I’ve had a rough time getting over the last chemo session. I’m not better yet! The next session has been postponed and we are going to try and different selection of “poisons”. Obviously my body can’t take the present menu.
I haven’t been able to concentrate on writing, so perhaps the fact that I am attempting a blog is a good sign. I was watching “Late Edition” on CNN and found myself thinking of the English Civil War. The King invaded Scotland and Parliament attempted to cut off funds. George, the third president of that name is stuck in Iraq -he hadn’t read his history – and Congress attempts to cut off funds. I hope I won’t be deported for saying that I believe that US governmental institutions are hopelessly stuck in a past age. As Lord Hailsham once said, England is a republic with an hereditary head of state while America is a monarchy with an elected Emperor.
Mercifully the government can’t attempt to destroy the Church as Parliament attempted and nearly succeeded nearly four hundred years ago. That’s just as well as we are doing a pretty good job of that ourselves. Part of our problem is that we have inherited our own antiquated form of church government, a frozen oligarchy largely peopled by Whigs and latitudinarians. Don’t be fooled by ceremonial and vestments. William White would love contemporary TEC, although perhaps not to the extent of blessing those who look forward to the creation of a new church in North America, free to do exactly as the majority pleases.
Our form of government, that of a wealthy establishment given to good works and light on theology, has been transformed from a well-meaning social gospel system intent on unity at all costs to a fanatically politically left wing liberal body intent on its agenda at all costs. The creaky old Articles of Confederation church has been enlivened and transformed by an injection of secular political methods and the politics of the lobbyists. The transformation was occasioned by a righteous agenda. Our church, as perhaps no other Anglican Province except the West Indies was implicated thoroughly in the politics of racism. While Anglican bishops in South Africa struggled to end racial colonialism, our church still cozied up to well-mannered racism.
The same might be said about gender equality, although once embarked upon, the form in which the debate began and prospered took upon itself a more thoroughly secular tone. By the time we reached the question of appropriate sexual behavior, any attempt to address the matter theologically was at best muted. Faced with a small number of texts in Scripture on the matter which seemed to oppose the TEC agenda, our leaders grasped for Mr. Jefferson’s scissors and the agenda of the Jesus Seminar while those opposed to “gay rights” returned to Master Calvin and to the agenda of early 20th Century “Bible College Movement.”
In the meantime the Archbishop of Canterbury has taught. He’s taught about the nature of the Church. He’s taught about the Bible. He’s taught about a sane Spirituality. He’s taught about our responsibility towards the environment, disease and poverty. What else can an Archbishop of Canterbury do but teach and love? He has no power but that of a moral authority. In an age when all authority is suspect and only legal authority valued, the Archbishop too relies on an antiquated system, patched up and modernized a bit -new wine in old wine skins -but hardly up to the task of a Communion which has emerged from the Age of Empire, a miracle in itself, and now seeks to adjust to the manifold problems and divisions of the 21at Century.
What +Rowan faces in North America an elsewhere is the “me” generation in vestments. TEC wants. Nigeria wants. The CofE wants, and so on. We all want our rights and at any cost and we want them now.
After he retired Archbishop Fisher was asked what he thought about the newly proclaimed “Human Rights Day.” He replied that he would support a “Human Duty Day.” I thought of that when I watched the movie “The Queen.” Diana seemed to symbolize the good and the bad of the “me” generation. The Queen and to some extent my own generation seemed to symbolize the good and the bad of the “Duty Era.” Somehow I believe the truth lies in between. The Duty era was about putting others first. The “me” generation at its best also puts others first. But Duty doesn’t put what I want first at any cost. As a result it can be cold and stuffy and self-righteous. The “me” generation can be recklessly sentimental, ready to advance it’s own needs at the expense of others and utterly lacking in an appreciation for righteousness.
Christianity is about righteousness but not self-righteousness. The Faith is about caring for others, but it is not about campaigning for oneself. The Church is about including all the baptized but it is not about syncretism and a laisse faire morality. It is at the bar of rightly interpreted Scripture, the living correcting Tradition and sanctified Reason that all our agendas and plans, however good, must be submitted in each age and generation. We seem to have lost the will to self-examination, at least at the corporate level. We no longer seek to do “our bounden duty and service, not weighing our merits but pardoning our offenses.” One of the purposes of an Anglican Covenant should be to return us to our balanced roots. A forward movement would be to replace the Lambeth Conference with a Pan-Anglican Synod of all orders limited in its authority but authoritarian in its limits.
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