The Rev. Professor Christopher Seitz has posted a piece on the Anglican Communion Institute website entitled, "Why Encouragement for North American Parishes and Dioceses Matters?" In it he raises the possibility (or hope) that the established structures in those parts of the Anglican Communion that are following a new theological agenda might make some accommodation for traditional Anglicans.
The thing that mystifies me when I read Seitz' piece is that he seems not to take into account much of recent Anglican history. The American Anglican Council, Forward in Faith, and others asked the same questions for twenty years about accommodation of traditional Anglicans that Seitz is asking now—to no avail.
The Anglican Communion Network of Dioceses and Parishes was formed in 2004 with ten dioceses and twelve bishops and asked repeatedly for some accommodation for traditional Anglicans, or even that the TEC leadership would take the concerns of traditionalists seriously. No accommodation was forthcoming. TEC continued its wayward direction and Canterbury did nothing to rein them in—in fact, Canterbury aided or acquiesced in the demotion of the Primates' meeting, the elevation of the Anglican Consultative Council, and the creation of a Joint Standing Committee to make sure the orthodox voices among the "instruments of unity" were marginalized.
The Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON), which first met in Jerusalem in 2009 and will meet again this month in Nairobi, is precisely the result of this history. Orthodox Anglicans learned that they could not trust the existing Communion structures and set about creating their own.
Seitz' piece is well worth reading, if only to get that delightful sense of déjà vu. When he asks, "Can Bishops be given oversight of parishes, if they exist in dioceses which wish to inhabit the new trails and new maps?" I can't help but wonder where he was during the whole chapter on Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO). We've been down that road. A number of parishes expressed precisely that desire. But in only a few cases, where there was a particularly charitable Episcopal bishop, was alternative oversight granted. Read the Anglican Communion Institute's own proposal from 2004. It went nowhere.
Seitz asks, "If a new liturgical rite, a new metro-political PB, and probably a new constitution (in the case of TEC, reinforcing a new polity) are now part of the agenda of the new season, will dioceses and parishes be permitted to do what has been done up until this new time, as the church inhabited this time and space previously?" I think the recent history of the Diocese of South Carolina, as well as several other dioceses, has already given us an answer to that question.
When I read Seitz' statement, "Let justice and mercy kiss each other, as conservatives are permitted to remain on familiar trails, while the larger Episcopal and Anglican bodies in North America forge ahead where they believe God is calling them. If in time they part ways, at least it could happen in a spirit of charity and loving-kindness," I feel as though I am reading something written in 1998, not 2013.
If in time they part ways??? Hello? There is already a parting of the ways. Several provinces in CAPA and the Global South have already declared themselves out of fellowship with TEC and have recognized the ACNA. In 2008, more than 200 bishops boycotted the once-in-a-decade Lambeth Conference. When the Global South Primates met in Singapore, in April 2010, they invited Abp. Duncan to preside at the Eucharist. When the Convocation of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) met in August 2010, the four primates at the head table were the current and outgoing heads of CAPA (Ian Ernest and Henry Luke Orombi), the Archbishop of Canterbury (Rowan Williams) and the Primate of the Anglican Church in North America (Robert Duncan). How much stronger an indication could one look for that a parting of the ways has happened and that a realignment in Anglicanism is underway? Now, the question going into GAFCON 2 is whether this parting of the ways is going to be a formal and permanent break.
So my final question is, in light of all this, when is the Anglican Communion Institute going to stop dismissing the ACNA and GAFCON and recognize that a major and lasting realignment in Anglicanism (I would say the most significant development in Anglicanism since the Reformation) has already begun?