The realignment of ecclesiastical power and moral authority within the world-wide Anglican Communion continues. Last week witnessed the 'GSE4', for those not in the know the 4th Global South Anglican Encounter, which was held in Singapore, and drew together, as the official document from the gathering tells us (click on the post title to read), over 130 official ecclesiastical representatives from the overwhelming majority of the membership of the Anglican Communion (more Anglicans attend worship in Nigeria on the average Sunday than in England, a good indicator of the demographic shift that has taken place in world Anglicanism).
The local churches represented in the GSE movement are consciously committed to biblical, creedal and ethical orthodoxy as traditionally understood within the Anglican tradition. Since many of the churchmen and women who gatheed in Singapore represent the evangelical wing of Anglican churchmanship (note for American Lutheran readers, 'evangelical' in 3rd world Anglican terms does not necessarily mean non-liturgical), their movement not only represents the forces reshaping world-wide Anglicanism demographically and geographically, but also theologically, as it indicates the passing of the torch of ecclesiastical and missionary leadership from an increasingly liberal Anglo-Catholicism to Evangelicalism, a shift that has taken place largely within the post-WWII period.
The official document from the meeting committed the member churches to a decade of evangelism, which leads this writer to suggest that if the evangelical Anglicans are only just now getting serious about evangelism, and given that in much of the Global South Anglicanism rubs shoulders with Islam, then we would do well to follow what happens next.
Finally: Why, we may well wonder, is there no parallel movement of similar significance within world Lutheranism, where similar demographical shifts are taking place? The answer perhaps lies along these line: Paradoxically, world Lutheranism is both more de-centralised than Anglicanism (the bonds of ecclesiastical communion are weaker) and yet, as far as Lutheran World Federation member churches are concerned, more strongly influenced by European churches. Funding and financial aid in world Lutheranism is much more critical to the life of 3rd World Lutheran churches than is the case with their Anglican neighbours, and it is controlled by the LWF, headquartered in Geneva. 3rd World Lutheran churchmen seem wary of endangering their funding by speaking out too boldly against the lapses of European churches. There are signs, however, that that is beginning to change as European Lutheranism drifts further away from its biblical and confessional moorings.
Another factor could be that theological liberalism has made greater inroads into 3rd World Lutheranism than is the case in Anglicanism; this could be related to the Pietistic origins of many Lutheran missions in former European colonies in Africa and Asia. Anglican evangelicalism, while a sister movement to Lutheran Pietism, retained a stronger theological basis, grounded partly in the 39 Articles of Religion and partly in more overtly Reformed influences. Lutheran Pietism by and large eschewed strongly confessional influences and became enamoured with theological subjectivism.
But that is a subject for another post!