March 13, 2010
A recent meeting of the Advisory Council for the Anglican Observer to the United Nations was held in London. I was struck once again by Archbishop Williams’ grasp of international issues, especially our foci which include addressing sex-trafficking and the education and empowerment of women. I was also struck by a sense that by being in England, both at Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop’s London residence and office, and at St. Andrew’s House in Notting Hill, the ‘headquarters’ of the Anglican Communion Office (ACO), many of those attending appeared to assume that we were at or near the heart of the Anglican World. I have no evidence for this opinion but have a strong sense that we, as Episcopalians, should count ourselves lucky to be associated with such magnificence. And in a sense, I do count myself as fortunate to be Anglican.
While I was in London I picked up a book published before the last Lambeth Conference and edited by Caroline Chartres called Why I am Still an Anglican (Continuum, 2006). In it various ‘notables’ like P. D. James and Fay Weldon along with clergy of various stripes, the requisite Member of Parliament and so on reflect on their Anglicanism. In spite of one ‘Nigerian perspective’ from someone who serves in various roles in that country and in the British Commonwealth, who is also a Trustee of the British Museum (Emeka Anyaoku); and a journalist writing from Europe (Edward Lucas), the only version of Anglicanism that is really considered as such is the Church of England. Many of the contributors wax eloquent about the glories of Choral Evensong or their memories of school chapels. There is a certain amount of English hand wringing about ‘troubles’ in the Communion. One novelist married to a C of E clergyman (Ann Atkins), wrote about her view of scripture including her ‘huge admiration’ for the Roman Catholic Church. She says “One of the great strengths of Anglicanism is that it is local. Of course it is important that we are also a part of a great big global family. But there is always a tendency to heresy in the heart of man, and what makes Anglicanism strong is that it is rooted in the parish, rooted in the place, so if a province like ECUSA errs and strays…well it’s a shame, but it doesn’t bring down the rest of us.” (p.37)
Even those with some grasp of the international realities of our Communion (Archbishop Williams excepted) show a tendency to English-centrism if they are English and it is, quite simply, a skewed perspective and one that does not serve the Communion well.
I don’t know if the Anglican Observer at the UN is viable as long as Lambeth and the ACO feel unable to pay for the person and her office. It is certainly not something that ought to have a special fundraising body to support it. But those pesky Americans are welcome to raise it if they can. The belief of some seems to be that there is no way that any of the money can be raised in England. It is strange to have the sense that my own countrymen are determined to ‘get it wrong’.