Everybody thinks it is complicated.
On Sunday when I announced that we would cover some of the recent primates’ meeting in our Basic Anglicanism class, one of our parishioners leaned over and said:
There’s nothing basic about that. That’s Advanced Anglicanism.
I couldn’t agree more! The problem is that it is splashed all over the papers and the internet.All of this Anglican Communion nonsense in a single word: abuse. Click To Tweet
Rather than craft a big think piece about the state of our church, the church, and the world, I thought I’d gather some of my thinking since into a collection.
Perhaps that can have a clarifying effect.
At the Table
Where we’re at feels messy, tangled, confused. I think of how hard it is to break bad news. How hard it is to sit with someone in their grief. How hard it is to lose a job or wrestle with the confused pain/love of abuse. It is hard to talk with each other.
And talking with each other is the truly heroic thing when we’re feeling wrong. When we’re feeling hurt by those at the table.
This is hard enough.
Being human, doing the things we need to do, that is hard enough. Threatening to leave doesn’t help. Building competitive structures doesn’t make coming to the table easier, only harder.
Smelt it Dealt it
It is funny that blame-shifting is so simple to children. But reconciliation is so very hard.
Funnier still that “whoever smelt it, dealt it” actually makes sense for adults.
My wife and I played this game of pretending not to smell our children’s diapers, because whoever smelled it had to deal with it.
At first we took it really seriously, pretending that the foul odor emanating from our beautiful children wasn’t really there. Just our imaginations. Until someone would break down and mention it. Big mistake.
Then we started to play this game in which we would allude to the odor, but not actually say anything. Kind of like the rule wasn’t about noticing something, but uttering the words themselves. So we tried to trick the other into noticing.
Go tickle your Daddy!
she’d suggest. And the cloud, like Pigpen would follow close behind him.
And yet a different sort of Smelt it Dealt it is at play for us. One in which the perceived transgressions by the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada are justification for not only response, but retaliation. Of tampering in the affairs of the Episcopal Church and ordaining North American clergy in direct competition. For subjecting our bishops and presiding bishop to a different standard while building a network of Anglican churches to compete with the Anglican Communion itself.
That calling oneself a victim is justification for retaliation.
My Bible-believing friends: find your red-letter defense for persecuting your persecutors and I will take it back.
A posture of blame is not a posture of reconciliation.
It is setting one’s troops for war.
A More Hypothetical Scenario
We often need to turn our hypotheticals into real-world scenarios. But our real-world scenario is itself too complicated. What if we turned that around?
What if we made this real-life scenario into a more hypothetical one?
Let us say that the Episcopal Church did all of what its critics requested. We’ve done everything asked except take back our promises to full inclusion. But let’s say we did. And we declared those marriages null and void. We kicked out all those partnered clergy. And we put big ol’ “Heteros Only” signs on our doors. Let’s pretend we do this.
Let’s say we showed true humility and deference to our critics. Would that deference and humility be reciprocated?
Would Nigeria, Uganda, and the Southern Cone strip the episcopal ordinations of those in ACNA? Would Foley Beach be disinvited from the primates’ meetings and the only competing church supported by other members of the Communion be condemned and brought under discipline as well? For these retaliations have scarred and disrupted the Communion.
If we did this, would the Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON) be disbanded? Would its attempts to protect the Anglican Communion by changing it be rescinded?
If we did this, would authoritarianism disappear? Would those seeking to make the collaborative Anglican Communion into a global Anglican Church abandon their project and build up our sense of mutual support? Would we be any better off?
The Bully Pulpit
During the primates’ meeting there was much talk of mistrust. That nobody could trust each other. Almost as if there’s the same, equal blame to go around.
- The evidence that the US can’t be trusted is that we followed our rules to change our rules. It is perceived that this broke a greater, unwritten rule.
- The evidence that GAFCON can’t be trusted is found in threats against the system, convincing parts of the Communion to act outside the authority of their station, and continuing to directly meddle in the affairs of another church. It is perceived that this broke a greater, written rule.
- And, of course, the many ways all that has transpired since 2003 has been highly irregular; including evidence of great hypocrisy, lack of protection for the process, and the inappropriate presence of a divisive unaffiliated primate. As always, it is the Episcopal Church who are told to suck it up.
Of course, we can always justify our actions, but we need to draw a really distinct line between politics, squabbling, negotiating, figuring things out, all that stuff and threats to hurt.
The great global challenge of the 21st Century is that our cultures are weak to the effects of bullying.
When former President George W. Bush declared that we don’t negotiate with terrorists, it wasn’t some hardline, get tough stance. It is a psychologically necessary and important fact of negotiation. You can’t negotiate with someone who refuses to negotiate with you.
Critics of the Episcopal Church have freely said that they cannot negotiate with the Episcopal Church. I can understand that. But the Episcopal Church has continued to show up. We have not created a competing Anglican body to empower schism throughout the Global South. We haven’t demonized the Global South for abandoning orthodox Christianity for its difference of opinion, or its continued tolerance of an unorthodox view of marriage. We haven’t threatened to kick them out of the club or tear the whole thing down to have our way.
The GAFCON churches have. And they have threatened to abandon the church if we aren’t removed from it.
These aren’t fair negotiations or mirror positions taken by a two-dimensional representation of world politics with its two polar extremes of liberal and conservative. This is an Anglican Communion of affiliated provincial churches who are being threatened to change or be changed by a mass exodus.
This isn’t a negotiation. It’s a power grab.
Loving Your Enemy
This whole thing would be comical in the hands of Gilbert and Sullivan. I can imagine the depiction of the strident African characters, the arrogant Americans, and the aloof Archbishop of Canterbury talking out of both sides of his mouth at the same time.
It certainly could be turned into a musical and we could all laugh and sing along. If people’s lives weren’t on the line.
For all of the complexity and nuance, all the head-spinning rhetoric and he said/she said character of negotiations, all the backroom dealing and fanciful imaginings of what others are experiencing on the other side of the world; for all of this fiction, we are given one reality. A reality, if summed up in one word would be this:
All of this Anglican Communion nonsense in a single word: abuse.
By living out our canons, considering the instructions of Lambeth in 1978 to better understand the place of homosexuality in Scripture, Tradition, and Reason in our church, for doing the hard work of discerning and arguing and listening and studying, we came to a conclusion.
Our Scripture has a more complex view of human sexuality than we think it does. Our tradition on sexuality and marriage needed adjustment, and our working through the biology, theology, and sociology has brought us to a new reasoned position.
When it comes to welcoming all, let all mean all. Not just in the doors, but in all aspects.
While we haven’t shoved this down anyone’s throats, we have had another way shoved down ours. Threats of leaving. Threats of persecution. Threats of violence.
Not from outside the church, but from within. From Christians. From Anglicans.
My initial response was to go to the Sermon on the Mount. And I still go back there. But I encourage you to recognize in all this complexity, all this confusion, that perhaps we are distracting ourselves.
All this is Advanced Anglicanism, but our struggle is perhaps more simple. The struggle with loving the abusers. With loving those who persecute you. Loving those whose own pain leads them to cause pain.
this Gordian knot will only be untied through the bold and rigorous application of the sword of the Golden Rule.
When boiled down, all this pain, transgression, all this hate and disunity brings us to a single place. A place where, if our ears our open, we can hear the call of Jesus: to love. Love them. Love all.
May we have the courage to reveal the love of Christ to one another. Even the jerks who hate us. Even the jerks among us. Even the jerks within ourselves. Amen.