The Advantages of Federations
Yesterday, I told you what little I know about the Federation of Anglican Churches in the Americas.
But it wasn’t the first time I’ve heard of the concept of federation among continuing and orthodox Anglicans. During a visitation to my parish, one of the REC bishops, +Royal Grote I think, opined that he thought a federation was the most likely way North American Anglican unity efforts would proceed.
I think it may be the best way to proceed in many cases as well (and I suspect the bishop would agree). Now I do think merger is often preferable when possible, such as between the APA and REC. The more unity without sacrificing truth and tradition the better.
But mergers have their problems. Orthodox Anglicans agree on the basics of the faith, but there are differences most are not eager to fudge away. The issues around the ordination of women are certainly prominent among those differences.
Also, continuing Anglicans especially are reluctant to give much power to a central authority. In the REC, for example, a parish owns its own property and can pretty much leave when it wants.
Many continuing parishes want that kind of autonomy. For many of them come from situations where authority was imposed on them against their will. One example is the REC Church of the Holy Communion in Dallas. A precipitating event in their leaving the Episcopal Church was their 1928 BCPs being taken away. Longtime readers might remember that during discussion about the new REC BCP (which is very traditional), some there were anxious about whether they could stick with the 1928.
Most continuing parishes are likewise not eager to give up their distinctives nor leave them in the power of a higher churchly authority. Hence, federations are more doable than mergers.
One additional plus I see in federations is they help quarantine any future unorthodoxy. If one federation partner descends into unorthodoxy, the other partners are under no obligation to join along. In fact, the partners may be able to boot the offending partner out if necessary. An actual merger greatly complicates dealing with unorthodoxy and makes it more difficult to remain separate from it.
There are surely other issues as well. Federations are just faster and easier to bring about and live with while leaving the door open to later mergers. That is certainly the case with the REC and APA. Their merger is proving to be a slow process while their federation happened before most people even knew about it. And with all that’s going on in Anglicanism, the ability to act relatively quickly is an asset.