Is the self-destruction of Anglicanism to continue?

Is the self-destruction of Anglicanism to continue?

Nigel Zimmerman

New Archbishop of Canterbury appointed

Nigel Zimmerman is in the second year of priestly formation for the Anglican Diocese of the Murray and is a member of Forward in Faith Australia. Previously, he worked as a personal assistant to a Federal member of parliament and has majored in journalism.

On 23 July 2002, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that Queen Elizabeth II had appointed Archbishop Rowan Williams of Wales as the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury. Because the Church of England remains an established Church, the process of selecting bishops falls largely under the jurisdiction of the state.

There is no doubt that the new Archbishop-designate of Canterbury, the Most Rev Rowan Williams, is a brilliant man, that he has been a good pastor and that his appointment is acceptable to the New Labor political agenda of the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, brilliance, pastoral concessions and political correctness are not mentioned in the Catholic creeds.

As readers of this magazine will note, there are no conclaves, no episcopal requests for the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and, unfortunately, plenty of politically-motivated leaks to the secular press in what was dubbed, "the race for Canterbury."

The 52-year-old Archbishop Rowan Williams is on record as believing in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, he has publicly affirmed the virginal conception of the Saviour's birth and holds to an incarnational view of salvation, the Church and the world. It is also understood that he believes in the Real Presence.

A much-published theologian, Dr Williams was formerly Professor of Divinity at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Self- described as a "hairy lefty," he has been outspoken on justice issues and unashamedly critical of the US-led "war on terror" campaign and the British policy of support for the deposition of Saddam Hussein.

The new Archbishop is a founding member of the organisation, "Affirming Catholics," which retains the outward form of Catholicism but embraces novelties such as women priests. He is also a Druid.

Immediately following the announcement of the new Archbishop, leading Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals expressed their concern at such an appointment. The contentious issues are largely theological, but also represent a widening of the gap between First World and Third World Anglicans.

Archbishop Williams has admitted to ordaining a man whom he knew had a homosexual partner. In an interview with Anglican Media Sydney, he said, "This is where I recognise I am in the minority, so I am cautious of making this a great campaigning issue. I am not convinced that a homosexual has to be celibate in every imaginable circumstance."

Third World

In global terms, the Anglican Church is only growing in Africa and Asia, and only in Western parishes which are staunchly Evangelical or Anglo-Catholic. In fact, the number of communicants that are streaming into Anglican Sunday Masses on any given Sunday in Nigeria now outnumber those who attend in North America, England, Australia and New Zealand combined. In fact, African Anglicans are now growing at the rate of one new diocese a year!

The moral code is understood in strict Catholic terms in those provinces and an open defiance of Scriptural morality by the new Archbishop could result in official schism with the Third World sector of the Anglican Communion. Considering that over half of the Anglican world is now black, it is imperative that Archbishop Williams take seriously his new primatial role as a focus for unity in the Apostolic tradition.

The Archbishop-designate is also a loud protagonist of women bishops. It is true that, unlike many other theological liberals, Archbishop Williams would not support legislation to allow for women priests in his diocese in the Church of Wales until its General Synod provided alternative episcopal oversight for orthodox parishes; that is, orthodox bishops for orthodox Anglicans.

This move made him no friends among the more radical revisionists but offered some hope for orthodox Anglicans in Wales. However, it means little for orthodox Anglicans outside of Wales (and England) where the Archbishop has no jurisdiction, but in reality plays a symbolic role. He appears genuinely interested in being fair to all traditions.

One could be forgiven, however, for questioning where he believes authority to ultimately lie. He has been described by the Primate of Australia, the Most Rev Peter Carnley, as, "thoroughly orthodox." Orthodoxy has always been understood as protected by the Apostolic guardians of the Christian dispensation. This loosely applied label of "orthodoxy" comes into question in light of Archbishop Williams' record on the matter of authority.

Speaking to Ugandan Anglicans this year he is on record as saying, "I wish I could say more wholeheartedly that I accept every aspect of the traditional teaching and that I accept personally every aspect of what the majority of people in my Church believe. I can't say that in conscience."

Perhaps it is too early to comment on our future relationships with the Holy See under the direction of Archbishop Williams. Suffice to say at this stage that he has thus far supported the notion of women bishops without regard for the Papal counsel not to do so. Indeed, the possibility of schism and outright warfare (in comparison with the small and bloody theological battles going on throughout Anglicanism right now) means that the liberal agenda that underlies the self-destruction of Anglicanism continues in earnest.

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