The Reverend, and often very serious, Professor Ephriam Radner about drives me nuts. Just about the time that I say, "I've had enough Radner," he up and writes something that is meaty indeed and food for the mind and soul.
So it is that I have to recommend his article, Supranational Ecclesiology, in The Living Church online. He begins, as he often seems to, with something that I believe casts matters in a wrong direction. He writes,
"History is not made up of revolutions, sudden wrenchings into new
territory. It is made up of often subtle shifts built up over the long
term. The present reality is always only the sum of the past. And the
future can only emerge from within that past."
Well, that gets my juices going! "Present reality" is not, as he states, "always only the sum of the past," and I do not believe it true that "the future can only emerge from within that past."
Reading that I think, "there is no way I'm going to read the rest of this. We are from two different planets."
But then I did continue reading. The article is astonishingly good, even for the best of Radner's writing, (some of which I must admit is very good.)
Go thou and read the whole thing - Supranational Ecclesiology - and then think about various elements of the discussion that needs to take place concerning The Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican experience / experiment.
In particular, think again (as I am thinking again) of the ways in which "the Anglican Communion" is an idea that is asked to bear more weight than it was meant to bear. Perhaps it is time to walk more lightly with the idea of The Anglican Communion, not asking it to be in any way regulatory, but rather a source of encouragement, not asking its officers and programs to be definitive and directive, but responsive and building up of faithful action where it counts - which is always local.
As for Radner's initial observation about the present as "always only the sum of the past," I cannot disagree more. Of course the present includes the summation of the past, but the summation is not the same as a sum. A summation is already an interpretation.
I am not particularly a good artist, but I am at it all the time these days. And the sum of a particular moment in the past becomes in my reworking a summation that includes elements of the immediate present and more an immediate presence.
How for example did I get from this to this:
There is of course the sum of the past, but there is also a summation of an experience, an interpretation of the elements of the past. There is something new.
Radner knows this well, for at his best he is reworking the past and molding an interpretive world every time he writes. If this were not so we would not be in any sense co-creators with God of the NEW, as in "Behold I make all things new."
I have, of course, all sorts of other issues with Radner's analysis, but I am very grateful for his fine article. All of us interested in Anglican Communion life, history, and future need to read it.