Has the tide turned?

Public execution of two gay men in Iran

I sense a tide has turned. There’s no way to know but it looks to me as though the future shape of the Anglican Communion is slowly emerging.

I guess there will be one grouping based on the present GAFCON, another on TEC, and a third, centred around the CofE, which collects together all those not wishing to fight ideological battles around the shibboleth of homosexuality.

GAFCON provinces will keep strong links with other conservative provinces who, in turn will have varying degrees of linkage with the middling group, some of whom will have strong links with TEC. The CofE will try to stay friends with everyone.

There will be compacts, or agreements, or even covenants to formalise such linkages. But I suspect that the reality of a wired world means that the majority of effective links are likely to be more fluid and more complex. Many will be small-scale (diocese-diocese, parish-parish, interest group based links) and cumulatively significant. They will be more horizontal, untidy and personal links, some brief and some long lasting. Others will be more formal and organizational, some deliberately designed to bind people together, other doing so incidentally. On some themes (e.g. a international Anglican history group) they will deliberately cross the stronger divides.

Some more provinces (Australia?) may break up, as TEC has done. There will be more cross-border interventions and more pain (and court cases) from internal readjustment before things more or less settle down (though I can see a continuing trickle of movement in one direction and another as personalities and issues in conflict change).
These predictions have been brewing for a while. They were sharpened by the way accounts of the actions of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) continue to spread across the Anglican blogosphere.

Thinking Anglicans have done their usual good job in rounding up press reports and have a 5 page pdf of the full submission of the church to the legislature. Colin Coward has pointed to the silence on the American right about the Nigerian events and rhetoric.

But the fact is that we are all using the issues of homosexuality as a means to an end: to influence the character of the future Anglican communion. We are attempting to use the Nigerian antipathy towards homosexuality as much as the development of authorised blessings of same-sex unions in the Diocese of Ottawa and Niagara. (The response of the Archbishop of Canterbury when he was told about Niagara was said to be 'less than fulsome.')

On the other hand we don't get worked up about what happens to gays in Iran - torture and execution. Nor about what happens to gay and lesbian people in other countries where their lives are in danger. Nor, for that matter, about the largely untroubled acceptance of gays and lesbians in Scandinavia. (See Wikipedia for a global overview).

In other words we are using the fate of gay and lesbian people for other purposes and losing sight that the primary concern of the church should surely be those people themselves: their love and self-fulfilment, their hopes and sufferings, their position in unjust social structures, and the use of systematic brutality to enforce social norms.

If I am even vaguely right about the beginning of the end of realignment then it is time to look away from the distractions of battle and towards the post-war settlement. Towards the end of the Second World War, but before it was over, the cry was taken up in the churches as in the political parties ‘We have won the war, now how can we win the peace?’ The wholesale disruption of civil society meant that, briefly, anything seemed possible.

We need to start up a similar cry in Anglicanism: ‘The war is coming to an end, how shall we shape the peace?

What will a new Anglicanism look like? How can Anglicanism in England be both open to all and inclusive in its attitudes at home if it is to be constrained by the impossible stretch of keeping in with everyone else abroad?

How, in a new and less fevered Anglicanism, can we welcome the marginalised and excluded into a new-old faithful church?

My guess for the three major groupings, based largely on ignorance:

The Diocese of Sydney, Anglican Church of North America, Bangladesh?, Burundi, Central Africa, Congo, Indian Ocean, Jerusalem & The Middle East, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South East Asia, Southern Cone, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, West Africa, West Indies, Bermuda.

Australia (bar Sydney), Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia, England, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Korea?, Melanesia, Myanmar, North India, Pakistan?, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Scotland, South India, Southern Africa, Wales, Ceylon, Lusitanian, Spain, Falkland Islands.


Brazil, Canada, Central America, Mexico, Cuba.

How the relative weight of these groups is to be measured is another question altogether.


  1. I think your middling group is too large: there are stronger links to TEC and indeed Canada than this. The whole thing is so divisive that a middle position will be small. The C of E ordaining women bishops will shift anyway.

    We have the Archbishop of Canterbury going to the TEC General Convention. If they decided to end the moratoria (against why he's going) then it is a turning of the tide, but otherwise it is more of the strains and stresses of the present, that allows someone like Akinola to compromise others as he parades himself.

  2. You may well be right, this is no more than guess-work.

    I put all the extra-provincials in the middle, and I reckon the weakest will probably stay in the middle (even if some lean towards TEC and other towards GAFCON), and the pull of history is strong.

    The consecration of women as bishops will change things, but mostly, I think, to reinforce the antagonism of those who don't like us anyway.

    Where would you put the lines, if you'd draw any at all?

  3. NTSS you're overplaying this one & I don't think this is what will happen. We have already got the picture that there is a disparate group of so-called traditional Anglicans in North America that will soon harden into yet another fissiparious denomination in a nation where competitive congregationalism is the norm.

    As for the Equatorial African Provinces it will depend entirely on who is Archbishop at the time and how much more money the schismatic Americans can afford to pour into Africa to keep them on message.

    Forget Sydney,it's always going to be the odd one out and the Southern Cone only has 16,000 real members and is merely a temporary flag of convenience.

    It other words the Anglican Communion will reassert itself within a decade (especially once poor old Rowan Williams goes) and academics will study this period and give it a name for the history books.

  4. Well, alright, I'm chastened. I'm merely trying to extrapolate from what I seen now in the absence of parallels from Anglicanism's brief history.

    I certainly take your point about provinces following their Primate in much of Africa - though (for that reason) I also see successors being chosen to follow the line of the person who appointed them. But then I grant you that, once in post, they often need to define themselves against their predecessor, such are the vicissitudes of history.

    Only I'm not convinced it will be business as usual when the dust has settled.

    Of course, the only way of knowing is to wait till we get there - and the great advantage of predictions is that everyone forgets the duff ones very quickly.