June 19, 2008
Henry Chadwick was one of the great figures of the church and one of the great figures of my life. He died earlier this week. He, among other distinctions was at various times Dean of Christ Church,
There has always been, about the Church of England, a certain imprecision when it comes to doctrinal formulation, and those most successful as Anglican churchmen are those who know how best to devise forms of words and constructs or accommodations which allow people of otherwise plainly incompatible beliefs to inhabit the same dwelling place….
…The limits to his methods…became apparent at meetings of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, in its sessions between 1969 and 1981, and again from 1983 to 1990, when the Anglican penchant for resolving differences by devising accommodations based upon ambiguous verbal formulations had limited effect on the professionals of the
The same newspaper reports having seen an 87 page document drawn up by Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria and other conservative church leaders that signals the end of the Anglican Communion as currently constructed under the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the beginning of something else. They quote Archbishop Akinola as saying “There is no longer any hope, therefore, of a unified Anglican Communion.” Apparently the increasing acceptance and affirmation of gay and lesbian people is not something that can be accommodated by those who claim exclusive rights to determine what they call ‘the authority of scripture’. I’m among those who believe it is the authority of God revealed in and through scripture that makes such acceptance necessary.
Things have heated up (at last) in England as there has been some kind of service celebrating and maybe pronouncing blessing on a gay union in London, reported in the press and apparently attended by some senior clerics including bishops (according to the blog of Ruth Gledhill, the conservative religion correspondent of The Times PLEASE NOTE: There is an important correction to this information in the comment from Ruth Geldhill. No bishops were present. Please see her comment at the end of the post). Giles Fraser, rector of St. Mary’s, Putney and our speaker at Kanuga this coming autumn, has offered a ‘thought for the day’ (a daily and sometimes influential radio program in
My guess is that the Anglican Communion will continue with the integrity (in the sense used in the Chadwick obituary) it has managed to maintain thus far, that some conservatives in some countries will prefer to stay and others will want to depart for the purist group that is developing (and has been for a while), that there will continue to be confusing claims made about the nature of that group who will prefer to see themselves as reformers rather than schismatics, and that in time the dust will eventually settle. The much more important question will be whether churches proclaim the Good News of God in Christ such that people respond and find themselves inheriting the promises made to the people of God.