Anglican Bishops Worldwide – a Prophecy

My first entry into liturgical, historical Christianity was in a little Episcopal breakaway church in Greenville, South Carolina called deliciously, The Holy Trinity Anglican Orthodox Church. The little congregation of conservative former Episcopalians belonged to a denomination based in North Carolina founded by Bishop James Parker Dees. The Anglican Orthodox Church was regarded as a throwback, a group of conservative grumps who pulled out because they didn’t like the new prayer book. Dees has gone to his reward, but the little denomination still exists, along with about 100 other Anglican-style independent churches. If you’re interested you can spend a long time learning about the different groups here.
Was the Anglican Orthodox Church a throwback? Was it a hike backfield or a forward pass? Maybe it was the shape of things to come. I reckon independent Anglicanism is exactly what we’ll see develop worldwide.

Here’s why: the conservative Anglicans, otherwise known as the ‘continuing Church’ are divided among themselves. They are divided along the lines that already exist within the Anglican Church. As a result, among the many independent Anglican Churches you will find Protestants who have no truck with the Anglo Catholics with all their pomp and Anglo Catholics who cannot abide the low church Protestants. Some groups are happily Evangelical, others are upbeat and modern Anglo Catholic. Other groups are charismatic, and don’t get on with the more staid and liturgical churches. Some want women priests but not practising homosexual priests. Others don’t want either. Some want the old Anglican liturgy, some want the Roman Rite, others are happy with the modern Episcopal liturgy.

When you go international the whole thing gets even more complex and intriguing. In the developing world you have the same theological, liturgical and cultural divisions depending on which country was evangelized by whom. Those countries that had Anglo Catholic missionaries are high, those that had Evangelical missionaries are low. Since the missionaries went home these countries have also developed along their own trajectories as national churches. Some of them, like the Nigerian Anglican Church, has more members than the Church of England, Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada combined. This article from First Things explains some of the complexities. (Hat tip to Amy Welborn)

I predict a continuation of what is already happening. The Anglican Communion as any sort of international entity will disintegrate. What will emerge is an informal confederation of churches. Some of them will be national churches, others will be founded for certain liturgical, spiritual or theological reasons. This confederation of churches will have a shared tradition, but no shared authority structure. They will have an ‘international’ dimension as they attract adherents from around the world. Various alliances will develop between groups with shared national, historical, theological, liturgical or cultural affinities. These alliances will be fluid–parishes will choose their own affiation, choose their own denomination and their own bishop as they see fit.

The Church of England will exist rather like the EOrthodox Church in Turkey exists today. The Patriarch of Constantinople is a historically important figure, but rules over a miniscule congregation at home, remaining a historical figurehead for a church in exile.

This similarities with Eastern Orthodoxy don’t end there. The Russian Church, for example, grew out of the already existing Greek Church through missionary endeavor. Then it spread to Alaska, through historical circumstances various Russian Churches in exile sprang up, and individuals and individual congregations are here there and elsewhere. I am no expert in Eastern Orthodoxy, but as far as I understand it, the various historical branches of Orthodoxy have varying numbers of sub-branches. Sometimes the many branches of E.Orthodoxy co-exist peaceably, more often they are quarreling among themselves.

A confederation of churches with a shared history. Isn’t this the future of Anglicanism? If so, is it anything more than a grouping of independent churches? If that is so, how is it different in ecclesiology from, say, the Southern Baptist Convention?

UPDATE : Ruth Gledhill’s coverage of the events in Tanzania are excellent. Check it out if you want to learn more.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09356738924839809045 Andrew

    The thing is, the Catholic Church’s embrace is wide enough to contain High Church and Low Church, Charismatic and Tridentine and everything in between, subject to the Primacy of the Roman Pontiff who serves to check excesses in either direction and, with real juridical and judicial powers, can actually do something about it.Now, the traditionalists disdain the drums and electric guitars of the Lifeteen folks and the charismatics might not appreciate the charisms that Marian devotees possess, but in the One Bread and the One Cup which they all share, and in their mutual belief in the Real Presence and their adoration of the One who is Present, whether through singing to Him ‘in the Spirit’ or singing the Adoro Te in Latin, they are in communion with each other and are united in His Body, the Church.By the way, Father, what do you think about the creation of an Anglican Rite sui juris uniate Church, say by incorporating the Traditional Anglican Communion?There already seems to be some movement towards that direction

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    The Anglican Usage is already a possibility. They have their own liturgy–approved by Rome called ‘The Book of Divine Worship’ Their married clergy (with the permission of Rome) may be ordained as Catholic priests. Time will tell whether the TAC and other breakaway groups will take this option. Let’s hope and pray they do.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09829257111579899926 Jonathan

    “The Anglican Church occcupies at once both the nadir and apogee of the career of original apostolic catholic church, an institution that at once must sacrificially accept the blame for all sorts of misunderstandings about the work of God in the world and at the same time seems to operate only to oppose and contradict the idea of “Emanuel,” a God that is “with us”. Figuratively speaking, it is the thin wire holding the sword of Damocles over the hearts of men: when it falls, it will cut right through the core of belief and unbelief — in those countries where exists, God may use it to reveal the hearts of those who are really His. Luke 2:34-35 (LIBERALLY ADAPTED VERSION!)

  • Anonymous

    Dwight, why can’t you leave the Anglicans alone? You were only a member for a short time, your roots are not there but in American Protestant fundamentalism. It was the myth of ‘Englishness’ that appealed to you more than truth. Thank God that at last you have found your heart’s desire and be more generous to a body that once sheltered you, gave you a living, and whose writers still inspire you. I, too, am a convert but I don’t bear any resentment against the Church of my baptism. I rejoice when my Anglican friends become Catholics because they find themselves on the right soil and are happier for doing so. But I don’t derive any pleasure from gloating over Anglican misfortunes. To do so simply tarnishes the Catholic Church and makes it repellant to many who want to be its friends. One of the foremost deterrants to conversion is the bitter attitude of some Catholics, cradle and convert, to other Christian bodies. It embodies a sectarian mentality that creates a barrier between man and God. Think of the plan of the piazza in front of St Peter’s. The long, curved line of columns represent the arms of Christ open to the world, welcoming all. Try and get some of that wonderful Catholic generosity.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Anonymous, I was actually an Anglican for 15 years, and an Anglican priest for 10. What’s happening at the moment in the Anglican church is a hot topic for Christians, and it is worth discussing and worth keeping on the boil.However, I am hearing you, and agree with your basic point that honey attracts more than vinegar. I believe this heartily, and try to avoid bitterness or gloating in my posts on Anglicanism. That’s also why I post positive bits from the Anglican tradition, as well as positive news for Anglicans who wish to find a new home.However, there are many Anglicans out there at this time who are confused, upset and bewildered about some very basic issues. I hope my posts help to generate more light than heat, and that they do so with an optimistic and positive tone. If I fail sometimes, and verge into cynicism or a judgemental tone, I’m sorry and I thank you for the reminder.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00090970558732576166 Auroramike71

    I appreciate your posts on the Anglican church, positive and negative, keep it up father!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15692229876291491107 Mark

    A good analysis, Father Dwight. Yours is more logical than mine.Mine is tinged with the emotional upset of the future of seeing disintegration ad absurdum, which we see in Protestantism. I personally hope for a resolidification, which might lead to reunification with Rome for the “High Churches”, as Andrew speaks about.

  • Peter

    Andrew’s suggestion of a uniate Anglican rite Church wouldn’t work in Britain, although there is a small body of Anglicsn rite Catholics in the US, working under restrictions. Why? The majority of Anglo-Catholics who might be interested almost invariably use the Roman Rite rather than Anglican rites. There are not enoough of them to sustain a solid body. It is unlikely that the Church of England would cede their churches – it would need an Act of Parliament as well as an Act of Synod. Look at the odd situation of St Stephen’s, Gloucester Road, London, which for a time was shared with Catholics on a bi-ritual basis after the vicar and most of the congregations entered the Church and ended up with red faces all round when it was brought to an end by Cardinal Hume. It’s wishful thinking to believe it would work. In the end its individual, rather than corporate, submission that opens a better path. Other proposals would cause nothing but trouble as well as being unsustainable. Even if a Third Province was created within Anglicanism, it would die out in two generations. The answer is ‘Come inside’ or stay where you are.

  • Anonymous

    The incorporation of splinter groups in the Church would achieve nothing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    splinter groups who came into the church would no longer be splinter groups.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14594828925433077022 patrick

    Dwight,Bishop James Parker Dees of Statesville, NC founded the Anglican Orthodox Church in part because of their opposition to “race-mixing” i.e. de-segregation in the Episcopal Church. The same is true for St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Savannah – founded by opponents of integration who were formerly at St. John’s, Savannah. Did the Anglican Orthodox Church change its official position on race, and, if so, when did they do so?Patrick Rothwell

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14594828925433077022 patrick

    Oops. That should be “Father Dwight.” Sorry.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Patrick, I wasn’t aware of this, but it doesn’t surprise me. The little church in Greenville was funded by a fellow who was on the board at Bob Jones University and in fact, Bishop Dees was given an honorary degree by BJU. Given Bob Jones University’s racist history the pieces all fit together. I haven’t had anything to do with the Anglican Orthodox Church for many years, but I suspect they have let that bit of their history slip into oblivion.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05215576342082340309 Erwyn

    I have been a Roman Catholic for 30 years. I have worked as a choirmaster/organist for 27 of those 30 years from which I have retired. For many reasons I have chosen to leave the RC Church and I am now a member of the Anglican Orthodox Church. I find the Liturgy both reverant and faith nourishing. As A RC, one of the things that disturbed me the most, was the back-biting between Traditionalist and Concilliar Catholics. I worked as an employee and musician in both the Novus Ordo and Tridentine Genres. From my perspective, I observed many things that were damaging to my faith in the Roman Church. The lack of Christian Charity I think evolves from the lack of unity in faith. Orthodoxy is in fact the Correctness that binds this unity in faith which the Bride of Christ embraces. I understand that to be one in union with the Bride of Christ, you must be one in belief. This is where Roman Catholics are slowly eating their young, the unity in faith is crumbling and too much emphasis is being placed on traditional/non-traditional belief. If all eyes could turn towards what unites us all(the Love of Christ and his Triumph over sin and death, and our expression of the return of that love through Right Belief and Reverant worship), then perhaps we would spend less time calling our brothers and sisters in Christ Racists and more time focusing on Scripture and Christian Charity.Doug Irving.Anglican Orthodox Christian

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02887490697301534945 Anglican Orthox Church Int’l

    Patrick's claim attributing racial motivation to Bishop James Parker Dees lacks a reference for evidence. At the time Bishop Dees separated from the ECUSA, he had been Rector at an all-black church in Statesville in addition to duties at another church. His seminary trained many blacks and whites together. I am currently the Presiding Bishop and have read no evidence to support this careless claim. The major revenues for missions abroad of the AOC are allocated to other than Caucasian churches.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02887490697301534945 Anglican Orthox Church Int’l

    I had posted a response to Parick's false statement regarding Bishop Dees only to find that it had been deleted. I ask that he cite evidence for his claim that Bishop dees found the Anglican Orthodox Church due to "race-mixing". I currently serve as Presiding Bishop of the AOC and have never seen such evidence. Bishop Dees was rector of a black church in Statesville at the time of his founding the AOC. Is this forum simply a place to slur the reputation of others without benefit of rebuttal?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr Longenecker

    Dear Presiding Bishop. I do not see Patrick's comment deleted nor your response. I think they both stand, but do realize that this blog post is now about three years old.I doubt if anyone is still reading it much, and that anyone else will make a reply. Your comment was only drawn to my attention as all comments also come to my email inbox.Do drop me a line at my email if you wish to discuss things further. I would be interested to hear your views on the proposed Ordinariate for Anglicans.Yrs, Fr Longenecker


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