Google the words “Anglican Communion” and you’ll find plenty of news stories, usually centered on controversies about the gender or sexual orientation of a person in a leadership position.As I am writing this, “Anglican Communion Stories” comprises seven videos, averaging about 9 minutes in length, of Anglicans—many of them Episcopalians—carrying the Good News into the world in very practical ways, in locations from California to Ghana. The site also contains similar stories, in various formats, not produced by Trinity Wall Street.
As a journalist for much of my life, I understand why such controversies are reported and, in fact, must be reported.
But those are stories about Church as an institution.
There’s another kind of “church” story, about Church as a movement of spirit. And that’s what you’ll find with Trinity Wall Street’s Anglican Communion Stories.
As a native New Orleanian, my favorite story is about a new church, All Souls Episcopal Church, in the Lower Ninth Ward, an area of the city not served by an Episcopal church before Katrina.
The Trinity Wall Street stories are, of course, feel-good stories, but they are stories about which we should feel good.
What struck me about them, however, is that primates, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, are never mentioned. Neither is the Anglican Consultative Council nor the Lambeth Conference. These stories are about mission carried out mostly by individual Anglican churches, though sometimes with the help of other Anglican bodies. They represent the real work of the Gospel. The efforts they depict are unaffected by the so-called Instruments of Unity, which seem more about inhibiting mission than advancing it. The work is unlikely to be helped by adopting an Anglican covenant or, generally, by the creeping bureaucracy of the Anglican Communion.
That said, I should add that a properly conducted Lambeth Conference, uniquely among the Instruments, has a useful role to play in advancing Christian mission. It provides an opportunity for bishops throughout the world to get to know one another and the needs and successes of their dioceses. The Lambeth Conference has led to many successful partnerships across thousands of miles. The other Instruments have been less useful. An Anglican covenant will not be useful at all.
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