Many of you will have read in the newspapers of the formation of a new â€œAnglican Church in North Americaâ€ earlier this month. The new body is the result of agreements reached between a number of churches and organizations, gathered under the â€œCommon Cause Partnershipâ€, all of which have their origins in either the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church of Canada.
Some have wondered about the status of this church, and about its intention to seek recognition as a province of the Anglican Communion. A basic principal of catholic Christianity is that it is not self-authenticating; its credentials cannot be established by the mere assertion of them. Christian faith looks to authorities, as well: the Scriptures, principally, but also Creeds and Councils that articulate them reasonably and traditionally, and all of which communicate the Gospel and act as a standard by which faith is recognized and acknowledged. Anglicanism itself represents a distinctive witness within the Christian faith, with its own markers and measures. A particular church (any particular church) always looks beyond itself in some way in the key points of its existence, and others will evaluate it accordingly.
However we view this new church in terms of these things, we must recognize that membership in the Anglican Communion is not something claimed unilaterally or seized by force. Sharp elbows may be useful in any number of contexts, but are hardly edifying or effective in this one. A request to be admitted as a province must be approved by the Primatesâ€™ Meeting and then acted upon by the Anglican Consultative Council, two of the Instruments of Communion that have developed within Anglicanism to help bring coherence to its life. The constituent bodies of the Anglican Church in North America are not known for a willingness to pay much heed to any of the Instruments of Communion. It is even doubtful that they are much interested in any authentication that looks to the existing structures of the world-wide Communion. Their witness is predicated on a self-proclaimed unwillingness to wait for these structures to work.