Two amazingly good questions have been raised about the future of the Anglican Communion:

  1. What are the arguments for and against the Anglican Covenant?
  2. What does the Church of England's rejection of the Anglican Covenant mean for the Anglican Communion?

I fear that both will be closed, along the lines of Who might replace Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury?

Setting aside the "too localized" argument (which I think has been dealt with), I do forsee two questions being raised.

The one that will be called out is "Are these too speculative?" The one that I suspect is going to be felt but not addressed is "Do we really want to talk church politics?"

The two are related, I'll grant you that. Still, I would like to pull out what I think is the larger question - Are we willing to allow questions about current church polity that address political questions, assuming that the questions are, like all good questions, otherwise looking for answerable questions, and are not rude in their demeanor?

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I am the one who asked both questions (and thank you for your compliments).

With the Anglican Covenant question, I'm hoping that the answers will draw out relevant issues of doctrine, and competing visions for what Anglicanism ought to be like, more than "horse race" analysis of how many votes each faction has. There are, I think, some important issues in play, including how churches can approach internal dissent, maintain fellowship with one another, and so on. All of this comes from an Anglican understanding of what the Church is, which is certainly on-topic for this site ("specific doctrines or doctrinal traditions").

I also think that the question would be weaker - or at least different - if it made no reference to current events. The current controversy raises all sorts of related questions, which depend on the common context. If I tried, on my own, to separate out the issues into more abstract questions (say, "What is the Anglican view of a bishop's authority?", "What does it mean for communion to be impaired?", etc.), then I've presupposed my own way of viewing the problem, and I wouldn't be able to find out what Anglicans think are the issues at stake - which is what I want to know!

This is not too different from how we handle inter-denominational questions; it just so happens that the fault lines here are within a single denomination. One effect of that is that the situation is a little murkier: in a question about Calvinist versus Arminian views, there are clear and separate authorities and traditions that can be referred to, whereas here the divisions are not so stark or firmly established. That may make such questions harder to answer, but I don't see that there's a fundamental difference.

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For me, if political questions are off the table, then our future is in doubt. I don't think anyone would say I'm not interested in doctrine, theology, or practice - but I would also argue that church polity is a treasure trove of good questions about how Christians actually practice.

We have no problem asking about filioque, because in our minds that's "doctrine." A thousand years ago, that would have been "politics." I'd argue, we hit the inerrancy question in a lot of ways, but we tend to avoid tackling the issue head on, because that's "politics," even though it is just as much about "doctrine."

Church governance is clearly a matter of politics, but I'd also argue its doctrine. I think I've said before the two things that tend to define any given denomination are soteriology and governance. We have a few questions on governance, but they are all fairly abstract - questions like Papal Infallability, Apostolic Succession, Congregationalist polity, etc...

We are willing to talk about the "safe" issues, but I'd argue not the relevant ones.

People want to know (or at least should want to know):

  • Why is the church split over same-sex blessing?
  • Why is the church split over inspiration & authority of scripture? and
  • Why is the church split over governance?

And, if we're willing to discuss institutions (which we should), why are we afraid to talk personalities who define those institutions? Luther taking on the Catholic church is okay, but Luter becoming the head of the SBC would probably scare a lot of people off.

I, for one, would love to ask "What does Fred Luter about X, Y, & Z?" but I suspect it would be closed and would scare off some people. In the Canterbury question, I really took offense at the "localized" charge, but I'm realizing I avoided the "speculative" one.

And that brings me back to the original place which is this - Why is every prognostication about the future considered speculative?

David Brooks, Nate Silver, and a whole host of other calm, rational people can intelligently and academically discuss what is "likely" going to happen, and do so in a way that brings light and not heat to the matter. I read fivethirtyeight.com on a regular basis. You cannot tell me that kind of analysis would not be of interest to experts and students alike.

I'm not suggesting that we should be all about handicapping the next church vacancies, but we should be encouraging questions that are most relevant - the "What happens next?" questions are, in my opinion, right on target.

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Just got to phrase it in a way that asks for objective answers and not intentionally foster discussion (not that that's a bad thing).

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But, is "What are the likely outcomes?" itself objective? I'd answer yes. What are the likely outcomes of the Republican Primary? The most likely outcome is Romney. Santorum is the second most likely. Gingrich & Paul are longshots. Nobody else is on the ballot. That's a completely fact-based answer that is speculative. –  Affable Geek Mar 27 '12 at 18:22

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