2/05/2007

Well, there it is: The Telegraph declares Commonwealth and Anglican Communion fading ambitions.

From the Telegraph: "The Anglican Communion is one of several supra-national bodies (such as the Commonwealth) whose ambitions no longer correspond to reality. Dr Williams should let it fade away, and instead apply his intellect to holding together our national Church."

I have no idea what all this really means in England but what it means here is that at least some folk in England (the Telegraph writers for example) see the Anglican Communion as a leftover of failed English ambitions. These were ambitions as Empire I suppose.

We would do well to listen. Perhaps the Anglican Communion as it is now constituted is disliked by former British and US colonial folk every bit as much as the British and American empires are by people all over the world. Of course the US gets the big portion of this now, but England has certainly had its lumps. Interestingly the Global South crowd mostly springs from places of British missionary activity. Of course they were always the big missionary players, having had an Empire in which to move.

The realignment crowd will need to pay attention as well: the current seemingly cordial connections between American realignment folk and the Global South folk will not easily last. The charges of arrogance directed at US and English institutions and leaders flows over fairly easily from civil to religious entities, and flows from institutions and leaders of the Episcopal Church and the Church of England to the emerging institutions and leaders of the realignment crowd.

The Telegraph seems to think it is time for England to get out of the supra-national game and pay attention to matters at home. Not a bad idea. Not a bad idea either for most of us on this side of the water. We are in a miserable war and about to spend more money than anyone in his or her right mind can comprehend, much less count. We will spend it with abandon, if not outright pillage. We will then be parsimonious with the poor, the refugees and the helpless. It seems a time to apply the call for stewardship to the taxes we pay and the uses to which they are put.

The Church in England and in the US, and indeed almost everywhere, makes a valiant effort to do right by people. But what needs to be done involves national priorities and we might as well get to work trying to redirect the focus of our governments to new ends. Better home rule is a reasonable order of the day and any church for the nation ought to take that seriously.

So long as the Anglican Communion is viewed as a supra-national body with some sort of organizational agenda, diplomatic portfolio and ecclesial whammy, the thing is indeed doomed. Modeled on the Commonwealth it is past its prime, modeled on church patriarchies it has the makings of ecclesial bombast. Such things we might well want to allow to fade away.

But I still believe there is a need for fellowship – not only among Christians of good will who share so much, but among their Churches. This has nothing to do with right reason, right tradition or even right religion. That is decided on the ground, in place and in time. It has everything to do with moving beyond the arrogance of Empire and the colonialisms and neo-colonialisms that plague us all. That is what the bond of affection is finally about.

Jesus Christ came that we might have life and have it abundantly. Abundant living, whatever else it entails, is about life together. It is not about life in agreement, by the way. That (as they say) is another story.

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