Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Defenders of the Faith

I must admit that I am not an Anglophile who hangs on the British monarch’s every word. I generally do not pay any attention to them. But because of the recent events in the Church of England that readily affect the Anglican Communion, I have been paying a bit more attention. I caught the Queen’s Christmas message and then noted the similar discussion from the Archbishop of Canterbury in his New Year’s message and in combination it created a deep sadness. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWwVoCVCEZo   The sadness came from the sense that these messages were more about keeping the secular kingdom intact rather than about the life of a living God incarnate in our midst.

Her Majesty began her message recalling the nearly 400 years of the King James Version of the Bible. I guess if one of my forbearers had be a part of the endeavor of producing the first really accessible Bible in English I would give it a plug too, but that is not the point of a Christmas message. Would not the ‘Defender of the Faith’ want to convey to her people the importance of the Christ event? Granted, she must speak to a diverse population, but it IS a Christmas message. One must stand within one’s own faith in order to speak of faith and I got no inkling from her speech that she had any relationship with Christ at all.

Dr. Williams’ New Year’s message was also about the KJV http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/3107—a whole year before the 400th anniversary of the translation in 2012. He talks of the “big picture” of life that the KJV gives. As we get closer to this anniversary of the KJV I am sure that both the advantages and the disadvantages of this version will be discussed. But Bishop Williams never mentions Christ in his message at all. His message seems to be crafted so as not to offend anyone of any or no religious affiliation. And perhaps as Archbishop of Canterbury he must do that in a pluralistic society. But as the leader of the Anglican Communion I would have expected that a statement supporting the KJV would come from a deeper place of faith. Both the Queen and the ABC seemed fearful of offending , and in that fear, I found them offending in their complacency and dusty in their dutifulness.

If we, as people of faith, are going to be able to be truly accommodating to those of different or even no faith, we must be willing to stand steadfastly within our own faith welcoming others to do the same in theirs. We can only respect in another what we already know in ourselves. We do nothing but trivialize our own faith if we water down our own experience of God and/or Church in order to make space for another’s. In other words, if I am going to respect another faith experience, I need to be able to articulate my own so that I can respect the encounter of the holy that another faith might bring.

Part of the charisma of Anglicanism has been its ability to accept such a wideness of faith experience: low to high, Catholic and Protestant, congregational and hierarchical at one time. But it has always done this by being clear about teaching a deeply committed life in Jesus Christ. As a faithful Christian I have more in common with a faithful Muslim, a faithful Buddhist or a faithful Hindu because we all understand the importance of the Holy in our lives. It allows us to live in greater peace when we can know God’s love however it is mediated to us.

The Queen and the ABC both have faith. I know that and most of their subjects know that. But whoever is writing their scripts are fearful of that faith. The British fear of giving offence is winning rather than the clear Gospel message that God is in charge. The Holy conquers fear. This is the message of Christmas and the New Year no matter our faith. The Holy is in our midst.


Anonymous said...

Why should people WANT to hear about their government leaders' religious beliefs? Shouldn't there be a separation of church and state?
How can you have a plural society when one religion/church is guaranteed privileges, even guaranteed a place in the legislature and the head of state HAS to belong to this group?

Wendy said...

Thank you. This is what's real.

Muthah+ said...

Anon, please give yourself a name of some sort so that others can refer to your comments.

Re. the post. The issue is that there IS NO separation of church and state in the UK. And it is precisely this issue that makes it difficult to see the ABC as an "instrument of unity" for the Anglican Communion and impossible with the pending Anglican Covenant.

Terri said...

Well said, Muthah+. I have been consistently disappointed in Rowan and feel he has done a terrible job in his role as ABC. Sad sad sad. I'm less surprised that the queen was more secular in her speech, but even that is unfortunate for a Christmas message.

(also, I like your quote from Gregory of Naziansus)

Barb said...

It's very interesting to read this from a UK perspective ! I'm not an Anglican or a monarchist, so have no inclination to defend either Rowan or Elizabeth, and have little expectation of either of them.

But it is strange to read that I'm a 'subject' and that there's no separation of church and state in these parts, because life isn't like that at all, even if that's the theory on paper.

This is definitely not a criticism, because I enjoy reading your blog - it's just interesting to know how other people see us. I probably have some misconceptions about Texas too !

PS Don't ever suggest in Scotland or Wales that the Church of England has power over the whole UK !

Muthah+ said...

Thanks for your comment. I have spent only a few months in the UK and most of that time was spent visiting sites and family locations. I do not know what it means to be a Brit no matter how Celtish and Anglo-Saxon my roots.

I am well aware that the Episcopal Church of Scotland it different from the CofE. And of course the Kirk in Scotland still is on its own. Iwas unaware that Wales was separate from the CofE.

It is always interesting to see how others see us Texasn or Americans over the world. But it is really unnerving to find that the ABC would function as an Instrument of Unity with such a poor information about what TEC is really like.