CHR Comment: What is happening in the Anglican Communion? Here is a long-view, historical explanation.
When the Anglican Church adopted its Thirty-Nine Articles of doctrine in 1563, it attempted to be both inclusive and exclusive. The articles were written in a form that embraced the conservative Reformation but spoke against the radicalism of the Anabaptists. The articles also distinguished the Anglican Church from the Romanism of the papacy.
The Lambeth Quadrilateral (1888) defined modern Anglicanism as a church, emphasizing inclusiveness and seeking union with other church bodies. Anglicanism went on to embrace and promote the most important theological movement of the twentieth century: ecumenism. Anglican inclusiveness looked for common ground between churches and deemphasized the differences. The result was that Anglicanism constantly played an important role in unifying, ecumenical events. Liberal inclusiveness became one of its most important values.
Ironically, that inclusiveness is now dividing the Anglican Communion. A majority of western Anglicans want to include homosexuals in church life without defining homosexual behavior as sinful or calling homosexuals to repentance. These Anglicans are acting in accord with their prevailing emphasis on inclusion as a virtue that overrides or overlooks longstanding Christian doctrine and practice. In contrast, Anglicans in the former British colonies of Africa and elsewhere are much more conservative theologically and morally. They are alarmed by the decisions of the Episcopal Church USA, which has redefined marriage. American Episcopalians are also undermining the unity and cooperation that Anglicans had achieved through the ecumenical movement since other Christian church bodies do not want to approve the marriage of homosexuals.
Which view of Anglican theology and identity will prevail? Only time will tell but an important factor to consider is the rapid growth of Anglican Churches in Africa and in other former colonies. The more conservative Anglicans resent the old “colonialism” of England and the “imperialism” of the U.S. As they grow in numbers while the English and American churches decline, the churches in the former colonies will likely become more and more influential in defining the future of their church body.