It is as if a flurry of gaffes was somehow required to close out the year in Anglican-Land.
First there was the amazing sound of silence from The Church of Nigeria webpages concerning the ordination and consecration of four, count them four, more bishops for CANA (The Convocation of Anglicans in North America.) It's been three weeks and nothing. Well, there's been lots of things going on, what with Christmas, for which the Archbishop of Nigeria wrote a note. Also on their web pages was the famous "Carnival for Christ" (perhaps you missed that), an article on nomadic mission, and oh yes, the GAFCON (Global Anglican Future Conference). But there seems to have been no time to say much about having put enough bishops in North America to start a new Church. Well, there it is.
Then there was the gaffe complete with irony in dismissing the vicar of a St. Nicholas, Atwater, California, a small parish in the Diocese of San Joaquin on Christmas. There has been much said about this and some day the bishop will have to answer up. Meanwhile the vicar Fr. Fred Risard has responded by a simple desire to continue to work with Episcopalians in Atwater.
But the really out with a large thud and an almost funny gaffe is the announcement of the upcoming GAFCON itself. First off, who in the world thought up this truly great acronym? I mean, if that's what the letters spell out, think of someting else to call it. But there it is.
GAFCON however is becoming an embarrassment. Announced by "orthodox leaders," - a group of Primates from the Global South consortium and a variety of western bishops and two priests - GAFCON has been challenged by Dr. Poon and Archbishop Anis, bishop of Egypt and Primate of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East. In turn it appears that a response from an "orthodox Primate" turns out to have been written in part, or screened, or otherwise visited, by a bishop in America. The accusations are flying fast on this one.
Thinking Anglicans, Episcopal Cafe, In a Godly Direction, Baby Blue, Stand Firm, and yes David Virtue have all added to the mix - the mix being that the gaffe is greater than a pratfall, more than tripping over one's shoe laces, but not perhaps as bad as Wylie Coyote, given to walking off cliffs. Still, there it is, a really big end of year gaffe.
We are warned, however, never to take such a gaffe as a simple bit of stumbling. The Pluralist has done a real service in warning us that there may be method and madness both in GAFCON's gaffes.
Meanwhile, in the realm of gaffes of omission, it appears the Archbishop of Canterbury did not ask the Bishop of London if he could come in and preside at a Eucharist for gay and lesbian folk in London. A bit of a harrumph seems to have been heard on this one.
Then there are the greater gaffes of omission: It has taken several days for there finally to be any word from any Anglican personage regarding the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Ekklesia in England finally did so in a fine article, pointed to by Episcopal Cafe. Giving credit where it is due, Bishop Michael Nazir Ali spoke in prayer and reflection on the assassination. Where are the others?
And of course it is no gaffe, but rather a tragedy, that one more year of the War has gone on without remark by Anglican leaders anywhere. This year there were 899 US casualties, the largest number in any year since the war started. A total coalition forces casualty list now stands at 4,209 and a conservative count of Iraqi civilians dead at almost 90,000. There are more than 32,000 wounded coalition forces.
This is no gaffe. This is silence, a silence much worse than any surrounding four bishops leaping in Virginia, one priest being canned in California, or anything GAFCON is about. But of course we are not talking about gaffes here. We are talking about a war brought on by the will of secular princes. Where are the princes spiritual on this one?
When bishops are made, I believe in my heart that they participate in some way in a vision of the peaceable kingdom and for a moment actually know that they are ordained to be princes not of the old order where caprice, will, opinion, dire action, subterfuge or even political savvy reign, but where justice and mercy are met together and reign. We hope and expect that that vision will somehow continue to hold for them and for us. But we need signs of that vision of the peaceable kingdom every once and a while.
We need to pray for all Anglican bishops, and for our churches, that they and we not become triumphalist, princes of this world, rapacious or just plain dumb. We need to hold them to the vision that we all might hold - one in which we are better for our love of the Lord and aspire to the peaceable kingdom, even if we don't live there too often.
In the meanwhile, to quote Hunter S. Thompson, "There are many cruel Rooms in the mansion, and many deep holes in the Road.” Dr. Thompson, may peace be upon him, is only a modest prophet, but when he is right, he is right.
It’s been a pit of a year in Anglican-Land, and in on the whole planet for that matter, and the mansion that is God’s house for the Church Militant is still under construction. This side of the Peaceable Kingdom there are indeed many cruel Rooms in the mansion and many deep holes in the Road.
There have been several sparks of light however.
Last year the Archbishop of York pitched his tent in York Minster as a peace vigil. This year he cut up his clergy collar in protest against the President of Zimbabwe. The Presiding Bishop and loads of other Anglicans made it to Korea, North and South, to continue the Church's long term witness to reunification and peace. The House of Bishops in a respectful and finally gentle way simply said "No." Regular ol' Episcopalians were not convinced that they were part of a devilish cabal but simply part of the Episocpal Church and went about doing their regular round of prayer and work. Anglicans all over the world did the same mostly unmoved by statements of Primates and other princes of the church to the contrary.
Still, I look in hope for something more this coming year. It is time for less cruelty in the rooms in the mansion that is the Church Militant. It is time for us to mirror the peaceable kingdom.
It is time for the Lion of Nigeria and the Lamb of New Hampshire to lie down together even if that seems unseemly and impossible. (I know Isaiah speaks of the young lion and the fatling, but the Archbishop of Nigeria is not young and I dare not call the Bishop of New Hampshire a fatling.) Lion and lamb will do.
It is time for more blessing and less cursing.
It is time to let our yes be yes and our no be no.
It is time to fess up: We in our part of Anglican Land ordain women and we bless gay people and others don't have to like or understand it, but there it is.
It is time to look to the future, to a finer time and a better dream.
It is time our bishops and all the rest of us got out of the control business and into the empowerment of vision, because without vision we are the dead dragging the dead into another dead year.
This is what we got this year:
Next year, perhaps after those who wish to visit again at Lambeth and anywhere else for that matter, perhaps we will get something else. Perhaps a coat of many colors, or the mantle of peace. Who knows?
But for now: All the blessings for the New Year. With folks in Anglican Land it seems impossible, but with God all things are possible.
We live in hope.