The warring factions in the Anglican Church have finally found something to “agree” on — the church is not split! But this “agreement” is as shallow as an upturned saucer.
Just days after bishops and other leaders representing half the worldwide Anglican membership issued a declaration setting up a separate council of archbishops, a separate statement of theology, and gave the green light to crossing parish and diocesan borders, the denials that this does not mean a split in all but name simply lacks credibility.
And it lacks credibility because both the conservative faction and the liberal faction have a vested interest in avoiding a formal split even though the division between the two factions has never been greater than it is today.
Even though Sydney’s Archbishop, Peter Jensen, is one of the driving forces behind the new conservative movement he has been at pains to deny that it represents a split. Why?
It has everything to do with money and property – and nothing to do with theology or principle.
If Sydney, or any other diocese, broke away from the Anglican Church it would risk losing its multi- billion dollar property holdings and other assets. Sydney is easily Australia’s largest, and wealthiest, diocese and it is not going to put its assets at risk.
In the USA when parishes have broken away from dioceses over the same “moral” now dividing the worldwide church, costly court action over assets has followed.
Peter Jensen is not going to make that mistake. So he, and Bishops principally from Africa, who in total represent around 35 million Anglicans, have simply set up an alternate – and potentially very powerful – structure that will largely ignore the Archbishop of Canterbury, and other leaders such as the Australian Anglican Primate, Phillip Aspinall.
On the other hand the liberal or moderate wing, which includes a majority of dioceses and parishes in Australia, is powerless to do anything about the new structure (Anglican dioceses are self governing) and is probably comfortable with that position.
To try and force the Sydney led movement out of the church would cause divisions within the moderate, mainstream dioceses. In most a reasonable number of parishes, and clergy, are sympathetic with the objectives the Sydney grouping is pushing. If Sydney was forced out they would be under pressure to follow.
And if anyone doubts that the moderate faction is going to do absolutely nothing have a look at the response from the nominal “leader” of the church in Australia, Dr Phillip Aspinall – it won’t take long!
When asked about the issue yesterday, today’s Sydney Morning Herald reports that Dr Aspinall declined to comment! I rest my case.