Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Second Question: What do we mean by the Anglican Communion?

The full text of this question asks us to consider this introduction to the Draft Covenant:

God has called us into communion in Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:9; 1 Jn. 1:3). This call is established in God’s purposes for creation (Eph. 1:10; 3:9ff.), which have been furthered in God’s covenants with Israel and its representatives such as Abraham and most fully in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus. We humbly recognize that this calling and gift of communion grants us responsibilities for our common life before God.

Through God’s grace we have been given the Communion of Anglican churches through which to respond to God’s larger calling in Christ (Acts 2:42). This Communion provides us with a special charism and identity among the many followers and servants of Jesus. Recognizing the wonder, beauty and challenge of maintaining communion in this family of churches, and the need for mutual commitment and discipline as a witness to God’s promise in a world and time of instability, conflict, and fragmentation, we covenant together as churches of this Anglican Communion to be faithful to God’s promises through the historic faith we confess, the way we live together and the focus of our mission.
Our faith embodies a coherent testimony to what we have received from God’s Word and the Church’s long-standing witness; our life together reflects the blessings of God in growing our Communion into a truly global body; and the mission we pursue aims at serving the great promises of God in Christ that embrace the world and its peoples, carried out in shared responsibility and stewardship of resources, and in interdependence among ourselves and with the wider Church.

Our prayer is that God will redeem our struggles and weakness, and renew and enrich our common life so that the Anglican Communion may be used to witness effectively in all the world to the new life and hope found in Christ.

and to ask "How closely does this view of communion accord with your understanding of the Development and vocation of the Anglican Communion?"

While I would readily agree that the Anglican Communion bears witness to the "new life and hope found in Christ" and to "the great promises of God in Christ that embrace the world and its peoples" I am not sure that all Anglicans would agree about what that looks like. For Episcopalians, it involves not just unity for unity's sake but striving for justice and peace, upholding the dignity of every human being, proclaiming the Good News and so on. Part of the "special charism" of Anglicanism seems to me to be that we are willing to allow some of us to go out on a limb for what we believe the justice and the Holy Spirit are calling us to.

I see nothing here about the development of the communion. It is described as a gift of God's grace rather than as the unfolding of a process in history, a process in which, of course, the Americans were out front creating a problem and the Brits were trying to make it possible for Americans to be distinctively themselves and still Anglican.

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