The Anglican Communion lately has discovered that it has no structure. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, and others say that the Communion needs structure (An Anglican Covenant) in the church so that we can support the smaller churches struggling in countries far away from the United States or England. He says that we need to be able to say to the teetering foreign governments that “This church is backed by the Anglican Communion, and that one is not.” (See his address to the General Synod at the Anglican News Service site) Not knowing foreign politics, I must assume that he thinks that having the backing of the Anglican Communion would be a good thing.
Theo Hobson, writing in the Guardian from the United Kingdom (England), says that Williams has pressed forward with the main issue in the Anglican Communion – Do we want to be Catholic and go for unity or do we want to be moral and go for justice? The two may be exclusive of one another. Catholicity demands that we support one another in positions that we find may morally wrong. For instance, the African churches would be called upon to support the church in the United States while abhorring its stand on sexuality and women priests. On the other hand, the American churches (USA and Canada) would be called upon to support their African counterparts even though they disagree with the homophobia and subordination (and even mistreatment) of women. Each church finds the other to be morally wrong in those areas but demands acceptance of its own position.
The Biblical literalist challenges the modern interpreter; the church in the more technological nation challenges the church in the more primitive nation. Hot versus cold. The Anglican way has always been lukewarm, accepting of people with a spectrum of beliefs but a particular way of worship and mission. Nothing has changed in worship or mission, only in the details of Biblical interpretation.
This world-wide disagreement within the church seems to have secular backlashes everywhere. Churches in some countries find it difficult to speak wisdom to power when the church, because of its association with the Anglican Communion and thus the USA, is considered to be immoral and unethical. In the USA, the topic of sexuality has become a political agenda as well as a church concern. Worship and mission have taken a backseat in the church; life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have taken a backseat in the nation. Actions in the United States could be the publicized cause of death and destruction in other countries.
If the Episcopal Church is cast out of or leaves the Anglican Communion, the loss to the world-wide church will be great for we have power and money and willingness to serve. I doubt that we are willing to sacrifice our moral stand on the inclusion of everyone in God’s house – women, gays, poor, dirty, illiterate, educated, male, all races and ethnic groups. On the other hand, the more fundamentalist churches of the Communion might gain some power when they stand for what they believe is right and Godly. Divorce is never easy, but both parties usually do survive.