The Anglican Communion in Crisis

23 January 2006 - Print Version


The Rev. Prof. Stephen Noll
Vice Chancellor
Uganda Christian University
Mukono, Uganda

Prof. Stephen Noll of Uganda Christian University gave the following address at the “Mere Anglicanism” conference on 20 January 2006.

The Anglican Communion in Crisis

The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion are in crisis. If you do not think this is so, then may I respectfully suggest that you don’t belong here. Or perhaps I don’t belong here. I address you as one who was saved and baptized in the Episcopal Church as a university student. I use that salvation language because that is the way my colleagues in Uganda would put it and because it is the truth: I once was lost but now I’m found. Praise the Lord! Jesus saved me in the context of the Anglican tradition, which I cherish. I love its history, its liturgy, its reasonableness and moderation, its “mereness.” We need to recall that this mereness has been sealed in the blood of martyrs; whether in England or Uganda and elsewhere; who in times of crisis cried out “Play the Man, Master Ridley” or “Here we are at Heaven’s gates. In the twinkling of an eye, we shall see Jesus!” [1] Hence in our context today, I interpret the conference title “Mere Anglicanism” to be a kind of battle cry like “Back to the Sources!” or “Here I Stand!” or “Remember the Martyrs!”

In September 1997, I gave an address in Dallas, Texas, titled “The Handwriting on the Wall” to a gathering of American and Global South bishops. This was, I think, one of the first such global gatherings of Anglicans to face up to the coming crisis. With the failure of the Righter presentment, the faithful Episcopal bishops had exhausted the internal avenues of discipline. With Lambeth 1998 approaching, they turned to the international church and the Global South in particular for help. My address was an indictment of the Episcopal Church’s acceptance and blessing of same-sex relationships as a breach of essential Christian identity (or, if you wish, of Mere Anglicanism) on three counts: rejecting biblical authority, dishonoring the institution of marriage; and embracing a false Gospel and spirituality. I described the chaos already present in the Episcopal Church and went on to predict that this pandemonium would spread to the larger Communion, unless its leaders spoke and acted forthrightly:

I subtitled this talk “Why the Sexuality Conflict in the Episcopal Church Is God’s Word to the Anglican Communion,” and I conclude with a warning that failure to deal with the crisis in the Episcopal Church will endanger the unity of the Anglican Communion…. This is a question that cannot be delayed. What will become of Anglican unity if the American church breaks into two bodies out of communion with each other, with one body officially linked to Canterbury and the other officially committed to Kuala Lumpur [i.e., the Global South]? If Anglican leaders look the other way in 1998, such a situation is distinctly possible. [2]

Anglican leaders, led by the Global South, did speak clearly and forcefully at Lambeth in Resolution 1.10 on Human Sexuality, but they have not yet followed up by exercising discipline of those Provinces that have flouted the substance of the Resolution. It is of course proper that any fateful action like the excommunication of a Province should proceed deliberately. The Windsor process, however compromised it seems to some of us, does give time for the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada to ponder the consequences of their position and to repent.

They will not repent: I think we all know this. The Episcopal Church for one is too deeply immersed in the gay-rights ethos to turn back corporately at this point. So the question is, what comes next? The Primates may well carry through with their threat and cut these churches free to walk apart. But there is another course of studied inaction which I think equally likely; indeed it seems to be the one contemplated by the Archbishop of Canterbury and his 2008 Lambeth Design Team. That scenario involves a “business-as-usual” Lambeth Conference, with North American churches present, where we change the subject and just move on. Brothers and sisters, the latter course will, I predict, incur the judgment of God and effectively put an end to the Anglican Communion as a serious, respected Christian body. Look at it in these terms:

Lambeth 1998 wrestles with a central issue of Christian identity; human sexuality - and produces a clear Resolution, several Provinces defy it, enacting contrary legislation and confirming a gay bishop, other Provinces break Communion with the flouters, emergency meetings are called, a year-long study results in a 100-page report, warnings are issued, conventions held, statements of “regret” are parsed, clergy are defrocked and congregations walk away from cherished property and affiliate with overseas Provinces… And what do you get? An all expenses-paid trip to Canterbury and a tea party with the Queen!

If that’s your idea of “mere Anglicanism,” you can have it. My comment on such a scenario is: “This is the way the Communion ends, not with a bang but a cuppa.”

The Anglican Communion is in crisis, possibly a terminal crisis. The exodus and exile are already underway. But along with exodus and exile may come a new Covenant and with it “hope and a future” for a new or renewed Communion. The initiative for such a Covenant and Communion must come from the younger churches of the Global South, who constitute the vital center of the Communion. Hence in what follows I refer, as a matter of convenience, to a blueprint for a Global Anglican Covenant and Global Anglican Communion. A Theological Covenant

Talk about an Anglican Covenant appears to be rather recent. The Windsor Report proposes such a Covenant to deal with the errant Provinces; even more recently, we have the proposal of another “Covenant for the Communion in Mission.” [3]  The South to South Encounter also issued a call for a Communion Covenant. [4] While the merits of individual proposals are various, the idea of a Covenant is not foreign to Anglican history and is greatly needed at the present moment.

The Anglican Covenant concept can be traced back to the infancy of the Communion in 1886, with the so-called Lambeth Quadrilateral. The Quadrilateral was, to be sure, minimal and descriptive, but it did seek to set forth to the world and in relation with other churches the identity of the various churches of the emerging Communion. Its language was fundamentally theological: Scripture, Creeds, sacraments and episcopacy. If not a Covenant, it appears to be the Preamble to a Communion Covenant that was never enacted.

Going back even further, one might suggest that the Articles of Religion were part of an Anglican Covenant before there was a Communion. [5] Archbishop Thomas Cranmer intended the Articles to distinguish the English Reformation over against the Roman Catholic Church on the one hand and the radical Protestant sects on the other. He hoped that the Articles would help form the basis for an ecumenical consensus among the churches of the Reformation. It is therefore not accidental that most of the daughter churches of the Church of England adopted the Articles into their constitutions, along with the Book of Common Prayer, as part of their heritage.

So the idea of an Anglican Covenant has a history. It is also politically relevant, being called for by thoughtful observers of the current Babel of Anglican beliefs and practices. Most importantly, however, it might address the theological confusion; let’s call it by its proper name, heresy; that is the chief cause of this ecclesiastical disorder. The crisis of the Communion is profoundly theological, caused by an open repudiation of the teaching of Scripture and the historic Church. This crisis can be met only by a covenant that is, first and foremost, theologically motivated. [6]

In what follows I hope to prepare the way for a Global Anglican Covenant. I am not offering an actual draft but the necessary framework for a draft, using the Lambeth Quadrilateral as a guide. [7] I hope to fill in the foursquare of the Quadrilateral with further theological detail and hence produce a blueprint for a Global Anglican Communion. The Role of Scripture in the Church

The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, as the revealed Word of God (CLQ), containing all things necessary to salvation,” and as being the rule and standard of faith.

It hardly needs repeating that the foremost objection of the Global South to the homosexual agenda is the fact that it is “contrary to Scripture” (Lambeth 1.10). In my judgment, there is no reasonable doubt that the Global South is correct in this regard. Robert Gagnon has demonstrated comprehensively; and without serious rebuttal; that homosexual sexual relationships are contrary to God’s will as expressed throughout the Bible. [8]  Equally, homosexuality offends Christian common sense, the plain logic of creation. This logic I have called two sexes one flesh, and it has been so, our Lord says, from the beginning (Matthew 19:4). [9] The Windsor Report details the stubbornness of the revisionist North American churches in refusing the clear warnings of Communion bodies, but the true offence, from the viewpoint of the Global South churches, is their taking what Scripture calls disorder and sin and calling it good and blessed (cf. Isaiah 5:20).

Since the impending break-up of the Communion has to do with the rejection of Scripture by some of its members, any Anglican Covenant will need to provide a thorough affirmation of the primacy, unity, clarity and sufficiency of the Bible as the Word of God written. In this regard, we can learn from the Protestant Reformers, who faced a similar challenge in the 16th century. [10]

The Primacy of Scripture: Lambeth 1998 passed Resolutions affirming the primacy, or the primary authority, of Scripture in matters relating to Christian faith and life. [11] Primacy is not a call for bare submission to a sacred text, as in Islam, but includes several closely associated principles.

  • The Word as medium of the Gospel. The Reformation began with a dynamic sense of the recovery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a verbal revelation, originating in God Himself as the Word (John 1:1-18).
  • The self-authenticating character of Scripture. Although the Bible is an accommodated form of God’s revelation, God “lisping” to us (as Calvin put it), it is self-authenticating and cannot be “proved” by human science or Church edict.
  • Scripture as a means of grace. The Word of God presented in Scripture convicts and evokes faith in hearers. The same Spirit that guided the authors testifies in the heart of readers. [12]


The Unity of Scripture

: The Reformation also declared that, despite the differences within and between the Testaments, a fundamental consistency undergirds the various books of the Bible.

  • Mystery and unity. As God’s triune nature is a transcendent mystery made known in the fullness of time (1 John 1:1-4), so biblical unity can include paradox and progressive development, without causing confusion in its overall message.
  • Hermeneutical center. The center of the Bible is the Gospel of Christ himself. A biblical theology must be evangelical, acknowledging the role of the Old Testament as preparation and of the New Testament as fulfillment, avoiding Old Testament-based legalism or New Testament-based libertinism.
  • Harmony of Scripture texts. The principle of “Scripture interpreting Scripture” is found in Cranmer’s Collect which urges ordinary Christians to “mark” i.e., compare, various passages in the Bible. As for the Church, it may not “so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another” (Article XX).


The Clarity of Scripture

: The clarity of Scripture was the basis on which the Reformers insisted on a vernacular Bible that could be read and understood by the simplest “ploughboy.”

  • Simplicity of Scripture. The Reformers recovered the “plain sense” (sensus literalis) of the Bible. [13]  Simplicity is not anti-intellectual. In fact, it is an invitation to study original languages and historical and social context.
  • External and internal clarity. Scripture is transparent, not a secret Gnostic document. External clarity is the way Scripture conveys the Word publicly to all who would come with a seeking heart. Because of the hardness of the human heart, internal clarity is required through the grace of the Holy Spirit. One must “have ears to hear.”
  • Exposition. “How can I understand unless I have an interpreter?” (Acts 8:31). Bible reading must be accompanied by expository preaching and teaching. Even mature Christians move “from the truth to the whole truth” through regular Bible study. [14] 


The Sufficiency of Scripture

: The idea of the “sufficiency” of Scripture asserts both its unique efficacy and its limited focus.

  • The End of Scripture; salvation. Sufficiency looks to the end or telos of Scripture, which is salvation in Christ alone (John 20:31). Any Church which is ashamed of this salvation cannot be using Scripture rightly.
  • Appropriation by faith. Just as the Spirit gives inward clarity, so the means by which salvation is grasped is faith alone. Only then does reason interpret Scripture and works of love apply it.
  • Trustworthiness of Scripture. Scripture cannot err in the sense that it is an infallible guide to salvation and a holy life. In this it diverges both from liberal caricatures and fundamentalist simplifications of fallibility and inerrancy.

Given the popular idea of an Anglican tripod of Scripture, Tradition and Reason, a Covenant will need to address specifically the different roles of these sources, along lines laid down by Richard Hooker:

Be it in matter of one kind or of the other, what Scripture doth plainly deliver, to that the first place both of credit and obedience is due; the next whereunto is whatsoever any man can necessarily conclude by force of reason; after these the voice of the Church succeedeth. (Laws V.8.2)

The Covenant will also need to address the role of modern “higher” criticism, along lines of the Vatican II “Constitution on Divine Scripture.” Renewed awareness of the shaping of Scriptural canon and the historic tradition of exegesis should allow expositors and theologians to move beyond the arid “assured results” of higher criticism or the carnival of postmodern “readings” to a more fruitful method of theological interpretation. [15] The Church’s Historic Formularies The Apostles’ Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol (LQ); and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.

“The voice of the Church,” as Hooker put it, has always been important for an Anglican Christianity that sees itself as part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church upholding “the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3). [16] Reformation Anglicans tended to look to particular classic periods as sources of authority, such as the first five centuries and four Councils. In addition to mining these periods for particular texts, they included creeds in the liturgy as classic confessions of faith. They also identified their own day as a God-appointed time to reiterate the biblical faith in contemporary terms. Hence, along with other Protestant bodies, they produced a series of confessions, which culminated in the establishment of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion as an instrument of English law. [17]

We are at another historic moment when the Church must articulate its faith in the light of modern and postmodern developments both outside itself and within. But, I would also argue, because the rot of modernity has eaten its way into the infrastructure of Anglicanism, especially in the West, we cannot reconstruct authentic Anglican doctrine unless we go back to the sources, namely to the Thirty-Nine Articles and Book of Common Prayer.

The impetus for reform will come this time from the Global South. At the recent South to South Encounter in Egypt, Global South leaders identified their churches with the creedal “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church” and with decisive biblical periods; the Exodus at the Red Sea, the Sojourn of the Christ Child in Africa, and the role of Alexandria as a centre of orthodoxy during the patristic period. Shortly before this Conference, the Anglican Church of Nigeria amended its constitution to state that it would “be in communion with those who uphold the historic faith, as expressed in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty-Nine Articles, and the Ordinal.” Some critics claimed that these statements and actions are regressive, even schismatic. To my mind, they are just the opposite: conservative yes, but pointing the way forward for a Global Anglican Covenant. The Role of the Thirty-Nine Articles

In order to get back to a common theological starting point, we need to revive the authority of the Thirty-Nine Articles in contemporary Anglicanism. In a sense, these Articles have never died, being included in many Provincial constitutions, and are the only globally accepted statement of Anglican doctrine. So it is imperative, in my view, that affirmation of the Thirty-Nine Articles should be a part of the Covenant.

Why is this so important? I would say it is because the Articles enshrine within our tradition the Scripture principle enunciated in the section above and endow it with the capacity for “local adaptation,” which is necessary given the passage of time and the spread of the worldwide church. Ashley Null, in his recent Janani Luwum Lecture at Uganda Christian University, expresses this capacity in this way:

The Articles present no stumbling block to Anglican multiculturalism. After all, it is the Articles themselves that insist on cultural sensitivity. It is the Articles themselves that assume a wide diversity in church practices, as each nation develops those rites and ceremonies appropriate for its own context. Yet, the Articles also insist on an underlying unity of Christian churches, and that this unity is none other than agreement on the essentials of salvation. Moreover, the Articles also make clear that these essentials are found only in one place; Scripture understood in its plain sense and interpreted in the light of the entire canonical witness by the rule of non-contradiction. [18]

I believe the Articles can accommodate much of the theological diversity that has emerged during four centuries of our history. Evangelicals may find themselves most at home with the Articles, but sacramentalists of an Anglo-Catholic or Lutheran mind can find comfort in Article XXV ‘Of the Sacraments’. Article XVII ‘Of Predestination and Election’ can accommodate, in my opinion, a Wesleyan-charismatic understanding of the operation of grace and free will. Even classic liberals; and here I would name C.S. Lewis and Oliver O’Donovan; can find shelter in the shade of the Articles. The reason they can is that there is a liberality to the Articles and to the Anglican tradition which does not push doctrine beyond what can be “proved” by Holy Scripture and which acknowledges the critical distinction between essentials and adiaphora. [19]

If the Articles were included in a Global Anglican Covenant, would that make the Communion “confessional”? I guess that all depends on how one defines confessional. My own view is that the Articles, under the Scriptures, should be the touchstone of Communion doctrine and discipline, but that individual Provinces might administer this doctrine and discipline differently. At the same time, I think there is an urgent need for a “conversation” with the Articles, as they are clearly dated and deficient in some respects. [20]  Article XXXV itself provides a method for this conversation by approving “homilies” based on the Articles. [21] The example of Vatican II and the papal encyclicals of John Paul II may provide a model for formulating authentic contemporary statements of Anglican doctrine. The Role of the Book of Common Prayer

Thomas Cranmer’s genius was to see that “praying shapes believing” and to use this reality to instruct the faithful through the rites of the Church, and his language continues to resonate in such great prayers as the Collect for Purity, the Prayer of Humble Access, the General Thanksgiving and the Litany. More pertinently, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer fits the theology of the Articles hand in glove, as is manifest in the Catechism. So, as with the Articles, I think the classic Book of Common Prayer should be acknowledged as the gold standard of Anglican worship but should be subjected to critique and revision from Scripture and from contemporary knowledge, as is clear from Cranmer’s own successive revisions. Legitimate insights from liturgical research and ecumenical dialogue are not inconsistent with the Prayer Book standard. Furthermore, the missional situation of each Province should dictate adaptation of the classic creeds and liturgies both in terms of translation to the vernacular and enculturation of local tradition. [22]

Finally, we acknowledge that the Prayer Book and the English musical tradition have trained up a rich school of Anglican spirituality and song. Again, while this tradition; the prayers of Lancelot Andrewes, the poetry of George Herbert, the masses of Byrd and hymns of Wesley, Neale, and Cecil Frances Alexander; should be cherished, we need not force it onto a generation that is devoted to rock music or to call-and-response choruses in the vernacular. The Moral Life and Church Discipline

The Articles touch on but do not expound the moral life of the Christian, nor do they give guidance in matters of Church discipline, although moral exhortations can be found in the Prayer Book and the Homilies. [23] Given that the current crisis has been rooted in a rejection of biblical moral teaching on sexuality and marriage, it will be important for the Covenant to give an indication of the essentials of the Christian moral life and the means of pastoral discipline toward those who violate those essentials, whether in word or deed. It is also possible that there should be some common core of canon law for those entering the Covenant. [24] The Church’s Mission and Sacraments

The two Sacraments; Baptism and the Supper of the Lord - ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s words of Institution and of the elements ordained by Him.

The “two sacraments” plank of the Quadrilateral seems uncontroversial, unless you are a Tractarian or a sectarian seeking to add to or subtract from them. [25] At the same time, we must wonder that the Quadrilateral chose the “two-ness” of the sacraments, or the sacraments at all, as distinctive of Anglican Christianity. It is true that one can find baptism and Eucharist in all Anglican churches, but that includes churches where baptism is utterly disconnected from evangelism, and some where the weekly Eucharist is accompanied by empty or false preaching and others where the Eucharist is celebrated infrequently and tacked on at the end of a long service. So rather than be satisfied with our nominal fulfillment of the Quadrilateral on this point, we should ask if the plank itself is in need of reform.

I would propose that sacraments should be understood within a theology of mission. The Reformation in general and the Church of England in particular seem to have been deficient in articulating a proper theology of mission. For all their virtues, the Articles of Religion have no single reference to Christ’s Great Commission to evangelize the nations. [26] The problem is not merely one of word but of deed also. The English church evangelized the colonies and the Empire more by default than by plan, as Anglican mission societies operated on the fringes of the official church, and often with active interference from the Establishment. By the grace of God, Anglicanism has flourished, though at times the daughter churches have replicated the staid hierarchies of the Mother Church.

In the context of state churches, the sacraments have often been regarded as rights and rites of national identity. This was not true in the apostolic church, nor does it work today (e.g., what does it mean that the Church of England claims 26 million members?). So I propose that the Covenant take a dynamic approach to the Gospel sacraments. This approach is not really a stretch, once we think of the missionary setting of the church. Concluding his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter said to the crowd:

"Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him." And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation." So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:38-47)

From this passage, I think we can identify the following marks of the missionary church: [27]

  • The Church preaches the Gospel to its own children and to those who are far off - to the churched and unchurched, to the youth of the next generation and to those whom we today call “unreached peoples.”
  • It calls people urgently to be saved from the idols of the present age in expectation of the imminent return of Christ.
  • Baptism is a response to preaching, and it signs and seals individuals as members of the Body of Christ.
  • It expects believers individually and the whole Church corporately to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
  • It expects and experiences healing and miracles in its midst.
  • It is growing in numbers, often with remarkable leaps forward.
  • It is devoted to apostolic doctrine, koinonia, worship and Eucharist.
  • It is committed to radical sharing of goods and hospitality.
  • It respects authority (the temple) but circumscribes that authority in view of the ascension and reign of Christ. [28] 

Rather than focus the Covenant on sacraments per se, I would urge drafters to expound on the missionary character of the Church. When it comes to formulating a mission statement, we already have at our disposal the Lausanne Covenant on world evangelization, whose principal author, John Stott, happens to be foster father to many global Anglicans. It is not necessary, in my view, to reinvent a distinctive Anglican mission theology and strategy. Let us humbly offer ourselves and our resources to the already developed networks of mission and cross-cultural ministry in the Evangelical world today.

If the Anglican Communion can orient itself to our Lord’s Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, perhaps it can also reorient its sacramental heritage to convey the eschatological presence of Christ with his Church. [29]  Another gap in Anglican theology and practice; not unconnected with its lack of missionary zeal, I suspect; is the conviction that Jesus Christ will return, suddenly and imminently, to judge the living and the dead. [30]  As eschatological signs, the sacraments should be seen as incandescent badges of Christian identity: incandescent both in the sense of aglow with the Spirit but also as antagonistic to the world. Is it not the case that one receives either the seal of the living God in John’s Apocalypse, or the mark of the beast? Is it not true that the first Christians were marked out as “atheists” by their love feasts, and that even today Christian converts are disowned by their Muslim or Hindu families by baptism? If the sacraments are reoriented as dynamic signs of the Reigning Lord who is about to return, surely the pastoral discipline of the Church will also be reoriented. What would be our attitude toward those who routinely present their infants for baptism or those who idly “press with their teeth” the sacrament, if we believed that we would be held accountable for failing to warn them of the consequences of disobedience? [31]  What would be the attitude of bishops who fail to break fellowship with false “brother bishops” just to get along? [32]

Finally, let me say that eschatological signs must be accompanied by the eschatological Spirit of Christ. Sacraments should be responsive to the power of preaching and prophecy, the prayer of healing and exorcism, and the sacrifice of service and martyrdom. I came into the Episcopal Church on the wave of the charismatic renewal. We did many funny, even harmful, things in those days; in part because we got little guidance from the Church. But one mark of the genuineness of that movement is the fact that many of us understood and still understand that the Holy Spirit is the spirit of witness (martyria) and that we are impelled to follow Christ whatever the cost. This same Spirit can be found among the global churches today (one thinks of the church in China, for instance), including many of the newer Anglican churches (such as Nigeria and Sudan). A Global Anglican Covenant that wishes to recover its apostolic fullness will need to look not only for faithful administration of Gospel sacraments but for signs of the Spirit and power that accompany it (Mark 16:15-18). [33] A Church Governed by Bishops

The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the Unity of His Church.

The Historic Episcopate seems the surest way to identify Anglicans today: “Ye shall know they are Anglicans by their bishops’ purple shirts.” At the same time, this final plank of the Quadrilateral seems oddly fitted with its mates. Is it really true that bishops in apostolic succession are as necessary as the Bible or the Creeds or the sacraments? Are we prepared to unchurch or belittle those who have a different polity and do not keep genealogies? Is the threefold order of ministry an essential of the faith or is it adiaphora?

Anglicans can rightly uphold episcopal governance and the value of the historic continuity of its ministry. For all the failures of bishops, we cannot blame the office; indeed we can argue that a rightly ordered episcopacy has provided stability and faithfulness over the centuries. The second clause of the Quadrilateral; “locally adapted”; qualifies a rigid view of prelacy and specifically relates it to global mission, “the varying needs of nations and peoples called” into the Church. As an example of the latter, one thinks of the Church of Nigeria’s strategy of sending missionary bishops into under-evangelized portions of its own dioceses, or even of another jurisdiction.

The primary role of a bishop is that of a willing and apt pastor-teacher (Ephesians 4:11; 1 Peter 5:2; 2 Timothy 2:24). Bishops are to be stewards (Titus 1:7), which means they bear the final accountability for the state of the Church. To be sure, episcopal authority is not the same as episcopal totalitarianism. The “household of God” which the bishop oversees (1 Timothy 3:4-5) is a “mixed regime” with subsidiary units; congregations, parishes, dioceses and officers, clergy and lay; which must be represented in its governing structures. But I would propose that when one reaches the level of Communion governance, bishops are the true and best representatives of the Church. If this proposition rightly divides the roles of accountability, then bishops will exercise a lopsided dominance among any “Instruments of Unity.” At the same time, it is necessary to take a second look at these Instruments, which have only recently been recognized as normative, and see whether and how they represent proper episcope in the worldwide church. [34] The Lambeth Conference of Bishops

The Lambeth Conference is the fundamental constituent body of the Anglican Communion. Historically, it is impossible to speak of the Anglican Communion without the Lambeth Conference. While it is true that the Lambeth Conference was first called into being by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1867 and that he has ever been accorded the status of host, the Conferences became quickly established in themselves, and successive Archbishops of Canterbury have felt compelled to hold the decennial meetings. Clearly, the conferences are also the chief organ expressing the ecumenical and global character of Anglicanism.

Politically, the Lambeth Conference is a council of elders meeting as equals under a presiding officer. [35]  As noted above, bishops are the natural representatives of the churches. Collective oversight by bishops has a long heritage, rooted in the Bible and the conciliar tradition of the Church. I see no reason, at the global level, to try to include other constituencies in the governing structures of the Communion. Assemblies of elders necessarily must be limited in number if members are to govern genuinely. The current size of the Lambeth Conference is unwieldy and lends itself to political manipulation. Some form of representation needs to be devised that will allow Provinces to be represented so that the bishops may say on behalf of the whole Church: “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15:28). [36] Some weighting of large and small provinces makes sense, as well as recognition of regional clusters such as the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA) and the new Council of Anglican Provinces in the Americas and Caribbean (CAPAC).

The work of the Lambeth Conference, in my opinion, should be primarily theological and missiological, in keeping with the priorities outlined above. The idea of Bible study, prayer and teaching for the bishops in conference is a good one, with opportunity for input from non-episcopal theologians. The problem of tepid Bible studies and teaching at recent Conferences has been due to the appointing powers, not to the form itself. A Bishops’ Conference is not merely a refresher course for those in purple. The bishops should study and learn in order to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the specific needs and problems facing the Church in the world. For this reason, the object of the Conferences should be missiologically expansive and theologically conservative. One might recall the role of the Jerusalem Council in Acts, which both endorsed Paul’s innovative missionary activity as blessed by God and set forth some concrete ecumenical conditions under which the mission was to be conducted. The Pastoral and Catholic Epistles, written in response to rapid church growth, are filled with admonitions to hold fast to the teaching which has been received in order to preserve the fruit of mission (1 Timothy 4:16).

Now we come to a final question. Does the Lambeth Conference have to be held at Lambeth, or Canterbury? Can it rotate to different Provinces of the Communion? The plan to hold Lambeth 2008 in South Africa, while politically motivated and then aborted, indicates that it need not be held in England. My home campus in Uganda, for instance, can offer facilities equal to those of the University of Kent and has a nearby martyrs’ shrine every bit as sacred as the one dedicated to the holy blissful martyr of Canterbury. The Primates

The emergence of the Primates’ Meeting as an instrument of Anglican identity is recent, although one might argue that, with 38 Primates, the meeting is closer in number to the original Lambeth Conference of 76 bishops than the mammoth conferences of recent years. [37] Be that as it may, there is clearly a connection between the Lambeth Conference and the Primates. The Primates are chosen to represent the bishops and dioceses in their Province. It is thus appropriate that the Primates’ Meeting should function as the executive council of the Lambeth Conference.

A key function of an executive body is to carry out Resolutions of the larger assembly, to prepare for upcoming conferences and to deal with issues that arise in the interim period. It is at this point, I think, that the most serious distortion of Communion governance has occurred: the Anglican Communion secretariat. I say distortion because the Secretariat has operated as a separate branch of government. [38] So if the Primates are to govern effectively, it will be necessary for them, or perhaps for the Lambeth Conference of Bishops itself, to choose an executive officer who will reflect the will of the Communion. A new Secretariat will have to learn to live modestly, but perhaps in return it can become a servant, rather than a manipulator, of the Primates and the Lambeth Conference. The Archbishop of Canterbury

When we come to the place of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Global Anglican Communion, we arrive at a junction of history and present-day reality. No one can dispute the historic role of the Church of England in making Anglicanism what it is. Its formularies still hold a pride of place in the Global Communion. There is even a sense in which Anglican churches have had a special influence globally deriving from British and now American cultural and linguistic dominance. And historically, the Archbishop of Canterbury has served as prime representative of the Church of England; and hence the Communion which looks to the Mother Church.

However, the times they are a-changing, as our liberal friends often remind us! And in certain key respects, it seems to me the place of the Archbishop of Canterbury is outmoded and even dangerous to the flourishing of a global communion. Over the past fifty years the churches of the Global South have grown and matured, even as the state churches of Europe have declined. To speak demographically, the Church of England can no longer pretend to represent the people of England. When the Church of Nigeria has grown from 6 million to 18 million in 20 years and the Church of England has declined over two centuries to one million church-going members, we have a situation like that of the Pauline mission, where the vital periphery shows respect for the alma mater in Jerusalem, but does not cede initiative.

The Establishment of the Church in England is an anomaly among the churches of the Communion which increasingly confuses and compromises their identity and action. The recent decision of the British Government to enact legislation undermining the Church’s clear teaching on marriage and sexuality is a signal that it no longer looks to the Church, or even Christianity, as its spiritual guide. [39] Is it therefore wise to have the Presiding Primate of the Anglican Communion appointed by a secular party leader who may not even be a Christian? Even if these problems did not exist, it would be necessary to reform the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The idea that the Archbishop of Canterbury alone can determine who is in and who is out of the Communion is a remnant of a bygone colonial era and hardly conforms to the idea of constitutional government. A Global Anglican Covenant will need to spell out the method by which a presiding primate is chosen and a way of admitting or excluding provinces other than the unilateral decision of a particular individual.

In my opinion, the theologico-political position of the Archbishop of Canterbury presents an insuperable obstacle to a fully empowered Global Anglican Communion. This obstacle could be obviated in one of two ways: either by internationalizing the See of Canterbury or by making it a titular office. In one way or another, the office of Presiding Primate must be opened to bishops from all regions of the world. The Roman Catholics can do it; why can’t we? Is the Anglican Communion so stuck in its ways that it cannot see the need for genuine diversity in its leadership? [40]

At the recent South to South Encounter, Rowan Williams commented to the effect that as an Instrument of Unity, the Archbishop of Canterbury is a servant of that unity; and that if this office ceases to serve as such, then that raises a serious question for the Communion. [41] It seems to me that the gracious thing for the Church of England and the Parliament to do is to disestablish the office and offer it to the worldwide Communion. The Anglican Consultative Council

With legislative and executive authority situated in the Lambeth Conference and the Primates, the Anglican Consultative Council becomes redundant in the authority structure of a Global Anglican Communion. [42] This is not to say that the ACC or something like it may not have a function as a committee of the Lambeth Conference or the Primates, but it should not be part of the Covenant or the essential governing apparatus. To paraphrase a certain bishop, “the Communion created the ACC, the Communion can uncreate it.” From Blueprint to Reality

I have attempted to sketch a blueprint of a Global Anglican Covenant that will embody the best elements of our tradition and mobilize Anglicans to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. In order for this sketch to take life, political steps will need to take place. The initiative for these steps I expect to come from the Global South.

At Lambeth 1978, Joseph Adetiloye, Archbishop of Nigeria, stood at the microphone for a long time, waiting to be recognized. (This is the Primate under whose leadership the surge in growth in Nigeria began.) When the Chair tried to say, “That portion of the debate has ended,” Adetiloye refused to sit down and was finally recognized. He had this to say:

For more than 20 minutes I have been standing here and you did not want to recognize me. In ten years, when African bishops come to the microphone at this conference, we will be so numerous and influential that you will have to recognize us. In 1998, we will have grown so much that our voice will determine the outcome of the Lambeth Conference. [43]

Adetiloye was himself instrumental in passing Resolution 1.10 in 1998. His successor, Peter Akinola, has also been a leader of the Global South Primates, as head of the Council of Anglican Bishops in Africa (CAPA) and the Global South Leadership Team. So I think it will fall to the bishops of the Global South to take the initiative on a Global Anglican Covenant. It seems to me the opportune time to confer on this issue is prior to Lambeth 2008 rather than after it. If a draft Covenant were available, the Archbishop of Canterbury could then decide whether he wants the Lambeth Conference to contribute to the adoption of this Covenant or leave it to others. In any case, the drafters would be in a position to move forward to enactment.

The Covenant would contain a mechanism for ratification according to which various jurisdictions would be acknowledged as constituent members of the covenant community or network. This community might exist side by side with the Anglican Communion, with bishops finding themselves functioning in both structures. However, it seems likely that eventually the new wine would no longer fit in the old wineskins. So either the two entities would separate or amalgamate. In either situation, the goal of the new entity would to become a real koinonia, like the apostolic Church, being of one mind and one spirit (Acts 4:32). Then it would indeed be the Global Anglican Communion, both in name and in substance. Predictions

My belief that a future Global Anglican Covenant and Communion is likely is based on one sociological observation and one theological conviction. The sociological observation is this: liberal Anglicanism is reaping the harvest of unbelief. Though flush with funds, the Episcopal Church USA is a graying, declining body. The elderly will gradually pass away, leaving the endowments only for window dressing.

Not only is liberal Anglicanism dying out, but it will hasten its own demise by increasingly outrageous and self-destructive policies. Therefore any patch-up job within the present structures will fail. Lay people disillusioned with the drift of the churches will vote with their feet, and overseas “companion” churches will either die along with the parent body or act independently of it.

In the near term, I cannot say where the exact fault lines in Anglicanism will end up; whether the North American official churches will be cut loose to go their way, or whether a Mammonic Anglo-American alliance will prevail for a time. I do not know whether the parting of ways will happen in two years or two pieces, or ten years and ten pieces. What I do know is this: if Anglicanism is to experience a rebirth, it will take place in a radically de-centered and re-centered Communion, de-centered from the sceptered isle of its birth and re-centered in the rude cradle of the Global South.

Here is where my theological conviction comes in. Jesus Christ is Lord and His kingdom reigns over all. The gates of hell will not prevail against His Church, which is His Body. Once we lift up our eyes from our own troubles and look at the worldwide scene, we shall realize that the Gospel is not in retreat but is beckoning to the uttermost corners of the globe. As Anglicans we have a stake in the global mission of Christ, and we have something to offer it from the riches of our heritage and our worldwide fellowship of churches.

Brothers and sisters, remember Lot’s wife. The present order is passing away. Behold the Global Anglican Communion is coming. 20 January 2006 NOTES [1]  Latimer’s final exhortation to Ridley, attributed in Foxe’s 1583 Book of Martyrs is: “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man, for we shall light such a candle by God’s grace in England as shall never be put out.” For the Uganda Martyrs, see J.F. Faupel, African Holocaust: The Story of the Uganda Martyrs (St. Paul Publications, 1984) page 194. [2]  The Handwriting on the Wall: An Appeal to the Anglican Communion (Solon, Oh: Latimer Press, 1997) page 19. The reference is to the “Kuala Lumpur Statement on Human Sexuality” from the 1997 Second South to South Encounter (see [url=][/url]). [3]  The Windsor Report (2005), sec. 119 and Appendix Two; and “Communion in Mission,” the Report of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Mission and Evangelism (2005), pages 7-10. [4]  See “at Third Trumpet Communiqué” (2005), sec. 22 . [5]  Cranmer’s design for the Church of England included reformed Articles, Common Prayer and Canons. See Diarmaid MacCulloch, Thomas Cranmer: A Life (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996) pages 500-513. [6]  The Windsor Report, for all its procedural insights, forswears theological evaluation of the event which has split the Communion. Likewise, its Covenant proposal is heavy on structure and process and light on biblical and theological substance. The Windsor Covenant would be like Cranmer’s canonical reforms without the Articles, Homilies and the Prayer Book. [7]  The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral (CLQ) differs in a few insignificant respects from the form adopted by the second Lambeth Conference (LQ). [8]  See Robert Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001). I note that none of the authors of Gays and the Future of Anglicanism: Responses to the Windsor Report (Winchester, UK: O Books, 2005) even mentions Gagnon. Probably for good reason: Gagnon has a penchant for following up with his casual critics (see [url=][/url]). [9]  Stephen F. Noll, Two Sexes, One Flesh: Why the Church Cannot Bless Same-Sex Marriage (Solon, Oh: Latimer Press, 1997). [10]  See Bernard Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation: A Textbook of Hermeneutics (3rd ed.; Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1970). [11] In Resolution III.1, the Conference “reaffirms the primary authority of the Scriptures, according to their testimony and supported by our own historic formularies.” In Resolution III.5, “The Authority of the Holy Scriptures,” it likewise “affirms that our creator God, transcendent as well as immanent, communicates with us authoritatively through the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments; and in agreement with the Lambeth Quadrilateral, and in solidarity with the Lambeth Conference of 1888, affirms that these Holy Scriptures contain ‘all things necessary to salvation’ and are for us the ‘rule and ultimate standard’ of faith and practice.” [12]  In Uganda, the first Christian converts were called “readers” as the Bible was the first text to become authoritative in an otherwise oral culture. [13]  The meaning of “literal sense” has been revived in contemporary hermeneutics. I defended its use before the House of Bishops in 1992. See “Reading the Bible as the Word of God,” in The Bible’s Authority for Today’s Church, ed. Frederick H. Borsch (Valley Forge, Pa.: Trinity Press International: 1993) pages 133-167. [14]  This phrase is borrowed from Meir Sternberg, The Poetics of Biblical Narrative: Ideological Literature and the Drama of Reading (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985) pages 50-51. It suggests that the biblical writers were capable of conveying a plain sense which leads the reader into a deeper consideration of its meaning without overturning its surface meaning. [15]  See, e.g., Kevin Vanhoozer. Is There a Meaning in This Text: The Bible, the Reader and the Morality of Literary Knowledge (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998). [16]  Note that the oneness of the Church is based on the “once-for-allness” (hapax) of the apostolic tradition entrusted to it. [17]  See the forthcoming introduction and text by W. J. Torrance Kirby, “The Articles of Religion of the Church of England (1571), Commonly Called the ‘Thirty-Nine Articles,” in K.H. Faulenbach, Emilio Campi et al, eds., Die Bekenntnischriften der reformierten Kirchen. Band II. (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 2006). [18]  Ashley Null, “The Thirty-Nine Articles and Reformation Anglicanism: Biblical Authority Defined and Applied,” Global South Institute Occasional Papers (Uganda Christian University, Mukono, 2005), page 33. [19]  “Anglicans have always recognized a key distinction between core doctrines of the church (remembering that ethics, liturgy and pastoral practice, if authentically Christian, are all rooted in theology and doctrine) and those among which disagreement can be tolerated without endangering unity.” (Windsor Report, para. 36). [20]  See Oliver O’Donovan. On the Thirty-Nine Articles: A Conversation with Tudor Christianity (Exeter: Paternoster Press, 1986). [21]  For a contemporary example of this kind of exposition, see Samuel C. Pascoe, The Thirty-Nine Articles: Buried Alive? (Dallas: Latimer Press, 1998). [22]  The Eucharistic Liturgy of the Anglican Church of Kenya may serve as an example of such inculturation. [23]  See Article VII on the “commandments which are called moral”; in the Prayer Book, note the use of the Decalogue in the Eucharistic liturgy and Catechism; and among the many Homilies, see #4, “On Good Works.” Church discipline is implicit in the Prayer Book Exhortations and disciplinary rubric for Holy Communion. In addition, churches include disciplinary provisions in their various codes of canon law. [24]  See Norman Doe, Canon Law in the Anglican Communion: A Worldwide Perspective (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998). [25]  The current fad of “Open Communion” may qualify as such a sectarian challenge. See e.g., Kathryn Tanner, “In Praise of Open Communion: A Rejoinder to James Farwell,” in Anglican Theological Review 86 (Summer 2004). [26]  Granted, Article XVIII states that “Holy Scripture doth set out unto us only the name of Jesus Christ whereby men must be saved.” Still, the context of the Article seems to suggest doctrinal contention rather than missionary impulse. [27]  Curiously, the “Covenant for Communion in Mission” also has nine bullets. Only one of these, the sharing of goods, appears in both lists. The missio dei theology of this document emphasizes the “love, justice and joy which Jesus inaugurated” rather than His salvation from sin and death, as appears primary in Peter’s sermon. [28]  Oliver O’Donovan, The Ways of Judgment: The Bampton Lectures, 2003 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005) page 4, points out that Paul’s affirmation of civil authority in Romans 13:4 is “iconoclastic” in limiting the role of government to the one function of judgment. [29]  O’Donovan, Thirty-Nine Articles, page 126. [30]  Note the omission of Cranmer’s articles on eschatology (#39-42). [31]  “Which being so divine and comfortable a thing to who receive it worthily, and so dangerous to those who will presume to receive it unworthily; my duty is to exhort you, in the mean season to consider the dignity of that holy mystery, and the great peril of the unworthy receiving thereof; and so to search and examine your own consciences, and that not lightly…” Exhortation to Holy Communion, from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer (1928) page 87. [32]  I am reminded of a line from Robert Bolt’s play A Man for All Seasons (New York: Vintage, 1961), page 77, where Thomas More’s friend Norfolk asks why he cannot just “come with me, for fellowship” on the “King’s issue.” More replies: “And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?” [33]  Even if the longer ending of Mark is not original, it indicates the linking of sacraments with mission in the early church. [34]  The Anglican Consultative Council was established at Lambeth 1968, and the Primates’ Meeting at Lambeth 1988. The Virginia Report, which presents the official rationale for the Four Instruments, was never accepted by the Lambeth Conference. [35]  The Windsor Report, sec. 108-110, seeks to move the polity of the Communion in a monarchical direction under the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Lambeth Conference and Primates’ Meeting, they claim, “are both dependent for their existence on his behest. We recommend that this dependence remain, and indeed, that it be enhanced.” One wonders if the Commission would have been so enthusiastic about this enhanced role if the Primate of Nigeria were to occupy the throne of Augustine. [36]  While I am suggesting that normal Lambeth Conferences have a more circumscribed membership, perhaps there also needs to be provision for calling a General Council of all bishops to address a crisis that threatens the life of the whole Communion. [37]  For the case for enhancing the role of the Primates, see Drexel W. Gomez and Maurice W. Sinclair, eds., To Mend the Net: Anglican Faith and Order for Renewed Mission (Carrollton, Tex.: Ekklesia, 2001). [38]  The Windsor Report, Appendix One (para. 6-9) recognizes the need for reform of the Office. [39]  O’Donovan, Ways of Judgment, page 8, notes that the aim of political judgment is “securing a public moral context, the good order within which we may act and interact as members of the community.” The new moral context created by the Civil Partnerships Act equates homosexual relationships with marriage, evasions by the English Bishops notwithstanding. [40]  Even the Virginia Report, sec. 6.6, raises this question hypothetically. [41]  See QA #4 at Questions to the Archbishop of Canterbury [42]  The Windsor Report, sec. 103, fails to identify a specific function for the ACC other than “to give a voice to laypeople”; the draft Covenant (Art. 24) simply refers to the ACC’s original constitution, without asking whether that constitution is still useful. [43]  This account was told by Abp. Adetiloye to Canon Bill Atwood, General Secretary of Ekklesia.

33 Responses. Comments closed for this entry.

  1. mccabe Says:

    From the above article: “Since the impending break-up of the Communion has to do with the rejection of Scripture by some of its members, any Anglican Covenant will need to provide a thorough affirmation of the primacy, unity, clarity and sufficiency of the Bible as the Word of God written. In this regard, we can learn from the Protestant Reformers, who faced a similar challenge in the 16th century.”

    The deification of the Bible certainly is a problem the Anglican Communion must face. We need to reform ourselves of the idea that the Word of God is a collection of books. Christ is the only true Word of God. He did not write a rule book for his followers. He lived and died without the need to write down rules or procedures for us. That was a key part of his teachings: the rejection of written rules and the recognotion of the individual lost soul. I do not want to become a Baptist.

    From the above article:

    The Anglican Consultative Council

    With legislative and executive authority situated in the Lambeth Conference and the Primates, the Anglican Consultative Council becomes redundant in the authority structure of a Global Anglican Communion.”

    I would not want to see the one body that has the laity (the source of income) reduced to a ‘redundant’ organization in the Anglican Communion. I do not want to become a Roman. I want the role of the laity expanded not reduced in the communion.

  2. mccabe Says:


    I do not wish to be a member of a community/communion that fails to see the face of God in every human being. I do not wish to be a member of a cummunity/communion that can not seek and serve Christ in all people. I believe that I am bound to my Baptismal Covenant.

    If that translates into allowing the Global South to walk with God in a manner pleasing to them then I say - Peace be with you! The only thing I hear from the Global South is the call to become like the Pharisee or Levite. I prefer to be the like the Samaritan and let the Temple Priest and Levite walk past the injuried man while I go about doing the work of Christ here in the ECUSA.

  3. mccabe Says:


    As I have stated before on this website, the issue(s) isn’t about purity, it is about money and power.

    These comments from the above article help clarify the true nature of this dispute:

    “The sociological observation is this: liberal Anglicanism is reaping the harvest of unbelief. Though flush with funds, the Episcopal Church USA is a graying, declining body. The elderly will gradually pass away, leaving the endowments only for window dressing.” The goal of the Glbal South is revealed. The money will no doubt pass to the ‘pure evangelical’ church of the Global South. Greed will have its’ way.

    Thank God, I believe that ECUSA will be here until the end of time. We have always been a small church and I have no fear of smallness.


    “In ten years, when African bishops come to the microphone at this conference, we will be so numerous and influential that you will have to recognize us. In 1998, we will have grown so much that our voice will determine the outcome of the Lambeth Conference.”

    Power pure and simple. The lust to dominate. The game plan is revealed.


    ECUSA is already an independant church in a voluntary Anglican communion. However, with true christian love and kndness we are told:

    “whether the North American official churches will be cut loose to go their way, or whether a Mammonic Anglo-American alliance will prevail for a time. I do not know whether the parting of ways will happen in two years or two pieces, or ten years”.

    The final solution for the ‘Church of the West” is revealed. The Global South will win no matter what the cost to the voluntary Anglican communion.

  4. mccabe Says:


    I would agree to “be more humble and friendly, and less strident and antagonistic.” if i were not reading things worded like this:

    “for those of us still loyal to scripture” from you

    From the article:

    “by exercising discipline of those Provinces that have flouted the substance of the Resolution. It is of course proper that any fateful action like the excommunication of a Province should proceed deliberately. The Windsor process, however compromised it”

    “Not only is liberal Anglicanism dying out, but it will hasten its own demise by increasingly outrageous and self-destructive policies.”

    “liberal Anglicanism is reaping the harvest of unbelief.”

    “a Mammonic Anglo-American alliance will prevail for a time”

  5. mccabe Says:


    Do we live in an Alice in Wonderland world in which the accused is put on trial and accused after the execution? Is that your vision of the Anglican Communion? Is that how you and the other loving members of the Global South follow the Law of Love given us by Christ himself?

    The Communion is suppose to be engaged in the process of dialogue, conversation and listening. We are suppose to be praying for understanding. In following the law given to us by Christ himself, we are suppose to be acting with love to all persons.

    My problem with the actions of the Anglican Network, working as agents of the Global South, is the assumption that ECUSA is guilty prior to a full hearing and trial of our actions. You and the above article confirm my fear that your ears are closed. It is nonsense to say that ECUSA is not acting “loyal to scripture”. If the Anglican Network and the Global South would listen then you would hear ECUSA’s biblical justifications for our actions.

    When you and your kind ask for discussion, your really asking for an echo of your own voice.

  6. mccabe Says:


    I don’t disagree with your saying anything. Freedom of expression is fundamental to civility.

    The Pharisees most certainly live on into our own time and place. Christ would be so pleased.

    As I said above:

    “I prefer to be the like the Samaritan and let the Temple Priest and Levite walk past the injuried man while I go about doing the work of Christ here in the ECUSA.”

  7. mccabe Says:


    I do not know what you intended by pointing to 1 Corinthians. It is certainly one of the greatest definitions of Love found in literature. I especially love “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest pf these is love”. Clearly our faith in Christ and hope of salvation is eclipsed by the love of God for us and the practice of our love for one another.

    In 1 Romans you must be pointing to verses 23-32 were ‘indecent acts’ are condemned. No one is arguing for the approval of immoral acts. What we are saying is that we need to recognize these (Gay) relationships in order to prevent promiscuity. It is after all in alignment with Acts 15 were the church asks Gentiles to refrain from “fornication” or ‘sexual immorality’. The committed relationships of a Gay couple is to be encouraged not discouraged. Hebrews 13:4 says ‘Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral”. If marriage is given to us to control the burning of passion (as Paul wrote) then we are obligated to find ways to allow all persons the right to control passion by the act of marriage. In short, promiscuity is condemned by all. Faithfulness in the couple is what is prized.

    You pointed to Luke 6 and I assume you were asking me to consider the statements concerned with judging others. I would say that Luke 6: 1-11 where Christ’s teaching about healing on the Sabbath shows how Christ felt about the Pharisees view about the Law and our need to show love for each other. Acts of loving kindness override any rule. You referred to Matt. 15 1-9. What about Matt 15 10-14 were Christ condemns the practice of worshiping rules?

    Have you considered Romans 7:4 “...we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code”? For that matter how about Romans 8: 12-17 were we are told that we are the ‘sons of God.’

    And I ask you to consider Gal2:20 - “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me”.

  8. Chip Johnson+, cj Says:

    And I ask you to consider Gal2:20 - “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me”.

    Could we all not just let Him live in us?  Rather than pushing each ideal as self-sufficient?  Let us let Him shine through us, in all of His resurrection glory, to accomplish His work. . .cleansing sinners of their sins through His Blood, after their repentance and amendment of life?

  9. mccabe Says:


    Self-sufficient? We each stand before God as individuals not communities. We are judged on our own actions. We may all be part of a community but our actions are our own.

    However, Evangelicals Anglicans have recently decided that part of the community is not pure enough for them. As the pure agents of their personal God, they will save (or punish) the unclean and unfaithful. Evangelicals have created a new idol for us all to worship. It is ink on a page of paper and it is called The Bible. Can the witch hunts and heretic burnings be far behind? If we are really lucky we might even work ourselves in to a nice little religious war - just like the good old days.

    God is a spirit not a book.

    As a Pentecostal member of ECUSA, I have serious reservations about book worship entering into my community of faith. Even when I am asked by an Evangelical to consider certain Biblical references and I respond with comments based on those selected verses; a true Evangelical will not respond to the comments of a Pentecostal (see items 11 and 14). After all, all true believers (Evalgelicals) know that members of ECUSA are unable to read or understand The Bible.

    The Evangelical god is indeed a private one. The idol can not be questioned or challenged. Unless you are a member of the new cult of book worship, you can never really understand the idols words. I will resist this idolatry in all of its’ forms and manifestations.

    I will follow the Holy Spirit. I will continue to rejoice in His unfolding revelation of God’s love for us all. I will find joy, comfort and the never ending wonder in Christ our only true salvation.

  10. Chip Johnson+, cj Says:

    As one who was a cradle Episcopalian, who spent almost thirty years in ordained ministry in the Church of God, Cleveland TN, and who is now ordained in the Anglican Communion, I take several exceptions to the above comments:

    1. The liturgy of the Word in the worldwide Anglican Communion IS a liturgy of the LOGOS.  In no other persuasion can you find more connected scripture read every time the faithful meet for worship, and in the Daily Office readings, than in the liturgical churches, (Anglican, Roman, Orthodox, Lutheran)

    2.  Self-sufficiency is the root of the problems in the ECUSA, some fundamental groups, and several other parts of the Communion now.  Some members (leaders) have felt that they have been given a new revelation, even a new approach to God, or a new word from God…when, in truth, we must have only a total dependency on God and God alone for our soul’s sake.

    “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me!”

  11. mccabe Says:

    We are all sinners in the hands of God and bleed equally. As the Holy Spirit is the inspiration of the Bible, as Pentecostal Christians in ECUSA we accept His anointing grace and inspiration working in our synods and our councils today. The Trinity is not Father, Son and Bible. It is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Why do Evangelicals not accept the work of the Holy Spirit working in the world today? What makes the Evalgelicals neo-orthodox teachings the only truth?

  12. mccabe Says:


    I do accept the New Testament as one expression of faith in the early church. It is a guide for us in our understanding of what the first Christians believed and taught. However, it is not the sole basis of our faith. There is oral tradition as well. The Holy Spirit was the inspiration of the faith then as He is now.

    There are problems with these early statements of faith. For example, there was the common belief that the second coming was imminent. Clear a misunderstanding common in the early church. There are many internally conflicting statements and accounts of the same event. There is the insertion of late first and early second century beliefs attributed to the first believers. There is a clear difference in focus within the early church depending on the background of the reader. Jewish Christians still practicing the Old Testamnet Law have references to that Law applied to there practices. However, the Gentiles were never bound to the Law and there is a different approach to the faith given for them. Given these problems, it is still a valid source of information for us.

    Christ is still the only true Word of God and he did not write anything for his followers. He clearly intended to have an oral tradition practiced in His church.

    The Hebrew Scriptures are the story of one people’s experience of God. The Law was abolished forever with the death and resurection of Christ the King. That Law was only given exclusively to the Hebrews (as the chosen people) and has never been binding on the Gentiles. No part of the Old Testament Law is or has ever been binding on Gentiles. Reference to the Old Testament law, or holding us to any aspect of that Law, is to me a denial of the salvation of Christ. It is also a direct violation of the rules given to Gentile Christians by the First Council of Jerusalem as recorded in the Book of Acts.

    I think that all ages of the church have been blessed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He is always guiding us to bring Christ’s healing love into the present world. He has always spoken to us in our synods, our councils and by individuals saints. However, would any of us today resort to burning heretics or witches at the stake as was a common practice for centuries in the church? People of faith that followed the rules sactioning the killing of heretics were given those rules by the established church leaders of their time. Leaders that used the Bible to justify the murder of ‘heretics’ and the burning of ‘a witch’ Thanks be to God, we have learned over time to love more deeply then they did in those evil days.

  13. mccabe Says:


    I have been very careful to limit my comments regarding the work of the Holy Spirit to synods, councils and individual saints. I emphasis the corporate bodies of the church as the primary vessels of His devine inspiration. Individuals saints have often been seen as ‘heretics’ by the established church leaders of their time. This is in keeping with the saints following in the footsteps of the prophets and Christ Jesus who were killed by the religious and temporal leaders of society.

    As for individual members of this forum, I would refrain from judging them without knowing them personally. I do tend to see a person that puts the love of arbitrary rules above the love of his brother as not living the good news of Christ Jesus or bearing the fruits of the Holy Spirit. As you know, I would be the Samaritan over the Temple Priest or Levite.

    As for the bishops you listed, I again would refrain from judging what spirit guides them. I do know that Archbishop Akinola and the Primates that would not come to the Lord’s Table with their brother Primates shows both pride and extreme self righteousness by their actions. I do not believe that pride or self rigtheouness are true gifts of the Holy Spirit. I do not know a thing about Bishop Jenson of Sydney and have no comment on him or his actions.

    As for Bishop Duncan, I believe he should be removed from his office using the Canon Law of ECUSA. The origin of the term Warlock is “a breaker of his covenant or word” and Duncan is most certainly that by his actions. He and any other Bishop or priest of ECUSA that will not accept the legislation, rulings or confirmations of the General Convention of ECUSA forfeit their office. They should resign the office as a point of personal honor or be removed from the office for failure to uphold their oaths of consecration both as a priest and a bishop in ECUSA.

  14. Johnny Says:


    Your last para reveals the spiritual confusion and false spirituality symptomatic of much of ECUSA. I don’t have the time to engage with your postings here (no wish to as the sickness within ECUSa is too in-grained) but I will be surprise that this thing can be said uncensored on this forum where clearly Bp Duncna in his office and as a person is deeply respected and recognised.


  15. mccabe Says:

    Censorship is used by those that would not listen to all sides of an issue. Free people speaking in an open forum is the hallmark of a civilized people. Millions of Christians have died to win and protect that freedom.  Look at the riots and death in the Islamic world over a deries of cartoons to see what the results are of those that fear freedom of speech and expression. If you really stand for the truth then why would you have to fear opposition?

    By the way, here is a part of the Consecration of a Bishop service used in ECUSA:

    “O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquillity the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus
    Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.”


    “Bishop:As a chief priest and pastor, will you encourage and support all baptized people in their gifts and ninistries, nourish them from the riches of God’s grace, pray for them without ceasing, and celebrate with them the sacraments of our redemption?

    Answer: I will, in the name of Christ, the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls.

    Bishop: Will you guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church?

    Answer: I will, for the love of God.”

    Is there anything in this that allows a Bishop to ignore the Canon Law of the ECUSA?

  16. Johnny Says:

    Hmm..another canonical fundamentalist.

    Let’s examine: see the last line.
    “I will, for the love of God.”

    Your appeal to Canon law ignores the nuances and basic fundamental commitment of a cleric/bishop in his ordination vows to his Church, all which he needs to do ‘for the love of God.’

    I am a cleric myself, I have taken my ordination vows but they are never without qualifications. Only the immature are unable to see the tension, nuances and truth of life’s true commitments. Even the vows we make are all carefuly worded to express that.

    In any case, I dont think the person and actions of Bishop Duncan and others like him needs defending. The truth is plain for all to see why, for the love of God, they have to do what needs to be done and courageously so.

  17. mccabe Says:


    Do our vows stand for nothing? Is that your understanding of the Word of God? If you are married can you have a mistress because you marriage vow to be faithful to your spouse is nuanced? Would you vow say, “I will be faithful to my spouse as long as it is convenient to me”, is that your idea of a vow? Your logic presents us all with a wonderful paradigm for moral virtue to follow in church practice. Did you learn this moral lesson from Bishop Duncan?

    What about our Baptismal Covenant?

    “Celebrant:Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?

    People:I will, with God’s help.

    Celebrant: Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

    People:I will, with God’s help.

    Celebrant: Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

    People:I will, with God’s help.”

    Why do we makes these vows? Priest, who do you really serve? Christ or self-interest?

  18. Johnny Says:


    You still don’t get it.

    Let me explain again. Built into a clergy or bishop vows is a basic premise underlining all Chritian submission vows to another non-divine, (not unlike Ephesians 6:1 or elsehwere in the Bible) The obedience is never an absolute (because both the Church and her leaders are not sovereign nor perfect) but conditional and it reflects this basic understanding and thus, “for the love of God.” I have this built into my ordination vow too, in my pledge of submission to my bishop.

    At times ‘for the love of God’ and His people (and not self interest), the cleric may need to walk apart from his superiors. As for the reasons a priest or bishop may have within Ecusa, we should all know.

  19. mccabe Says:


    I get it. However, I think it is an invalid agrument. Your vow is both morally binding and legally required for you to hold an office in the corporation that is ECUSA. It is invalid because you entered the contract to be an agent of the church by your own free will and assumed legal duties and obligations under that contract of employment for your office in the corporation that is ECUSA.

    If you (or Bishop Duncan) have moral objections to the Canon Laws of the ECUSA then resign your office. If you can no longer perform your legal duties as a paid agent of the corporation which is ECUSA then resign with honor.

    How American of me to ask for the rule of law and the enforcement of your contract as a paid agent of the corporation. Let me use an example for you. The marriage service is both a sacrament of the church and a legal contract binding on both parties. However, the marriage can only be dissolved by the civil authority using civil law with no regard to the sacramental nature of the service. The marriage contract is the public oath taken by both parties with witnesses present. 

    I imagine that you expect the church (as a corporation) to pay for your retirement because of your services to the church (the corporation) in the past. What if it was decided that a priest or bishop unfaithful to the jurisdiction of the General Convention or diocese was no longer entitled to that retirement money? The priest or bishop would only have recourse to the civil legal system to determine your claim to receive the retirement money.It is a matter of the rule of law. Canon and Civil law are both part of the contract of between the church to its’ paid employees. Your vows as a priest have both legal and moral obligations attached to them.

    I say that we should use the Canon Law of ECUSA to remove officals of the church that fail to uphold the Canon Law that they are bound to enforce. If necessary, we should use the civil law to enforce the corporate bylaws of the ECUSA and the diocese to remove any paid agent of the church that fails to fulfill the terms of their contracts of employment. We would assert that the Bishop or priest is failing to perform the duties defined by the corporation’s bylaws and should be removed as an agent of the corporation.

    The power of those vows both have spiritual and legal obligations attached to them.

    If you can no longer maintain your vows with regard to ‘unity and discipline’ then you should leave you office and follow your conscience. It was ‘for the love of God’ that Christ was hated by the spiritual leaders of his society. It was ‘for the love of God’ that they had Christ die on the Cross to save us.

    McCabe using your words “another canonical fundamentalist”.

  20. Johnny Says:

    We have established that morally and spiritually, clergy and bishops do have a duty to break their vows under certain conditions, and that it will not be an unChristian thing to do.

    Now, legally, Ecusa or the respective dioceses have to decide on what to do. Let me quote our ever so sensitive and Christianly reasonable Ab Rowan in his contribution to the discussions in COE Synod recently on women bishops:

    “I think that the problem is for those who are not content with the idea that we should go forward along the line of ordaining women as bishops, the problem is not one of opinion, it’s rather of obedience. It’s one of obedience to scripture, or obedience to the consensus of the Church Catholic. And, while that’s not a view I wholly share, I think we ought to recognise that that’s where it comes from, that those who hold that are not just thinking ‘this is a matter of opinion’ and therefore it is rightly and understandably a lot harder to deal with dissent if you’re talking what fundamentally comes down to a question of whether you obey God or human authority. That’s why it’s serious, that’s why it’s difficult. More than opinion.”

    There, as all mature and godly bishops understand, there are issues of faith and obedience which at times causes schism in the Church. Those in authority can choose to castigate those who disagree (and they have the legal right to do so) or they can opt to take a different stand, understand the pain their collegues are going through as they try to serve by being true to their conscience, call to obedience to God and ministry vows (which is always first to God, and then in ECUSA context).

    Of course ECUSA can take the hard line, sees herself as nothing more than an organization (not unlike secular ones) and by all means, sure. Tow the corporate line, or else you are out. They can take your view. History will judge the wisdom of their actions.

    I say it again, at the end of the day, all our actions will be judged (for both ‘sides’) on whether we have followed Christ and I think for every clergy and bishops, their baptism vows undergird every other vows they will make throughout the course of their lives.

  21. mccabe Says:


    “obedience which at times causes schism in the Church.”

    There is no division in the Body of Christ! No male or female. No Jew or Gentile. No slave and freeman.

    It is God’s joyful gift of free will that allows us to follow our conscience in good faith. Some of us to stay in ECUSA and follow the Holy Spirit down a new road that He has reveled to us in our councils. Other will leave ECUSA and follow God in the path reveled to them by an older received standard of faith defined in council. Paul and Peter faught in anger with each other over matters of faith (Jew and Gentile) and yet each in their own way preached the Good News of Christ Risen to the world.

    ECUSA must and will remain free to determine the will of the Holy Spirit in our time and place. Outside coericion and internal treachery will not overcome our desire to do the will of God as we move forward in our spiritual development.

    We will follow our Baptismal Covenant:

    We will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as yourself!

    We will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being!

    We will listen to Christ Jesus when he said:

    “This new commandment I give to you: Love one another as I have loved you.”

    We will fight to save the faith, unity and discipline of ECUSA. We will resist any coercion or duplicity from a communion not open to bringing the healing love of Christ to all people. As Christ himself told us - love is not always peaceful.

    “Faith, Hope and Love….and the greatest of these is Love”. In the Body of Christ there is no division!

  22. mccabe Says:


    The only truth faith that Episcopalians in ECUSA are required to hold is found in the Baptismal Covenant of ECUSA. Our faith is based entirely on that Covenant. What the Anglican Communion and disruptive elements of ECUSA want is the insertion of a faith beyond the Creed and vows of Baptism. Other teachings are just frosting on the cake and not essential for membership in the Household of God that is ECUSA.

    Time, goodwill, money and loving fellowship have been wasted on non-essential teachings held by those that have motives other then the purity of faith in mind. I have said it before and I will repeat myself again in this forum; this is a power play for the money and property of ECUSA masked as a purity crusade to defend the faith. I see envy and greed not love and kindness working to distroy my church.

  23. Johnny Says:


    No one can ever be sure of another’s motives (except God), and one can say that some may be motivated by money and power.

    But knowing the folks who have been affected, I can see they are motivated by convictions, and a very genuine following of Christ, whose baptismal vows is not understood in the way that some others may take it to mean (or not to mean). 

    Can’t you accept that? I think you have pretty much repeated yourself all over this site on the same issues. Vows, canon law, power, money…

  24. mccabe Says:


    Your right. As long as my church is disrupted by a militant minority with the help of outside intervention, I will resist them.

    Read the diocesan convention summaries at and see the havoc introduced when other Provences lead, encourage and promote division within ECUSA. I tell you I seriously believe that I am required to “... renounce the evil powers of this world
    which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?”

  25. Chip Johnson+, cj Says:

    The Baptismal Covenant is NOT the bone of ocntention here, it is the disregard of the ENTIRE statement of faith of the Anglican, (and ECUSA) Church; to wit, the three credal statements and the Articles of Religion.  These are what those in Orders are empowered to support, and what bishops are compeled to defend as the ‘faith once delivered to the saints’. 

    They have long since quit defending the entire faith, they pick and choose which elements are required and leave the remainde out of consideration.  They are like some of the old time fundamentalists, they have a favorite ‘hobby horse’ and they ride it into the ground.

    Christ, Have mercy!

  26. mccabe Says:

    If the Bible is true about the origin of mankind then the first recorded was sin lying, the second was disobedience, the third was false witness and the fourth was fratricide. Nothing has changed since the beginning of humankind.

    We use half truths to deceive each other about our true motives.

    We disobey lawful authority.

    We accuse each other of sinful actions.

    We spiritually assassinate our fellow Christians.

    Good Lord deliver us from our sin! Is there any wonder that the secular appeals to more and more people each day.

    “You will know them by the love they show each other” said Christ Jesus.

  27. mccabe Says:

    From Episcopal News Service (ECUSA)

    MISSISSIPPI: Convention affirms Communion membership, protests unauthorized episcopal visits

    “The council discussed two resolutions addressing the developing split between Anglicans in various portions of the world over theological and jurisdictional issues.

    The first resolution commended the work of a team of Anglican leaders who produced the Windsor Report in 2004. Mississippi Bishop Duncan M. Gray III said the report is “a roadmap by which we can maintain our communion as a worldwide body of faithful Christians.”

    The second resolution expressed to the Archbishop of Canterbury the council’s “strong protest” of bishops from other areas of the Anglican Communion taking action “at odds with the recommendations of the Windsor Report.” Those actions included unauthorized visits by two African bishops to the Diocese of Mississippi.

    Gray also said “this diocese will not be sidetracked from its important work of mission by topics that may evoke strong emotions and conflict
    but are not at the heart of what we are called by God to engage.”

    “Proclaiming the Gospel is our central purpose, and we do so when we recognize and live into the reality that we are one church, in mission, for the purposes of invitation, transformation, and reconciliation,” he said.

    Both resolutions were adopted by wide margins. The first resolution acknowledged the time required to implement fully the Windsor Report’s
    recommendations and that key components of that work will include “personal conversations, prayer, and Bible study, especially with those
    with whom we differ.”

    It concluded with an affirmation of Gray’s leadership through the conflict.”

  28. mccabe Says:

    Canon Law alone for the governance of ECUSA. The Bible respected as the roots for the tree of Christian thought that has been nourished by the Holy Spirit for two thousand years. You are to be complimented on presenting a question worthy of a modern Pharisee.

    Why is there no interest in the intrusion of African Bishops into the affairs of another diocese? A diocese that is at the moment in crisis from a natural disaster that has touched every member of the church in it. A diocese that is to poor and weak to be robbed by thieves in the night.

  29. Johnny Says:


    You keep repeating yourself all over this site, and unable to think broader, deeper or beyond the same few issues and accusations though some attempted to engage you, like myself. It is lke I am talking to a PC programmed only to think about certain issues and to say them again and again. It is about AI at it’s current best.

    You might spare yourself some pain if you learn to hear not your own voice but others.

  30. mccabe Says:


    I am so happy to hear that you are distressed by the insistent voice of the Pentacostal spirit. For over forty years, I have had to listen to the voracious voice of the Evangelicals. The time to even the playing field has arrived. I have had to listen to the same tiresome crowd resist the changes made in the Book of Common Prayer, ordination of women and now gays in the church. My ancestors had to listen to the same voices justify slavery but that was their cross to bear.

    Explain to me how this Anglican Network action in my own parish can be justified?

    A vestry member asked our rector for the mailing list of members of our parish. The mailing list was to be given to the Anglican Network in our diocese. The rector refused the request and stated that it was the parish practice to not provide the list to any outside group.

    The now former member of the vestry removed the mailing list from the parish and delivered it to his fellow Anglican Network thieves. All of the members of my parish received a letter from the Anglican Network urging action against the national church and members in our own diocese not responsive to the Anglican Network.

    This highly disturbing event has shocked our congregation. For the first time in living memory and the history of our parish (appox. 140 years), we are confronted with an open act of betrayal from a formerly respected leader of the congregation. Judas still comes to kiss the face of Jesus.

  31. Johnny Says:


    It looks like you do have a personal axe to grind (albeit, you may deem reasonable from your perspective) but I will say this is the wrong place to do it. Go to T19 or other American sites if you so wish to. You should discuss such details with the Americans you are griping with.

  32. mccabe Says:

    You have no comments on African bishops intrusion into the internal affairs of the Diocese of Mississippi. I certainly can bring problems from othe diocesan conventions in ECUSA to show Global South actions in the internal affairs of ECUSA.

    African bishops encourage and lead the Anglican Network in defiance of ECUSA canon law and Anglican communion tradition. Do you approve the actions of the Anglican Network and the Global South’s activities in ECUSA. Is my example of stealing parish records to support the covert actions of the Global South’s Anglican Network a worthy act in the eyes of the Global South?

    American issues are the very focus of the Global South’s attacks on ECUSA. This is the exactly the right forum to bring ECUSA’s message to the Global South.

  33. Johnny Says:

    I can feel your pain, brother. Do speak, if it helps you.

    I believe the Afican bishops are only acting at the invitation of some ECUSa folks and out of pastoral concerns.

    Maybe you should take it up with your fellow Americans.