Monday, January 14, 2008

Anglican Communion: one out of many

What Anglicans in the U.S.A. & Canada may be on a path to lose!

On an earth, and in a world, so often divided by ideology and religion, not to mention nationalist , racial and tribal interests, it is always refreshing—and a sign of hope of the future kingdom of God—to see people from many parts, and of many backgrounds, not only meeting together but also united in common aims arising from the Gospel. With all their shortcomings, such have been the meetings of the Global Anglican Communion, whether, on a small scale, of the Primates at their Meetings, or, on a very big scale, of the Bishops and their spouses at Lambeth Conferences .

As one privileged to be present at Canterbury for the Lambeth Conference 1998 for 3 weeks, both as a journalist and as a worker in the Conference, I often marveled at the sight of persons from all over the world eating, walking, debating and praying together. The sight of those large and winsome African smiles stay with me. Of course, there were theological disagreements but these were as often between bishops of the North as between bishops of North and South. In this world, we cannot avoid the reality of our fallen humanity, but we can, in the Spirit of the Lord, move into a sphere of valuing each other as made in the image of God, and loved by the Father and the Son, and members one of another in the Body of Christ, indwelt by the Spirit.

The guardian angels and the ancient Cathedral of Canterbury yearn for the sight and reality in July-August 2008 of one Anglican people formed out of the many provinces and backgrounds from which they come—one out of the many—meeting together before the LORD God as members of the one household of Faith. It is truly difficult (if one has read The Letter to the Ephesians first ) to think of any Christian reason why there is not a moral duty and high privilege laid upon all those invited to Lambeth 08 to be there, and to be there prepared in heart and mind, so that basic unity in the Spirit and a path to unity in basic doctrine and morals may be experienced and achieved at this ancient Christian center. (To allow deficiencies in the way it has been planned, or in other matters, to stand in the way of assembling is surely to major in minors, as the Americans say. Once there, and in the spirit of charity, what seem major problems now will be possible of resolution; however, without the being together the problems will probably harden and increase.)

May the angels above, and the TV cameras below, see one people out of many assembled in the Cathedral, and then living and working together at the University Campus nearby!

In closing, let me indicate one of the very major problems that will occur if (a) there is not a full attendance at Lambeth and (b) if a permanent division of the Global Communion occurs— as one grouping, based on the Provinces of West and East Africa (Nigeria, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda) moves away from communion with the ancient See of Canterbury. I only highlight one problem and, as I write in North America, it is a pr4oblem for North Americans, but perhaps also will relate to people in South America, Australia and Britain, on the assumption that groups of people from these places are also going to identify with the African Provinces.

This new association, created by breaking away from the Global Communion, will be in terms of sheer numbers 99 per cent Africans, from the five countries and within them from many tribes, and with very distinct cultural forms of worship and evangelization, not to mention a context in which opposing militant Islam and tribal conflict are much present. There will be no major Asian or European or other grouping to balance the massive African. The Americans attached via AMIA and CANA and the like will at best be 0.2 per cent of the whole.

Thus what the global Anglican Communion has had by the gift and providence of God—one out of the many—will be wholly missing here, however fervent and however dedicated the Christian worship, mission and discipline of those within this grouping are. We are not talking here about racism; but about how a few thousand Americans will feel when cut off from the global Communion and confined within the exciting but limiting (for them) cultural forms of West and East African religion. Americans are used to—and boast of—their great liberties and freedoms, and their rights to choose this rather than that. Whatever be the godly merits of the African connection, it will soon become very problematic and unsatisfying to its American participants. Probably, it will end in pain and sorrow, and more divisions of “Anglicanism” within the U.S.A. and Canada.

[The PBS of the USA has a CD where in pdf the Reports of the Lambeth Conferences from 1867 to 1998 are found. It is $20.00 including shipping—send check to Prayer Book Society, 100 East Avon Road, Parkside, PA. 19015-3306, PA residents add sales tax please.] December 12 2008

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