A Threefold Cord?

Well, this past week has sure been one for news. First, ++Akinola warns that if things don’t change and soon he’ll create a rival Lambeth and now the C of E has stated that there is no theological bar to episcopal consecration of women. As with +(+)Schori, it is now only a matter of time before we have a female Archbishop of Canterbury. As a result, FiF UK is even now making plans to bail.

In all honesty, I can’t see how the center can hold. The notion of an international communion held together by affection rather than doctrinal confessions has failed. I pray that this is defeatism talking and that I will be proven wrong–but I just can’t see from where I sit now. My crystal ball suggests not a Conservative Communion and a Liberal Communion arising out of this. What ever arises will be more messy. Why? ++Akinola is a protestant. Recent convert to Catholicism Peregrinator from Canterbury Tales made this comment on a discussion at Texanglican’s place:

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is going to have to remove their tabernacles, melt down their monstrances, and hide their rosaries if their going to process to the altar, I mean, holy table with Akinola.

For Akinola, Anglo-Catholics are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

And he’s right.

FiF will not align with ++Akinola. Some probably will leave for Rome, but I can imagine an alternate structure being set up for English Anglo-Catholics that will reach out to American and other Anglo-Catholics (How does Archbishop of Walsingham sound?)

I see nothing less than three potential global Anglican bodies:

1. Canterbury and the former broad church wing–now the liberal wing.
2. An Evangelical Communion centered in the Global South.
3. An Anglo-Catholic wing, probably also centered in England.

Whether these potentialities become realities depends on a whole lot of things which cannot now be foreseen. Perhaps the most important involves who can–or will–reach out to the Continuum.

I said above that the collapse of the AC is perhaps the collapse of an international communion held together by affection rather than doctrinal confessions. Note what I said–and what I didn’t say. I didn’t say that this heralds the collapse of a communion held together by common prayer. Because we’re not. Our prayer internationally has not been common for the past 50 years or so. I believe that the Prayer Book and prayer book spirituality is the true hallmark of Anglicanism. What if we did commit ourselves to common prayer? What if we walked apart as bodies no longer of one mind but if we promised to one another to study how we can return to our common heritage of prayer?

Can the Anglican splinters still witness to the world a path to Christ through steadfast liturgical prayer?

19 thoughts on “A Threefold Cord?

  1. Annie

    Yes …. and what ever happened to, “I love you despite our differences.” No marriage can exist without it.

  2. bls

    Yes, I’m always in favor of “Common Prayer.” We should think of it this way, I agree. There really isn’t much in the way of “affection” happening anyway.

    But isn’t FiF a tiny group worldwide? I don’t see them being very robust going forward. In the U.S., at least, it seems that “Anglo-Catholic” no longer equates with “anti-WO.” And if we can ever convince unchurched Westerners to return to Church, surely they’d be “broad church,” not evo or Fif?

  3. Joe

    I don’t know bls. I think that the broad church approach has an appeal for those who have had some negative Christian experience and are looking for a little more room for the Spirit to work…but most of the unchurched folks that I know who have expressed an interest in spirituality are looking for concrete answers. Something ancient and transcendant to help them in an uncertain world. The seem attracted to the RC and Evangelical Churches who offer them prepackaged answers to life’s challenges. I am not judging that…heck…there is a part of me that feels that way too. Not about simple answers…but about being drawn to places where the “old, old story” is still being told without a strong swipe of the editor’s pen.

    In the end though, I am wired in such a way that I need to try to find that middle place…the place where truth is sought in a community of believers who confess Jesus as Lord, but who have are free to hold different ideas about what that may mean for our world.

    So for me Derek, Common Prayer is essential…our liturgy, complete with historic creeds, and regular reading of the Scriptures, and most of all the Eucharist…well that is what I cling to when all else seems unsure.

    I have still not given up hope in some sort of covenant though…especially given ++Rowan’s recent remarks.

    Grace and Peace,

  4. *Christopher

    Dang it. Blogger swallowed my comment.

    I think you have hit the central portion of Anglicanism spot on. ++Cranmer in his brilliance made a confession liturgical and the Elizabethan settlement made the liturgical the focus of our unity with some allowance for variance. In some ways its actually ancience practice.

    But when it comes to history, we’ve had divergence in common prayer for a long time. I’ve mentioned before that we have essentially two strands, the Scottish and the English (one more evangelical, the other more catholic), both versions of 1549/1552 which were propogated across the globe. Which do we choose? Can we recognize one another in that common inheritance?

    I hope that even among sundry divisions we might recognize one another across our divides. The first step though is for those of who would wish that to be the case to watch how we speak of those with whom we don’t see eye to eye.


    I think there are also many looking for the clarity of ancience guidance and path without necessarily the certainty of having all the answers. And a broad church rooted in those things you note at the last is a rich place for this to happen.

  5. Joe

    I hope that you are right Christopher.

    The question is, can we help them find us? Can we help them wade into the deep waters of our Tradition without getting tangled in the weeds on the way?

    There is nothing “entry level” about our Church. So how do we make our gifts accesible?

    Grace and Peace,

  6. bls

    I think that the broad church approach has an appeal for those who have had some negative Christian experience and are looking for a little more room for the Spirit to work…but most of the unchurched folks that I know who have expressed an interest in spirituality are looking for concrete answers. Something ancient and transcendant to help them in an uncertain world.

    I don’t get where you’re equating “broad church” with “not transcendent” or “waffling on truth.” I’m certainly not referring to “progressive Christianity” if that’s what you mean. I’m not a progressive in that sense; I’m a Trad.

    But perhaps that phrase has a negative connotation. I’m talking about the Anglican Via Media, that’s all. The away-from-the-extremes, organic version of Christianity that we all aspire to. Which definitely is “ancient and transcendent.” That’s the whole idea; just what we see practices liturgically every week.

    Also, I live in a different part of the country, so perhaps we’re seeing different things. Evangelicalism has very little sway here. Catholic Churches are closing.

  7. bls

    (You know, more and more I wonder if Anglicanism is just too slow and understated for the culture.

    People aren’t used to subtlety anymore; everybody’s used to screaming and speed. Perhaps Anglicanism seems just too slow to keep up with life.

    But maybe that could be considered a plus? A place to stop and relax, and get away from all the noise?)

  8. bls

    Sorry, Joe – I didn’t see this: “There is nothing “entry level” about our Church. So how do we make our gifts accesible?

    I always think of the huge crowds at St. Mark’s in Seattle for Compline. They get 500-600 people on Sunday night, every week.

    That means something. And it’s certainly a place where people at “entry level” feel comfortable. I wonder why more parishes don’t do things like this.

    “Alternative eucharists,” maybe, too, on other days? And personally, I think the churches ought to offer lectures and workshops on philosophy and the arts. Nobody else seems to.

  9. Annie

    I think the guidance is there, just as it is in Benedictine spirituality, though subtle. At any rate, this post became part of my rant today. Not that it is profound–it never is.

  10. Derek the Ænglican

    I’ve never made *any* claims to profundity… :-)

    I always enjoy reading your posts–and bls’s–because I’m so “in the business.” It’s really good for me (and the others in the business) to see what normal faithful Episcopalians are thinking and doing. You’re an excellent reality check when we get too flighty!

  11. *Christopher


    I’m hearing from folks in the pews on Sundays as well, and I think that there are many average Episcopalians on a spectrum of worship practice (most are Anglo-Catholic or High Church at my parish) and belief who are not as angstied up as the Net is letting us get up to.

  12. Derek the Ænglican

    Well *Christopher,
    I think those of us who are constantly on the net about it tend to be the excitable ones on these topics anyway. It’s a self-selecting population.

    Although I will say that the people in my parish are very curious to learn what’s happening especially since the rector has kept mum about the whole matter.

  13. Gracious Light

    Lets get back to your original question,

    Can the Anglican splinters (as you project them) witness to the world a path to Christ through steadfast liturgical prayer?

    I don’t think so. One of the beefs that non- or anti-Christian folks have with the faith is that we profess one holy, catholic, and apostolic, etc. etc. but we splinter off into little sycophantic tribes.

    At the same time, we must remain true to who we are and we must be able to draw a line between that which is of the faith and that which is not. But come on, is a woman as a bishop (how many + is that, I’m not in the know?) a priest blessing the relationship of two people who happen to be of the same gender, or praying an updated version of the 1662 BCP throwing the baby out with the bath water?

    While all of this can be grist for the mill for the religious professional, to me at least, it consumes time and energy (maybe even soul) of the laity who thinks their ‘ministry’ is professing the IRD gospel on progressive website. You could just as easily substitie liberal or Anglo-catholic and the respective grinding stone, too. Sure some energy and creativity can come out of it but to the person walking around who ‘doesn’t know Jesus’ (excuse the language, I’m usually not very evangelical in outlook) it looks like we’re arguing over how many angels can dance on the head of a needle.

    I’m not so big as to think that I don’t do the same thing–I do! I want the UMC to come back to its sacramental center. I will sing that song until I die, retire, or surrender my credentials.

    But I don’t think that fighting over these things offer a witness and a path to Christ. I went to a seminar recently where they said folks visiting our churches want to know 3 things: 1) do you like me, 2) are you weird 3) do you help folks.

    I don’t see how splitting along three lines (2.5, really) does any but confirm the 2nd of the questions unchurched folk are asking.

  14. Marshall

    Derek, I think you are being pessismistic. I was a visitor at the General Convention in Minneapolis in 1976 when the Canons were changed to allow ordination of women to the presbyterate. I was a seminarian and exhibitor in Denver in 1979 when the Blue Book (the trial worship, not the “A” resolutions) became the Prayer Book 1979. We were told then that the church would fall apart, and that the Communion would cast us out; and neither happened. We lost a small percentage – from our rolls, not from the Body of Christ – and we continued to attract folks who felt faith had to include both head and heart, both word and sacrament, and a tangible sense of participation in the Body of Christ.

    Yes, we have lost members over the past generation; and so has almost everybody else. Indeed, in the past few years even the evangelical churches have begun to flag, according to some numbers I’ve seen.

    I don’t think all the “bonds of affection” will disintegrate. Moreover, I believe that some that seem lost now will be recovered over the next generation.

    I do think the idea of a communion centered on Common Prayer is worth trying. I’m not sure how we’d persuade to come those who have declared themselves “out of communion.” I think, though, if we offered the invitation there would be those who did want to come with us; and with time that would grow.

  15. Annie

    ;) Thanks. At least I can contribute something.

    Don’t forget that despite the silence of the Episcopalians from the pews, we are well known for our good manners.

  16. Derek the Ænglican

    I hope I am being pessimistic. You’re right–the threats of schims have been around for quite a while now. The difference is that we have bishops who seem willing to act.

    Isn’t knowing Jesus worth fighting for? I think so…and the way that I know Jesus is through liturgical prayer. This is a valid and important way of learning who Jesus and the full Triune God is that has been forming Christians for centuries. That’s what I want to hold up. Bottom line–Episcopalians can lose the wine, the cheese, and the attitude but what we need to preserve is not just the practice of prayer but the reason–it forms us into the mind of Christ. Other things will do it too, of course, but this is the one that we know and loev.

  17. Joe

    Sorry to get back so late bls. I would personally agree with you from the inside (in fact my experiences at GC lead me to believe that the heart of our Church is decidedly “traditional”), but I’m not sure that we appear that way from the outside.

    I mean let’s be honest…the theological breadth of…ahem…TEC…that many of us treasure can look like an unholy mess to a seeker. I love that the person that sits next to me on Sunday may have a different understanding of the Christian faith than I do, and that we both might differ a bit from our Rector…but for someone on the outside, openness can seem like ambiguity or even apathy.

    I’m not saying that we need to change our approach for marketing reasons…I just think that at this juncture in our history, it might be a good idea to spend some time reflecting on what it is at our core that binds us. Beyond the gender of our Bishops or our sexual partners…beyond our political parties and personal agendas. The liturgy is a good place to start…but I have hope for some sort of Covenant as well. Something simple, and basic, that is easy to communicate. As Vida Scudder said about the Creeds, this covenant need not be “an imprisoning wall; but a gate, opening on a limitless country that cannot be entered in any other way.”

    Beyond that, it is just a matter of “come and see.” Our tradition, like our Lord, needs to be engaged and experienced in order to be truly understood.

    Grace and Peace,

  18. Gracious Light

    Oh Im all for keeping the liturgy. For so many episcopalians, when they visit a UM,ELCA, PCUSA, etc. church, they don’t feel like they have been to church because the liturgy is missing or gutted beyond recognition.

    I’m asking if we want to turn people off by fighting or semantics. It might not be semantics to us but to the great unwashed, it is.

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