Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Questioning Authority

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Questioning Authority

Article excerpt

Books Reviewed:

Beyond the Reformation? Authority, Primacy and Unity in the Conciliar Tradition. By Paul Avis. London: T&T Clark, 2006. xx + 256 pp. $55.00 (paper).

Power and Christian Theology. By Stephen Sykes. New Century Theology. London: Continuum, 2006. xii +160 pp. $35.95 (paper).

An Introduction to World Anglicanism. By Bruce N. Kaye. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. x + 276 pp. $34.90 (paper).

Ecumenism, Christian Origins and the Practice of Communion. By Nicholas Sagovsky. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. x + 232 pp. $39.99 (paper).

Conflict and the Practice of Christian Faith: The Anglican Experiment. By Bruce N. Kaye. Eugene, Ore.: Cascade Books, 2009. x + 192 pp. $22.00 (cloth).

Up with Authority: Why We Need Authority to Flourish as Human Beings. By Victor Lee Austin. London: T&T Clark, 2010. ix + 192 pp. $34.95 (paper).

Many Parts, One Body: How the Episcopal Church Works. By James Datorwith Jan Nunley. New York: Church Publishing, 2010. xv + 208 pp. $25.00 (paper).

The Church: Towards a Common Vision. By the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches. Faith and Order Papers no. 214. Geneva: World Council of Churches Publishing, 2013. ix + 56 pp. $10.00 (paper), resources/documents/commissions/faith-and-order/i-unity-thechurch-and-its-mission/the-church-towards-a-common-vision.

A Polity of Persuasion: Gift and Grief of Anglicanism. By Jeffrey W. Driver. Eugene, Ore.: Cascade Books, 2014. xii + 184 pp. $21.00 (paper).

Sources of Authority, Volume 1: The Early Church. Edited by Tamara Grdzelidze. Faith and Order Papers no. 217. Geneva: World Council of Churches, 2014. xxviii + 152 pp. $20.00 (paper).

Sources of Authority, Volume 2: Contemporary Churches. Edited by Tamara Grdzelidze. Faith and Order Papers no. 218. Geneva: World Council of Churches, 2014. xviii + 184 pp. $20.00 (paper).

It has been said often enough: The Anglican Communion is in crisis, and the root of the crisis is not disagreements about sexuality, or the ordination of women as bishops, or even the interpretation of scripture. At root, it is a crisis of authority.

Well, yes and no. Yes, the Anglican Communion is facing a variety of challenges that threaten its cohesion both now and in the future. And yes, authority is a key part of those challenges. But there is no time when the Anglican Communion has not faced significant challenges about how it understands and practices ecclesial authority. It is more accurate to say that the Anglican Communion, Anglican Christianity, Christianity in the British Isles has from the outset disagreed sharply about how to understand authority, and how to embody or practice it in the church.

Furthermore, many of the authors whose works are reviewed here would say that this ongoing struggle is not only characteristic to Anglicanism, but is also part of what Anglicanism has to offer to the body of Christ overall. The Anglican Communion has long dealt with difference and conflict in positive ways, that is, ways that both embrace difference and stimulate communion. That it is having difficulty now does not negate this fact. Indeed, how Anglicans face these challenges may prove suggestive to other worldwide communions or federations as they face the same situation of global diversity.

This review article considers a number of publications since 2003 that lend support to this claim. 2003 is the year that the Diocese of New Hampshire elected Gene Robinson as its bishop, the General Convention consented to that election, and Robinson was consecrated. In 2003 the Diocese of New Westminster in the Anglican Church in Canada approved the blessing of same-sex unions in the church. In 2003 then-Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams established the Lambeth Commission on Communion, which in 2004 released The Windsor Report1 and began the Windsor process of developing a covenant that (it was hoped) would provide ways to secure the "bonds of affection" among the provinces of the Anglican Communion. …

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