I have already noted the threats, that are well-known to exist, to the future of the Anglican Communion. From a careful reading of the CommuniquÃ© following the recent meeting in Alexandria of the Primates of the Communion, and on the basis of what some of them have written and said since, it would be foolishly optimistic to imagine that the existing difficulties were on the point of being overcome. One commentator seems to me to have summed up the situation well when he wrote: “(the communiquÃ©) seemed to mark the acceptance, finally, of the unbridgeability of the Communion’s divide over sexuality and biblical authority, while leaving the outworking of this conclusion still undetermined.”
It may well be the case that only a proportion even of ‘active’ members of the Church of England are much concerned about the Anglican Communion. But even those less concerned would, I think, be faced with questions both within their churches, and from their friends and in the Media, if the Communion were explicitly, by decisions of responsible bodies, to divide. This too would suggest that things were not as they had been ”“ and the more so, if there came (as I think that there would quickly come) pressures upon the General Synod, or upon individual Dioceses, to make choices between the (by then) divided parts of the Anglican Communion.
Many fewer people, I think, are aware of the growing head of steam, in the ‘Global South’ and more accurately among the ‘GAFCON’ elements of the Communion, for a early Review of the processes for the appointment, and of the role, of the Archbishop of Canterbury, on account of the post-holder’s responsibilities as the senior Primate of the Anglican Communion, and as one (arguably, and certainly at present, the most significant and effective) of its four ‘Instruments of Communion’. Specifically, should these roles and responsibilities in and for the contemporary Anglican Communion be located in the See of Canterbury, whose occupant is an appointee of the British Crown (and to date a Briton though today not an Englishman), rather than in an (Arch)bishop elected, like every other Primate, by his peers.
Here are complex questions (explored already in the Hurd Commission’s Review of the See of Canterbury published in 2001): of the relationships of the Provinces of the Communion, and so of Anglicanism itself, to the See, and to the Cathedral, of Canterbury; of the future of the appointment of the Archbishop of Canterbury (and so of other English Bishops) by the Crown; and of the possibility of an Archbishop of Canterbury who was not British ”“ but could such a person fulfil the roles of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the life of England and of the Church of England? (Could we imagine an English bishop today as Archbishop of Nigeria, or of Australia?) These questions have the potential to cause a good deal of unsettled-ness in the Church of England, and to divert a good deal of energy, if the Global South presses them as I believe that it will.
Read it all.