These difficult questions are at the heart of the entire present struggle over the soul of Anglicanism. Orthodox critics of GAFCON such as Williams and Wright””along with theologians such as Chris Seitz, Ephraim Radner, Philip Turner, and primates such as Drexel Gomez of the West Indies””argue that sufficient answers cannot come from ad hoc interventions and councils. They must come instead by reforming Anglicanism from within. These critics stake their hopes on the proposed Anglican Covenant, due to be discussed at Lambeth next week, the principal goal of which is to arrive at a mutually agreed-upon method for deciding disputed matters with reference to substantive and coherent theological criteria.
Unfortunately, it is not clear that Lambeth and the other existing structures of Anglicanism can accomplish any such thing. Many hope so, against great odds, and not a few continue to work and pray that it might. Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, one of the Church of England’s leading thinkers, said at GAFCON that Anglicanism, if it is to be an effective confessing church, needs also to be a “conciliar church . . . to have councils at every level, including worldwide, that are authoritative, that can make decisions that stick.” Orthodox Anglicans going to Lambeth agree; that is why they are going, and that is why they have placed their hopes in the proposed Anglican Covenant. If they do not succeed, the GAFCON fellowship will almost assuredly step in to fill the gap, as a new confessional church in the evangelical Anglican tradition. Anglicanism will not be what it used to be, and some will argue that it no longer genuinely exists.
It might be too much to say that a good Lambeth could save Anglicanism from such a fate, but it is probably not too much to say that a Lambeth gone wrong could render such schism unavoidable. Certainly it is not too much to predict that faithful Anglicans everywhere will be working, watching, and praying for guidance.
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