Wednesday, November 10, 2010


During the very heady
days following Vatican II, the hope for a “one world, one church” in Roman
Catholicism was strong.  Much was made of
the ‘scandal of denominationalism’ in catholic circles, but the reunion was always
understood to be under the Vatican.  I
was swept up, as a new Christian and a new Roman Catholic with those
sentiments.  At that same time, the
charismatic movement was raising its head in the Church.  That ‘fresh wind’ took the staid practices of
Romanism, Lutheranism, and Anglicanism and set the Church on its ear.  Glossilalia, and prayer meetings brought a
liveliness to a religious practice that had grown stuffy and stiff.

For me, there was no
more powerful commentary on the changes of Vatican II than Leonard Bernstein’s
“Mass”.  To the conservative, this
tribute to John F. Kennedy, was a disgrace. But I found in this remarkable musical drama such an icon of the whole
liturgical attempt of humanity’s attempt to seek God that I think it has marked
how I have perceived the creeds’ call to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic
Church.  Bernstein had caught the
incredible spirit of the age to bring the simple but current into the faith
life.  But unlike, the myth of Eden, the
Church, has never been a single unity—a simple place where perfection began.  From Pentecost, we have been an assembly of
disparate peoples trying to find commonality in Jesus Christ. Years ago Raymond
Brown’s little book, The Church the
Apostles Left Behind
captured the struggles that faced the early Church
that the NT seems to gloss over.

If we read the Acts of
the Apostles rightly we find various groups of Christians abounding in the
early church.  And if we study the
history of the 2nd through the 4th centuries, we cannot
help but see how the issue of orthodoxy has plagued us.  We will never be one.  And I do believe that it would not be well
with the soul of the Church for us to be so. After pastoring an ELCA congregation for several years, there is no
reason at all I would want the significant parts of Lutheranism to be part and
parcel of Anglicanism.  It is unique and
appropriate for Lutherans.  Each
denomination expresses something that is unique and important to the worship of
all that is Holy—the worship by different human beings of a singular and
indescribable God.

The same thing applies
for the Episcopal Church and the Church of England.  TEC is not a national or state church as is
the CofE.  It cannot be in the light of
the US Constitution and in the light of how TEC understands itself in
relationship to the people of the United States.  I have never quite understood how TEC works
in those nations that are part of Province X but I would hope that their
understanding of the relationship between church and state are appropriate to
their national milieu in the Philippines, or Honduras or the Virgin Islands.

As someone said, all
theology is local—it all has to do with ‘how it plays in Peoria’-- because
ultimately all theology is relational no matter how much the systematic
professors would try to drain relationship from it.

I have often listened
to some Anglo-Catholics bemoan that women’s ordination or consecration will
threaten the reunification with Rome.  I
have NEVER thought of reunification with Rome as a laudable goal for
Episcopalians or for Anglicans. The uniqueness of the RCC’s response to
reformation in the 16th century marked that denomination with a
character that cannot consider a world-view other than its own. Its emphasis on
obedience and order does not emphasize the liberation and the charisma of
personal responsibility that I find in Episcopalianism. All of these
characteristics are important but not compatible one denomination.   Neither
would I look for a reunification with the Greek or Russian Orthodox churches. Their
forms of spirituality are not, lamentably,  the stuff of the Western minds. Enough time
has gone past for each denomination to have brought their ‘peculiar honors’ to
the Faith of Jesus Christ.  This does not
mean that we cannot glean the greatness of those denominations, but we cannot
regain the fullness of the histories of their traditions.  They can garner from Anglicanism some of the
uniqueness that characterizes us, for the future of the living of
Christianity.  If there is to be any
meaningful reunification, it will come at the local level and most likely due
to economics, however, it will come at the loss of much of the charisma of the
individual denominations.

With the reorganization
of my diocese, I am seeing an interesting trend:  Those churches that left the Iker régime to
stay with TEC but were forced out of their buildings are much more willing to
vision a new way of being Church.  Those
churches that were able because their clergy were willing to stay with TEC with
their buildings, are less likely to care about creative change.  In other words, the status quo has held with
their building. It has always been said that we have an “Edifice Complex” in
the Episcopal Church.  Holy place is
valuable to us.  But a changing world
calls for more flexibility.

If the Anglican
Communion is going to hold together it cannot be with so-called covenants that
are designed to make action by one church an expellable offense.  In order for any Church, national or regional
to be vital means that it must be able to meet the needs of its people.  I have no problem if the Church of Nigeria
needs to make exceptions to the western understanding of marriage to bring the
Gospel to a people who have deeply woven clan issues.  I do not have a problem with those places who
cannot yet embrace the ordination of women because the education of women is
not on a par with men in their societies. But I do have a problem when those local churches tell our church that
they cannot accept us or be in communion with us because we are seeking to
minister to a group that has been excluded from the Church or to ordain those
who are called by Christ to serve in our local churches. I have a problem with
those churches who would bully other churches into compliance simply because
they refuse to be in relationship with us. I have a problem when the lack of education for women is sustained by
the Church as a way to control women or various minorities simply to sustain
male power.  And if numbers of members
are all that is to direct who has say rather than education and reason, there
is no point to church at all.

If the Global South
churches wish to go their own way and not be a part of the Anglican Communion,
I would be very sorry, but I would wish them well. If their history must be on
a track that is different, incorporating more animistic theologies or
syncretism with Islam, or different social customs into their understanding of
what it means to be Christian, I have no problem with that.  But at least acknowledge those social needs
rather than getting outraged at some other Church’s mission to advance the

I do not deny that much
of the kerfuffle in the Anglican Communion at present is a product of the
colonialism that formed us, but we need to be willing to address that as a part
of our discussion with member churches, not pick up our marbles and flounce off
simply because we have not addressed that before.

There will be no
two-tiered Anglican Communion.  We will
either choose to be one or we will choose to walk apart.  It is as simple as that.  I, for one, would choose to be Anglican—but
not one with the present covenant.  It
would be a tremendous loss to Anglicanism if +++Rowan’s legacy would be the
fracturing of the Communion completely.


Muthah+ said...

I had a hard time posting this article. For some reason blogspot is being ditzy. I couldn't post pictures and the format was impossible to control. My appologies to all if this is a bit unreadable. But with my lack of computer skills, I have to take what I can get.

Christian Paolino said...

Well said, regardless.