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This is the example promised in my last post. I write as a Methodist looking into a troubled sister communion. It is time I addressed this issue because it has profound implications for English ecumenism.
The Church of England, and indeed the worldwide Anglican communion, has made a tremendous contribution to ecumenism. This is largely due to their catholicity. It is hard to imagine (or at least it used to be) Anglicanism without their brand of catholicity. For many decades, if not centuries, Anglicanism has functioned as a compromise between Catholics (outside the Roman Catholic Church), evangelicals (who can be traced back to the seventeenth century Puritans) and a liberal tradition which seems to have arisen through eighteenth century latitudinarianism, although it may go further back than that.
These traditions were held together by an ingenious system which included the Book of Common Prayer and was embedded in the structures of the church. From time to time, groups could not be contained and, around the start of the nineteenth century, perhaps the most serious split was with the Methodists.
To me, as an outsider, the loss of this catholicity amounts to the loss of Anglicanism. Some might respond with 'good riddance' but I think this response needs to be examined carefully. I have written about how my own Methodist tradition contributed its organisational approach to the rising working classes from the impoverished industrial poor in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
In a similar way, the Church of England, has had an immense influence on a state which has itself been a compromise between many traditions. Secularism in England is based upon the historic Anglican compromise. Different Christian traditions and indeed other faiths today, co-exist and their coexistence is based upon the Anglican catholic compromise.
This is what the Anglican Covenant debate is about. If the Anglican communion were to disintegrate, the implications in Britain and all over the world would be profound. In my next post I will write about what I understand is happening.