Is it time to step back?
I suggested in my last post that Professor Grieb's proposal to the House of Bishops, that the Episcopal Church withdraw for a time from participation in Anglican Communion bodies, had considerable merit, and that a variation on that proposal might be considered now.
While working on this next post the remarkable writer of the blog The Pluralist posted an entry titled, SACRIFICE! which pretty much says it all. It is a powerful piece and puts in play a lot of bits and pieces of commentary that has been floating around. Adrian Worsfold, the Pluralist, writes wonderfully and has a talent for drawing. It is enough to make most of us in blogland jealous.
Adrian begins, "...there's a kind of opinion gathering pace about it now being time for The Episcopal Church and even the Anglican Church of Canada to offer themselves as sacrifices." He then proposes that, "If The Episcopal Church is going to make a sacrifice, it has to sacrifice itself. If the Anglican Church of Canada felt it was being ignored at Lambeth, it too might want to join its neighbour."
Please read his essay in its entirety. But for tasty bits of the full meal, here are some of his most important points:
"The point about sacrifice is that you give up something very significant. But it is not pointless. A sacrifice has some sort of hope built into it: that by doing the sacrifice something is cleared to allow something better to happen."
"That free offering is The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada removing themselves from active participation in Anglican Communion structures."
Better to give way first, to pull away and wait. See what happens. ...The only thing to do when pulling out is to be prophetic, that is to be fully welcoming of all that will come in."
I am reminded of the Presiding Bishop's assessment of the Lambeth Conference, where in a brief message she said, "The Anglican Communion is suffering the birth pangs of something new, which none of us can yet fully appreciate or understand, yet we know that the Spirit continues to work in our midst."
The Pluralist also couches the struggle in a 'turn the other cheek' mode: "better to give way first, to pull away and wait..." There is in the image of giving way the possibility that this is itself a way of struggling to participate in the birth of something new, something quite remarkable, and that the first signs of this will be "to be fully welcoming of all that will come in."
In the essay I have been working on the punch line was to be a proposed letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury from the Episcopal Church. I am very glad that The Pluralist wrote first, for he sets the matter of sacrifice in place before us. My concern about the Grieb proposal carries forward to the Pluralist's proposal. It concerns the matter of sacrifice.
Psalms 51 says this (vs 17-18 BCP) "Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice, but you take no delight in burnt-offerings. The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."
It should break our heart to step out of the Anglican Communion. But for the good of something yet to come perhaps that is the only way to go. We die so that something new can be born.
Here is the sort of letter I was imagining. It is addressed to the Archbishop of Canterbury and to the Anglican Consultative Council.
"The Episcopal Church wishes to affirm that it is, for its part, in full communion with all the churches in the Anglican Communion and that this fellowship of churches constitutes our most immediate family in the wider ecumenical witness of Christian churches. In particular we affirm that we are, for our part, in communion with the See of Canterbury. We recognize that every such affirmation must be met by mutual recognition for that communion to indeed be full and it is our prayer that the several churches of the Anglican Communion and in particular the See of Canterbury, and therefore the Church of England, will be able to affirm this state as well.
We in the Episcopal Church are clearly and painfully aware that some of our actions and decisions of the past several decades have been seen as disruptive of the common life of the communion. Most notably these have concerning the inclusion of women and gay and lesbian persons in the full life of the church including episcopal leadership. We believe that these actions and decisions, meager and slow in coming as they are, are none the less the expression of profound faith and belief that we are living out our vocation as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ and doing so guided by the Holy Spirit.
We realize that these actions, decisions and beliefs have contributed to a time of confusion and limitations of relationships within the Anglican Communion.
We wish you to know that we stand ready to withdraw from the councils of the Anglican Communion for the sake of the fellowship we so strongly desire. We seek your advice on the matter, but unless otherwise persuaded we intend to propose at our next General Convention that we voluntarily withdraw from active participation in the several agencies of the Anglican Communion until such time we might mutually deem appropriate.
We consider ourselves in full communion will all the churches of the Anglican Communion as currently constituted. We wish it to be understood, however, that the continued assignment of bishops by other Anglican churches to serve in the jurisdiction of this church will lead changes in the relationships we have with those churches. We will be in a state of impaired relation with them. The establishment of a new North American Province recognized by some Provinces as the legitimate Anglican church in this jurisdiction will lead to a break in relationship with the sponsoring Provinces.
In all this we remain committed to the vision of the Anglican Communion as a fellowship of churches and live in the hope that our relations with other member churches will be strengthened as we live out our particular vocations as churches and our collective hope of unity in Christ Jesus. We look forward to continued good relations and full communion with many of the member churches of the Anglican Communion and in particular with the Church of England."
This is of course only an imagining. It is a rough draft as well. But the idea is this: We offer ourselves, as the Pluralist suggests. At the same time we affirm that we, for our part, are in communion with the member churches but hold some of them accountable for their actions in North America.
Well, there it is then.