Being a relatively new adherent to the Anglican tradition, I had the experience of listening and praying for the recent meeting of Anglican bishops in the UK regarding the rumours and tremors of a possible schism. Some of these reflections will help further clarify the structure of the Anglican Church, and the nature of the current situation.
Unpacking the current conflict
The Anglican Communion, although still bound together by Canterbury, is experiencing internal conflict between what is known as the conservative Global South and the liberal Western provinces. The South has the most members in the communion, but fewer resources; whilst the West has an abundance of resources, but has the fewest members.
The Global South is constituted of Africa, Asia, and South America, but excludes both Australian and New Zealand dioceses aligned to the Global South.
The Western provinces are predominantly made up of the Church of England, the Episcopal Church (USA), and the Anglican Church of Canada.
2003 marked the beginning of conflict between the West and the South as the American provinces began to promote more liberal theology of ordaining homosexual clergy and blessing same sex unions. This controversy reached its summit when Gene Robinson—an openly gay minister—was consecrated as an American bishop that very year.
The latest Primates Meeting in Canterbury was essentially a make or break meeting for the entire communion. Traditionally, the Anglican Church has always been a mixed bag: liberal, orthodox, charismatic, or evangelical. This is what the via media or the 'middle way' looks like, swaying neither to the left nor the right but approaching faith with Scripture at the helm supported by reason, and the history of the church.
Danger arises when one of these streams begin to impose its weight on the Church as a whole. Like most Christians, Anglicans recognise that there isn't a perfect church, but there should be unity amongst Christians.
A threat to unity
This unity is being threatened by divergent theology and a lack of church discipline. Unlike the Catholic Church, our authority is from Scripture first, yet there is no pope over all the bishops, and thus no one to give discipline to the bishops of the churches.
Time will only tell what will happen to Anglicanism as the American provinces were recently suspended at the Meeting from being full participants in the communion.
The fate of the worldwide Anglican Communion is truly in God's hands now.
Jack is studying commerce and arts at Macquarie University. He is part of a family of five and his hobbies include computer gaming, football, learning languages, and church history. He attends St Paul's Anglican and Gracepoint Presbyterian at Burwood. He seeks to more deeply understand his faith through exploration of church history.
Jack Liang's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jack-liang.html