BY THE REV. CANON J. PHILIP ASHEY, CHIEF OPERATING & DEVELOPMENT OFFICEREncompass: First Quater, 2012
On March 16th, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, announced that he would be resigning at the end of the year. He has accepted a position at Magdalene College, Cambridge. Having visited there I can tell you that it's a beautiful and ancient place, and Rowan Williams' brilliant academic gifts will serve that institution well.
During his tenure as symbolic leader of the Anglican Communion, the American Anglican Council has differed sharply on matters of the direction of the Communion and his handling of the crisis between those who believe in biblical standards for human sexuality, the sanctity of marriage and for holiness of life in holy orders and those principally in The Episcopal Church and in the Anglican Church of Canada who do not share these beliefs. The settled teaching of the Anglican Communion on these topics (memorialized in Lambeth resolution 1.10 from the 1998 Lambeth Conference) is that we need to follow the Bible on what it says about these things. The Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada have simply flaunted their disregard for this resolution.
In my opinion, there have been three instances when Rowan Williams had an opportunity to do something about The Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada and chose not to. Number one was at the gathering of archbishops of the Anglican Communion in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania in 2007 where the archbishops agreed that some discipline needed to be taken against these rogue churches. However, Rowan Williams took matters into his own hands, didn't do what his fellow archbishops asked him to do and as a result, many of them decided not to come to future gatherings. They seemed to be thinking, "What's the point in going if the Archbishop of Canterbury is going to overturn our decisions?"
Secondly, in a 2009 gathering of Anglican leaders, bishops, clergy and laity in Jamaica, Rowan Williams intervened in the debate about the Anglican Covenant. The Covenant was designed to try and hold the Communion together around some kind of a confession of faith and discipline. His interventions during that debate, which I was present for, were bewildering. He seemed to undermine the very Anglican Covenant he'd been championing and cast doubts about his own leadership behind it.
Thirdly, in response to the crisis in the Communion, instead of giving more authority to those archbishops who were faithful to the Gospel, the Archbishop of Canterbury attempted to centralize power in his own Anglican Communion Office and in the creation of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion. These actions undermined the legitimacy and respectability of the other existing instruments of communion, unity and governance-and especially the Primates' Meetings.
|Rowan Williams (right) with the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, who many consider to be a candidate for the next Archbishop of Canterbury. Photo courtesy George Conger.
So where do we go from here? I know that many are wondering, "Who's going to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury and will there be any difference?" I suggest that it doesn't really matter who the next Archbishop of Canterbury is.
In 2008, more than 1,000 orthodox, Bible-believing, evangelistic Anglicans decided at the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem that Anglicanism has little to do with the Archbishop of Canterbury. We will always be grateful for the fact that Archbishops of Canterbury sent out English missionaries to evangelize the rest of the world. However, as they said at the GAFCON conference in their final statement: "While acknowledging the nature of Canterbury as an historic see, we do not accept that Anglican identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Building on the ...doctrinal foundation of Anglican identity, we hereby publish the Jerusalem Declaration as the basis of our fellowship."
This statement points to what the Bible says in Colossians 1:16-18 where Paul writes,"...all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church..." Jesus is the true basis of our unity and the real reason why Anglican reformers such as Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley literally died at the stake. They believed in His authority and the authority of scripture in the life of the believer and in the life of the church. They memorialized these beliefs with the 39 Articles, with their meeting together as bishops in council, and with the creeds that we have.
Anglican beliefs and practices are based on the supremacy of Christ in the life of the believer and in the life of the Church as He revealed in scripture. It is Christ that holds us together and Christ that always will. No other man or office can take His place.