6/09/2009

Gledhill on "God is Back," disestablishment, Anglican possibilities, etc.

Ruth Gledhill is a bit like the girl with the curl: When she is good she is very very good and when she is bad she is horrid. (Actually she is seldom horrid, and besides even then she writes well.) She has just posted an essay, "God is Back author: 'They do not see their job as bums on seats."

She uses a review of John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge's book, "God is Back" as a basis for a wider reflection on what it means to be Anglican, the problems of establishment, the possibilities of building on the re-emergence of interest in God, God talk, and such. It's a good read. So read it.

Two tidbits particularly struck me:

"The Church of England is a living example of culture wars and the difficulty of being within the Anglican Communion. I remember going to Nigeria and seeing some Anglicans there. They are a very, very different variety of Anglican to what you get here. There is a challenge there to do with the breadth of the communion.

The Episcopal Church in the US, meanwhile, was an example of what the Church of England could become. 'But there are also all these people who have defected to the African churches.' The last three decades had seen mass defections to more conservative or 'harder' forms of Christianity, he said. On the other hand, he did not see in the US as much of the social gospel as practised in the UK, particularly in London's east end."

She ends her essay with this, "The interest in God and all His works at the moment is huge. It is a tragedy that the Church of England and Anglican Communion are not better 'positioned' to take advantage of it. Maybe it is time to call in the economists." I'm not sure it is economists who will do the positioning best, but for sure it is time to get serious about positioning the Gospel, assuming that the Gospel is bang-on central to the getting some clarity on God.

That last remark, concerning positioning is an appropriate segue into a quote from Bishop Frank Weston, Bishop of Zanzabar way back when this was a colonial episcopate. (Thanks to E. Perren Hayes for the heads-up). He spoke to the Catholic Congress in 1923, where the righteous were gathered, and had this to say,

"But I say to you, and I say it with all the earnestness that I have, that if you are prepared to fight for the right of adoring Jesus in His Blessed Sacrament, then, when you come out from before your tabernacles, you must walk with Christ, mystically present in you, through the streets of this country, and find the same Christ in the peoples of your cities and villages. You cannot claim to worship Jesus in the tabernacle if you do not pity Jesus in the slum.... It is folly, it is madness, to suppose that you can worship Jesus in the sacrament and Jesus on the throne of glory, when you are sweating Him in the bodies and souls of His children.... You have your Mass, you have your altars, you have begun to use your tabernacles. Now go out into the highways and hedges, and look for Jesus in the ragged and naked, in the oppressed and the sweated, in those who have lost hope, and in those who are struggling to make good. Look for Jesus in them; and when you have found him, gird yourself with His towel of fellowship and wash His feet in the person of His brethren."

Hoooweeee... talk about knocking one out of the park! The Anglican Communion, the CofE, and TEC and all the churches in the communion have rich mission histories and can hold their own with any band of the righteous. The best answer to those who are disinclined to stay with the Anglican Churches of the West is to go about and " Look for Jesus in them; and when you have found him, gird yourself with His towel of fellowship and wash His feet in the person of His brethren."

2 comments:

  1. I'm afraid that I just don't see a "huge" interest in God-talk on this side of the Atlantic. I see the contrary, a growing hostility to religion in general and to Christianity in particular corresponding to declining church membership and attendance across the board. Talk of huge interest might have been true 20 years ago, but now I see a growing (and ferocious) reaction against the dominance of conservative evangelical Christianity in American politics and public life. All forms of Christianity (from liberal to fundamentalist) are suffering as the reaction becomes as simplistic, narrow-minded, and rigid as the religion it opposes.

    Right now, Christianity appears to be completely identified with right wing politics in the American popular mind, as though Christianity is but the sectarian extension of the Republican party (and the Republican party becomes the political extension of a sectarian movement). And now that Republican politics have fallen on hard times, even forms of Christianity that in no way sympathize or endorse a right wing political agenda are suffering.

    It's damn hard to be the instrument of the Lord's peace sowing love in the midst of hatred, pardon in the face of injury, union in the midst of discord, faith in the midst of doubt, hope in the face of despair, light in the place of darkness, and joy where there is sadness when all you hear on teevee is ever louder and more desperate choruses of "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition."

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  2. I've seen that, too, Counterlight. The orthodox/Fundamentalist approach to our religion has, perhaps irrevocably, damaged Christianity. Even here in the South, the general feeling about Christianity is that it's a promise that was not kept.

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