Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Crystal Ball on the Church

September 11, 2008

At a recent rector’s forum I was asked for my ‘crystal ball’ prediction as to what was going to happen with the Anglican Communion. I said I did not know but that I thought the current confusion would continue for some time as those who see themselves as reformers continue their apparent desire to establish a new church (which of course they see as ‘reformed’) with something other than Canterbury as its ‘center’ and with a doctrine that whatever else it contains is fundamentally about opposing any affirmation of gay people and will be rid of the contaminating influence of the Episcopal Church.

I don’t really know more than that now except that I think we are going to end up with two Anglican Communions who (mostly) neither talk to each other nor like each other much. Certainly in this country we are going to see an increasingly formal ‘split’ as places like the Diocese of Pittsburgh move forward with their ‘realignment plans’, and we will continue to have the doublespeak about nomenclature.

A recent issue of The Living Church (September 14, 2008) contains an article by a priest called David Handy that makes this clear. (I knew him slightly at Yale and we crossed briefly in the Diocese of Virginia. I remember him as extremely bright and as a former Wycliffe Bible Translator who came into the Episcopal Church through the influence of a professor at Wheaton College.) He calls his ‘reader’s viewpoint’ article (p.40-41) A New Reformation is Coming and looks for a “whole new kind of Anglicanism”. He writes “Freed at last from the shackles of our Constantian past, this post-colonial, post-Western, post-Christendom Anglicanism will be much more uncompromisingly biblical, much more theologically coherent, and much more ethically rigorous than the old Erastian kind ever was.” He begins his article by looking to a bright future and talking of the God of love, peace and hope. There is much that is attractive to me in his vision but he goes off the rails and reveals his true bottom line with the statement: “The deep tear in the fabric of the Communion has continued to widen, primarily because of the intransigence of the heretical advocates of the unbiblical ‘gay is OK’ delusion.” And there you have it: blaming, drama, inflated rhetoric, exclusive claims to correct biblical interpretation and quite possibly, hate dressed up as love. With that at its core the ‘New Anglicanism’ fails to attract me. I will continue to seek ways to proclaim good news in a post-colonial, post-Western, post-Christendom and probably post-modern world apart from what I hear as hateful.

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