3/05/2005

Why the so called crisis in the Anglican Communion is no crisis of mine.

I am a priest in the Episcopal Church, honored to be a Canon in the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, and a long time advocate for this strange and wonderful thing called The Anglican Communion. I have been told by conservative activists that there is a crisis in the Anglican Communion brought on by the actions of our General Convention and the Anglican Church of Canada Diocese of New Westminster. They blame this crisis on the unwarranted actions of various progressive forces in the Episcopal Church, who exercising the majority in decision making bodies of this Church, have led the church away from the historic and true faith.

Declaring themselves out of communion with those who identify with the decisions made by General Convention they demand our repentance unless we can show just cause before the bar of some Anglican forum for our actions. The latest form of this demand is that we show either our repentance or our convincing reasons for action to the Anglican Consultative Council, from which Council we are asked to absent ourselves save as petitioners.

All of this is claimed to be a reasoned response to an assault on the faith once delivered. All of this is described as a crisis which might well lead to the breakup of the Anglican Communion.

All of this – the claim of crisis, the claim that what we have done is unwarranted, that what has been done breaks from the true faith, the demand that we present ourselves before a bar of former colleagues, now our judge and jury – all of this is the dung of bad religion.

The perpetrators of the crisis mentality want us all to understand that this break is terrible, that it will lead to the Episcopal Church being a “denomination” only, and the Anglican Communion being fractured and no longer a player in the world of world churches.

Give me a break: The Episcopal Church IS a denomination. That’s the way it is in the United States where there is no state religion and where the religion of state leaders looks like the worse sort of self-aggrandizing religious clap-trap. We are a denomination. The Anglican Communion is not yet, and hopefully never will be, a “world church” like the Roman Catholic Church. It may be more like the Orthodox Churches, clustered around ancient patriarchies. But it is not even that. The Anglican Communion is “a fellowship” of Churches.

The claim is made that the Anglican Communion is in a particularly grave moment of crisis. The fact is that the Anglican Communion has been in some sort of crisis from its inception.

That there was any spread of the Anglican line of the episcopate beyond the English Bishops sworn to the Monarch of England was due to a rupture in the communion of the English episcopate. (More power to the Scots!) The crisis presented by the various catholic and evangelical parties in England, by what is now considered fairly tame biblical study applied by a missionary bishop, the crisis of the slave trade, the inclusion of persons of color in ordained ministry, the civil war in the United States, the independence movements in much of the English colonial system, the change in the role of women including ordination to the priesthood and episcopate, and now the challenges presented by the inclusion of gay and lesbian persons as full participants in the ministries of the church – all have been viewed as the fault line, as the moment of truth, as the “shift in tectonic plates” that spells doom for the Communion.

The lie in all this is that Religion has a stake in the development of crisis, so the crisis gets magnified to serve religious ends. Such ends may include lofty matters of doctrine and discipline and these ends are invoked by those who believe they hold the true religion. But such ends also include less lofty matters as power, perceived authority, funds, alliances for such power and authority, and the like.

We are told by the conservative activists that the Anglican Communion is at a turning point, it is in crisis, and that it may split apart. These activists claim that such a split would be awful. They yell, “Crisis, crisis, crisis.” Yet the truth of the matter is they want that crisis.

If the crisis is proclaimed they can step in and become the true voice of Anglicanism in North America. Without a crisis there is no future in their effort to become the righteous remnant in North America recognized as the community of churches that belong to the Anglican Communion.

But what if the Crisis is not real except in the minds of those convinced by the Network, the AAC, and other realignment theologians and partisans? If the crisis was not believed to be real, perhaps the future of the Anglican Communion might be seen to be based on nothing more than the occasions of invitation to Lambeth, the coordination of good works by Churches whose leaders gather at Lambeth, and the common discussions of Primates. Perhaps, then, those who did not wish to gather when invited could just stay away.

What has made the crisis seem real is that some of those invited by the Archbishop of Canterbury threaten not to come if others who are invited come.

I say to the Archbishop of Canterbury, invite who you wish. I hope you will invite us, but no matter, invite who you will. I say to those who don’t want to go to table with others who will be invited, stay away. You will be missed.

And I would hope that the grace of the ABC would be such that he would be equally understanding of why some might not come if others are invited.

The only crisis here is the pretense of crisis.


No comments:

Post a Comment

OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with comment moderation but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.
Rule: PLEASE DO NOT SIGN OFF AS ANONYMOUS: BEGIN OR END THE MESSAGE WITH A NAME - ANY NAME. ANONYMOUS commentary will be cut.