I have just returned from a conference on the Future of Christianity by Diana Butler Bass. She tosses statistics around like a politician, but I am more inclined to believe hers. She shows how the Church has declined radically in the years I have served as an ordained person. But at the same time she shows that perhaps we have “bottomed” out at this point and may be on the rebound. If I was not cognizant of the history of the church in the world, I would crawl in a hole and call myself a failure. But as she said two years ago when I attended another conference she did, history shows that the Church as a whole is experiencing a change along the order of the 16th Century Reformation. Not only has the Church changed over the past 30 years, the Church is changing at a rate that is faster than we can really keep up with.
Then I check my mail and find some interesting writings on the Anglican Covenant and I find the pundits of the CofE still of the Chicken Little School of Theology. http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.com/2011/02/its-time-to-get-real/) There are those who believe that if the Covenant does not get approved, the Anglican Communion will come to an end. Mark Harris of TEC’s Executive Council has said that the Anglican Covenant is a “modern attempt to address a post-modern problem”. And I believe he is right.
As a retired priest, I look back on the past 10 years in TEC as a time when those who want to hang onto a previous manifestation of the Church have cried ‘foul’ when those of us want to claim a church that can address the future have gone on with trying to address the needs of the world in the nameof Christ. Here in the Diocese of Ft. Worth this split is very distinct and clear. But when those who return from the Southern Cone with their buildings, they may find that the investment in those buildings may not be a strong as they once were. The ability to pay for them will be severely constrained. Church may be more outward faced than they have ever known out of necessity. And Necessity allows us to invent all kinds of things to address those needs.
No, the Church is not the same and the Anglican Communion will not be the same after this split. None of us will be the same because the era in which we live is not the same. The once Modern Anglican Communion will gradually take upon itself the diversity of the Post-Modern Church not dependent upon rank and privilege, but become more facile in responding to the needs around the world because we are a “family of churches” rather than a magisterium. The Primate’s meeting in Dublin has made a start.
At the end of her presentation Bass suggested that it was the deep longing for the Holy/God that was still present in the American demographics. The “spiritual but not religious” answer to many of the polls taken says that there are still those who wait to hear the Church catch their attention, who still ache to touch the Holy in their lives. More structure does not do that.
Will the Anglican Communion as we know it be changed? Of course, it will! It should be! We are changing. The people we minister to are changing (some of them) and our youth are already there. Will be as powerful and influential as we once were?--only if the truth of our spirituality can be seen and experienced as true relationship with the Divine. Structure and covenants cannot express the longings of the hearts of those who have known the power of God. May this new generation of Anglicans come to live into that power.