A correspondent from
Her suggestion is that some liberals are hoping that the divorce is “happening at last.”
For want of a better term, I am part of the group classed as liberal. Do I hope that the divorce is happening at last? For the past few days I have been thinking about that. Has the struggle to work through the wildly tangled mess that the Anglican Communion has become simply lead some of us to hope for an end to the craziness and a return to a place where we can focus on something else?
I am sure it has, for some. Just as in the mess of a marriage whose death seems imminent, perhaps it is normal for some to hope we can just get it over with and get on with our lives. This destructive mad shouting match about Biblical Authority is also a shouting match about people, their beliefs, their fitness for the basic ordination as Christians, their morals, their sex lives, and of course (so the picture is complete) some posturing about money. It is as if the union that is the Anglican Communion is breaking up just as marriages do, with people questioning one another’s faithfulness and destroying one another’s hope.
But nowhere in all this is there much said about love. That’s the trouble. The troubled relationships between Primates, Provinces, and dioceses leads to impaired communion, breaks in communion, and outright rejection. The trouble is all about faith and hope. Faith and hope endure, and no doubt it is important to hold the true faith and to have a reasonable hope. But it is hard for us to remember that, actually, love too endures, and Paul suggests it is the greatest of these enduring things.
It is easy to lose our way, as I found out last week. A list of the participants and guests at the Third South to South Encounter in
That is, across great gulfs of how we express our faith, even to the point of exclusion, and what we see as our hope and how it is realized, the enduring possibility of the sort of love that involves regard and respect and even care came through.
Well, it was an interesting exercise in waking up.
So, let’s keep awake (an appropriate call the first Sunday in Advent). Keep awake. Keep our eye on the prize. This prize is NOT about the Anglican Communion per se. The prize is about love. We need to keep awake and keep love alive.
What the Anglican Communion is good for, in its better days, is that it can be an instrument of loving kindness. All of the talk about the instruments of unity pale in comparison to the Communion itself as an instrument of loving kindness.
In its bad days the Anglican Communion is about the machinery of death. It works its powers to a hierarchical and monarchical end. The predominant color of Episcopal purple becomes on these bad days more important, seemingly, than the multi-colored expanse of faces of those who belong to the communion.
I do not hope that the news from
The Anglican Communion will indeed collapse if all we can do is talk about whose biblically based faith is orthodox, real, righteous, or even intelligible. It will collapse if all we can get our minds around are the eschatological hopes that this or that party holds, and having done so condemn those who dream differently then we do, who dream of universal salvation or who dream of judgment and 144,000 or so saved.
It will indeed collapse if the discussion about Biblical Authority becomes the shouting match of this coming Lambeth Conference. Ruth Gledhill suggests that the question of Biblical Authority will dominate the Conference. I hope she is wrong. Bishops behaving badly about Scripture is no help.
Better we should love the Holy Scriptures than that we should have faith or hope in them. I believe we need to practice the same love towards the complex and often mysterious thing that is the Scriptures that we practice with the complex mysterious people we love.
But here is the real hope I have. I hope that the Anglican Communion does indeed get through this strange time more or less intact and without getting too much more rigorous as an organization. We really don’t need a world wide church. As members of a Province of the Anglican Communion what I think we really need are friends out there beyond the confines of our own Church who we love and respect, and who love and respect us.
Most of the time belonging to the Anglican Communion has been a comfort. It signaled that we are working at being one, even if it is in one corner of the world wide community of Christians. It gives hope that perhaps if we can do it with this strange collection of peoples throughout the world, we can do it with, say, the Methodists or the Roman Catholics or even the Quakers.
That is, being part of the Anglican Communion is a way to practice ecumenical life. And the whole point of this practice is not primarily to share a common faith, or a common hope. The point of this practice is to love one another as Christ loved us.
I hope that the Anglican Communion endures because the love that exists among members of the various churches in the Anglican Communion endures. But that loving kindness will not endure unless we practice, practice, practice.
What then to say about the current crisis? Well, on one level we are certainly in a crisis, and we will need to be wise as serpents about all the ecclesial machinations, bad theology and ill feelings that get manifested. On the other hand, the only way we fail is if we distance ourselves of those we have loved and refuse to practice that loving kindness across the boundaries, even the boundaries of perceived correct faith and hope.
If the Anglican Communion makes it through these tough times we will still find much to disagree about. In
Meanwhile Bishop Robinson will still be bishop of
I hope the Anglican Communion endures, but actually I know that such hope is secondary. My primary hope is that it be an instrument of that which will endure, namely loving kindness. Paul was right, “Faith, hope and love endure, these three, and the greatest of these is love.”