Griffiss' Anglican Vision, Ch. 4 (Draft)
Griffiss, The Anglican Vision, Ch. 4 [Draft in Progress]
The Anglican Communion
Once upon a time what grew into the AC was seeded by English colonists throughout the world where England claimed territories as parts of its empire—the CoE naturally enough following to minister to those administrating
and settling. The resulting presence of the CoE in foreign parts developed into an extension of the CoE at home—a bit of transplanted English
culture retaining its distinctive “Englishness”: music, liturgy, BCP, and episcopate. Elsewhere evangelists from within the intrinsically diverse CoE preached the Gospel to natives with something different from a merely
transplanted CoE resulting: an “indigenous Anglicanism.”
Griffiss is strangely tender here, claiming only that “[t]he change and growth was so varied” that a “general pattern” did not emerge until after WWII, when the empire finally gave way to sovereign nations. What he might have said, to be clearer, is that British imperialism retained its grip over indigenous Anglicanism until—amazingly to us now—the middle
of the twentieth century. One might have then inferred that the relationship between indigenous Anglicans and English Anglicans could carry over something from whatever animosity the long reign of British imperialism yielded. Indeed, one might have even taken the additional step of inferring that evangelicalism, inherited as a pattern of religious praxis from
those initial missionaries, could serve as a convenient vehicle for delivering that animosity—and in my opinion, one would have then been well on one’s way toward understanding the current travail of the AC.
A welter of sovereign national churches emerged in the wake of the empire’s dissolution, and these met every ten years from 1867 at ABC’s Lambeth Palace to discuss and issue resolutions without binding force—the Lambeth
Conferences having “no legislative power for the national churches.” Still, Griffiss says the gathering “is not an accidental coming together of like-minded people, but a community or fellowship that we have in Christ that
transcends our differences.” Even without a single authority holding power over the national churches, they can still retain koinonia or communion. Koinoinia is primarily a relationship “Christians have in Christ and through Christ with God” and through this primary relationship, constituted on our end by belief in Christ and the Gospel, Christians are united with one another. An ecclesiastical structure is unnecessary, or at least not primarily effective.
Each national Anglican church works out its own practice and hearing of the Gospel, resulting in religious diversity: ECUSA ordains women as priests and bishops, while some African churches reject the practice. Some African bishops consider permitting polygamy, which ECUSA rejects.“No one…” Griffiss says, “really knows what the practical implications of our communion with one another may yet be” in the area of how practice and interpretation of the Gospel are worked out within the various national churches. Well, I’d wager
those implications are a mite bit clearer now amidst the AC’s current disarray.
Whereas Anglos from England, Canada and the US, New Zealand, and Australia once were the effective voices behind Lambeth resolutions, now bishops from other national churches “are beginning to push for a more comprehensive agenda”—more comprehensive indeed. Alas, their ascendancy brings with it the ascendancy of evangelicalism in its reactionary form, a virulent and activist evangelicalism making common cause with evangelicals and other reactionaries within the older Anglo national churches. The result seems to be a new agenda has emerged: the old and weaker Anglo churches will consent to permit their reactionary resolutions through an expansion of Lambeth’s power, or the AC will be broken up by schism, a wide-ranging schism possibly extending
into the old Anglo national churches themselves. Koinonia were it to hold would have indeed manifested the Incarnation within the AC—but this new development manifests division borne of the pursuit of power.
The concrete theological basis for koinonia at least within the AC has been evident for some time now: the famous Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, first set out by W.R. Huntington in The Church Idea in 1870 and adopted in
ECUSA’s House of Bishops in 1886; the Lambeth Conference accepted it in 1888. Huntington thought,
rather optimistically, that ECUSA should become the American church, as it was just the sort of church with which Christians
from any denomination could unite. Four simple principles essential to Anglicanism’s continuing, and, in the view of the AC, originating from the apostolic church, are just right as a common denominator sufficient to unite
all Christians: (1)Scripture is revealed by God and provides the standard for faith; (2)the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds state the faith; (3)the sacraments instituted by Christ, baptism and the eucharist, are to be kept;
(4)the episcopate is to be locally adapted.
In ecumenical negotiations, (4) was the sticking point, implying on one reading that the orders of non-episcopal churches are invalid. There is division within Anglican tradition on the point. On the one hand, many Anglicans
have viewed a continuous line of succession of bishops from the apostles as essential for, or at least a sign of the validity of, the one, true Church. But on the other hand, even Hooker admitted ministers ordained outside the apostolic succession were genuinely ordained, insisting merely that their
ordination was “irregular”—being within the apostolic succession not being essential.
Now, scholarly consensus denies the fact of such a succession, making an external understanding of (4) rather moot, one would think. Griffiss thus suggests taking apostolic succession not in an external, but in a doctrinal sense.
That is, apostolic ministry, established by “standing in the teaching and fellowship of the apostles” is the desideratum; ECUSA adopted this modified understanding of the Quadrilateral in 1982, in part contributing
to a unity of communion with the ELCA (Lutherans).
While Huntington’s hopes for the Quadrilateral in its original form were naïve, his basic idea still should intrigue, and ECUSA’s success with the ELCA should give us hope. He seems to have had a genuine insight about
the means and potential for Christian unity. Note how minimal the Quadrilateral is—it really isn’t sufficiently sharp for polemical use. Conservatives have only (1) to work with, and though Scripture lends itself
to demagoguery, it is exceedingly hard to pin down in scholarly dialogue. I think the Quadrilateral’s modesty is essential to its function. If only the same koinonia could be received abroad in the AC.
The Social Order
The key term in Ch. 4, and really Ch. 3 as well, is “communion” or koinonia, and I believe it is no accident that the notion is thrown around so much in our current polemics. Conservative Anglicans seem to me to tend to forget that
our communion with each other is founded in our relationship with Christ, not the other way around. That is, if person A is suitably related to Christ and person B (not the same as A, of course) is also suitably related, they are in communion with each other, even if they are unaware of each other. Their relations to Christ are a sufficient condition for their koinonia. Communion with God should have implications in practice which lead us into communion with each other, and which
lead us to alter the framework of our society where it is incompatible—hence our concern with social justice.
Communion, at root our being drawn into the relationship of the Persons of the Trinity, comes to us through the Incarnation. We are drawn to God through the Person of Jesus, and indeed our relationship with him is at the root of our relationship with each other as Christians, and of our efforts to reform the social order.