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A Modest Proposal for the Future of Anglicanism - by Peter Moore

A Modest Proposal for the Future of Anglicanism

by Peter Moore
(Exclusive to Virtuosity)

10/7/2004

[b]Assumptions:[/b]

1. Anglicanism has a significant contribution to make to worldwide Christianity. It should be preserved.

2. The present fragmentation of Anglicanism is a serious impediment to this ongoing contribution.

3. Whatever the Lambeth Commission (i.e. the Eames Commission) or the Primates insist on, it is not likely that the present leadership of The Episcopal Church will retreat from its endorsement of committed homosexual unions, or its support of V. Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire.

4. Despite all the words, fragmentation of the Anglican Communion will continue. Indeed it will accelerate at a shocking rate.

5. Without a solution, the Anglican Communion will fragment along north/south, revisionist/traditionalist, rich/poor, liberal/evangelical lines. Lawsuits over property will consume immense energy and resources, leading to greater fragmentation within world Anglicanism.

[b]Proposal:[/b]

1. Rather than a divorce, let us have a 15-year trial separation. The newly separated branches will have a “fraternal” relationship rather than a “spousal” one. The limited time range envisioned prevents further fragmentation, and permits the present leadership to retire or die, and a future generation of Anglicans to ponder how to come together.

2. During this trial separation, there will be a moratorium on lawsuits over property. Property ownership will remain legally whatever it currently is.

3. The Queen, the Prime Minister, and the leadership of the Church of England will appoint a new Archbishop of York who is thoroughly acceptable to Anglicans in the Global South, and to conservatives and traditionalists around the world. Someone like +Michael Nazir-Ali comes to mind. But there are doubtless other suitable candidates.

4. The Archbishop of York is elevated to primacy (at least outside of the UK) equal to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

5. Provinces, dioceses, parishes, mission societies, seminaries, and organizations within the Anglican Communion will choose which archbishop to recognize as their spiritual head. This includes dioceses and parishes in the UK.

6. Parish assessments will go towards that branch of the Anglican family with which it chooses to affiliate.

7. The two Primates (York and Canterbury) will be recognized as equals, and they may choose (indeed likely will choose) to be in full communion with one another. However, Canterbury Anglicans and York Anglicans the world over may elect not to be in communion with one another. This permits bodies in the Anglican family to declare themselves out of communion with one another for a limited period, and to follow their consciences.

8. In America, certain parishes in York-related dioceses may choose to sever their relationship with their diocese and affiliate with Canterbury. Similarly, certain parishes in Canterbury-related dioceses may choose to sever their relationship with their diocese and affiliate with York. Dioceses must be willing to respect the wishes of parishes to go with the other branch of Anglicanism. It might even be possible in some badly split dioceses for Canterbury Anglicans to elect their own bishop, and York Anglicans to elect their own bishop. Assuming that each group can pay for a local bishop, why not? These bishops might even remain as local rectors, even while they carry higher responsibility.

9. A major benefit of this is that all Anglicans (whether Canterbury Anglicans or York Anglicans) will remain closely linked to the mother church, the Church of England. All Anglicans will have a primate in England whom they recognize as their spiritual head. All will have a “home cathedral” where key events may take place, etc. Each Anglican sibling will retain their linkage to history and to spiritual roots in England. The Queen will be recognized in England as spiritual head of the Church of England, which will include both York Anglicans and Canterbury Anglicans.

10. The Provinces of York and Canterbury in the Church of England will no longer be geographical. Some provision will be made for Forward in Faith Anglicans to remain in the Anglican family through the services of “flying bishops” similar to what is happening now in the UK.

11. In America, the Church Pension Fund will continue to service clergy (and parishes) who align themselves either with Canterbury or York. There will be no discrimination. Income from common Episcopal resources (such as scholarships, trusts, endowments) will be distributed according to some negotiated proportionality.

12. Commissions, and committees will be established to continue conversation between York and Canterbury Anglicans in the hopes that reunion may eventually be possible.

13. While these conversations will not presume a common mission, they will work on finding common ground in areas of faith and order.

14. The Lambeth Conference will be replaced during this 15-year period by Pan-Anglican Conferences to which delegates representing both York and Canterbury Anglicans will be invited. There will be no insistence on full inter-communion at these gatherings. Common worship will be offered; but Holy Communion will be offered for those who are in communion with one another.

15. Gamaliel-like each side will take a “wait and see” attitude towards the other. Optimists will hope that the two separated siblings will find enough common ground to come together again after 15 years. Pessimists will expect the other branch of the family to wither and die, or to further fragment because of internal differences.

16. Freed from the need to be in lock-step with one another, the Canterbury Anglicans will be able to distinguish themselves by their concern for issues of justice, liturgical revision, gay rights, world peace, and so on. York Anglicans may mirror some of these concerns, but will likely concentrate on evangelism, church growth, personal holiness, renewal, and so on.

17. Seminaries around the Communion may choose to train clergy for either Canterbury or York Anglicans, or both.

18. York Anglicans in America will seek to draw back into full communion various Anglican groups that are now currently separated: AMiA, The Reformed Episcopal Church, Continuing Anglican churches in America, Nigerian Anglicans in America, Sudanese Anglicans in America, etc. The same process may happen in other parts of the world: CESA, for example, in South Africa, may choose to affiliate with the York Anglican branch of the family.

19. Canterbury Anglicans will seek greater involvement in the Ecumenical Movement, and may find common cause with other mainline Protestant denominations.

20. All Anglicans, of whatever stripe, will agree to pray for one another. A common Cycle of Prayer will be recommended for use by all Anglican churches.

[b]Conclusion:[/b]

Obviously, should a trial separation like this be decided upon (at the Primatial level, I would assume) the spirit in which various parts receive the news will have a great bearing on whether or not ultimate reunion might ever take place. What is said of one another at this crucial juncture, what is printed, what is legislated will either smooth out the rough places so that ultimate reunion might be possible, or will further fragment what is already a badly broken Anglican family. Each side (York and Canterbury) will have to rein in their more extreme spokespersons in an effort to keep the Enemy from having a toehold in either side. Each must try to do their best to speak well of the other, even while acknowledging that fundamental differences exist. A period of one or two years would likely be needed during which parishes and dioceses would choose which Primate they wished to recognize. There would remain some 70 million Anglicans in the world – or more. They would simply be found in two Communions linked together by tradition, history, property ownership (in some cases), heritage, and at the very top by two primates who are in communion with one another.

The Rev. Dr. Peter Moore was Dean of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA. He is now the Chairman of the newly formed Board of Anglican Relief and Development.

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