Commentary on the Separatist Movement

Well, I suppose I must join all the others in commenting on the separatists who are in the process of setting up a new communion under the name of Anglican. It is important to remember that we Anglicans have long endured in a tenuous partnership of two competing views of what it means to be Anglican.

One view has desired to maintain a strong connection with progressive elements of our Catholic roots that included an emphasis on the socio-political teachings of Christ and a vigorous open-ended way of reading and understanding scripture that honored, but was not subservient to, tradition.

The second view has desired to transform Anglicanism into a Calvinist church with a strong connection to an evangelical ethos. The Puritans are the progenitors of this view and their presence and influence in the Anglican Communion has never gone away. Once it seemed a fairly superficial matter of the difference between high church and low church Anglicans, but it has taken on new colors in recent decades. The American version of it has adopted the theology of what the press calls Conservative Evangelicals, but they have kept the trappings of Anglican hierarchy and have endowed that hierarchy with more autocratic authority than has ever been a part of the larger American church. In that way they are brothers of some of the African churches that were established by English Evangelical-Puritan Anglicans and so never had much of a connection with traditional Anglicanism except by way of a church hierarchy that could compete successfully with their own well established ethnic hierarchies. As these churches matured beyond their colonial keepers, they had every reason to use their size and power to establish a uniquely African way of being church that was very intentionally not Western, and especially not American.

Of course, both the history and contemporary issues are much more complicated than that, but I think the overall theme is correct. The more or less natural result is the emergence of a new communion of like minded churches that are almost Fundamentalist in their conservative evangelicalism dressed in an Anglican hierarchy that has significantly enhanced authority to rule. I don’t think the looming separation is an altogether bad thing. It permits traditional Anglican churches to go on with their mission and the proclamation of the gospel unencumbered by those who are unable to find a comfortable place in it. The American church, despite its odd and sometimes rudely arrogant ways, will go on along with other traditional Anglicans in a much healthier spiritual environment. One final note, please read “traditional” to mean progressive, or even liberal if you like, but always consistent with the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church including its historic creeds.

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