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I’m in North Carolina, staying with my son. Last Friday my car was hit by a deer, the windshield destroyed plus some minor body work damage and I was left shaken and bemused. The windshield will not be replaced until tomorrow, so I am grounded.

I am trying to keep up with the emerging story of traditionalist struggle within and without TEC. This is not made easy by the continuing development of new vocabulary to describe emerging or declining groups and factions. Acronyms are bad enough -althought I admit to using some of them-but odd conglomerations of partial words seem to be coming into favor, a habit once the preserve of military establishments. Perhaps this connection has something to do with the admittedly understandable, although I think unfortunate comparison between the struggles and feuds of Christians and warfare. Neither are pretty activities and few if any are “just”.

I have to say that I enjoyed the cut and thrust of the Archbishop of York’s assistant, in defending his boss against unkind accusations from Common Cause’s Canon David Anderson. http://www.dioceseofyork.org.uk/cgi/news/news.cgi?t=template&a=1138. No doubt it had to be said. Amid all the evocations of Middle Earth and Mordur in traditionalist blogging there’s the hint that our modern Hobbits don’t fight fair and fail to have that sense of humor and proportion enjoyed by Bilbo’s descendant and friends.

It seems that those who wish to see the Anglican Communion charging to the rescue of orthodox Episcopalians are to be called Comcons, while those abandoning ship and joining one or perhaps more of the cafeteria array of post modern traditionalist groups are to be termed Fedcoms. Apart from a common love of something termed “Anglicanism”, although the term stretches from screens, ping pong balls and rumperty tumperty songs, interspersed by snatches of vaguely liturgical texts and quotes from the NIV Bible to Mass, Mary and Confession according to the Anglican Missal, no slavish conformity here, it is suggested that all these people are quite sure that unless God decides to do a miracle, and strangely for believers in miracles -I do too – one isn’t expected or perhaps even wanted, the Episcopal Church is going or has gone to hell in a proverbial hand basket.

While staying with Mark I’ve borrowed Dr. Judith Maltby’s “Prayer Book and People in Elizabethan and Early Stuart England.” It seems Dr. Maltby’s research was no easy thing. Much is said to disparage users of the Prayer Book in those days by Puritans who had decided that those who used the Book were “papists and atheists,” while Roman Catholic recusants worried that “Church Catholics” would opt for the Established Church rather than risking fortune and maybe life by clinging to the “old religion.” The point is that those who used the Prayer Book and attended their parish church said little for themselves. If one judged them on the basis of the writings and pleas of their detractors, they would seem a rather sorry lot. Perhaps they were not noted for their adherence to this or that popular theology peddled by those whose counter-claims to orthodoxy vexed the souls of many.

Perhaps in their illiteracy, although those who couldn’t sign their name seemed to know what they wanted in terms of liturgy and worship, these people couldn’t make a great show at providing anything more than a simple, and perhaps a bit superstitious faith. Yet their memory is sullied if one is to believe all that puritan and papist said of them. They wanted their children baptized, their sons and daughters married, their dead ones decently buried, chance to receive the sacrament of the altar now and again, perhaps a decent sermon or homily and Matins and Evensong on Sundays and Feast Days, Wednesdays and Fridays. These simple expectations were not always easy to come by amidst the turmoils of our extended Reformation. Yet the persistence of these devout and unsung saints lasted even through the Puritan Interregnum.

That I was reading this while traditionalists were assailing the predominant faith and practice of American Episcopalians -and the beliefs of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York for good measure-seemed no accident. Granted I am constantly amazed at the confidence with which some prominent people, some bishops, some seminary professors, some “cardinal rectors” promote novel and often daft substitutes for mere Christianity, or put all their trust in projects which while not antithetical to the Gospel necessarily, are not Gospel, or in a feverish wish not to seem intolerant, limit the power of Jesus to the narrow confines of ecclesiastical groupings, in attempt to regard all religions as salvic, yet having admitted all this, I have to return to my essential experiential belief about the Episcopal Churchs religion, at least at parish level. Despite all this, and I do remember the “God is Dead” lot of a few decades ago, I am not prepared yet to say that the Episcopal Church is totally depraved. Sometimes when I read the burbling of far left and far right I wonder if she is not “very far gone from original righteousness”, but that’s another matter.

Of course I hope and pray that after the Archbishop of Canterbury has attempted to inculcate some sound theology into our bishops, they will forsake their lately espoused super patriotism and damp their injured pride in being called out for naughtiness and agree to work as bishops of an autonomous province in an Anglican COMMUNION and not federation. It would be ironic if they joined hands with the ACN Fedcoms and became Fedlibs! Stranger things have happened…”those whom the gods would destroy…”

As for deadlines, I regard them as being utterly political and totally unhelpful, a stumbling block for the prideful and an affront to the pious.

I also hope and pray that the next Lambeth Conference will be a place where Christian bishops listen to each other, learn from each other, forgive each other and emerge committed to the Gospel as the Anglican Church has received the same. To do that the temptation to posture, to judge, to invoke sectarian, party or ethnic struggles, even to assume the mantle of “prophet” will have to be abandoned. What the church needs today are bishops who are sound in learning, loving pastors, and active evangelists. God give us such bishops!

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