Thursday, December 4, 2008

Headline news in the Anglican Communion--boring except for church polity geeks

If you woke up this morning and looked at the NY Times headline news, as I did, you might have been surprised, as I was, to see "Episcopal Split as Conservatives Form New Group" right between the Auto Workers and Mumbai. I was surprised because a) it didn't seem like news, or even a big deal; b) the Episcopalians haven't split; c) this doesn't seem like a new group, just the old group(s) by a new name.

I imagine I'm more blase than I ought to be about this thing, but I'm feeling pretty blase, have to say. (The Lead at the Episcopal Cafe is pretty blase, too. That makes me feel better.) Feeling as I do, I have to laugh (wryly) at the hysteria in the first couple of paragraphs. I'll take a look at it a sentence at a time:

WHEATON, Ill. — Conservatives alienated from the Episcopal Church announced on Wednesday that they were founding their own rival denomination, the biggest challenge yet to the authority of the Episcopal Church since it ordained an openly gay bishop five years ago.

Wheaton is the home of Wheaton College, probably the premier Evangelical college in the country. "Rival denomination" is apt. And as such, it is less of a challenge to the authority of the Episcopal Church than it has been as part of the current denomination.

The move threatens the fragile unity of the Anglican Communion, the world’s third-largest Christian body, made up of 38 provinces around the world that trace their roots to the Church of England and its spiritual leader, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Oh, please. As if this were anything new.

The conservatives intend to seek the approval of leaders in the global Anglican Communion for the province they plan to form. If they should receive broad approval, their effort could lead to new defections from the Episcopal Church, the American branch of Anglicanism.

This could be the most interesting part of the whole thing, since leaders of this group have openly made disparaging remarks about the Anglican Consultative Council that makes these decisions, as referenced later in this same NY Times article (an American priest consecrated out of Nigeria was quoted as saying, "why do we still need to be operating under the rules of an English charity, which is what the Anglican Consultative Council does. Why is England still considered the center of the universe?” Perhaps not tactful if you want their approval).

Furthermore, there was an announcement today from Canterbury that any process to recognize a new province will take at minimum a year, and they haven't even started the process yet.

Finally, don't you hate news stories that say "if something happens, then something else could happen"? That's not news! That's barely even speculation! Just as easy to say "If they don't receive approval, then the whole thing could fold up and disappear," isn't it?

At any rate, read the NY Times article with a critical eye. I also recommend the following analyses from Mark Harris at Preludium, both here and here, and Andrew Plus, who has a terrific, very interesting take on the whole thing, imo.

But, really, life continues and God is good, all the time. This is hardly a blip in God's kingdom. Keep watching for God wherever you are. It's Advent. That's the important thing.

1 comment:

qoe said...

Every person is a temple, and every name a prayer.

Our institutions fail us because the institutions are all about the institution, and building and maintaining economic and lobbying control over masses of people. [The church threw over the "golden rule" teachings of godliness through the social justice of neighborly love, sharing and responsible thrift to model itself on the Roman Empire. People forget that Constantine then coopted Christianity into the Empire. He knew a good thing when he saw it, but he was seeing it through more than one lens, if you follow me. If you don't follow me: it was more about politics than spirituality. Pagan rituals were adapted into Christianity under Constantine, all to keep the pagans within the fold of the state religion--this was a huge number of people, and they had felt disenfranchised by Constantine's taking on the mantle of Pontifex Maximus. Most cradle Christians do not know the origins of the Christmas "holiday", and it would curl their hair if they did!]

And isn't this precisely what Jesus was showing us? It is all right there in the gospels, plain as day, and everyone misses it.

The church and its polity does NOT affirm or sanctify my personal relationship with God and my attempt to live according to the teachings. Only God can do that. And God is the only judge. By our fruits, he knows us.

One asks the question, how might God judge the institution and the people who make all the decisions in how to run it? Is the fig tree withered or does it bear bitter fruit?

I am reminded of bits and pieces of scripture:

From the twenty third chapter of Matthew: "Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 'The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.'" (Matthew 23:1-3)

... culminating in Matthew 23:33.

"Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell"

But, you are absolutely right: boring, completely and utterly boring.

I don't have time, on my path, to allow this institutional meltdown to impact my journey. Let them wear their party frocks and defy one another and God.

Jesus has always had other work for me, and for you.

Every person is a temple, and every name a prayer. Not a bad place to start from each day.