Our Anglican forms

A lot has been going through my mind over the last months concerning the proposed changes to our Anglican understanding of church structure, authority, mutuality, and communion. It is true that we are not at all Roman Catholic – no Pope, no Majesterium, no Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, et.al, yet we are in our ecclesiology Catholic, albeit in an Anglican form and locally adapted (as the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral specifies).
Within the Anglican Communion, our traditional and juridical basic unit is the “province” or “national church.” The structures that have developed over the last hundred years or so (Instruments of Unity) have been to enable all those national churches to come together for support, encouragement, cooperation, and thinking together, but not to adjudicate (with the possible exception of the Anglican Consultative Council). The more recent calls for a fundamental change in our Anglican-Catholic structures would move us to be far more Roman.
It is odd that the Protestant pungent for rebelling against order, breaking away from established structures, ignoring the hierarchs, creating one’s own rules, et.al., has taken over in the minds of so many even though the solution proposed by them is far more internationally hierarchical and Roman.
One can easily say that the American Church did not have the authority to change the Communion’s understanding of morality or discipline or Scriptural understanding by consecrating bishop Robinson, or women for that matter. It is true, we didn’t and we don’t. However, and despite the assertions otherwise, we are not demanding such acceptance by all the other provinces – we haven’t the authority. No other provinces must agree with us, associate with Robinson or women bishops, or accept their authority. It is messy within Anglican ecclesiology, of course, but this is the reality.
None of our recent troubles had to happen. The same course could have been followed that occurred with women’s ordination. Agitators agitate for the purpose of agitation. They can’t help it and will find any reason that enables them to exercise their lust for agitation and division and to have their way.
If we talk about straw-men arguments, then it seems to me that the assertion that the American Church is trying to foist upon the communion homosexuals and women bishops is certainly a straw-man argument! We cannot do such a thing within our current international structures. It isn’t possible.
If, however, our structures change and we do take on a more hierarchal and Roman form (the Covenant, perhaps), then it can be easily understood that at some point in the future our new international body(ies) (our own pope or majesterium or congregation-for-the-doctrine-of-the-faith, or some such thing in Anglican form), will deem this or that idea, activity, or theological perspective to be normative for the whole Communion, and we will have no recourse but to obey in our various provinces. What then?
What happens when these new international authorities make a decision in thirty years that this or that groups detests (like declaring that Charismatic forms of worship be infused within the liturgy, or like opening the way for faithful homosexuals to be full members once again, or that all provinces must accept women bishops)? Those that hate the decisions will do what they are doing right now – being very American, individualistic, and Protestant by rebelling against current structures and breaking away to be more pure and creating a whole new set of structures that are “really” and “truly” “Anglican-Christian.”
The presumption that because right now some primates in various parts of the world agree with our reactionary American members – that they working their newly found power will “restore” right thought, faith, and practice throughout the Communion as a whole and always and forever, amen, is a deception of the Enemy of our Faith, particularly in its Anglican form.
Just because one group may haven the upper-hand now, does not mean they will later! The proposed structural changes could well be used against you in the future!
Anglicanism has understood this and has developed a means of being together in communion in a way that has allowed the various forms to remain one, even in tension and argument and while attempting to persuade all others that their party is more right about whatever. We are in the midst of tearing down those very forms and ourselves over demands for all to acquiesce to particularly sectarian theological and interpretive understandings.