The Canadian church is ready to be a primary voice in world Anglicanism, says Rev. Randall Chase, a member of the U.S. Episcopal Church’s executive council and a partner to the Canadian church’s Council of General Synod since 1995.
Telling synod members that their work is critical, not just for the Canadian church but for the whole Anglican Communion, he said, “I don’t think you know how far along you are in your journey. You are creating a road map for the Anglican Communion as it approaches the millennium.”
Another synod partner and Roman Catholic, Janet Somerville, was more cautionary. The Canadian Council of Churches’ first woman general secretary urged Canadian Anglicans to be careful about becoming too complacent and modern at the expense of listening to voices of the past.
Some newcomers to the Canadian church scene have not been conditioned by Canadian politeness, Dr. Somerville said. She urged Anglicans to be patient with “voices in our churches saying something more ancient,” and to be open to how many of today’s Christians can be programmed away from biblical insights by the forces of television and marketing which reflect a “consensus the powers that be have agreed upon.”
Both speakers participated in the Anglican identity forum, In Full Harmony, in which table groups examined 16 questions, including the church’s role and function in a postmodern world.
In a postmodern world, is it possible to speak with one voice? Is it even desirable to do so? Is postmodernism a blessing or a curse? What are the implications of wider acceptance of postmodernism’s skeptical trends?
Other questions included:
To what extent does “common prayer remain a central characteristic of Canadian Anglican identity and can it still function as a glue that holds the Anglican Communion together?
Common prayer appears to remain a Canadian Anglican central characteristic and Scriptures remain the source of Anglican teaching, were among the responses.
How are authority, revelation and discernment to be balanced and weighted as the church faces contentious and divisive issues?
Authority is the property of the whole church and there are Christian absolutes defined in the creeds, were among the responses to this question.
How does Anglican reliance on Scripture, tradition and reason shape the way Anglicans address questions of human sexuality? Sexuality is a gift that cannot be imposed as a discipline and relationships need to be an experience of wholeness, completeness and a sign of God’s love were among the answers.
Other questions ranged from ministry formation to dialogues with other denominations to euthanasia and biotechnology.
Wondering about Anglican identity is not new, said Rev. Eric Beresford, the church’s ethics/interfaith co-ordinator who helped shape the forum.
“It’s been a question since the early days,” he said in an interview. “Even before the Reformation the relationship between the church in England and the Roman church was a problem, as it was after the Reformation.
“How much are we a reformed church? How much do we continue our Catholic roots? These have always been big questions.”
Living at a time when the questions of “who we are becoming is more of an issue,” was a part of what the forum was all about, Mr. Beresford said.
“There is a lot of change going on in many parts of the world and the Anglican Communion is changing in response to those changes,” he said. “Internationally, each part of the world is facing problems differently.”
While there are Christians who are called to be part of the culture in which they live as a sort of “loyal opposition,” Mr. Beresford said there is also “a tension between how much of our movement is just part of the fashion of the day.”
He is encouraged by the way people are trying to find common ground and is sensing a “growing willingness to recognize the theological integrity of those with whom we disagree.”
“One of the things I see emerging here (at the forum) is more of a sense of what holds us together,” he said.