Given the current difficulties in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, and my enjoyment of Ephraim Radner’s and Stanley Hauerwas’ work, I made sure that I pre ordered this book– “The Fate of Communion: The Agony of Anglicanism And the Future of a Global Church” (Ephraim Radner, Philip Turner)— months ago, and found it awaiting me on my return from my honeymoon. I’ve been digging into it and reading chapters out of order as I’m interested. It is a meaty book with lots of insight. This is my first exposure to Philip Turner’s writings outside of the Anglican Communion Institute, and I can say that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed his insights. I thought I would share a portion of his essay “The Windsor Report: A Defining Moment for a Worldwide Communion” in light of the defeat of the resolution to comply with the Windsor Report at General Convention yesterday. Consider the inability of the House of Deputies to pass any legislation whatsoever in light of the importance Dr. Turner gives the Windsor Report, and also consider the lame excuse posted below, that certain people were complaining that they hadn’t had enough time to consider the Windsor Report (TWR) (even though it’s been available for nearly 2 years and several books have been published dealing with it.) Here are Dr. Turner’s words:
A distinguished colleague has said that, when placed alongside most Anglican documents TWR is decidedly “up market.” This observation is quite accurate, and the burden of this chapter is to show that, despite certain omissions and errors (some serious), TWR provides a credible way for the Anglican Communion to remain a communion rather than devolve into a federation of churches. Further, it suggests a credible way for the non-Roman churches throughout the world to respond to the potentially church dividing tensions (both internal and external) that have arisen since the close of the colonial period. However, no matter what its strengths might be, it would be a mistake to wend one’s way along the path down which the report leads its readers without pausing to take note of the fact that TWR places before ECUSA, the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Anglican Communion fundamental decisions that cannot be avoided. For ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada, the decision is whether they wish to be self-identified as autonomous churches within the Anglican Communion or as denominational boutiques within the fan of Protestant options that now comprise the religious scene in North America. For the Anglican Communion, the decision is whether it wishes to retain its claim to be a communion of churches; or whether it wishes to devolve into a religious federation bound together only by pragmatic arrangements and a rapidly disappearing historical memory. For the divided churches, TWR suggests a way, amid the stresses ad strains of competing nationalisms, to maintain a worldwide communion without at the same time developing a centralized form of church government.
The most brilliant thing about TWR is the fact that it does not command. Rather, it offers a choice. It maps a way for Anglicans throughout the world to stay together as a communion; and basically asks it to choose something like this so as to “walk together,” or choose another way and so “walk apart.” In placing the issue in the form of a choice, TWR both honors the autonomy of the various provinces of the Anglican Communion, and places a serious proposal for future relations before its ecumenical partners. It does not smuggle in a putative but non-existent centralized polity that can issue commands. It begins with what is–a communion of autonomous provinces that have a real choice about their future.
It has become painfully clear that there are those on both the left and the right who, in the words of TWR, have made a choice to “walk apart.” The prophets on the left claim the backing of divine providence that has placed them ahead of the pack. They are content to go it alone and simply wait for others to catch up. The prophets on the right claim to be the champions of orthodoxy–charged with maintaining a faithful church in the midst of “apostasy.” They are content to go it alone and await the vindication of God. TWR maps a more arduous and painful way forward--one that seeks to create a space in time within which very serious divisions within this portion of the body of Christ can be confronted and overcome. The burden of this essay is that the way TWR maps is the obedient way–one that serves as a caution to the prophets on both the left and the right, and a beacon to those for whom the maintenance of communion constitutes a fundamental obligation.
It seems at the moment that the obedient path, the painful path, was too painful for The Episcopal Church to walk.