What about the definition of Anglican? In the October issue of First Things, I expressed the hope that last summer’s Lambeth Conference, and particularly the leadership of Archbishop Rowan Williams, gave strong evidence that the center of the Anglican communion intended to hold together; that the Episcopal left and the GAFCON right would not, in fact, carry the day and so lead the communion ever-further down the road to fragmentation and incoherence. Since that time, most of the action has been on the GAFCON and Bishop Duncan side; and the more influence they have, the less chance there is of an eventual coming-together of things.
But the ball is now in center court, as it were””this February’s meeting of the Anglican primates will be crucial, as will the meeting of the Covenant Design Group in April and the Anglican Consultative Council’s meeting in May. If Anglicanism is truly to mean something beyond the local, these meetings will carry forward the Lambeth vision of a genuinely covenanted “global” and “catholic church,” with its ministry, faith, and sacraments “united and interdependent throughout the world,” as Rowan Williams has put it.
There are, of course, no guarantees. The forces of dissolution and division right now are strong, and it is always much easier to pull apart than it is to hold together. The question “Anglican or Episcopalian?” may always be with us; but at the least, we may still be able to hope that the question “What kind of Anglican are you?” will not become just as common.