Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Beyond Colonial Anglicanism: The Anglican Communion in the Twenty-First Century

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Beyond Colonial Anglicanism: The Anglican Communion in the Twenty-First Century

Article excerpt

Edited by Ian T. Douglas and Kwok Puilan. New York: Church Publishing Incorporated, 2001. viii + 376 pp. $24.95 (paper).

In April, I attended the meeting of the primates of the Anglican Communion in my capacity as staff to the Presiding Bishop. The meeting this year was held in the shadow of Canterbury Cathedral, sacred ground for Anglicans. From my perch in the gallery of the superb new International Study Centre, I looked down on a culturally diverse group of leaders, among whom I counted more than thirty nationalities, whose many languages ranged from Arabic to Xhosa. Primates from the Third World outnumbered those from the West by more than three to one.

But this remarkable diversity extended only so far. Apart from staff, the only women to be seen were the Anglican Observer to the United Nations and one of the presenters. English was the language of all sessions, although several of the primates were unable to function in English. (Interpreters were few and overworked.) Daily worship in the cathedral crypt used only the rites of the Church of England and the English Hymnal. Concern over the limits of Anglican diversity led the primates to pronounce-very traditionally-on the doctrine of God. I observed that at least twelve of the thirty-three primates at the five-day meeting never uttered a word during plenary sessions.

Thus, while the diversity of the planet's cultures is fully represented in the leadership of the Anglican Communion, the thing-in-itself remains firmly English. Clearly, this is not the colonial Anglicanism of fifty years ago, but neither is it the Anglicanism "beyond colonialism" for which the editors of this challenging and stimulating volume yearn. This would be an Anglican Communion characterized not merely by plurality, but by genuine pluralism.

The editors have assembled contributors from six continents, diverse in gender, ethnicity, and linguistic background (but not diverse theologically; I recognized no one from the influential Evangelical Fellowship of the Anglican Communion). The first part of the volume is an analysis of colonialism and its effects on the life of the church. …

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