Where Do We Go From Here?

Where Do We Go From Here

by the Rt Revd John Rodgers

Part 2 from Bishop Rodgers Address to GAFCON 2008

2.     A Common Celebration of the Word and the Sacraments of the Gospel

From the time of Cranmer until the 20th Century, Anglicans have had a common prayer book tradition. The classic expression of this is the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and Ordinal. This classic prayer book tradition is grace-centered to a unique degree. Cranmer surpassed all others in placing the Gospel in the center of the worship and prayers of the people. Until fairly recently all changes from this book were relatively minor. Anglicans in principle are open to diversity of forms of worship “provided that the Faith be kept entire”. The present diversity of books of common prayer varies greatly and in some provinces permission is given for congregations to construct their own liturgical services including creeds. These can and some do embody theological content at odds with Scripture and the Anglican Faith. The Faith has certainly not been “kept entire”. It is important that we declare the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and Ordinal to be the official Anglican Book of Common Prayer for all Anglicans and require that all alternative services conform to it theologically. Faithful Anglicanism is biblical Anglicanism, therefore making certain that the liturgical services of the Church are faithful to Scripture is essential, for the liturgy has powerful informative power on the mind and hearts of the Church due to it’s repetition and use in the elevated context of worship.

3.     A Common Ministry

Anglicans have maintained fellowship with the Apostles not only by apostolic teaching but also by an ordained ministry in the three orders of Deacon, Priest or Presbyter and Bishop. These have been from earliest days ordered by Bishops in the historic Episcopate. While there is no universal theology of the ordained ministry among Anglicans, there has been no change in the ministry until the 20th Century, when first the Episcopal Church and then other Anglican Churches began to ordain women in all three orders. This has caused a serious disagreement over the possibility and /or biblical and traditional appropriateness of women being so ordered. A degree of impaired communion now exists within the Anglican Communion around this matter.

What must be admitted is that the issue is not settled and that we are in a period of testing or reception. During this time both positions must be respected and common, ongoing study and discussion on this matter must take place. In addition, local congregations and clergy should be permitted to align themselves with dioceses and bishops that share their convictions on this matter. It would also be appropriate that ordained men should preside at the Eucharist in gatherings of church synods and other such gatherings, for this would allow the fullest number of communicants to receive in good conscience.

It need only be mentioned that those living in a life-style contrary to biblical and ecclesiastical moral norms should not exercise the ordained ministry.

4.     A Common Mission

As apostolic, the Anglican Churches have received from Christ the Great Commission, thereby being sent by the Lord, as were the Apostles. While Anglicans have at different times been more or less active in carrying out this mission, there has never been any doubt as to our calling to be active in this great global mission to take the Gospel to all and to seek to draw all people to Christ. In recent days this global mission has been denied. Some have replaced “making disciples” with the millennium goals, which are at best the outflow of the Gospel and not its replacement. These and others have also held that Christ is not “the way, the truth and the life” but rather “a way, a truth and a life” thereby denouncing the Mission as “putting God in a box” and as imperialistic, imposing our religion on other peoples who already have a religion. Against these false tendencies in our Communion we need to clearly assert that the Great Commission lies at the heart of who we are as Anglicans and to see that we give it high priority in our life and witness. It is too light a thing that we should be orthodox in theology and maintenance-minded in practice, as has sometimes been the case.

5,  A Common Global Family

Here we have our greatest challenge. Since some provinces and dioceses in the Anglican Communion have departed from the plain teaching of Scriptures, (the Apostles teaching), the common Faith of the Communion and the express resolutions of Lambeth 1998, we now have orthodox dioceses and congregations seeking to leave such provinces, some having already left and come under other Primates and have been accepted as members of those “overseas” provinces. This has taken place, after long and various unsuccessful attempts to work within the normal structures. Such attempts to call the Church back to faithful Anglicism failed because the present structures of the Anglican Communion do not have sufficient authority, or are unwilling to exercise the authority they do have, to discipline the “autonomous provinces” or because provinces themselves have gone astray. This has resulted in a piecemeal realignment.

The theological basis for such realignment as has taken place and is taking place is a biblical, Patristic and Anglican one; the principle is that faithfulness to the Gospel requires one to stand no matter the cost, including not remaining in communion with and remaining under heretical oversight, and if necessary to cross institutional lines to protect faithful believers that are being persecuted and driven from Anglican congregations, dioceses and provinces by heretical bishops and Provinces. Were this not the case there would be no Anglican Communion and we would all be under the Bishop of Rome.

The fact that the realignment has taken place within the Anglican Communion, by finding other faithful Anglican jurisdictions for Episcopal oversight, makes it clear that there was and is no desire to form a new Church or to depart from faithful Anglicanism. In essence, these acts of realignment are a pastoral and temporary rescue operation as well as a mission outreach, intended to last in this “disorderly fashion” only until such times as they can be addressed at the highest levels of the Communion, if possible. In addition, the fact that departure from faithful Anglicanism has now come to involve not only local congregations and specific dioceses but also involves entire provinces means that we now are compelled to address the question of the unity of faithful, orthodox Anglicans both within unorthodox provinces and also the nature and unity of the Anglican Communion itself, since its present form and instruments of unity have been incapable of successfully addressing this terrible crisis. What then are we to do?

Taking the issue of the Anglican Communion first, to the present writer it seems apparent that we need to change the form of the Anglican Communion and to reform it as indicated in the ways listed above in the 4 marks. We need a clear statement of our core doctrine and mission, of our normative worship and of the manner of addressing this period of reception regarding women in ordained ministry. In addition we need to have a discernment procedure and a body with authority to discipline those who violate the common marks of the Communion and, as a last resort, to dismiss them from the Communion if need be. This means, at the least, a clear Covenant detailing these things.

A number of us believe that it is time for us as Anglicans to go beyond a covenant and to adopt the conciliar form of the Church for our common global family. Our present form is really more like a global family picnic than a council. The early Church from biblical times onward held councils, not picnics. While our present form held us together when all of the 4 marks above were commonly understood  and affirmed by all, it has never been fully catholic in form and it simply doesn’t work now. In addition, with regard to ecumenical conversations, a conciliar form of Communion would enable clearer and more easily recognised conversations and cooperation.