Communion

A Communion of churches, at the very least surely, are churches that can celebrate communion together, churches where they accept the validity of each others ordinations, churches where someone ordained in one church can preside in the other.

What is called “The Anglican Communion” is not such a communion.

At the recent meeting of Anglican Primates, there was no shared Eucharist as part of their meeting timetable. The normal round of worship continued in Canterbury Cathedral, and the Primates attended, or didn’t, and the international-tea-leaf-reading community tried to work out what was happening from who attended Evensong, what they were wearing, whether they processed or not, and even what posture people had.

Some Primates went to communion services; others did not.

The Primates are the first-among-equals-bishops in each of the 38 Provinces/Churches of “The Anglican Communion”. Someone will know the last time the Anglican Primates celebrated communion together.

Internationally, Anglican Churches have been unable to accept the validity of each others ordinations since the ordination of women. But little fuss was made of this (women, after all, being the majority in Anglicanism). Only with the ordination of a publicly-non-celibate homosexual did the fuss begin (homosexuals, after all, being a very small minority). In contrast to what happened, traditional sacramental theology would debate the validity of of women’s ordination but would not question the validity of ordaining a practicing homosexual. Anglican church leaders appear to have missed their classes both on ecclesiology and on sacramental theology.

The Eucharist is the source and the summit of our Christian life – including our unity. It is the source before it is the summit. One might say, hence, that the Eucharist is more source. We will not reach the summit if we do not draw on Christ the source in the Eucharist.

But the Primates, and other Anglican leaders, have reversed this dynamic. They will not draw near and receive the Body and Blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ in order to grow together until they have humanly reached the summit of cobbling together a unity that, following traditional theology, hasn’t been broken. The very act that Christ gives us to draw us into unity is evaded.

There is a problem with a word when there is only one of something. This is essentially the situation with the word “Communion” in “Anglican Communion”. There are similar collections of churches (Eastern Orthodoxy; Old Catholic), but the word “Communion” is generally used not for those but for “The Anglican Communion”. In some sense, then, “The Anglican Communion” defines the word “Communion”. Nowadays “Communion” is increasingly used by church leaders as something more like “working together to serve the world in the name of Christ”. The fact that we do not receive communion together is left out of the picture. I continue to think communion means communion.

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