An Opinion on Why the Anglican Communion is Rending Itself Apart

I’ve found an interesting take on the Anglican Communion as it exists today, pre-split, titled “Anglicans in the Postcolony: On Sex and the Limits of Communion” by Mary-Jane Rubenstein. It can be found at Telos 143 (Summer 2008): 133–60. Importantly, for those not in the know, or at least in America and can’t seem to find a copy of “The Battle of the Bishops” because the BBC won’t let those in the USA watch it, Rubenstein also does a decent job of locating the major players and some decisions that led to the tension today.

Below is her thesis:

I would like to suggest, however, that a more useful picture—both analytically and ecclesiastically—emerges when one considers the full range of commitment and opinion within the Communion. In conversation with the work of French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy, I will propose that the Anglican Communion’s crucial distinction falls, not between proponents of ecclesiastical relation and proponents of ecclesiastical autonomy, but rather between proponents of two different kinds of relation: one that aims to bring all difference into identity, and another that seeks its identity in and through difference. Both of these models can arguably find scriptural and traditional justification, and yet they are proving to be fundamentally incompatible as they vie for the souls—and the soul—of the Anglican Communion.


4 thoughts on “An Opinion on Why the Anglican Communion is Rending Itself Apart

  1. Halden says:

    That’s one of the most loaded attempts at defining the disagreement I’ve read. I’m not sure which side she means to peg with each one of her definitions, though I suspect it is the traditionalists that she intends to label as those who seek “to bring all difference into identity”, i.e. those who just want to make everyone the same as them, make the queers straight, and so on.

    When terms are defined like that at the outset, the conversation is already over. But of course, this one was over long ago anyway.

  2. I wonder if it is possible not to have terms loaded in such a debate.

    Also, I think she makes an important distinction, even if the term is loaded. It seems that some Anglicans no longer hold to the actual traditional understanding of the Church of England, the via media (the term first originating with Queen Elizabeth I). And I think it is this that the author is getting at. For people to get up and leave, i.e. GAFCON, for them via media doesn’t seem to play a part at all. In some very real ways, they seem to embody what conservative American theology is known for historically — taking their ball and leaving. Historically conservative American theology lost the universities and seminaries, some were pushed out, but over time, most left in protest to start their own.

    However, importantly, I think the author leaves room for conservatives that don’t plan on leaving and take the via media, among other notions of community. After all, NT Wright is at Lambeth if I’m not mistaken, and I remember reading an article about (I think it was) the bishop of Jerusalem who was not pleased with GAFCON and called them not to say such things of Williams and to not withdraw, despite his conservatism.

    In the end, I think the definitional lines here are not particular to where someone actually falls in the disagreement of homosexuality, but instead over leaving, and why they would leave. And I think its one of the best ways to characterize it from what I’ve seen.

    Like I said, the author spends a bit of time locating the major players and how it all lead up to this point. I wonder if the discussion, and think it would probably be good, to talk in the categories she put forward because it hits at the relationality and notions of communion. It might be a bit loaded, but it might be describing some accurately me thinks. And in fact, those some, like Akinola, from what I’ve heard him say, may actually agree.

  3. Phillip says:

    How on earth can one compare the colour of a man with the sexual preference of a man? To deny a man’s worth based on his colour is to deny that ‘from one blood he has made every nation that dwells on the earth.’ The choice – and if we argue it isn’t a choice but a condition of birth then by the same argument Paedophilia must be deemed acceptable – of one’s sexual preference is something that is subject to grace, it is no part of the Church’s mission to validate sin and render it respectable, it’s function is the celebration of salvation through the Eucharist and the condemnation of all sin through the Holy Spirit making the word effectual. The Anglican community (in England at least) is a completely bankrupt institution simply because it refuses to align itself with any definite stance. The entire hierarchy reeks of betrayal and horrid ambition,(Women Bishops, I laughed so much I almost passed my cigarettes around, I was at a service the other week when the Woman minister had us read three different portions of scripture before she gave us a sermon suitable for 5 year old children. When I asked why there was no connective logic she said that what she did ‘felt’ right. Once the Holy Spirit would mark those in the Communion who were FIT to teach, but now ALL appointments are mere politics. The Islamic community puts us to shame on this point.) why else would they toe the political line so meekly? It is but the proverb realised we have become too wealthy and so we forget God in the sense of reverential remembrance and pious obedience, we think and decide; vulgar democrats that we are. Thank God our African brethren remain faithful to the truth that the gospel is about including sinners but redeeming them from their sins. Of course let’s be real ‘Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft’ so it should be noted that both the British Empire and its bastard offspring (the USA) are simply the breeding ground of Satan, and their pretence to speak in Christ’ name is but the hollow mockery of Lamech glorying in his sin. Repentance and the confession of sin and the wholesale return to either the Roman or Eastern community are in truth the only options if the people of God desire again to witness Christ’ triumph ‘over every principality and power’ and surely this includes sexual sin?

  4. Phillip,

    On this blog, I’ve stayed out of the discussion about sexuality, insomuch when it makes calls on the sinfulness of homosexuality. One reason is because this whole split is predicated on many other things than simply one flash point. I think you missed a great deal of the article if you assume so. In fact, I wonder if you actually prove a point in the article about relationality, rather than merely writing a small diatribe against women in leadership, as well as homosexuals.

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