Saturday, November 24, 2007

Anglicanism worldwide—our view distorted by the American religious situation

What I suspect and fear at the present time is this:

That too many of us look at The Global Anglican Way and the Lambeth Conference of July 2008 from within the perspective of the religious freedom which is a major characteristic of the U.S.A. as a nation. That is, we assume as part of our evaluation the expression that religious freedom has taken in the U.S.A. since its birth in the 1780s.

The American Viewpoint & Mindset

This means that we accept the right of any group anywhere to assemble and to preach and practice any form of Christianity that it chooses—as long as it does not challenge public order and decency. Thus in terms of the Episcopal denomination, TEC, we affirm the right of people to leave it and, having left, if they so choose, to create their own kind of Episcopalianism (Anglicanism). We do not expect them necessarily to liaise or work with other seceders for that would challenge their religious freedom. So we end up accepting as an American thing, the existence of a growing number of forms of The Anglican Way with a large variety of allegiances and emphases. Further, we accept—somewhat amazingly and probably because we think we shall benefit from it long term—the invasion of U.S.A. religious territory by bishops serving foreign masters and setting up satellite churches, with headquarters in Africa.

And we apparently see all this as normal; and we say, “This is how it is in the U.S.A.; we should not expect it to be different; this is our freedom.” Happily, at the same time we are also sufficiently realistic to believe that it is good for “birds of a feather to flock together” and we are happy to see organizations like Common Cause that seek loosely to unite some of the variety. But, in the end, we rejoice in the vast variety of autonomous Anglican groups, denominations, jurisdictions, networks, satellite churches and missionary dioceses as being true to the American dream and its freedom—something we are proud to advertise to the world.

From the U.S.A. to the wide world

One of the effects of living in and breathing in this local U.S.A. situation is that our evaluation of both the global Anglican Communion and the woes right now of the Archbishop of Canterbury tend to be skewed. That is, we seem to be glad that the Anglican Communion is falling apart; that Archbishop Akinola is making all kinds of noises about this falling apart and of the “orthodox” not attending the Lambeth Conference 2008. In other words, our living in division and variety as the norm for religion in America makes us think that unless there is appropriate division and variety in the global Anglican Communion then it is not healthy or on the right path. For it to be unified seem odd!

So those who presently shout the loudest for breaking it up, for not attending Lambeth 2008, and for seeing as the norm a competitive situation of Anglicans against Anglicans, tend to earn our respect and admiration; and those who plead for maintaining some unity and especially for ALL attending Lambeth 2008 at least to talk (it is a Conference after all) seem only to earn our criticism or even condemnation.

What we can do now humbly and graciously

Let us be clear. It is much, much easier to destroy than to build; it is much, much easier to secede than in seceding to create a unified new reality; and it is much, much easier to condemn Dr Rowan Williams than to pray earnestly and faithfully daily for him, that he may be given not only wisdom but courage also to do the right thing. It is also much, much easier to cry “revisionism” and justify the alphabet of Anglican churches in the U.S.A. than to live in the fear and love of God seeking to unite differing brethren under One Lord, One Baptism, One Faith and One Father in heaven.

Let us not by our errors and mistakes cause, or help to cause, the global Anglican Communion to cease to exist, becoming a variety of competitive and injured parts, It has played, and it can play, a purpose in God’s holy providence and mission in the world for the salvation, sanctification and edification of millions. Let us seek to do all we can to help The Anglican Way be renewed, reformed and set on fire with the love of God in Christ Jesus in order to serve God both globally and faithfully. If a few parts of it have to be shed or let go because they will not bow to the authority of the Lord Jesus then let it be so; but, let not the loss of one or two diseased parts cause us to allow the break up of the whole Family and Communion.

“Unity in Truth and Truth in Unity” is a theme we may care to reflect upon—and for its explication we may wish to read Ephesians with John 17 as a starter.

If American Anglicans lose the global Anglican Communion they lose something that ought to be precious—a deep and profound sense of belonging to a jurisdiction and branch of the visible one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. This branch originally grew as Ecclesia Anglicana from patristic roots to the Church of England to a global Communion.

Remembrance Day, 11th of the 11th 2007.

1 comment:

1662 BCP said...

Dr. Toon,
I agree that we need not throw caution to the wind and only act in haste, but as my Father used to say there comes a time when you have to go or get off the pot.