American Anglicans, who are painfully aware of the crisis through which they are now passing, are constantly tempted to look to one or another local or overseas leader—e.g., Akinola, Orombi, Duncan or another—as the “savior.” That is, as the one who—despite all the problems and difficulties—will somehow be the means to unite into one, new, ecclesial entity, all those who, in recent times, have had to exit The Episcopal Church on grounds of conscience.
It is true, of course, that God does use human beings to achieve his holy purposes and sometimes in the Church these have been those holding the office of Bishop. So there is some basis for looking to a Primate or Primates, or to a Bishop and a Primate, as the deliverer(s) of this “exodus people” to the “promised land” of a new province of the Global Anglican Family.
However, and this is a big however, the people of God are most clearly instructed in the sacred pages of The Scriptures that only when they really and truly trust in the LORD (YHWH who is The Holy Trinity) does God as The LORD act on their behalf, for their good and for His glory.
In Psalm 118, which celebrates a victory of a king of David’s linr, the psalmist communicates in poetry the profound truth that however good the king, and however good the army, and however supportive the nation, the ultimate trust of the covenant people is to be solely and only in One and One alone, The LORD, their God. He is the One who is The Savior and The Redeemer.
It is better to seek refuge in YHWH than to trust in man.
It is better to seek refuge in YHWH than to trust in princes.
Here the psalmist addresses his fellows by appealing to their reason. They could seek refuge in a human being or in human beings as a group; or they could take refuge in the authority and ability of the King or his sons, the princes, or in the royal family as a whole. That is, they could look to these persons to shelter and protect them from harm and danger and keep them together as a united, prosperous people.
In our situation, where we are so deeply affected by the mindset and culture of politics, political campaigns and debate over the authority of president, congress and supreme court, it is so easy to seek refuge for the salvation of Anglicanism in political means, that is, looking to individual persons (Primate or Bishop) or special entities (“the Global South” or “The orthodox Primates”)—and to do so even as God is generally acknowledged as the Lord.
To Israel, the psalmist declared that it is better—indeed, we may add, best of all—to trust in The LORD and allow Him to use whatever means He ordains to achieve what is His will.
To American Anglicans, the same psalmist declares that it is better—indeed best of all—to trust in The Holy Trinity (in the almighty Father through His incarnate Son and by His Holy Spirit) and look to this LORD our God to use whatever means and whichever persons He ordains to do His will.
It is because of this fundamental duty of TRUSTING in THE LORD that American Anglicans URGENTLY need to find a way of coming together as a whole to wait upon THE LORD to seek His will and then to do it. At present, the variety of activities by different groups looks more like the political realities of competitive American politics than a humble, corporate submission to the Lord God to know and to do His will together.
It is because of this analysis which constantly returns to me, as I read the Psalms in the Daily Offices, that over the last five years and more (and together with Dr Lou Tarsitano before his untimely death) I have suggested that there needs to be a national Congress of all Anglicans who seek a new beginning for the Anglican Way in America, based on classic Anglican doctrine, worship, polity and principles, and in step with the Global Communion.
At such a gathering, I suggest that all bishops and groups would surrender before and to the Lord our God their titles and offices; and then together, through common consent and election after prayer, a new entity with three of four dioceses would be created to replace the dysfunctional mixture of groups and denominations that presently exist, with up to a hundred bishops. We would not know in advance who would be the small number of (and TEC bishops would have no special rights) elected bishops for the small number of dioceses of the new province; but we would go to such a Congress (held as it were at the foot of Mt Sinai or Mt Tabor!) singing, “It is better to trust in the LORD than in man or in human leaders.” I hasten to add that from the moment of the creation of the new entity all former bishops would henceforth act only and always as presbyters under the new bishops, even as they trusted in the LORD. (I recognize that all this would take a miracle but without a miracle there will be no united Province for the problems and difficulties in the American situation are too many and complex!)
“Names and Sects and Parties Fall
Thou, O Christ, art all in all.”
Dr Peter Toon September 24, 2007
(written as the House of Bishops of TEC finalizes its written response to the Primates’ Meeting Request in New Orleans and just before the Bishops of Common Cause meet in Pittsburgh to reflect on their vocation together in the light of the continuing shake-up of the Anglican Way.)