October 1, 2009
The Compass Rose Society is reclaiming its original identity as a missional and connective society in the Anglican Communion and moving away from trying to raise money for projects (however worthy) of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC). As such it is once again showing signs of being the kind of society I thought we were joining when All Saints’ became a member in 1999. We were represented at the meeting by Della and Jere Wells who are joining the study and mission journey to Malawi for the next week. Sam and Boog Candler were also present from Atlanta. Sam is on the board of the society. They are doing the work of making connections between people within and throughout the Anglican Communion. We are proclaiming that our need for connection across boundaries and our unity in Christ is greater than our need to be theologically correct. Members of the Society are individuals, families parishes and dioceses (from Episcopal and at least one ‘breakaway’ parish) who make an initial gift equivalent to $10,000 or more and then continue to give at least $2,000 each year for projects either supported as a result of a society visit to a part of the church in need and in the company of the Secretary General of the ACC or at the request of the Archbishop of Canterbury. You can learn more here, and I would be glad to talk to anyone interested in joining, doing extraordinary work and enjoying the privilege of dinner with Archbishop and Mrs. Williams as long as they are gracious enough to host us.
This year we were to be addressed by the Bishop of Jerusalem who was denied permission to travel out of Ben-Gurion airport only days before he was due to leave. As a Palestinian, he could have left through Jordan but did not have time to make those arrangements. His report was emailed and read to us. In it he referenced the extraordinary difficulty of travel imposed by the Israeli authorities. This was one more example of how difficult things can be for anyone who lives in what the Bishop calls ‘The Land of the Holy One’. Appeals that are based on the sufferings of Palestinians are always dodgy to my ears unless they also acknowledge the reality that many Palestinians and their allies are committed to the eradication of Israel and the denial of their right to exist as a nation. I know that the sufferings of Palestinians are real and I know that Christians are a shrinking minority among Palestinians. I also know that when push comes to shove the predominant Palestinian identity is Arab and Muslim and that identity will ‘trump’ the others. I am nervous about the tendency of Anglicans to give uncritical support to the Palestinians without clear statements that Israel exists and should be able to exist without being threatened by its neighbors. At the same time it must be possible for us to question Israeli policies without being declared anti Jewish or suggesting ‘moral equivalency’.
At dinner we were able to ask the Archbishop questions. He is very good at taking the questions seriously and giving thoughtful answers.
I asked: “Our bishops came home from the Lambeth Conference wondering when the Church of England was going to join the Anglican Communion. What do you imagine they meant by this question and what, if any, response would you like to make?”
In his answer, he thought it possible that some English bishops have an over exalted view of their position which might give an unfortunate impression. He was quick to defend the C of E as being a church in which every diocese puts considerable resources toward relationships in the wider communion. These are the kind of answers I would probably have offered were I in his shoes. They do not of course address the realities of power in the communion or any particular way in which some apparently view the C of E as avoiding entering the communion fray. I note this as observation without judgment implied.
I was heartened to hear the Archbishop recognize (albeit with some gloom) that we may be headed to a covenant that some Anglican provinces cannot sign, but which doe not represent the end of the world. We will still be the church in mission, caring for the neediest among u and establishing relationships in Christ throughout the world. It is my impression that as The Episcopal Church has continued to define itself, so the Archbishop has become clear about what he wants and what he sees as the way forward. The consequence of that greater definition appears to be the most people are settling down and happy enough to let things play out without the sense that there is a power vacuum which bishops in Durham, Lagos and elsewhere are quick to seek to fill.