An Historic Moment

A few hours from now, it will be morning in England, and a special gathering of the Primates of the Anglican Communion will be meeting.  The relationships between the various Provinces have been increasingly strained over the past ten or more years due to a whole host of theological issues.  By and large one could summarize them by asserting that Western culture has overridden biblical supremacy in a few Provinces, causing others to step away from them bit by bit.

It began with a slow but steady trickle of liberal theology that was undermining the central authority of the Bible.  It manifested first most clearly in the tolerance, acceptance, and embracing of classic Christological heresies (such as Arianism – the teaching that Jesus isn’t really God).  Some would say it also manifested with the ordination of women pastors.  The acceptance of homosexual clergy and especially a divorced-turned-homosexual bishop was further manifestation of the unbiblical movements.  In all this, no discipline was brought in to correct the Gospel truth slowly being lost.

In 2008 things got so bad that a group of Anglican Provinces banded together under the label “Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans” (known as the GAFON movement) which in turn called for the creation of an entirely new Anglican Province in North America to replace the Episcopal  Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada.  So, despite how the (usually-liberal) media spins it, the ACNA is not a breakaway church that left the Episcopal Church over gay marriage, but is a composite church created by the call of leaders overseas who represent the majority of the worldwide Anglican population.

Since then, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Church of England have continued to work alongside both the Confessing provinces and the theologically-compromised provinces, trying to keep the peace.  Of course, there can be no unity where the Gospel is compromised.  A true Christian cannot accept an Arian as a “fellow Christian.”  And the same goes for unbiblical living – a Christian cannot, in good conscience, pretend that his brother is not sinning when he actually is.  And so, the leaders (Primates) of the faithful Anglican provinces have simply stopped attending meetings where the heretical Primates are in attendance.  The Anglican Communion has been in a de facto split for a few years now.

This week, however, something different is happening.  One more time, Archbishop Justin  Welby has convinced every Anglican Primate to be in the same room together, to see if and how the Anglican Communion can be saved.  An interesting thing about this meeting is that Archbishop Foley Beach of the ACNA has been invited too, even though the ACNA is not officially recognized by Canterbury as a member of the Anglican Communion.

So this is, probably, the last chance available to Archbishop Welby to choose to discipline the heretical Primates, and the last chance for the heretical Primates to recant and repent.  If they don’t, then the Anglican Communion will probably be officially broken for good.  Sadly, this is very likely to take place.  But our God is a resourceful God, and one can never really know what He is going to do.  And so we pray for a miracle.

At this juncture, I thought I’d read through the list of all the Archbishops of Canterbury since the beginning.  There are 105 to date, and many of them are accounted Saints.

  • Augustine of Canterbury (1st)
  • Laurence (2nd)
  • Mellitus (3rd)
  • Justus (4th)
  • Honorius (5th)
  • Deusdedit (6th)
  • Theodore of Tarsus (8th)
  • Berhtwald (9th)
  • Tatwine (10th)
  • Nothhelm (11th)
  • Cuthbert (12th)
  • Bregowine (13th)
  • Jaenberht (14th)
  • Aethelhard (15th)
  • Plegmund (20th)
  • Athelm  (21st)
  • Oda (23rd)
  • Dunstan (26th)
  • Aelfric of Abingdon (29th)
  • Aelfheah (30th)
  • Aethelnoth (32nd)
  • Eadsige (33rd)
  • Lanfranc (36th)
  • Anselm (37th)
  • Thomas Becket (41st)
  • Edmund Rich of Abingdon (47th)
  • Boniface of Savoy (48th)
Additionally, a few are unofficially reckoned as Saints in the post-Reformation Anglican Church.
  • Thomas Cranmer (69th)
  • Matthew Parker (71st)
  • William Laud (76th)

The 100th Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, is also remembered fondly by many Anglicans today; especially by clergymen who read his excellent book The Christian Priest Today while preparing for Ordination.

It is my prayer before God that the inspiration, witness, testimony, and intercession of these great men of old will instill in our Primates this week a sense of the gravity of the office God has given them, a due and holy fear of His Name and His Word, and boldness to speak and act thereby.  There are 31 Archbishops named above, and (I think) 39 Primates gathering in Canterbury in the morning, so that’s a pretty good ratio of predecessor to present.  May God have mercy on us all – what has been the third largest Christian Church in the world.  For all our foibles and faults, our Lord has worked wonders through the Anglican tradition, and I pray this may yet continue in the days ahead.

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About Fr. Brench

I'm an Anglican Priest and a sci-fi geek. Therefore, I write about liturgy & spiritual formation, theology & biblical studies, and Doctor Who. But I keep those blogs separate so I don't confuse too many people!
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1 Response to An Historic Moment

  1. Fr. Brench says:

    By way of a late Prequel, here is the pastoral letter I wrote to my congregation that introduces the situation to which this blog post appertains:

    Epiphany Greetings!

    A call for prayer has been requested by a number of Anglican leaders across the world, concerning a major meeting of Primates (Bishops or Archbishops who are in charge of a whole Province) that will be held next week.

    As many of you know, the Episcopal Church USA is not the only Anglican Province that has embraced an unbiblical level of liberalism; the same mistakes are being made in other provinces as well. A movement now known as the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (the FCA, also called GAFCON) has been instrumental in bringing faithful Anglicans together to make a stand against these growing trends, as well as to create the Province in which we now reside – the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).

    For several years, the Primates would meet and the leaders of the Episcopal Church (and others pursuing similar sins) were present and never disciplined. Eventually the FCA leaders stopped attending these meetings on the biblical grounds that Christians cannot have true fellowship with committed heretics. And so the division in the Anglican Communion continued.

    Next week is special. The Archbishop of Canterbury has convinced all the primates to gather for an informal meeting to talk about if and how the Communion can be restored. All the primates are going, even our own Archbishop, Foley Beach (even though we’re not “officially recognized” as a member of the Anglican Communion). This may turn out to be, in effect, the last chance for repentance and discipline at the leadership level. So our prayers are very much needed!

    Attached is a document with two statements in it – one is a quick announcement from the chairman of the FCA about this meeting, and the second is a more in-depth explanation of the history behind “how we got to this point” through past 10ish years.

    I know church politics isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, especially at the international level, but prayer for the ascendancy of the Gospel among church leaders is always an important need to pass along.

    Cheers & blessings,
    Fr. Matthew †
    Vicar of Fitchburg

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