November 28, 2008

How Provincial (?)

The Church Times reports on the scheduled Wednesday unveiling of the Anglican Church of North America as a new province. The question, of course is, province of what? As noted in the comments at Thinking Anglicans, until someone or other declares it a province, it is just a collection of individual bishops, clergy and laity, formed into whatever subdivisions they imagine helpful to the existence of a church. Contrary to the assertion, the portions of former Episcopal Dioceses in this mix have all left behind the still-functioning, though diminished and in some cases needing restructuring, dioceses of The Episcopal Church. Also included are a number of groups that left TEC in earlier generations, some more than a century ago (The Reformed Episcopal Church), now coalesced in the Common Cause Partners. (One can be forgiven, in the midst of all of these associations, for thinking of the scene in Life of Brian where distinctions have to be made between the various splintering factions attempting to subvert Roman rule.) The new "emergent" province is part of a larger constellation that calls itself the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans — which includes a broad collection of entities and individuals around the world.

I have noted that it is unlikely the "Anglican Church in North America" will be recognized by Canterbury -- and they seem to have partaken of preemptive sour-grape-consumption in saying already, in the GAFCON Jerusalem Declaration, that they don't need Canterbury to be Anglican. But surely, as observed at TA, they need to be recognized by somebody if they are to be a Province, rather than a free-floating exercise in autonomous ecclesiarchitecture. For provinces are always provinces of; to use a Hebrew language analogy, a Province is always in the construct state, the state of being possessed by or related to some other entity.

So, at present it is best to describe it as part of a looser assemblage, a Fellowship. One assumes that word was chosen with care by the Fellowship of Confessing Anglican folks, and in the knowledge that that is how the Anglican Communion (centered on Canterbury) describes itself. So, it seems to me, preparations are already afoot, should a "Province" not be recognized by Canterbury, to form a new Acantuarian Anglican Communion altogether. And I think perhaps some, even of the most separatist-leaning of the present Anglican Communion provinces in the Global South, may wish to maintain a foothold in both Communions. Or am I misreading the tea-leaves.

Whatever the case, they had best be reminded of the danger of attempting to board a vessel while keeping one foot still firmly planted on land.

Tobias Haller BSG


June Butler said...

Acantuarian Anglican Communion is excellent. Who knows, Tobias? They may like the name and adopt it as their own. Once the new communion is formed, the other AAC, the American Anglican Council, will become part of it and will no longer have use for the initials, so there will be no confusion - I guess.

Anonymous said...

Laurie Goodstien says in the New York Times that "Conservative leaders in North America say they expect to win approval for their new province from at least seven like-minded primates, who lead provinces primarily in Africa, Australia, Latin America and Asia."

There will be no approval from Australia's primate who is not, as some suppose, the Archbishop of Sydney, but the Archbishop of Brisbane, the Most Revd Dr Phillip Aspinall.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Indeed, Brian. Sydney reminds me of a certain loud horn that speaks arrogantly... not to be too apocalyptic; but the present goings on bring Daniel and Revelation to mind!