Canterbury Press, Norwich, UK, 2010
Reviewed by Bruce Upham, formerly on faculty of Trinity Theological College.
This book is the first of an intended series on the topic Christ and Culture, with chapters written by bishops drawn from the Anglican communion around the world.
Consequently, as well as bishops from Britain, other contributors include an Arab bishop from Jerusalem and a Burmese bishop from Burma (Myanmar), each showing how Anglicanism has been adapted to the local situation A chapter is contributed by the Assistant Bishop of Adelaide, the Rt Rev Stephen Pickard.
The intention of the book is to seek to establish what is the Anglican identity.
What is it that links these very diverse bishops and churches?
Is it that they all look to the Archbishopric of Canterbury as the centre and focal point of the denomination — while vigorously denying any coercive powers? At most, Canterbury can exercise a moral authority.
In common with many churches, the Anglican communion has been wracked by the question of homosexuality, brought to a head by the consecration as a bishop of an openly practising gay priest in the USA, causing severe strains.
There were two hundred bishops, including the Archbishop of Sydney, who did not attend the last gathering of Anglican bishops at Canterbury in 2008.
Does the book fulfil its stated intention?
While it clearly demonstrates the wide diversity of Anglicanism, it fails to spell out clearly what the various parts have in common.
It may be that it is difficult or impossible to put it into words.
At the same time, it needs to be said that the book contains much of value — insights and comments that are equally relevant to the Uniting Church.