anglican Communion. It also explains The Windsor Report a foundational document for the Anglican Covenant. Radner and Turner, most importantly weigh the relationship between the global communion and the ‘local option’ and the question of authority and discipline work in the Anglican Church. Ultimately, the question is, what is the definition of communion? Is it a broader body to whom each diocese is responsible to and has to listen to (and accept correction from), or is it merely a body of federated churches who can each do their own thing without regard for others in the larger communion? From the book:
‘Within a given diocese, almost any change in belief and practice can occur without penalty. Three justifications are given for such laissez-faire practice. One I have mentioned; namely, the claim of the prophet’s mantle by the innovators. Claim a new thing—one that need have no perceivable link to the past practice of the church…Backed by claims of prophetic and Spirit-filled insight, each diocese can justify its action as a ‘local option.’ Local option within ECUSA is a term that refers to the right of a diocese or parish to go its own way (in contradistinction to common practice and belief) if there seem strong enough internal reasons to do so.’ (247)
Third, is Anglican Communion in Crisis. This book takes an anthropological approach to analyze the interesting relationship between conservative (or ‘dissident’) Anglicans in North America and the leadership in the African churches. In particular, how submitting to the authority of the bishops in Africa is reshaping the Anglican tradition in North America. The relationship between these two bodies demonstrates that the issues that face one component of the Communion (i.e., The ECUSA and ACOC) is not merely an internal issue, but has global consequences. The author writes:
‘This North/South movement opposing Episcopal Church policies is both conservative and globalist, challenging the assumptions of many scholars of global movements that globalism and progressivism are intrinsically linked…Furthermore, the globalization produced by this orthodox Anglican movement is not limited in its impact to leaders and activists, nor is it merely a process of Westernization, an exporting of American conflicts to Southern locales. This movement’s globalizing work has shaped the thoughts and lives of Anglican clergy and laity around the world, from the middle-class white Americans of St. Timothy’s who now regularly discuss news from Africa, to the Ugandan laity who now see their church as challenging Northern global dominance, and whose new cows, coffee fields, or church buildings may result from the generosity of Northern conservative partners.’ (pg 242-243)
I still don’t know what to make of it all, but I will continue reading…in my free time (?!). Anybody have any suggestions of other books that would be helpful to understand all of this?