This has been a newsier-than-usual day in the Anglipalian universe:
A. The Primate of Kenya announced the impending consecration of yet another American priest to serve as an expatriate (expatriate from Kenya, that is) bishop for American Anglicans disaffected from the Episcopal Church. Who's going to be next to add more letters to the increasingly thick alphabet soup? Uganda? Rwanda? Southeast Asia?
B. A British journalist (one with a reputation in some quarters for not always getting the details right, and drawing misleading inferences from such details as he has) broke a story about a nascent proto-province in North America that might encompass some (not all) the dioceses of the Network, possibly along with the AMiA, CANA, and some of the other "common cause partners," including, curiously, the Reformed Episcopal Church, which broke off from TEC some 135 years ago, primarily over the doctrine of baptismal regeneration (they were against it), which was and is strongly implied in the Prayer Book baptismal rites.
C. These two developments, of course, occur against the backdrop of the regular meeting of TEC's Executive Council, taking place in Parsipinnay, New Jersey (which, appropriately enough, is located within the bounds of the Diocese of Newark). They are working on responses to both the draft Anglican Covenant that is floating around and the February Primate's Communique that was hammered out in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. May I yet again--and yet again to no avail--question why they are answering somebody else's mail? The DeS communique was addressed to the House of Bishops, and to the House of Bishops only. In any case, the heads of the council members are, by all accounts that I have seen, still firmly planted in their accustomed position--that is, deeply in the sand.
I have neither the energy nor the acumen to parse all these events right now. Whatever I say would probably be rendered obsolete by tomorrow's news. I will only flag my deep concern over a trend that I see emerging, a trend that I find more troubling than anything else that has come down the road in my 30+ years as an Anglican. It's the rise of a "Who needs Canterbury?" attitude.
It is an attitude that is alive and well among the liberal Episcopal majority. Ever since the runup to last year's General Convention, there has been an unrelenting, if occasionally subtle, effort to position TEC, for PR purposes, as at the center of its own "international" communion. From bloggers to bishops, the intention has been expressed that, should the choice come down to continued full communion with the See of Canterbury by "throwing our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters under the bus," or doing without Canterbury, they will choose the latter. This attitude typifies the crux of the Anglican conflict between autonomy and interdependence. As a result of the American penchant for autonomy, the rest of the communion is being forced to more clearly define the nature of interdependence. They are doing so in ways that Americans tend to find annoying.
But today's events remind us that conservatives can play the same game. There seems to be an inexorable drive to circumvent the organic processes of the Anglican Communion, regulated--albeit informally and, one could say, haphazardly--by the Instruments of Unity, and confect a solution to our conflicts that the "instruments"--most palpably the Archbishop of Canterbury--will be asked to simply accept. Or not, as it may be. In which case--and here's where I break out into a cold sweat--there will effectively be civil war in the Anglican Communion, a schism that may not have the repercussions of the Great Schism of 1054, but which will be no minor tremor. We will be left with Canterburian and non-Canterburian Anglican churches. Only...will the latter actually be Anglican? Isn't communion with Canterbury of the esse of Anglican identity? Or is it only the bene esse...or, perhaps the plene esse?
Frankly, I find such a spectacle horrific in the extreme. The prospect of choosing between a Canterburian Anglicanism that is "ecclesiologically correct" but otherwise theologically and spiritually vacuous, and a non-Canterburian Anglicanism that is creedally orthodox and spiritually vital, but, lacking an organic continuity with a See that, if not apostolic, is at least ancient, and founded by the bishop of an apostolic See--and therefore essentially just one more Protestant denomination--well...this choice is too terrible to contemplate.
I feel like I have an Anglican soul, but it is a Canterburian Anglican soul. To be bereft of that vital organic link would be to surrender the very core of Anglican identity. I would urge my "reasserter" colleagues to exercise more patience. But I know that too many of them are way beyond the point of listening to such a plea.