"A Church At War"... required reading
“A CHURCH AT WAR: Anglicans and Homosexuality” by Stephen Bates is a must read for anyone interested in digging deeper into the events and thoughts that lie behind the struggles for control of the future of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. Released first in 2004, it was an immediate success. A paperback version was published in 2005 with updates. I have just finished reading the revised version and all I can say is, “buy this book and read it.”
Bates’ book reminds us that the increasingly harsh exchanges between those who see the acceptance of homosexuals in the Church as wrong and those who see it as a matter of justice are heavily influenced by attitudes unresolved in England for many years. From one perspective, the whole of the current controversy is part of the unfinished business left over from the Elizabethan settlement.
One of the fascinating features of this book is that is written by a journalist, not a theologian, and yet in his professional reporter’s attention to detail Stephen Bates never forgets that the facts reflect, for better or worse, a theological state of affairs. As a result a good bit of moral and theological observation arises from the reporting, and the principle threads of the book carry forward theological matters. As a history of the English evangelical struggle to take over the Church of England this book has no parallel in the Episcopal Church. Still, the concerns about the development of a coup raised by Fr. Jake Stops the World, several writers on the House of Bishops / House of Deputies list and my own essays here and in the Witness do constitute a parallel body of observations. The English evangelicals and the American realignment party are both struggling to take control of the future of these churches in what may be a last ditch effort to disavow the impact of modernity and post modernity.
Some years ago Bishop John A.T. Robinson suggested that a New Reformation might well be underway, or at least in order, one that would finally let go the encumbrances of this strange and dangerous thing called Christendom and instead have a more authentic community of the followers of Jesus the anointed one. It was hard to understand just what such a Christianity would look like – Robinson was somewhat acerbic and academic. Still, Robinson was calling us beyond the profoundly irrelevant posturing that is too much a part of the current power struggles that we see in some of the churches of the Anglican Communion.
It is unclear if Robinson’s hope for a Christianity working beyond modernity’s Christendom will emerge. It is glaringly obvious, from reading Bates’ fine book on a Church at War that whatever our hopes for a more authentic Christianity, particularly one that sees God at work in culture as well as over against culture, those hopes do not lie with the realignment movement or with the English hard line evangelicals.