Whither Anglicanism? Catholic? Evangelical? Orthodox? Print
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 21 October 2009 05:34
Whither Anglicanism? Catholic? Evangelical? Orthodox? The answer seems to be "yes".

Yesterday's news was dominated by the remarkable announcement that the Vatican is creating new structures to welcome disaffected Anglicans from all over the world. These structures will allow Anglicans to hold onto some of their distinctive spiritual practices within the Catholic Church, including the ordination of married former Anglican clergy as Catholic priests.

Tremendous rejoicing has filled the Catholic blogosphere. Over at First Things, the Anchoress has pointed out (rightly) that the lion's share of the 84.7 million Anglicans live outside the west. (Anglicanism has mushroomed in Africa over the past 30 years. 37 million Anglicans now live in Africa as opposed to the 26 million who live in the UK.) The speculation "This is very big. If this reconnection is well-facilitated, we may see the entire African arm of the Church of England (which is currently its most vibrantly-growing branch) cross the Tiber."

I expect that we may see not just thousands but probably hundreds of thousands of Anglicans enter the Church over the next 5 - 10 years as a direct response to the Pope's initiative. (To put this in perspective, remember that even a half million entering the Catholic Church only represents a little over 1/2 of 1% of the entire body Anglican. it is more important psychologically than numerically.)

But what puzzles me is the tendency during this discussion around the Catholic blogosphere to ignore the existence of the 800 lb gorilla of the Anglican world: evangelicalism. Anglican evangelicals have very different concerns than do Anglo-Catholics and are much more likely to retain a basic suspicion or indifference to Rome.

Anglican evangelicalism comes in two basic flavors: classic reformed and contemporary charismatic. Evangelical Anglicanism is a huge factor in this country, in the UK, and certainly in African and Asian Anglicanism. This is because, unlike Anglo-Catholicism, evangelical Anglicanism is primarily mission-driven rather than liturgy-driven. Both streams of evangelicalism are intensely missional and are the engine behind Anglican growth outside the west.

Reformed evangelical Anglicanism would be represented by figures like Alistair McGrath and places like All Souls Church, London which also houses the Center for Contemporary Christianity and where John Stott was pastor for many years.

Charismatic Evangelical Anglicanism's global reach is embodied in figures like Nicky Gumbel, Holy Trinity Brompton, and the Alpha course which has had 13.5 million participants globally. 2.5 million have attended in the UK alone. The phenomenal spread and success of Alpha has had an enormous impact on British Anglicanism. For the spread of Alpha in the Catholic world, go here.

(As an interesting aside, take a look at this latest Alpha television ad featuring Bear Grylls of the Discovery Channel's Man vs. Wild.
Grylls is a former member of the British special forces and was the youngest Brit to ever climb Mt. Everest.
He doesn't strike me as the sort of guy who is into fiddleback chasables but he is obviously happy to help market the Alpha course.

FYI, 1,200 leaders attended a US national Alpha conference in Florida this week. It is telling that the opening prayers of the US conference were said by Pastor Jackson Senyonga, Senior Pastor of Christian Life Church in Kampala, Uganda, which has 22,000 people attending each week. He was joined in a live internet link-up via a big screen by a large congregation attending a prayer meeting in Kampala at the same time, who prayed for the Orlando event.)

I agree with Fr. Dwight Longenecker who really knows the Anglican scene: "Readers should understand that amidst all the rejoicing the Anglo Catholics are a minority in the Anglican Church. The Liberal establishment rules all (most of their minions being the vast indifferent) and the Evangelical Protestant Anglicans are in second place. The one and only thing that unites the Liberals and the Conservative Evangelicals is the fact that they're not having the Pope."

My best guess is that the Anglo-Catholic movement will divide. Some will enter the Catholic Church, some will seek to remain Anglican, and some will become Orthodox.

Most Catholic bloggers missed the very interesting conference between Anglo-Catholics and Orthodox leaders at Nashotah House last week but Fr. Gregory Jensen was there and so, tellingly, were both Archbishop Robert Duncan of the Anglican Communion of North America and Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church of America. Fr. Gregory writes:

"Over the 3 or so days of the conference I was consistently impressed with the seriousness of all the speakers and the substance of their presentations. Archbishop Robert Duncan of the Anglican Communion of North America I think spoke for many of his fellow Anglicans when he said that “we (the Anglican Communion) come to you (the Orthodox Church) in our brokenness and our need for what it is you have.” This is, in my opinion, an extraordinary statement from a Christian leader.

After the meeting, Archbishop Duncan was in fact on his way to speak with the Anglicans of the Southern Cone (primarily Africa) about recent developments between ACNA and the OCAArchbishop must have known about the Vatican's initiative but was busy pursuing possible relations with the Orthodox Church of America."

Clearly, Archbishop Duncan knew that the Vatican announcement was coming as he was meeting with the OCA at Nashotah House. It was Archbishop Duncan who pointed out in his response to Pope Benedict's initiative: "our historic differences over church governance, dogmas regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary" and the nature of the priesthood." It makes sense from an Orthodox perspective that one commentator on Fr. Gregory's blog speculated that the Pope had gotten wind of this possible reproachment between Anglo-Catholics and American Orthodox and made his announcement to head it off.

That seems highly unlikely since the RC -Anglican conversations have been going on for years. But what is clear is that Anglo Catholic leaders are hardly all of a single mind and many are looking at all their options and several of those options are not Catholic.

What does seem to be the case is that Anglo-Catholicism as a movement within the Anglican communion is dissolving. In the future, Anglicans will be largely split between the liberal and evangelical factions with the evangelicals being the power outside the west.