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All right Justin...

Anglican Commnon

All right Justin...

Definition of COMMNON

noun (pronunciation kəˈm nən)
A partial communion. An imperfect communion. A broken communion. A clayton’s communion.

A commnon is what you have if you don’t have a communion.

American spelling: comnon (as much non as com)

The term was first used by Rev. Bosco Peters in 2012

Some think the Anglican Communion broke when Gene Robinson was ordained as a bishop (2003). Communion is a complex concept, but if it does not include mutual recognition of validity of sacraments, it is not communion. Anglican neoDonatists (see Article XXVI) do not recognise his being a bishop, some of those do not recognise those who do acknowledge Gene Robins as a bishop. Some of the usual suspects refused to receive communion at the recent meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council.

But it was not Gene Robinson and his supporters that broke the Communion. It has been an Anglican Commnon since the ordination of women. My diocese is not in full communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Let us start to be honest with ourselves: our bishop, a woman, is not in full communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury (a requirement of being an Anglican Communion). The Archbishop of Canterbury cannot have the Bishop of Christchurch participate fully in an ordination service in his diocese.

Presiding Bishop Katharine in Southwark cathedral
Presiding Bishop Katharine carrying her mitre in Southwark cathedral; she was requested not to wear it as she is not recognised as a bishop in England

Obviously my bishop, being a woman, cannot function as a bishop in England. Since this week’s vote in the Church of England’s General Synod, one can no longer make polite English excuses about this being an accident of history. It is now an intentional decision.

I have a … (how can I say this on a family-friendly site?)… ummm…I have a Y chromosome and I was ordained by someone with a Y chromosome, etc. all the way back to the earliest church. I can function as a priest in all of the Church of England. Some, however, who were ordained by someone who has no Y chromosome, even though they themselves have a Y chromosome, will find some places in the CofE where they cannot so function. We are a commnon.

It is difficult for me to keep up with the alphabet soup of ACNA, GAFCON, FOCA; and I don’t have energy for that in any case. There’s always been plenty of groups claiming the title “Anglican”, just as there are groups claiming the title “Catholic”, “Evangelical”, etc.

Personally I have no significant interested in defining or refining “Anglican” and what it means, and what is “really” Anglican, and what is not. I am interested in how to move forward into an ever-changing context with spirituality and the life of God.

Rather than talk about the actual issues, Anglicans have had a decade of sleight of hand. Gene Robinson; committed same-sex couples;… Oh! LOOK HERE! “Anglican Covenant”! We’ve had a Lambeth Conference where no decisions were made, and now a meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council which made decisions about motherhood and apple-pie. [Let’s not embarrass ourselves or the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury by having a decision on the “Anglican Covenant”, and when we do talk about it, let’s use English dissembling dishonesty politeness and put a province like the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, which voted “No” to the “Covenant”, in the “Yes” column!]

A bit more honesty:

  • Let’s be really careful with using “the will of God” type of language. Had the CofE legislation passed, would you have used “the will of God”, or similar, in any of your reactions? If so, are you using “the will of God” language now? And vice versa: if you are using “the will of God”, or similar, in response to the No vote – would you have used it, hence, had it been a Yes vote?
  • Protestant sola-scriptura has had another body blow. The arrogance is tiresome when either side says, “you have to do more thorough exegesis”; “you just have not done your exegesis deeply enough”;… The scriptures, by themselves, are not going to provide the answers for women in ordained ministry, for committed same-sex couples, not even on marriage and divorce,… A little honesty from those who uphold protestant sola-scriptura: it does not lead to clarity and unity; it has led year by year inevitably to new disagreements and more divisions.
  • We either, on these sorts of issues, learn to live together, agreeing to disagree like any family/whānau,  finding our unity in Christ rather than confessing an ever-expanding list of beliefs on which we all are to tick every box; or we separate and walk our different ways.

I hope and pray for communion where the unity is based on an understanding of the multi-faceted gem that is God and God’s good news. I treasure the lost (at least in my own Anglican Church of Or) insight of the value of common prayer; agreed, shared spiritual discipline without everything being mono-valently “interpreted”; where we do not incessantly attempt to “make windows into people’s souls”.

Until then, I am part of the Anglican Commnon.

Important postscript: How do you get from a commnon to a communion? When u and i are always included!

image source; for the second image see here.

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54 thoughts on “Anglican Commnon”

  1. Philippa Chapman

    I support women being bishops. I’m glad you have them already in New Zealand. As I understand it, the Protestant church stands on much more than sola scriptura, rather Faith, Reason and Tradition.

    The vote was only lost by a few; and those voters were in the house of laity.

    I still think & pray women bishops will be voted in successfully throughout the Anglican communion.

    1. Thanks, Philippa. Just one point where we differ: I don’t think there is such a thing as “the Protestant church”. There are many protestant churches. Some might stand on “Faith, Reason and Tradition”, others might not. Blessings.

  2. Christopher Nimmo

    I distinctly disagree on the ordination criterium… after all, it’s a “commonly called sacrament” – I fail to see why it should be considered a communion-breaker.

    1. Thanks, Christopher. The mutual recognition of ordained ministry, and the actions and sacraments that derive from that, is essential to any understanding of full communion. Blessings.

  3. Well said, Fr. Bosco!
    I appreciate your articulation of the devices of division.

    May we all indeed, come to “unity… based on an understanding of the multi-faceted gem that is God and God’s good news,… treasure the lost… insight of the value of common prayer; agreed, shared spiritual discipline without everything being mono-valently ‘interpreted;’ where we do not incessantly attempt to ‘make windows into people’s souls.'”

  4. Good stuff Bosco! A point of clarification: At the very strong urging of an archbishop this year’s General Synod agreed to “subscribe” to the first three sections of the Anglican Covenant. A very few of us argued equally strongly that the word ‘subscribe’ comes with strings attached (we are not the first province to use it in relation to the Covenant). We few were not, of course, archbishops and thus lost. I believe the inclusion of Aotearoa New Zealand on the list of yes provinces at ACC proves that language does matter, something Anglicans used to take quite seriously!

    1. Thanks, Brian. Here for others is the report at ACC:

      Those in the so-called Category A that have approved the covenant are Ireland, Mexico, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Southern Cone of America, and the West Indies. In addition, according to the document, South East Asia adopted the covenant with an added preamble of its own and the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia has subscribed to the covenant’s first three sections but said it cannot adopt section 4, which outlines a process for resolving disputes.

      Here is the actual motion passed by General Synod Te Hinota Whanui of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia:

      this General Synod / Te Hinota Whanui resolves that this Church is unable to adopt the proposed Anglican Covenant due to concerns about aspects of Section 4, but subscribes to Sections 1, 2, and 3 as currently drafted to be a useful starting point for consideration of our Anglican understanding of the church.

      Hmmm… subscribing to stuff as “a useful starting point for consideration”… sounds like we are back in that language of English politeness I mention in my post.

      [Brian: archbishops do not always get there way. Look at the CofE…]


  5. All in all a very worthwhile read, and thank goodness for leaders like yourself who can articulate your thoughts so well.

    To alter a line from a classic hymn, “the church at rest” is not great or victorious, but simply dead.

    And so it goes.

    Wishing you and yours the strength to press on in the restless call of not simply (simple?) faith, but living in just-relations as the church.

  6. Maleness and femaleness are interesting constructs. We tend to regard them as absolute, and tied to external appearances. In this case, the presence or absence of external genitalia we regard as ‘male’. In practice, we have no idea whether a particular person is chromosomally ‘typically’ male (presence of a Y chromosome, the SRY region of which brings about the expression of ‘male’ characteristics) or typically ‘female’ (absence of a Y chromosome, so no expression of ‘male’ characteristics). Biology is much more varied than that. The closest that biologists can come to definitions of ‘male’ and ‘female’ is that a male produces large numbers of mobile gametes (sperm) and a female produces smaller numbers of more stationary gametes (ova). No reference to external genitalia.

    If we truly believed that only men could be bishops we’d employ chromosomal testing, and we’d require that they could produce sperm.

    The ridiculousness and poverty of arguments against the ordination of women are pretty clear to me. Tied up in it all are socially constructed ideas of ‘male’ roles and ‘female’ roles, which the church has contributed to, and continues, in some cases to swallow.

  7. Bosco, remember the recent comment you picked up on, about a now-vibrant church chose to serve the actual people in the community around them rather than retain its most conservative big donors…I seem to remember the UK organisation which campaigned to undermine the women bishop vote and precipitated this constitutional crisis has donated millions of pounds to the UK C of E.

    Spot on with exegesis and honesty. If 1 Timothy 2:12 is so important then why not Mark 10 2-12? Why not focus on 1 Corinthans 7:1’it is better a man does not touch a woman.’?

    Those who wish to be Catholics already have an established Church….

  8. A couple of observations, Bosco.

    I share with you when you notice the oddity of ACANZP being placed in the “yes” column: S4 is the meat and drink of the Covenant because it moves it from being a kind of wishlist to being something that matters. Our church not acceding to/accepting S4 is an effective rejection of the Covenant.

    When you write, “We either, on these sorts of issues, learn to live together, agreeing to disagree like any family/whānau, finding our unity in Christ rather than confessing an ever-expanding list of beliefs on which we all are to tick every box; or we separate and walk our different ways.”, are you applying it to the CofE decision? If so, as best I can tell, the CofE is trying to live together, agreeing to disagree on women bishops. But agreeing to disagree in a family context rightly asks what safeguards a minority in disagreement with a majority has. When that question was put to the proposed legislation, it was found wanting. The family of the CofE has not split, is having a few tantrums as a result, and still has a chance of finding the legislation which will enable it to stay together as one (not brilliantly happy) family.

    1. Thanks, Peter.

      The sentence you quote, I would apply beyond this CofE decision – but, yes, I am applying it there also. There are many ways to look at the decision. I do not see it, as you do, that this is the CofE “agreeing to disagree on women bishops”. This is the CofE deciding no women bishops. Full stop. It may make a different decision at some future point. But that is its decision for now.

      As to “living together” – yes, I don’t foresee the creation of yet another denomination. But I won’t be surprised if some leave and others don’t join – which is another dimension of “living together”.


  9. Yes, Bosco, for the time being the C of E will not have women bishops, but the decision was a specific rejection of the way in which a church which clearly has two integrities should proceed to have women bishops. That is, it was a decision to reject one proposal of “agreeing to disagree” about women bishops. Ironically, a while ago ++Rowan had made a proposal which likely would have passed muster, but it was decried by one of the integrities.

    1. Again, Peter, there are many ways to look at the decision. Yours is one way. It is not the way that many of the speeches at CofE’s General Synod presented it. I am not sure about predicting a decried proposal passing muster. Blessings.

    2. Surely, “A Church which has two ‘integrities’ is already schismatic. There can be no such compromise in the Body of Christ.

      What the Church of England had – and still has – is a church organisation that has people within it who disagree about many things. The disagreement about the place of women in ministry has caused some to depart for what they hope might be more credibly ‘firm ground’. The place to which some of them have fled – under papal jurisdiction – gives them some comfort.

      Some, of the same disposition, would prefer to remain in the C.of E., but under their own terms. Sadly, this leads some to think that the Church actually contains two different ‘integrities’, instead of the reality, which is two different ‘understandings’ of the Gospel. There is a difference.

      ‘Integrity’ is really something different.

  10. ‘The family of the CofE has not split, is having a few tantrums as a result’

    ‘Tantrums’ suggests something unreasonable or puerile in reaction?

    So I’m not sure people overseas may be getting what the angry response is about-it’s not ‘will it split the church’- churches will always split, and only 20% of British people identify with the Anglican Church anyway, with only 10% of the *entire UK population* actually attending any church regularly- over 50% of the population don’t believe in religion- very few people care about religion in the UK today.

    If all religion was lost in the UK overnight many people would think it was a good thing…Britain is an old country, they have seen for a long time so many negative things relating to religions!

    The constitutional crisis is the UK Church of England can no longer rest upon itself as the establishment faith intertwined with the government ( and the monarchy ) with this blatant attitude of dismissal to women.

    ‘This is the CofE deciding no women bishops.’

    And maybe it isn’t their decision to make when the majority of Anglican people had no objection, in a country where women are equal to men: it was profoundly undemocratic but more than that- it was dishonourable.

    A long-standing understanding between the people and the Church has been deliberately, willfully broken.

    Gordon Brown trusted the Church of England and assumed they would sort out their issues over time democratically and diplomatically, with no need for government intervention. That has been undermined.

    Conservative evangelicals- like despotic family members- cannot be pandered to in reality by waiting for them to adjust to and prepare for a new situation if their very ( argumentative ) position is dogmatically ‘there should be no new situation’.

    As a woman in 21 st century UK ( or US or NZ )I can choose whether to be a Martha or a Mary but there are people who would deny me that right and tell me they represent God so I have to accept it.

    No no no, I will not accept it- there are millions of women around the world who have no or few choices, a million times less choices than us- I do them no favours by capitulating to a former received order of things in my own lucky favourable position.


    In the supermarket this week collecting groceries for Thanksgiving a song was playing I haven’t heard for many years, an old cockney Music Hall song: ‘I’m Henery the Eighth, I am!’

    It’s one of the great mysteries in life how this Kroger store plays such eclectic music, I’ve often been amazed, but I did smile and wonder if the majority of people even know the long protracted history of our modern world, how the Church of England came about, who was Henry the Eighth, why the King James Bible was written, who constructed the other Bibles, who did the exegesis of Torah and other scriptures…etc.

    When and what will people learn?

    ‘Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’

  11. I’m not an Anglican (I’m a Lutheran), and I don’t accept the ordination of women. But I agree with what you say about commnon. Of the options you present, I would recommend (and, I hope, ultimately take) the latter, but I do agree that those options are the only ones one can honestly take in the long run.

    However, in the short term, two things get in the way: 1. History: especially the history of the CofE as a national institution, designed to hold one divided nation together in earlier times, and a divided theological potpourri more recently. 2. Pastoral responsibility: there are existing congregations within the commnon, which makes it difficult simply to up sticks and go, especially for clergy who have responsibility for their flocks. The ECUSA model of dealing with parishes wishing to leave has not been encouraging.

    May God save the Anglican comm[u]n[i]on from itself. And likewise the Lutherans and all the others. Maranatha!

  12. How does it work that in the Church of England, women are denied a leadership role as bishops, when the Supreme Governor of the Church of England is a woman?

  13. taking a longer view Bosco..I agree with you that the loss of Common Prayer and sacramental order has de-stabalised things badly. Here in the C of E the enormous conflicts in the mid 19c ( my historical area)were largely contained because there WAS a “container” ie liturgical worship /order/the parish system with everyone using a similar pastoral model more or less, and the sense of being the National Church with a mission to all who didnt specifically look elsewhere. Much of that has now gone..and financial difficulties havent helped…we are now ecclesiologically speaking congregationalists with a leaning towards episcopacy.

    1. It is difficult, Perry, for me to work out what holds my own province together now. Other than being small enough to be an extended family, with a common history, there appears little to nothing in common from one community to its neighbour; in fact, with the “selling” model being followed by most, difference between communities is what is often stressed. Blessings.

  14. Don’t worry, Bosco. The Bishop of Sheffield has written his own version of what has been going in with the two extremes of dissent in the Church of England – against the idea of women bishops(see ‘Thinking Anglicans’). In his excellent article, the good bishop says that the English H.o.B. will be meeting on December 10 & 11 to survey the battlefield and rework the strategy (my words). I’m sure that will do the trick!

    In the meantime, sexism lives on in the Church.

  15. It’s a little disturbing to read in several comments above the near- or complete absence of any sympathy for opposition to women’s ordination/episcopacy as a theological position that might not be the result of bigotry, or misogyny, or sexism, or pig-headed ne’er’ll-change-ness. That’s not going to be helpful in (a) understanding the opposite view or (b) keeping one’s own blood pressure down. Nor is it particularly charitable. Or helpful in attempts to repair or restore communion.

    Or are we saying that the ministry of the church has been defined by all those things, except since the late 1950s? And if thats the case, where’s the communion of saints now?

    1. Timpani, I feel sympathy for the people who cannot accept women’s ordination, but I am not at all sympathetic to the view that women should not be ordained, which, to me, appears discriminatory. I don’t see fairness in a church polity which allows a minority of members to block a policy which the majority sees as moving equality forward and eliminating discrimination.

      June Butler

  16. ‘It’s a little disturbing to read in several comments above the near- or complete absence of any sympathy for opposition to women’s ordination’

    Yes, it can be disturbing when someone rejects your position and refuses to consider modifying theirs…

    But is sympathy really required for men who ‘cannot accept’ ordination of women when there are plenty of spiritual havens and religious careers for them to be within their beliefs?

    Just not the Church of England, for the reasons outlined in detail here and currently under discussion back in the UK.

  17. “Or are we saying that the ministry of the church has been defined by all those things, except since the late 1950s? And if that’s the case, where’s the communion of saints now?”
    – Tapani Simojoki –

    The Communion of Saints, Tapani has not gone away. It is still ‘alive and kicking’ – but not necessarily in the very same way as when Luther and Calvin (and significant others) broke from the hegemony of Rome in the 16th century. It has just matured and grown from the pre-enlightenment days into a more just and hopeful catalyst in society, bringing – at its very best, Good News where once Bad News was the only option for some.

    The Churches’ sacerdotal and episcopal ministries have been expanded to include the call of God in the lives of everyone – not just the male of the species.

    It was all started by God when he called upon a Woman – Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to bring forth the Christ – not on an altar made of stone or wood – but in the tabernacle of her womb. Thanks be to God for that!

  18. Tracy, read my comment again and quote what I said: “absence of any sympathy for opposition to women’s ordination/episcopacy as a theological position“. I.e. not just prejudice but a considered, theologically informed view. To be encountered theologically and not just dismissed as bigotry.

    Take my wife, for example. She is firmly opposed to women’s ordination on theological grounds. For all sorts of really good reasons, she’s not misogynistic. So if you are going to engage her, you are going to have to do better than cry “neanderthal” at her. And I wouldn’t mind if people had the courtesy to do the same with men who share her view.

    That was my point.

  19. Using the same ‘theological grounds’ argument sir you maybe should not have a wife!

    ( I say this as an intellectual argument, not a representation of my personal beliefs- I personally wish you many long and happy years of marriage )

    Marriage for Christians is a theological concession since people were ignoring theological instruction from Saint Paul anyway, just as divorce was a concession for Moses.

    The Church of England began as one despotic king’s refusal to to conform to Bible and Church norms and teaching on marriage of his day so this consideration seems to me a very natural conclusion of the whole argument.

    The Church of England has come a long way since men were allowed to abuse, dismiss and even murder women ( and others )

    Why go backwards?

  20. Bishop Andrew Gerales Gentry

    I am not Anglican and certainly not Episcopalian but I do have tremendous respect for the Anglican attempt at being “the middle way”. It is only when “the middle way” is so stretched beyond reason that it looses credibility that there is an issue in the wider Christian community. When the American Episcopalians chose their PB in the person of Katherine Schori who refused to affirm the unique divinity of Christ following her election many Anglicans as well as those of us not Anglican lost communion with her! “Communion” surely means we hold in common an understanding of the why of our commonality. When we cannot any longer define the Who and Why we have a supposed communion with one another then I respectfully suggest we no longer are in communion!

    1. Thanks, Bishop. Please can we not, on this particular thread, get distracted by what the Presiding Bishop did or didn’t say, did or didn’t mean. Your own public declarations, Bishop, then soon get dragged into it and questioned. There’s plenty of places to do that. The Presiding Bishop proclaims the creed, declares her vows, signs the required documentation. As for defining exactly the Who and Why – well I certainly work on improving the definitions we share, but the fact that I see some as inadequate from my perspective, no, has not led me to withdraw from the Commnon. Blessings.

  21. If being in communion requires the recognition of orders, then, if I am not mistaken, communion was less than full between PECUSA and CofE for some years in the early 19th c. Even though English bishops consecrated bishops for PECUSA, clergy from PECUSA could not at first be licensed to officiate in England. All of which is to say that the Anglican Communion has had a less than perfect history of communion among its members.

    1. A fascinating thought, thanks, Daniel. Can you point to some more detailed info on this please. What was the reason given for their not being able to be licensed? Did they think of it as a communion at all at that stage – or are you talking about the beginning of the communion? Blessings.

      1. It was not until 1840 that clergy in the American and Scottish churches were allowed to function within the CofE. Prior to the legislation enacted then, their situation was much the same as that of our Presidng Bishop when she visits England. I think the notion of being part of the Communion was really not much in evidence until the Canadians proposed a conference of Anglican bishops in the middle of the 19th century.

        1. Would there have been significant people in CofE who regarded those clergy you mention as not validly ordained, and their actions actually not sacraments? I suspect not, Daniel. So I’m not sure how far the parallel can be pressed. I think you are speaking of the beginnings of the Anglican Communion. Your point holds that it has been messy from the start. Blessings.

  22. I notice, Bosco, that we have a ‘Bishop’ responding to this thread. As he is commenting on one of the authentic communion Partners – TEC – it would be most helpful if we could know by what provenance the bishop has received his episcopal orders. This might help the rest of us to understand his patent criticism of Anglican complementarity.

    1. Fr. Ron, I don’t know Bishop Gentry, but based on what he has posted on his Twitter account (@gaypriest) and on his blog (http://celticbishop.wordpress.com), I suspect that you and he agree on more than you might think. An obvious exception is his and your opinion of TEC’s primate.

      His blog also shows an interest in liturgy, which our host might appreciate.

      1. He appears to be some self-appointed ‘bishop’ of whatever church he has.
        and he refuses to address the issue that he cannot prove his claims of any gods…!

    1. Bosher’s article includes, near the end, a discussion of what the association of sister churches might be called, and the observation that “Anglican Communion” appears to have been used no earlier tan the 1850s. An essay by Wendy Dackson in “Ecumenical Ecclesiology” makes the point that Bosco made, i.e., that communion has been impaired since the first ordinations of women. Both essays support the idea that communion is not as simple as some assume.

  23. Thanks for making your point about ‘The will of God’ language

    Put another way ‘you shall not take the name of the Lord your god in vain’ . . . at least as I’ve come to understand this commandment 🙂

    Great thread throughout btw

  24. Pioneers make this land grow because they cared in the work of building and managing the seasons of this Country as it presented itself for the deal with. Pioneer Mission Ministry is now increasing ready and willing to begin again if the Anglican Church want to listen to the people who want to see growth and produce of faith. Time of standing around are now no longer relevant or acceptable. House of Bishop’s do not build parishes, they inhibit them. Real growth requires effort, sweat and will which some of us have and are more than willing to do for seasons to come. Give us a chance, and we can achieve faith in action.

    I hope many will read this article and join again in making New Anglicans in your community. Being an Anglican means you care to Canadian and a Christian from a walks of life and society.
    http://www.celticcenturion.com FAITH IN VARIOUS EXPRESSIONS

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