Monday, March 24, 2014

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According to John Bingham, What’s-His-Face has had a great start:

It could have been like one of those moments in a country parish where a trendy new vicar rolls up with plans to rip out the Victorian pews to make way for a drum-kit and an overhead projector. The arrival of Justin Welby, a former businessman whose brand of Christianity is marked with the zeal of the convert, as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury had the potential to ruffle more than a few feathers in the established Church.

Within months of his enthronement, a year ago today, he seemed on course to do just that. He had overhauled his staff, with a series of new appointments. He had persuaded rival factions to take part in something akin to drama therapy sessions to confront their differences over women bishops, and he had delivered a blistering address to the General Synod on how it needed to face up to a sexual “revolution”.

But a year into the job – which combines the work of a medieval prelate, a FTSE chief executive and a world-weary inner-city rector – he has scored a series of successes that would have seemed unthinkable in the past. After decades of argument and years of tortuous legislative twists and turns, the Church of England is on the brink of finally approving the admission of women into the episcopate.

Instead of attracting the usual headlines about an embattled primate seeking to quell divisions, he has successfully shifted attention, at home at least, to matters such as payday lenders and food banks. And remarkably, in a country where fewer and fewer inhabitants profess any religious faith, his views on everything from banking reform to military action in distant countries is actively sought out and reported. Even what might have been his first major public gaffe – the revelation that the Church had an investment in Wonga, the lender he publicly pledged to try to put out of business – he turned to his advantage with a plain-spoken admission of embarrassment.

With less fanfare, his efforts to undo centuries of division with the Roman Catholic Church have taken significant steps forward. Last month, members of the Chemin Neuf community, an ecumenical Catholic-led order, moved into Lambeth Palace. Daily worship in the Archbishop’s chapel is being led by Catholics for the first time since before the reign of Elizabeth I.

Insert “but” here.

But now the honeymoon is long past, Archbishop Welby is preparing for what promises to be a far bigger battle for the soul of the Church both in England and in the wider Anglican Communion over an issue that has plagued it for years: its unresolved position on homosexuality. Even his admirers admit privately that in comparison with the rows over women bishops, the battle over sexuality is like “an elephant compared to the flea”.

By way of reply, North America’s oldest and fiercest Anglican presence recently did this.

The Diocese of South Carolina has been formally recognized as a member in good standing of the Global Anglican Communion.

On Saturday, March 15, the Diocese’s 223rd Annual Convention unanimously accepted an invitation to join the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GFCA) and temporarily enter into a formal ecclesiastical relationship known as provisional primatial oversight from bishops in the Global South.

The convention’s nearly 400 participants supported clergy and delegates as they voted to create a task force to explore more permanent affiliation options for the diocese.  The task force will offer recommendations at the next Convention, which will be held next March.

Local critics of the Diocese’s 2012 separation from The Episcopal Church had said the disassociation would isolate the Diocese from the Global Anglican Communion.  While the Diocese has maintained many informal relationships with organizations that are part of the communion, this formal primatial oversight arrangement makes clear that the Diocese is officially part of the greater Anglican Church.

“There’s an African proverb that wisely states ‘If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together,’ said the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, 14th Bishop of the Diocese, in his address to the Convention. “This will give us gracious oversight from one of the largest Ecclesial entities within in the Communion; one which includes Anglicans from a diverse body of believers from Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, South America, the Indian Ocean and many, many others.”

Charleston’s vote has been seen by many as a slap at ACNA which it, well, kind of is.  ACNA’s obsession with achieving “official” recognition from Canterbury is slowly killing whatever interest I used to have in it.  While I imagine that the Palmetto State’s relationship with ACNA will be perfectly cordial, South Carolina knows where the future of the thing that used to be traditionalist Anglicanism lies.

Not within 10,000 miles of Lambeth Palace.

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