Saturday, May 28, 2011
No Anglican Communion? I wonder.
The reports out of the UK the past few days regarding expose by Dean Colin Slee of Southwark Cathedral have really aired the Church of England’s dirty linen. Thinking Anglicans line up of commentary show the tawdry state of affairs the hierarchy of the CofE. And now that it has been posted all over the world now should let the whole Communion know that the leadership of both archbishops of the CofE has lost dignity and respectability. Their actions are neither in keeping with the Scriptural expectations of bishops (1 Tim) nor are able to stand the scrutiny of even the most modicum of the infamous British sense of ‘fair play’. [It is interesting to hear from some of my CofE buddies the dismissal of them both as ‘not really English’ doncha know?--++Williams is Welsh; ++Sentamu, Nigerian] Where ever they are from, it is clear that something has seriously gone off the rails. Nothing seems to embody much constitutional authority there at all. It sounds like the same ole stuff that King George III used to do and he was mad, I believe.
At the Crown Nominations Commission responsible for nominating the new bishop candidates for the diocese of southern London (Southwark), last year the nominations for Dr. Jeffery Johns and Nicholas Holtam were proposed by the people of the diocese and vetoed by the archbishops of Canterbury and York. The description of the way that this was handled was described as ‘high handed’ and brutal. The voice of the people lay and ordained was overridden. John, a gay man in a civil but celibate relationship with a partner was told to stand down from the position. And it was the leakage of this story that incurred the wrath of the ABC.
When one reads the whole of the revelation by the now deceased Dr. Slee, one sees what kind of bully pulpit that the Archbishop of Canterbury maintains. And the more I learn of ++Rowan Williams the more discouraged I am about the Anglican Communion. Even more, it has shown how byzantine the mechanics of accusation and personal pique are part of the character of ++Rowan. Rather than address leaks he accused Slee of, ++Williams accuses without any substantiation. He refuses to see his own complicity in the leaking of information to the press. The paranoia at the upper levels of the Church of England is clear and fearful. And it should serve all in the Anglican Communion that there is something sincerely ‘rotten in Lambeth’.
I have a hard time trying to follow ++Williams’ thinking. Without a doubt he does not like the US of A or The Episcopal Church (TEC). He sees US as profligate and unprincipled. He was, at the beginning of his episcopacy, seen as a liberal theologian. His writings in support of the LGBT community have been highly touted. However, the weight of the episcopacy and certainly the archiepiscopacy he has not born well. He has demeaned our Church because we have tried to address a serious moral and legal issue within our nation. He has reversed his initial writings by declaring LGBT folk as unfit for the episcopacy. He has demeaned women in general, women priests in his own church and our Presiding Bishop with petty and spiteful comments and actions while never chastising those ‘flying bishops’ from Africa who invade our church with regularity. He has consorted and colluded with those who teach schism in our church. And in doing so he has contributed to those who would undermine the spirit of Anglicanism in Africa (Cf. the Chapman Report and Jim Naughton’s “Follow the Money.” And it could be construed by his actions in Africa to support those who would replace our constitutional government both in the nation and the church with an oligarchy. And now he is trying to strong arm a document (The Anglican Covenant) that will forever change the fabric of Anglicanism by making himself an “Instrument of Unity?” I don’t think so.
I have throughout my career been a supporter of the Anglican Communion. I have found real comfort in our via media approach to the broad house of Christianity throughout the world as a beacon of hope as many faiths become more and more particularized and marginalized by hard lines and pre-modern stances. I have given to Anglican relief efforts. I have studied and visited churches throughout the world finding the same kind of welcoming spirit despite this world’s continuing effort to shatter the love of Christ with factionalism, power and greed. I have welcomed clergy from around the world to the parishes I have served. I have believed the kind of Anglicanism that I have known which is welcoming and accepting is the kind of church I want for the future. And yet, and yet…
I do not deny that TEC has its own problems with those who play power games. It is quite obvious in those dioceses that have felt the dishonesty of the schismatics who have wandered into a pseudo-anglican never-neverland alphabet soup where wholesale fraud and embezzlement have marked their departure. I do believe that we will have times in TEC when we will have to look deeply into our actions and root out the sins that mark us all. That is part of the human condition and the saving work of Christ. But at the present moment, the leadership of the present Archbishop of Canterbury cannot be trusted. The Anglican Communion does not get to be his bully pulpit simply because the English feel that they should be ‘nice’ to THEIR Archbishop. The character of the Anglican Communion cannot be tailored to meet the desires of a single crown appointed fellow that hasn’t got the integrity of a jellyfish.
I will continue to pray for ++Rowan. He needs it. I will continue to pray for the CofE. But it too has to look to itself and root out the sin that is within it. The duplicity of denying the episcopacy to superb candidates simply because they are gay or women is anti-deluvian and sinful in a nation that embraces female and gay leadership all of the time. No amount of dictatorial behavior is going to be able to lead the CofE that is trying to 'listen' to one another. The laity and the clergy of the CofE are going to have to bite the bullet and claim the honesty that the Church of England desperately needs. They must be willing to 'buck' a system that is rotten with privilege and purple and find shepherds that will claim the high calling of serving Christ rather garnering honors for themselves. And if there are no mechanics to do so within the CofE, it is time to make them for the future of the Church.