A Message from Canterbury, by Frank Logue

Message from Canterbury (1944) from British Council Film on Vimeo.

This week, The Episcopal Church celebrated the feast day of William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1942-1944. William was the son of Frederick Temple who had served as Archbishop of Canterbury from 1896-1902. Despite his Archbishop father, William was originally refused ordination by the Bishop of London for not professing belief in the Virgin birth or bodily resurrection, two views he came to hold as he saw both the truth and the importance of the doctrine of the Incarnation. The video above features the wartime preaching of Archbishop Temple the younger during World War II as he sought to bring a sense of peace to a wartorn England. He sounds a little more English-schoolboy-like than I imagined, but the video is a glimpse into his leadership in time of war.

This week, the Anglican Communion also learned that the Bishop of Durham, Justin Welby, will become the successor to the two Temples and current Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. Welby is an evangelical who once worked in the oil industry before getting active at Holy Trinity, Brompton (HTB), as that church’s ALPHA Course went global. This means that the new Archbishop was formed at “HTB” which talks about a “mission-shaped church” and “fresh expressions” and now counts one of its most popular concepts as “cafe theology” – discussing belief in your local Starbucks.

What it means to have the evangelical Bishop Welby heading the Anglican Communion at this time, no one but God yet knows. For now, what comes next is a matter for prayer. For whether God is reconciling the world to God’s own self is a given, but the role the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church plays in that divine action remains an open question.

2 thoughts on “A Message from Canterbury, by Frank Logue”

  1. The short nswer is no, the Archbishop of Canterbury (ABC) has no authority over The Episcopal Church. The Archbishop functions with a given role in the Church of England, but in the broader Anglican Communion, the role is that of calling and presiding at meetings. The ABC can’t and doesn’t have either any say in who holds what positions within The Episcopal Church or can he (at present a woman can’t be ABC) has no means of setting policy for any of the other provinces of the Anglican Communion, which includes The Episcopal Church.

    The long answer is that there are probably at least two significant ways in which there are different kinds of authority in that role of Archbishop of Canterbury.

    First and most significantly, the working definiation of being a member of the Anglican Communion is that one is in communion with the See of Canterbury. So while the ABC’s main role is to call and preside at meetings, if you aren’t on the list for the every ten years Lambeth Conference, which calls together all of the bishops of the Anglican Communion. This group has no power over the Provinces either, but it’s decisions have generally held a moral authority over the provinces so that decisions made by this gathering of bishops tend to later be followed by all. So, the power to invite is not insignificant.

    Second, the ABC does have more of a worldwide stature and so can be seen as speaking for the Anglican Communion, and so what is said from Canterbury does have some currency.

    All of the above has been stretched and tested in issues of the ordination of women and matters of human sexuality. Someone can and may well contend with the above, but to speak to your question from my Episcopal perspective to yours, Matthew, as a Presbyterian, I thought it fair enough to name both that there is no formal, Canterbury tells Episcopalians what’s what authority as the Pope has within the Roman Catholic Church, and yet that doesn’t make the position meaningless in terms of worldwide Anglican Communion life and relationships.

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