So much seems to have happened during the week I spent in New York. I often find myself getting quite depressed but then the historian in me whispers that we’ve seen worse times in our collective memory as Anglicans. In the 17th Century Anglicanism was abolished, episcopacy sent underground –perhaps not a bad idea – and the Prayer Book banned. During those sixteen years some remained in the church, or rather continued to worship as best they could in their parish churches and some met secretly, fearing the tramp of Cromwell’s soldiers. Some went secretly to the banned bishops for ordination, while others submitted to presbyteral ordination hoping for better days. It was a period of enormous intellectual and spiritual endeavor, which produced great theologians and spiritual giants of the likes of the future Bishop Pearson who’s “Introduction to the Creeds” was still a mandatory text book in the States up to the First World War. Pearson, following Ussher, vindicated the authenticity of the writings of Ignatius of Antioch, settling for many Anglicans the question of episcopacy. The writings of Jeremy Taylor remain living testaments to a gentle pastoral Anglican faith to this day. They play tribute to the Anglican conviction that although we are fallen, we are not totally depraved, but, before baptism, “very far gone from original righteousness.” Granted, such a view isn’t popular today among those who take an optimistic view of the human race while at the same time watching CNN News. And they say that those who believe in miracles are gullible? Ask a parish priest who has been abused by vestries or parishioners whether she or he believes in sin. Or one might suggest that the collect for next Sunday be taken seriously!

So those were both the best of times and the worst of times. They remind us that even when things seem lost, they seem so because we can only live in the “Now”. It is because we don’t trust God and therefore attempt to shoulder the load of renewing the church or reforming the church by ourselves that things seem desperate. It is because we use the methods of secular power, even “democratic”power that we assume the role of winners and losers. If it is thought that the winners wrote the history of the Early Church, consider how the present day winners write our contemporary narrative. Perhaps our belief that we must win or we lose literally bedevils our thinking and actions. When the Archbishop of Canterbury calls us to patience, we think he’s a relic from the past and dismiss such a notion as hopelessly “spiritual”.

We call for world peace and we fight each other.
We call for an end to poverty and we spend enormous sums of money on meetings and lobbies, communications and Conventions at which and through which we seek to enrich our positions by impoverishing those we have labeled our enemies.
We pray for the peace and unity of the church and encourage schism on the left or the right.
We call for sacrifice and fight over real estate.
We proclaim separation of church and state and use the secular courts as our disciplinary arm.
We promise to respect the dignity of every human being and leak letters and engage in character assassination.

And the watching world looks on in disillusion or cynicism. Those faithful parishioners, caught in the middle of strife, stay at home. “See how these Christians love one another.”

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