Essays in Anglican Ecclesiology
Edited By Zachary Guiliano and Charles M. Stang
Part Two: Governing the Open Body
Part Two Governing the Open Body Chapter 3 Exploring Trans-Atlantic Tensions within Contemporary Anglicanism Robert Tobin IT WAS the outspoken Bishop of Durham Hensley Henson who once dismissed the organisation of the Anglican Communion as “a subject of portentous dullness.”1 Seventy years later, many Anglicans long for the day when such a description might once again prove accurate. For, however portentous the debates about Communion governance and composition may remain, few would claim they have continued to be dull. Since Henson wrote, the prolifera- tion of autonomous Anglican provinces, the indigenization of leadership, and the advent of mass communication, among much else, have all contributed to an unprecedented sense of multiplicity within Anglican experience. Often this diversity, not to say divergence, is regarded as novel, driven by the growing confidence of the so-called “Global South” churches in challenging Western assumptions of normativity.2 Yet whatever kernel of truth there may be in such a reading, it tends to downplay or ignore the abiding differences in social and ecclesiological outlook that have predominated among the western Anglican churches themselves. And given that such differences continue to foster misunderstanding and grievance even now, it is surely worth making some effort to explore this history on its own terms. What follows is a brief inquiry into certain “trans-atlantic tensions” that have persisted between the Church of England and the Episcopal Church USA since the late eighteenth century. Restricting such an exploration to these two particular churches does not imply that the contributions and...
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