Orthodox Anglicans, possessing as we do a comprehensive grasp of the Church—ancient and modern, east and west, catholic and reformed—are uniquely positioned to be the focal point of Christian unity. But to be truly effective as an instrument for uniting the rest of Christianity, we must get our own house in order.
While various jurisdictions in Anglicanism have conducted ecumenical dialogues with Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Lutherans, Methodists, Moravians, etc. the great theological divide between Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical Anglicans has been left untended (ostensibly with a sort of benign neglect) and even occasionally displayed as a sign of Anglicanism's amazing comprehensiveness. The problem is that the neglect in healing such a gaping wound in the Body of Christ is anything but benign.
Why do I consider this to be a gaping wound instead of simply a healthy sign of diversity? For one thing, there is the attitude of suspicion and even hostility with which Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals sometimes regard each other. I have lived among Anglo-Catholics who use the term "Evangelical" as an epithet. And I have lived among Evangelicals who regard Anglo-Catholics as near pagans in need of conversion. I am not referring merely to fringe movements or isolated incidents--the problem exists among church leaders, theological colleges, and church societies associated with Anglo-Catholicism and Anglican Evangelicalism on every continent where there is an Anglican presence. These attitudes (and sometimes actions) are not healthy displays of diversity, they are a reproach to an institution that exists to manifest God's grace and love.
A second reason this division is a gaping wound and not a healthy display of diversity is the magnitude of the theological issues that remain unresolved. I am not going to argue any of these issues for the time being, but merely list some of them.
Knowledgeable Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals will immediately recognize the point of controversy in each of these issues and also recognize that this is far from a complete list. Just as obvious is the fact that these are not trivial issues.
One might well ask, given the magnitude of the issues, whether reconciliation of the differing viewpoints is possible. But are we willing to say that something for which our Lord prayed is impossible?
I have long maintained that what unites Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals is far greater than that which separates them. The simple tenets of the Apostles and Nicene Creeds are more than sufficient grounds for a very formidable unity:
This much (and more) we have in common already, and it is of major consequence in establishing both our unity and the basis for our proclamation to the world.
The third reason I believe that orthodox Anglicans must take the lead in overcoming our divisions and manifesting the unity of the Church is that our disunity impairs our witness. It is only a united witness to the truth of the Gospel that can reach a world that is slipping into post-Christianity precisely through the compromise of the message of the Gospel by the western Church in the face of challenges from materialism and secularism on the one hand, and militant Islam and other world religions on the other hand.
To accomplish unity for the sake of the Gospel will entail a healing in our spirits, a working out of theological differences, and a renewed commitment to the integrity of our witness.
To achieve this unity will mean laying aside much of the baggage that characterizes the various parties in Anglicanism. It will require a methodology that enables us to recognize and hold fast to what is essentially Christian. It will call for passions of equal intensity for unity and truth. And it will demand a greater love for God and our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ.
This is a beginning of my thoughts along these lines. I will have more to say in future installments.