These days, the Episcopal Church (as a part of the Anglican Communion) is a bellweather for the rest of denominationalism and their strife is played out in many denominations that are not homogenous or self-affiliating.
One interesting nugget coming from the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is the possiblity of a two-track understanding of the Anglican Communion. Tracks like the image to the right where multiple audio tracks are spliced together to create a musical whole.
Check it out and see what they can learn from us United Methodists as well about making two tracks become a harmony.
…there is at least the possibility of a twofold ecclesial reality in view in the middle distance: that is, a ‘covenanted’ Anglican global body, fully sharing certain aspects of a vision of how the Church should be and behave, able to take part as a body in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue; and, related to this body, but in less formal ways with fewer formal expectations, there may be associated local churches in various kinds of mutual partnership and solidarity with one another and with ‘covenanted’ provinces.
In other words, one of the principle areas of difficulty with people who disagree on doctrinal issues is that they have to be in “full communion” with those they see as less-than-faithful to their understanding of the faith. By placing the church in two tracks, then those who are not game with all the aspects of the Anglican communion can call themselves Anglican and part of the crowd, but they are not part of the formal decision-making structure.
Sounds a bit like a tiered system? Well, that’s a hierarchical understanding that Archbishop Willams is pushing back against here:
This has been called a ‘two-tier’ model, or, more disparagingly, a first- and second-class structure. But perhaps we are faced with the possibility rather of a ‘two-track’ model, two ways of witnessing to the Anglican heritage, one of which had decided that local autonomy had to be the prevailing value and so had in good faith declined a covenantal structure. If those who elect this model do not take official roles in the ecumenical interchanges and processes in which the ‘covenanted’ body participates, this is simply because within these processes there has to be clarity about who has the authority to speak for whom.
While at first OK, this brings it out a bit more: covenantal relationship means those who accept everything the Anglican church says…and the other folks who decided that for their context or locality that some doctrines are unacceptable, and they only loosely affiliate. Two tracks of being Anglican: one holding doctrinal purity as above all else, the other holding missional relevance as strong enough to accept a different “track” of being Anglican.
It helps to be clear about these possible futures, however much we think them less than ideal, and to speak about them not in apocalyptic terms of schism and excommunication but plainly as what they are – two styles of being Anglican, whose mutual relation will certainly need working out but which would not exclude co-operation in mission and service of the kind now shared in the Communion…The ideal is that both ‘tracks’ should be able to pursue what they believe God is calling them to be as Church, with greater integrity and consistency.
Is this a viable idea? Archbishop Williams seems to be shooting for the unhappy medium: keep the church together by making it into Anglican and Anglican Lite. The doctrinal purists can sit at the decision making table, and the Anglican Lites sit at the kids table…but hopefully happily because they still get the gold star by their name that says “I’m Anglican.” IMO.
Maybe they can learn something from us Methodists about what two separate-but-equal tracks looks like…
- Doctrinal Methodists would preside over church functions and structures, maintaining the tradition and doctrinal relevance and faithfulness. Churches, districts, or even clergy can be classified as these kinds of “appointable” positions. They can comment on Missional advances, certainly, but not enforce secondary doctrines (like social principles) on them.
- Missional Methodists would serve the contexts they are in, held in tension between doctrine and relevance, at the intersection of church and world. Churches in areas of the country with gay equality would be able to act and speak with authority to those contexts only. They would get to justify missional advances in open forum with the DMs (omg, DMs in Methodism! Do you defrock him? ::rattle dice:: yes.).