The Archbishop of Uganda’s piece entitled “What is Anglicanism” http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=6002 is inciting controversy on the Bishops/Deputies email list. I’ve been lurking and occasionally posting to that list since its inception around 2000AD. On the whole its contributors are not noted for their moderation or irenic spirit. Thank God the list isn’t an accurate description of contemporary Episcopalianism.

As I well know, mea culpa, the email and the blog are places that unless we are careful we can use to write the most dreadful things and then slink back into relative anonymity. I know ecclesiastical personages of a meek and mild demeanor, who suddenly flame into veritable Goliaths given a key board and a connection. At this moment there’s much ado about something my friend Elizabeth Kaeton has written. She must have been in a “right paddy”- I apologize to readers of Irish descent – when she wrote what she did, which I am not going to repeat here. If she were to come into my confessional now, there would be a very stiff penance indeed. (Not that we have confessionals in the church dedicated to St. Thomas a Becket here in Morgantown.) Elizabeth is my friend because I like her, have worked with her on reconciliation and she prays for me in my illness. Simply because I deplore her indiscretion, or disagree with her on many issues doesn’t mean she is neither my friend nor my prayer partner. It is high time we civilized cultured people learnt some old fashioned civility.

Back to the Archbishop of Uganda’s piece. In most ways its both a lovely piece of writing and a lovely expression of a faith honed in circumstances far from the experience of we lounge lizards. During a century and a half of Christian presence in Uganda, those who have converted have experienced things past telling. I once had a church next to Hannington’s Store in North Street, Brighton. A panel by its front door spoke to the martyrdom of James Hannington, first bishop to Uganda. As a boy I sang lustily “Daily daily, sing the praises of the City of our God,” a hymn which recalled the martyrdom of those young Bugandans done to death by the tyrant Kabaka.

Those of us who recently watched the movie, “The Last King of Scotland” were reminded of a more recent tyrant who had murdered the Anglican Archbishop of Uganda. Is it any puzzle that Ugandans find the stories in Acts “living Scripture” rather than “dead Scripture.” They do not face, on the whole the subtle corruptions of our culture, but Animism and militant Islam. Yes we want good relations with other Faiths. That is good. But we should not, from the comfort of our recliners, downplay that which Christians face in much of Northern Africa, let alone make comparisons which seem to suggest that Americans experience a similar persecution.

Evangelical Anglicanism in parts of Africa lives because it does speak to those who hear Scripture and live by Scripture and find in Scripture a haunting description of their own circumstances. There may come a day, when, as a result of Global Warming, an energy breakdown and other aspects of decay, our empire, like Rome, lies in grass grown ruin and then, perhaps, the Scriptural context will again hauntingly speak to our own predicament.

Following the example of my constant companion -along with Parson Woodforde– Canon Sydney Smith, late of St. Paul’s, it is easy to consign at least some Evangelicals and I am ashamed to say a few Anglo-Catholics and those who are Broad of Church and broad of mind, I have met to the description Smith drew of underpaid and under-educated parsons:

“You will have a set of ranting, raving Pastors, who will wage war against all innocent pleasures of life, vie with each other in extravagance of zeal, and plague your heart out with their nonsense and absurdity: cribbage must be played in caverns and sixpenny whist take refuge in the howling wilderness. In this way low men, doomed to hopeless poverty, and galled by contempt, will attempt to force themselves into stations and significance.”

I have a sneaking suspicion that this unkind description – and Canon Smith hadn’t the excuse of emails of blogging – may fit aptly some in all our present factions whose personal experience of being ignored bursts into flames in print.

Is it too pious to suggest that being ignored or persecuted or slighted, rather than being a modern phenomenon to which the Scriptures are dead, is a precise experience of that which Jesus predicted would be the lot of those who follow Him? Our Ugandan brothers and sisters -whether we like their bishops or not, have suffered, and in the North of that country, still suffer sometimes with their lives. Shall we bid them good riddance and scorn their religion merely because they don’t approve of our morals?

One Response

  1. Hello, Father, and thanks for visiting my blog and commenting last week.

    Me on the archbishop’s article.

    Almost as heartening as in the Ann Redding row I’ve seen common sense about the Elizabeth Kaeton one. Most, including liberals, agree she really blew it and, whatever the Revd Anne Kennedy’s good and bad points, Kaeton owes her a public apology, big time.

    Stiff penance in the confessional indeed.

    Simply because I deplore her indiscretion, or disagree with her on many issues doesn’t mean she is neither my friend nor my prayer partner. It is high time we civilized cultured people learnt some old fashioned civility.

    That’s a value I learnt early on as a born Anglican and am still learning. I wouldn’t take it as far as claiming to be in the same church as somebody with an incompatible theology but still…

    An example from my own life: I know an independent bishop, not a Continuer, a self-identified gay one who ordains women. Went to a party at his place about a month ago and got to know some of his priests and parishioners including a sweet lesbian couple.

    I had a great time.

    There are objective truth and standards and all that but at the same time God moves in mysterious ways.

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