“Has Anglicanism A Future?” Andrew Linzey (Book Review)

Reviewed by Anthony Woollard

This short statement on behalf of LGCM in response to the Windsor Report summarises very well the problems which all liberals have with that Report and with current trends in the Anglican Communion generally. It does not, perhaps, quite answer the question which it poses – but it certainly poses that question very sharply.

The gist of Linzey’s argument is that that Report, and those trends, appear to assume a drive for international uniformity which is no part of Anglican tradition. They leave no room for the workings of the Holy Spirit in new responses to new challenges within individual churches. And they narrow down the historically very wide category of “things indifferent” (adiaphora) on which local churches and indeed individual Anglicans have agreed, and can agree, to differ. Linzey instances, from his own experience, the question of stances on nuclear war. Anglicans can and do differ on this but that does not result in breaches of communion. He does not deny that there may be lines to be drawn on some issues – but why homosexuality rather than nuclear war? And he points out that the logic of the position of some fundamentalist evangelicals, with whom present trends appear to be in sympathy, is even more rigorous than would be suggested by the exclusion of ECUSA and the Diocese of New Westminster; it would excommunicate the Archbishop of Canterbury, for a start, since he has admitted to ordaining an openly gay priest. That way lies a very narrow sectarianism.Linzey makes clear that the doctrine of “not causing offence”, which is so central to the Windsor Report, would result in a stagnant church. He reminds readers that – however much the Report tries to gloss over the fact – offence has been caused by the action of certain national churches on the ordination and consecration of women, and yet somehow the Communion has learnt to live with this. Again, why is homosexuality so different?

This booklet raises many issues which cannot be addressed in so short a compass, not least about the theology of sexuality as such. Although the spirit of Richard Hooker and other mainstream Anglican thinkers lies so clearly behind it, it makes no claim to be a scholarly analysis. But as a statement to put into the hands of those doubtful on the “gay debate” within the Anglican Communion, and to provoke thought and discussion, it will beyond question be helpful to many

Anthony Woollard

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