05 September 2007

On their way?

I can't help wondering if Chris Sugden's piece blogged by Scott yesterday isn't telling us about the next steps in the conservative strategy. It's too conveniently timed, to coincide with the creation of bishops in Kenya and Uganda, and just before the American House of Bishops meeting.

It seems to me very unlikely that anything the House of Bishops says, however carefully worded it is and however much it seeks to enable dialogue and communion to continue, will satisfy the hardline conservatives. The love they have for Jesus and the church (as Scott mentioned) sadly doesn't appear to be matched by a love for the people in it - or a desire to maintain communion.

I wouldn't be very surprised if we saw the secession of three or four African provinces together with their attendant US based bishops, with the support of a few bishops from some other provinces - and, quite possibly, the announcement of another extra-provincial bishop for the lucky Church of England. As Chris says in his article, it won't be a schism. But it won't be a revolution either. It'll be a splintering, in time honoured protestant fashion.

It will be very sad. The Anglican Communion, for all its faults and inadequacies, does try to enable people across the world and from all shades of the theological spectrum to continue to stay in touch, talk, and learn from each other. At its best it models something rather wonderful, by bringing together so many different people with different experiences and different understandings of the love of God.

The Lambeth Conference planned for next year, far from being "dumbed down" has high aims - aims which even the fighting factions in Iraq are, we learn, tentatively beginning to embrace by meeting in Finland. The aim is to gain in respect for each other by listening (that word again) and talking to, studying with, caring and praying with one another.

The splintering will not stop that happening at Lambeth, even if others are meeting at the same time. What it will do, as the Archbishop of York pointed out recently, is render good communication with those who have chosen to secede impossible. I am sure that the Spirit is moving within the Communion through the dialogue which is happening and through the way we're all being challenged. Those who leave will take themselves out of that movement of the Spirit. Maybe they want that - it's safer that way - but it's sad nonetheless.

It will, of course, enable those of us who celebrate the miracle of creation in all its rich, strange diversity to do that more effectively - and it will enable us to work at a true and genuine theology of relationships which affirms all people. For, as Archbishop Tutu says, "Christ, when he was lifted up, did not say 'I draw some people to myself.' He said 'I draw all, all, ALL!'

1 comment:

Scott Gunn said...


Nicely put. Splintering. Individualism. It's Protestant. It's American. Now I understand the basis of the transatlantic alliance!