Thursday, December 04, 2008

Anglican Leaders Begin Forming New Church in North America

The Common Cause Partnership (a federation of eight Anglican jurisdictions and organizations in North America linked with the bishops and congregations of Kenya, Uganda, and South America’s Southern Cone) has begun to form a new North American Church that they hope will be recognized as a province. You can read the press release online.

If you want a background summary on the Anglican schism, this may be helpful:
All the different Anglican churches in an area gather in a diocese; over the diocese the head pastor is a bishop. In a geographical area (like British Columbia) a group of dioceses form together, and one of their bishops is elected to be archbishop. Canada together is called a province, and one of the archbishops is elected to be a primate. Each province has a primate. The primates meet once every two years. The Archbishop of Canterbury is “first among equals” and calls together the Lambeth Conference.

The Anglican Communion is a global body made up of 38 interdependent provinces (i.e., national churches). (Canada is a province; the US is a province; Kenya is a province; England is a province; New Zealand is a province; etc.) The global communion is, at it were, 38 ships that are all chained together in the historic faith that we have received in the Scriptures, that is expressed in the creeds, in the formularies of the Anglican Church. We are a flotilla of 38 ships sailing toward, say, England. Since 2002, two of the independent provinces [US and Canada] have decided that we are going to sail in a different direction, say, Australia. So the chain that binds all these provinces together is being stretched and stretched. The ships are calling on two of the ships—Canada and the US—to turn around and head in the historic direction that the church has been heading.

In 2003, the primates said that if Canada and the US continued, they will have torn the fabric, broken the chains—so much so that many of these provinces have said we are going to have to cut the chains and allow those two ships to go their own way. The polite Anglican language to speak about that is “to walk apart.”

Many of us in Canada and the US don’t want to go to Australia. We believe that the direction set for us in the Scriptures and in the historic church is the right direction and God has not changed his mind. We want to be part of the global communion, sailing in this direction.

What’s happening now is that a number of orthodox groups are being forced out of their provinces in Canada and the US, and the other provinces are coming along and saying, “You belong to us”—building links and chains, saying “We will take you with us.” A little bit like a rescue option. It’s unprecedented. Never before have two provinces sought to move away from the communion theologically, and never before has there been a rescue mission for those who want to belong to the rest of the church.

In the view of the majority of the communion, schism has taken place. 22 of 38 have indicated “completely broken” or “impaired” communion with Canada and the US. The reason it’s taken 5 years to fall out is because the global communion has (rightly) wanted to be as patient and gracious and careful as possible, calling for moratoriums on same-sex unions. There is still the possibility that the churches in Canada and the US would turn back.

Same-sex unions is really an iceberg issue. 19/20 of the iceberg is below the water. Several issues rise above the water (same-sex blessings; the uniqueness of the Lord Jesus Christ; etc.) What drives this disagreement is a different view of God, of the Bible, of what Jesus came to do, of what the church is all about. That’s below the surface of the water. It’s not so much interpretation of the Bible; it’s the authority of the Bible—how the Word of God functions in the life of the ordinary believer.