A Still More Excellent Way
Authority and Polity in the Anglican Communion
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For at least the past two decades, international Anglicanism has been gripped by a crisis of identity: what is to be the dynamic between autonomy and interdependence? Where is authority to be located? How might the local relate to the international? How are the variously diverse national churches to be held together ‘in communion’? These questions have prompted an explosion of interest in Anglican ecclesiology.
However, one area which has received little attention is the place of provincial polity and metropolitical authority across the Communion. Yet, this is a critical area of concern for Anglican ecclesiology as it directly addresses questions of authority, interdependence and catholicity.
This ground-breaking study provides a unique contribution to the field of Anglican Studies: a detailed historical examination of the development of metropolitical authority and provincial polity within international Anglicanism; a double critique of both a ‘national church’ polity as well as an increasingly unitary responsibility being claimed by the Primates for the exercise of authority within the Communion; and, the proposal for a rediscovery of a properly ‘provincial’ polity for the Communion.
Methodological Introduction 1
Part One – The Pedigree of a Polity 17
1. ‘A Glorious and Salutiferous Œconomy’: Provincial Polity Established 19
2. The Mean Between the Streams: Provincial Polity Adapted and Abolished 35
3. Colonial Communion: Provincial Polity Exported 50
Part Two – The National Church 69
4. ‘Contained’ or Compromised Catholicity: a Critique of the ‘National Church’ 75
5. Independence or Interdependence: A Close Reading of Communion Constitutions 93
Part Three – The Rise of the Primates 109
6. Primus Inter Pares: All Bishops are Equal, but Some are More Equal than Others 111
7. ‘Leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation’:
The Primates’ Meetings 123
Part Four – Paradigm for Provincial Revival 157
8. The Anglican Church of Australia: ‘Microcosm’ or ‘Ecclesiastical Monstrosity’? 161
9. Provincial Possibilities: a Theological Reflection on the Potential of Provincial Polity 175
"In this timely work Alexander Ross offers the first comprehensive account of the theology of the 'province' in Anglicanism. Drawing on a range of different disciplines and making thorough use of archives he reveals the creative potential of provincial autonomy. Challenging those Anglicans who seek tidy solutions and strong boundaries, he sees relational messiness and open-endedness as offering a solution far more in tune with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. On this Anglicanism's future depends." -- Mark Chapman, Ripon College Cuddesdon
“...a book flecked with rich insight, wisdom and practical knowledge. It comes from the mind of a writer who has comprehended the church – very deeply – and understands how the problems and possibilities for a polity that seeks to be comprehensive and broad, yet is also confronted by division and polarisation.” -- Martyn Percy, Christ Church, Oxford
'This is a terrific work, extremely relevant to issues facing Anglicans around the world. Ross argues for an older and more fundamental Anglican ecclesiology that focusses on the Province and the Metropolitan. It provides a careful deconstruction of the way in which the national church has taken centre stage at the expense of a provincial polity and a systematic examination of fundamental archival sources not previously brought to bear on the argument about the actual changes in practice in world-wide Anglicanism in what he calls ‘The Age of the Primates’. An excellent work and a significant contribution to Anglican studies and the life of Anglican churches around the world.' -- Bruce Kaye, Charles Sturt University, Australia
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