I've been reading and even watching some of the proceedings of the annual meeting of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, aka the Anglican Communion Network. I jotted down a few bits and pieces of quirkiness that I thought strangely interesting.
FEDERATION: Once upon a time there were folk who threw up their arms in horror at the notion that the Anglican Communion might be "just a federation." "Federation" was seen as something Lutherans might take up, but surely not Anglicans. Anglicans were a communion…not at all the same. At one time or another most of the realignment crowd has sneered at The Episcopal Church folk, headed to perdition it would appear, for even contemplating the possibility of living with other Provinces in the Anglican Communion in something like a federation. Interesting then that the Anglican Communion Network, in its Annual Council meeting, has just ratified a Common Cause Structural Document which the ACN web pages refers to as "Federating" Articles for the Common Cause Partners. The Partners are understood to be a "federation of Jurisdictions." Granted, this Federation in the making is not the end of the deal. The ACN understands the Federation to be a way towards a new improved Anglican entity in North America made necessary because "…the Episcopal Church has embraced de-formation—stunning innovation in Faith and Order—rather than reformation." This from Bishop Duncan.
DE-FORMATION "De-formation" is itself a quirky sort of word. It makes sense, of course, when applied by Bishop Duncan, a bishop of The Episcopal Church who says clearly that ""The American province is lost and something will have to replace it."
PURPLE SHIRTS: There is an interesting post over on Titus One Nine and Anglican TV that consists of a group of pictures from the ACN meeting. Now I know that there were women there. But interestingly in the pictures there are only two women to be found. They seemed to be there by accident. O Well.
SPRITUAL ATTACK AND WARFARE: Then I was interested to hear P.B. Southern Cone, Venables, drag out the language of spiritual warfare. On Tuesday morning P.B. Venables said, "Be prepared to go in recognizing that it is physical, mental and spiritual. You have to put self out in terms of who you are: your temperament, mind, personality. Then be prepared to enter into spiritual warfare" On Tuesday, at the close of the meeting he reflected and offered the following observation:
"I see people under incredible spiritual attack. …
We are not fighting flesh and blood. Read Ephesians 6. This battle is Big. Because it is about God's honor and God's name and God's Word. It is not your battle, dear people. It is God's battle. Let that comfort your hearts. Let that settle your mind."
Now, lest you be confused exactly who is being fought, listen to what PB Venables had to say the opening day about The Episcopal Church,
"…I have dealt since 2001 eyeball to eyeball with the leadership of ECUSA. Don't have any illusions that you can change them. The non-Gospel swallows the Gospel. They preach the non-Gospel. Don't pretend that it will work out. I won't. It can't. A lot of the dialogue is to keep people at the table until we get worn down. Worn down. Totally worn down."
The Episcopal Church, or at least its leadership, is the non-Gospel. We are not worth talking to because our talk is simply a weapon in the fight against the forces of good (read the ACN). The battles then are part of that great war – the war against Satan. TEC gets to play the part of Satan and ACN the powers of the Gospel.
Now I have never particularly liked the language of Spiritual Warfare. Its biblical basis is in a variety of passages that are talking about struggle against powers and principalities. These are important and serious matters that are about the Spirit and spirits, the non flesh and blood realities of power and rule. But in the hands of many conservative evangelicals the notion of Spiritual Warfare gets quickly to be about actual flesh and blood. Satan gets personified, and personified in you and me, or the actions of the ACLU, or the workings of those working for integration, or worse yet inclusion, etc. And we are against THEM. PB Venables says, "I see people under incredible spiritual attack…" He believes, it would appear, that the people of the ACN are being attacked by the miserable leaders of the nasty godless Episcopal Church.
Well, he can have his opinion. The problem is, of course, that his opinion supports the notion that the struggles for the future of the Episcopal Church is a war of flesh and blood. THEY are being attacked by US. THEY in turn have to fight back.
This is not Spiritual Warfare in anything like the sense put forth in Scripture, whose rules are determined by the struggle between good and evil on the massive plain of creation. This is actual warfare between two contending groups of people in the small part of the Christian community which terms itself Anglican. Venables makes the ACN folk out to be the victims and TEC the vicious, as stand-ins for some larger battle, "God's battle."
Spiritual Warfare, viewed from this strange and highly quirky point of view is warfare just as worthless to the spiritual person as any war. It incarnates God into our battles, just as God is invoked in any secular war. God is on one side or the other, and we or they or someone must fight God's fight to win. The forces of good and evil arrayed and the miniscule fights of a small portion of the Christian world with one another are magnified and made the eternal struggle.
Now that I think about it, this is not a quirky bit of stuff from the ACN meeting: it is the rotten core of a call to arms that magnifies the struggles to be faithful by people who are or who have been part of the Episcopal Church to being a battle in the BIG war, you know, the Spiritual War. This is not quirky…this is idolatrous.
As a reminder about War and what it is good for, click on the following.
I may or may not have more to say about the ACN Annual Meeting. (How's that for vague... It reminds me to post - to the right - Dave Walker's cartoon on the subject of vague promises to look into the future, provided one can find the right direction to look, etc...)
The work they actually did confirms the continued move to develop a new Anglican entity in North America to take the place of The Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion, or barring that to be the NA presence in some new improved Anglican Communion. But now I need a shower and perhaps a Scotch.