Ethics and Community

The geographical orientation of the Anglican Communion is currently being challenged.  Theological disagreement within the Communion, made patent by its resulting ethical disagreement, has grown to a point beyond what many clergy and laity can bear.  In North America, where the difficulties are most acute, many priests, and in some cases entire parishes, have disclaimed association with their bishops.  They have sought and received episcopal oversight from sympathetic bishops and provinces overseas, such as in Rwanda, Nigeria, and Uganda.  Recently entire dioceses within TEC have voted to withdraw from TEC and realign themselves with the Province of the Southern Cone of America (in South America). 

None of these groups is in communion with the see of Canterbury, so they are not officially part of the Anglican Communion.  Nevertheless, most are in communion with many other provinces of the Communion.  Further, although some opponents of the groups question the groups' adherence to apostolic succession, maintaining proper succession has been a matter of central focus.  Their status vis-à-vis Anglicanism is, therefore, highly contentious.  TEC, meanwhile, is in communion with Canterbury, but a number of provinces have declared themselves out of communion with TEC.  Consequently, there are questions surrounding TEC's status, as well.

The departures from TEC have not been uniform, resulting in a splintering of Anglican bodies within the U.S., but there is a well-developed movement to create a North American Anglican province distinct from TEC and the Anglican Church in Canada with the goal of uniting the disparate splinter groups.  The movement is supported by numerous Anglican provinces associated with an emerging worldwide realignment.  In June 2008, the Global Anglican Future Conference, or GAFCON, attended by representatives of nearly half the Anglicans worldwide, set forth a statement of faith that includes the authority of the historic creeds, the Thirty-nine Articles, and the nature of the Bible as God's word.  It also calls for the formation of a fellowship of confessing Anglicans, and a Primates' Council for recognizing confessing jurisdictions.  These North American and worldwide realignments raise fundamental questions regarding the nature and structure of the Communion in the future, not least the continued centrality of Canterbury.

Study Questions:
     1.     What is the Anglican parish system? How has it evolved over time?
     2.     What is a diocese? How is it governed, and what is its role?
     3.     How does the Anglican Communion create unity?
     4.     How has the Anglican Communion been challenged in contemporary society?

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