18 June 2010

Is Communion worth the price?

In the recent hostilities as the sun ostensibly sets on the Anglican Communion as we have known it, one must wonder why we care, and if we should care. Why should we suffer the slings and arrows coming from Lambeth Palace and the Global South.

A strong supporter of the Anglican Communion, I have lately advocated pulling our money from the Anglican Communion Office and channeling it to other important works in the Communion, and, walking away from the bigoted primates' club.

I was wrong.

When our presiding bishop preached in London last Sunday, it was more than a Primate preaching and presiding at the Lord's Table. It was more than a female bishop preaching and presiding. It was a beacon of hope in a stormy See (Sorry, but I couldn't resist the pun).

As I write this post the Rt. Rev'd Mary Gray Reeves, bishop of the Diocese of El Camino Real is in England visiting our partner diocese of Gloucester. The home page of Gloucester reports that
The Bishop of El Camino Real in America, Mary Gray-Reeves and the Bishop of Western Tanganyika in Africa, Gerard Mpango will spend a week in the Diocese of Gloucester with others from their countries. They will enjoy a full programme, which involves special services, a pilgrimage and visiting parts of our diocese including Cheltenham, Gloucester, the Forest of Dean, the Cotswolds, Stroud and Cirencester.

One of the joys of being part of the Christian Church is the series of international friendships that can develop, which help us to understand what it means to be part of a worldwide community, whether that community is the family of the church or whether it is the human race. The teams coming here from Tanzania and California, led by Bishop Gerard and Bishop Mary, will enable us to explore and deepen that friendship and so to play our part in the building of unity within the Church and beyond it.
That is an important and telling statement.

There is another, far greater joy that +Mary is there even though she and the organizers probably don't realize it: pastoral care to the oppressed simply by being there - being seen.

I cannot imagine how much it must mean to oppressed women in the Church of England to see women bishops. I cannot imagine the hope it gives to disheartened GLBT members of the Church of England to see bishops who support their full dignity and inclusion in the life of Christ's Body on earth.

The presence of ++Katharine and +Mary also gives encouragement to those in the Church of England "establishment" who are trying to move the Church of England and the Communion itself into the Future.
  • Encouragement - it can change
  • Hope - it will change
  • Support - we are not alone
And things are changing. Did you know that Changing Attitudes, the English version of Integrity has given relatively good marks to the Rt. Rev'd Michael Perham for his support of LGTB and The Episcopal Church? For an Church of England bishop to support the GLBT community is a huge, folks. For a Church of England bishop to openly be supportive of TEC, at this time, is really commendable. Anglican Mainstream has this to say about +Michael:
In an urbane presentation +Michael argues that same-sex issues are second-order issues and that the difficulty with the Glasspool consecration is its timing; TEC has again failed to honour restraint. However, +Michael's clear trajectory is towards the acceptance of partnered gays and lesbians in the priesthood and episcopate in a plural (for now) church. [Emphasis added.]
And there is also a credible rumor (if rumors can be credible) that David Cameron will soon be pressuring the Church of England to perform same-gender blessings. [See Selictive gay rights from the coalition.]

As for Lambeth Palace, well, its actions are not popular in England. They are an embarrassment to the English Church. A friend of mine worshiped in a parish in Yorkshire last Sunday. He wrote that
Nearly everyone in the congregation of about one-hundred came up to offer apologies for 'recent developments in the Communion' and to assure me that the people in the pews are TEC's friends. The most repeated comment was 'Please tell your friends that the [Lambeth] doesn't speak for most of the Church of England'.
This was in Yorkshire folks, "out in the sticks". However it is not an isolated event; other Americans are hearing the same comments. There are even those in the Church of England who would welcome a Missionary Diocese of the Episcopal Church coming to England. Indeed, some have asked for that very thing.

Lambeth Palace's unilateral actions, based on a covenant that isn't yet, and its personal insults to ++Katharine, are creating a much stronger centre in the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. A centre that is working for a Church where all of God's children are welcome at the Table and in the councils of the Church.

TEC has many, many friends in the Communion and they do not want to lose us or our voice "[proclaiming] liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof". Leviticus 25.10 They value The Episcopal Church and recognise that we are the whipping boy for all that is wrong in the Communion and, indeed, the world.

Of the coming Messiah, Isaiah said
The bruised reed he shall not break, and smoking flax he shall not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. Isaiah 42.3 Douay-Rheims
That is why we need to stay.

If the Communion dies God will still be God. If The Episcopal Church is "sent down" (Rowan's final trump card - if he plays it), God will still be God. But we will not leave in disgrace as some hope.

We must leave in a procession carrying the banner of Christ unfurled singing "We walk the King's Highway". Hymnal, 647 Our witness will be untarnished and the world will take note of how we acted in all of this and it will be counted to us as righteousness.

We shall continue to "to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners". Isaiah 61.1 NAS

Some primates will rage and snort and refuse to be seen at the Lord's Table with us, but they represent only their princely selves. The majority of people in the pews throughout the Anglican world will continue kneel at the Altar rail next to us and be fed by the same Lord.

And that, my friends, is the Anglican Communion. The other thing, the thing that is transmogrificating into a something either the Vatican or fundamentalists would embrace, that is just a bureaucracy founded in 1861.

Enduring the insults is the price of prophetic mission. Are we willing to pay that price? Our presiding bishop appears to be willing. Jesus was, too. Can we do less?
Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Luke 6:22 NSA

About the photo: The photo was taken at the consecration of the Rt. Rev'd Mary Gray Reeves. I wanted to use it for our parish directory and I erased the background and substituted the interior of our parish as a bit of humor. The Presiding Bishop has NOT been to our parish. If you are reading this, ++Katharine (and I know you aren't) we'd love to have you preside any time and bring all your mitres!