19 February 2008

Uganda clarifies, and a new blog is born

Trying to understand the problems in the Anglican Communion can be confusing, on a good day. Some conservatives say the situation is not about homosexuality, but rather about authority. And then they flout the Bible and subvert authority. See, for example, the news coming out of Uganda.

I've written a bit about this over on my new blog, "Seven whole days." Here's the sample:
While some will rejoice to have these “troublemakers” gone, I believe our Communion will be diminished as another wound divides the Body of Christ... Many of us would say that there is an Anglican identity worth treasuring and preserving, as one distinct expression of the Christian faith. It is not, to be sure, an anything-goes faith, but it is a comprehensive faith, able to hold together diverse expressions. Uganda may not manifest this, but neighboring Tanzania is a marvelous tapestry of evangelical fervor and catholic beauty. If we move away from an Anglican identity to an exclusivist (”You must agree with me to be in communion with me”), then Christendom has lost a reconciling tradition, and that is regrettable.
Why am I linking to my own blog here? Well, this post marks a bit of a transition. I may post some things here, but this blog will likely morph into a blog of official announcements of Inclusive Church events, trips, activities, and occasional rants. Why the change?

When I attended "Drenched in Grace" last fall, I heard Jenny Te Paa clearly, especially when she identified "male bloggers" as one of the principal catalysts for our schism, or at least our failure to reconcile. After some reflection, it seemed that she's right.

I might be tempted to point a finger at places like Stand Firm, but the truth is that the left has managed to have an internal conversation on the blogs, stirring ourselves into a bunker mentality at times. At first, I considered withdrawing entirely from the blogosphere. While I've enjoyed blogging, I did not want to be another shrill voice in the cacophony of dissent now facing our Communion.

Then I reflected on the posts that I've enjoyed writing the most, and which have provoked the most positive reaction. These were quite often irenic posts, in which the crisis of the Communion is situated relative to the crises of parish life, or the lives within a parish.

So I've decided to largely forego this particular forum, which almost invites a response to every Cantuarian eyebrow twitch. Instead, I'll write mostly about things that matter to me in a more mundane sense. What's happening the parish? What seems interesting in the wider blogosphere? And what might be worth a good rant or a hearty laugh?

So keep your RSS reader pointed at this blog. And maybe add Seven whole days to your list.

15 February 2008

Myth and reality

This from Philip Chester and Giles Goddard in the United States, written February 7:

We’re just over half way through our visit to the US: we write this on a plane from Chicago to San Francisco. So far it’s been an excellent trip. We may have the record for the world’s most extended Holy Communion; we went to the Ash Wednesday liturgy in the morning in the monastery of the Cowley Fathers in Cambridge Massachusetts. We had to leave at the Peace to catch a plane to Chicago. We walked into the church of the Atonement that evening just as they were beginning the Eucharistic prayer so we were able to complete our communion. We're mercifully far away from all the talk about Sharia law and the Archbishop, and for once it's a relief to be able to focus on the Anglican Communion!

Meetings have been held with a wide range of people, from lay people in Rhode Island to the Canon to the Presiding Bishop, and from key people in Integrity and the Chicago Consultation to clergy in Manhattan. We’ve explained that we came to the USA mainly to listen to the experience of the Episcopal Church and to develop an understanding of its situation, and to help develop communication between it and the Church of England. It’s quite clear that there is a huge gulf of understanding between our churches; and yet, although there are many differences, the similarities are very profound. Anything we can do, as the Lambeth Conference approaches, to improve the relationship has to be a good thing.

Contrary to popular perception the Episcopal Church is in good heart, and maintaining a significant position in the USA as a church which is both broad and welcoming; which covers a wide churchmanship with big differences of opinion and yet is determined to stay together. Given the sort of coverage the secessionist dioceses and parishes get in the UK, it’s a remarkable thing to learn that out of around 7,200 congregations across the country less than 100 have sought to leave. And out of around 110 domestic Dioceses, only 2 are likely to seek to secede. We’re talking very small numbers, less than 2%. Many of the other parishes which might previously have wanted to leave are now recognising that to be part of a greater whole is valid and important, and real efforts are being made to develop understanding between those of different positions.

It’s true to say however that there is widespread anger because of the way that the Episcopal Church has been perceived to be treated by the Primates and by senior members of the hierarchy in the UK and around the world. The position of welcoming lesbian and gay people is not some arbitrary piece of rights-based legalism; rather, it’s worked out from the profound desire that “the Episcopal Church welcomes you” and is rooted in an understanding of the Gospel and Baptism which seeks to turn no one away. In that context, the way in which more conservative and often rejectionist clergy and bishops are perceived to have been given the lion’s share of attention and support is seen as both unjustified and unfair. Particularly in the light of the fact that there are many services of affirmation of same-sex relationships happening in the Dioceses of London and Southwark yet no one says a word about that.

But the commitment to the Communion remains. Lambeth 2008 is being prepared for carefully, in the hope that it can genuinely provide a meeting of minds and a deeper understanding of the Anglican Communion. And the people we have spoken to are too polite to remind us that without the USA the Communion could not, under any circumstances, survive financially - but their continued support is strong testimony to the way in which the shared history and practice of the Gospel in the Anglican tradition is valued.

Of course the Anglican Communion is about far, far more than the UK and the US. But our churches have a great deal in common. And gracious conversation between us would undoubtedly provide a stronger base to build on for the rest of the Communion, especially those many parts which are feeling disenfranchised by the loud voices of their conservative brothers and sisters. The Global Center, for example. And the province of Australia. We have some ideas ; a joint conference in Boston or NY between the Episcopal Church and the Church of England would be a good place to start. Common affirmation by parishes around the word of the value of Communion. Above all we’re learning that it’s better to talk than to assume, and better to share worship than to get our opinions from the internet. To the entente cordiale, and to Lambeth 2008!