Is the Communion too much bother?

02 November 2006

WHEN Dr Williams released his reflection on the future of the Communion, iwas generally taken to be a discussion-starter, building on the long hours ocareful debate that led up to the Windsor report. Whatever the outcome of thadebate, the imposition of a formal structure on a hitherto loose arrangement oautonomous provinces is a significant move, not to be undertaken lightly. Athe very least it should be the subject - perhaps the only subject - of debatat the Lambeth Conference of 2008. There should also be an opportunity for lapeople and clergy to contribute, as well as theologians from within Anglicanisand other traditions. And the synods and councils in individual provinces wilpresumably want a say, too.

Two communiqus from Nigeria this week suggest that this process might nobe allowed even to begin. First came a response to Dr Williams. ArchbishoAkinola and his bishops dismiss the two-tier proposal as "brilliant as thheartbeat of a leader who wants to preserve the unity of the Church baccommodating every shred of opinion no matter how unbiblical, all because wwant to make everyone feel at home". And they liken the US Church to "cancerous lump" that should be excised. The other statement, issued "under thguidance of the Holy Spirit", from the Nigerian Episcopal Synod, presided oveby Archbishop Akinola, talks about "defending the faith against the presenonslaught from ECUSA, Canada, England and their allies", and the need t"redefine and/or redetermine those who are truly Anglicans"; and it proposes aalternative Lambeth Conference organised by the Global South, "should alefforts to get the apostles of 'revisionist agenda' to repent and retrace theisteps fail".

Expressions of this kind illustrate the difficulty - some might say thimpossibility - of trying to hold the Anglican Communion together in anrecognisable form. Members of the Church of England might be surprised to learthat they have yet to repent of their "revisionist theology", which culminatein the consecration of Gene Robinson, and that, if they fail to repent, the of E will be one of the first to be demoted to "associate" status under the necovenant - or, if the Nigerian bishops have their way, excised from the body o"true Anglicans".

In such an atmosphere, it would be surprising if anyone had the energy fothe "re-imagining" tha< href="/80256fa1003e05c1/httppublicpages/7497825fb8e610ab802571a30031c612?opendocumentVincent Strudwick advocates. What point is there in producing bindinstructures if their chief effect is to loosen the Communion? The key benefit obelonging to an international communion is the opportunity it gives for thgenerous exchange of gifts and ideas among different cultures. If the factionin Anglicanism don't recognise Christ in each other - and for every Nigeriawho wants to expel the " global="" north",="" there="" is="" someone="" who="" wants="" nothing="" morto="" do="" with="" truculent="" african="" primates="" -="" the="" game="" is="" not="" worth="" the="">

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