Thursday, September 10, 2009

Trashing the Anglican Communion

In an essay entitled "The imagined community of the Anglican Communion," Frank M. Turner defends The Episcopal Church by trashing the very idea of the Anglican Communion:

Over the past twenty years proponents of what is called “The Anglican Communion” have sought to establish ... [an] imagined ecclesiastical community among various provinces around the world whose churches derived in some fashion from the Church of England. In the case of the Episcopal Church the derivation of Episcopal orders was not direct but through the Scottish Episcopal Church and its character was strongly influenced by its eighteenth century American setting. The so-called Anglican Communion exemplifies a religious version of Anderson’s “imagined community.” At its most banal, the Communion exists to justify bishops traveling about the world on funds contributed by the baptized. At its worst, it has come to represent an imagined community several of whose Episcopal spokespeople now seek to persecute and degrade or relegate into a second track churches who have opened themselves, their process of ordination, and their episcopate to gay and lesbian people. In this respect, it this ecclesiastical imagined community replicates in its drive to exclusion the persecution that ethnic minorities have experienced at the hands of dominant nationalist groups from the early nineteenth century to the present day. ...

One of the reasons for the use of “Anglican Communion” as part of what the Archbishop of Canterbury terms “our identity” resides quite simply in the hubris of the claim that the Anglican Communion is the third largest Christian denomination in the world after the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. It is, however, important to recognize that the churches in this communion are not all the same, represent distinctly different histories and cultures, use different prayer books, different liturgies, and different modes of ecclesiastical governance. ...

The good that the Archbishop of Canterbury seeks to achieve is the unity of an imagined Anglican Communion that has virtually no existence in reality. In support of that unity he willingly sacrifices the ordination of women in some dioceses, the appointment of women to the episcopate in some churches, and the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from ordination and the episcopate. For the sake of unity of a communion that does not really exist, he has (perhaps unwittingly) fostered turmoil, dissension, and schism. ...

Read it all.

"More than a via media" offers an insightful, critical response to Mr. Turner:

Turner's history of American Anglicanism is, to say the very least, abbreviated. He fails to mention that for a century before 1776 Anglicans in the American colonies, without indigenous bishops, relied on English bishops to ordain their priests and deacons. That they used the Church of England's 1662 Book of Common Prayer. That they described themselves as members of 'the Church of England'. That when Seabury sought episcopal consecration he turned first to the English bishops and only after a refusal on political grounds was consecrated by Scottish bishops.

Turner has engaged in historical revisionism in order to support the radical doctrine of provincial autonomy. He seeks to deny that Anglicanism emerged from the pattern of theological reflection, liturgical and pastoral practice, and threefold orders experienced in the post-Reformation ecclesia Anglicana. He denies that this tradition has shaped national and local churches that have emerged across the globe.

What [Turner] emphasises instead of a shared Anglican tradition is a distasteful ecclesiastical version of American exceptionalism. ... It has, of course, familiar ring. It is a baptised version of the Declaration of Independence. Here, then, is TEC's charter for independence, its Manifest Destiny.

Despite the morally distasteful fact that his essay uses LGBT persons as a means to the end of justifying American ecclesial independence, Mr. Turner's frontal assault on the very idea of Anglican catholicity as a form of false consciousness at least has the merit of clearly and decisively answering the question raised by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams in his 2006 statement The Challenge and Hope of Being an Anglican Today: "Are we prepared to work at a common life which doesn't just reflect the interests and beliefs of one group but tries to find something that could be in everyone's interest - recognising that this involves different sorts of costs for everyone involved?"

Mr. Turner - and most of the commentators responding to his piece - have answered this question with a resounding, "No!"

I submit that it is precisely this answer to this question that is starting to make many moderate Episcopalians jump off the ship currently steered by our national leadership. If that's true, it bodes ill for a Church that continues to hemorrhage money and membership.

3 comments:

BillyD said...

Oddly enough, the other day Fr. Hunwicke (an Anglo-Papalist priest of the Church of England) trashed Anglicanism himself on his blog: http://liturgicalnotes.blogspot.com/2009/09/anglicanism.html

Bryan Owen said...

Thanks for sharing the link to Fr. Hunwicke's posting.

"Anglicanism is a nonsense religion, a dim, pathetic, ridiculous superstition, developed within the last 150 or so years. ... The sooner that 'Anglicanism' is shovelled into the trash-can of History, the better."

Mr. Turner could learn a thing or two about sharpening his rhetoric from this guy.

DavidB said...

I never have understood the existence of Anglo-Papalists. I'm pretty catholic in my beliefs and practice- if I didn't have issues with the Roman Catholic understanding of the role of the Pope, I would be Roman Catholic. Why isn't Hunwicke?