It has been an interesting year in Anglicanism. The focus has centered on what we mean by “communion”. Some suggest that the word means something like federation or association, something less than being a church. They cling to the concept of a national church in which nationality or a discreet history define and limit it’s being or nature. This concept creates something akin to national patriotism and at worse a form of xenophobia.

There is a long history of this form of parochialism. Parishioners distrust the diocese and even more so the national church or province while retaining a form of mystical affection for the brand name. I grew up with people who were proud to be CofE even if they rarely attended church. To them archbishops and bishops were remote figures with silly ideas about politics. Something similar exists in the Episcopal Church with a slight difference. The English Church has a more formidable story about overseas provinces than does TEC. With the exception of some central and southern American involvements and long divested missionary work in China, only Liberia and the Philippines evoked American interest. Isolationism comes easily in this huge country which until recently has been geographically and economically self sufficient, inspired by it’s own fervent belief in national destiny.

It is thus “psychologically” difficult for the American Church to do it’s theology about the meaning of communion and church other than from a geopolitical stance. Of course the issue of sexuality has made it the more difficult for TEC to examine the concept of communion and covenant from a theological and ecclesiological base. In a sense TEC dare not do it’s theology. It is easier to cling to legal provisions which stress a form of autonomy which in fact means independence.

The concept of no one interfering with our internal affairs resonates abroad in post colonial times. In a real sense the ecumenical dream founders on this rock of individuality. “That they may be one” is drowned out by “I’ll do it my way”. Nor is this a narrow vision embraced only by liberal Episcopalians. The right goes about creating it’s own rival communion made and fashioned in it’s own image, a Janus like opposite face forged in America and exported efficiently.

At this Christmastide one imagines the shepherds and the wise men squabbling about turf and independence. Would they have found the Baby?

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