Friday, May 25, 2012

Doin’ the Anglican Rant

With apologies to Tom Lehrer, I do not have a jazzy or ragtime tune to support my rant.  (Sorry, I can't get the youtube to upload.)

I have spent the past two years working to save the Anglican Communion from itself on the No Anglican Covenant Coalition.  I have waded through often well over 100 emails a day, spent inordinate amounts of time crafting statements that can be read, learned and inwardly digested by English speakers everywhere and learned in ever more deepening ways of how remarkably diverse we Anglican Communioners are.  
I have come to have an even broader respect for the greatness of our Communion  I value the Anglican response to the 16th Century Reformation, the ways that each province or nation has lived out the theologies that have come to be known as Anglicanism and I celebrate our English/Scottish heritage with great fervor.  

But just as I think we can breathe a bit easier about the Anglican Communion with the failure of the CofE dioceses to accept the idiocy of the  Anglican Covenant and with the hope of a new Archbishop of Canterbury,  the Bishops of the Church of England have once more put forth one of the most backward pieces of legislation to the General Synod that could be drawn up.  After voting for Women Bishops by diocese with a 42 to 2 majority of clergy and laity, the House of Bishops has now added such constraints to the legislation that it will necessitate the voting down of the whole issue.  

This action by the bishops of the CofE just goes to show just how the hierarchy of the CofE are out of touch with the Church of their own province but also how really unaware they are of the Anglican Communion as a whole.  They are trying to pander to naysayers at the edges of both the Catholic and the Evangelical spectrum and forgetting that wonderful center called The Via Media which is a characteristic of what it means to be Anglican.  They are fearful of schism.  

The American version of Anglicanism had its problems when it tried to pass women in the episcopacy--or women's ordination too.  We made accommodations in the 70's too, but the Church was a different place then.  The American House of Bishops came up with a 'conscience clause' which was never law and had nothing to do with anyone's conscience.  It was a 'gentleman's agreement' that you wouldn't be forced to have women bishops if you believed it was wrong.  It was pandering to those who are discriminatory.  And if there is any one thing that has contributed to the unholy schism of the past 10 years in TEC, it has been that agreement.  Those who could not abide women in the episcopacy finally separated from the Episcopal Church during this past decade and have tried to bankrupt the Church by continuing to inhabit churches that do not belong to them.

But there is a difference in what the CofE is doing that makes this act of their bishops so appalling.  First of all, the Mother Church has the benefit of TEC's mistakes.  That in itself should show the British bishops that 'do overs' do not change the out come.  But the other is the clear commentary on the quality of gene pool that will provide the leadership of the Anglican Communion for the next 10 to 15 years.  They are also the body from whence the next Archbishop of Canterbury will come.  And these deal-breaking additions to the legislation will make all Anglicans who understand the place of women's ministry in the life of their provinces and in the Communion as a whole will taint all sense of unity for the future work in mission together.

The Church of England is not engaging its own people in the message of faith.  And the if the pundits of religious studies are to be believed ( Diana Butler Bass, Phyllis Tickle, et. al.) , we who live in the United States need to be wary of things that cling to 1950's images of Church.  If we are not to become totally irrelevant, we as proclaimers of a Gospel of peace, a Gospel of equality, a Gospel of Jesus the Christ, need to be wary of tying ourselves to those who would avoid the realities of our day by throwing the Church not just under the bus, but down the rabbit hole to boot.

I truly support that the CofE bishops should minister to the people of their province.  That is one of the charisms of Anglicanism.  But it also makes the CofE quite vulnerable too.  The rest of the Communion still looks to England even when their roots may really shoot from Scotland.  And this is where they are most vulnerable:  their unwillingness to do justice within their own ranks will be shown to the rest of the world as a church based in the fear of losing instead of a church ready 'lay down its life for their friends.'  It will bring even more fissures of doubt to a populace that no longer looks to the Church for their ethics, their ability to minister to the community or to discuss the major themes of the day.

Here endeth the rant!


Jan said...

I so appreciate your rant. Keep on!

Lionel Deimel said...

The CofE also has the benefit of its own mistake in inventing flying bishops. Unfortunately, it’s not learning from that mistake either.