Leaving the light on
It is safe to say that the Anglican Communion is hanging on to the Episcopal Church by the thinnest of threads. Where once Canterbury and its affiliated bureaucracies could count on a wellspring of goodwill, that reservoir has quickly dried up in the winds of Dar es Salaam. Such is life.
The image above is the correct one--it is the Anglican Communion struggling to hold on, not the Episcopal Church. Most of the opinions that have been heard and that can be voiced at national councils, have spoken again and again for the full and unreserved truth of the Gospel: in the Lord there are no outcasts. The Anglican Communion, through some of its bodies and bishops, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, is insisting that the Church merely say this--but not live it. As a corollary, they urge our national councils to ignore their regular and historic discernment.
This is quite a straitjacket. It cannot not last for very long, if at all.
The cost to the Episcopal Church once it frees itself from it, will likely be another, second Anglican province. The Church of England are welcome to it. If being Anglican means preaching that Life and the Word go only so far, and that the Church itself does not live by what it wants others to, it is hard to envision a national Church in America that is proud or willing to affix Anglican to itself. More likely it would be prouder to acknowledge the pool from which it sprung, give a hearty salute, and be about its work and mission.
Canterbury and many other primates--including those who speak boldly but not at Communion councils, only when they are safe in their home territories--posit the Episcopal Church as a province of a quasi-imperialist Anglicanism. This is news to most of us. There are no doubt some who look quite favorably on this model, especially when implicit in it is a tradition of limiting the Church's membership and offices. This stream has a powerful and lengthy resume.
Since her return from Tanzania the Presiding Bishop has done her best to present the demands given her, and us, as a charitable solution. She is striving mightily to put the best face on what is clearly not only a bitter pill, but an outrage to our Church.
There might be charity in the details she presents on others' behalf, somewhere; they may even be found if we contort our discernment and squint enough. But alas, at no time in the history of our Church have we discerned a truth, or a Gospel imperative, and then as a Church, refused to implement it. Squinting will not help keep that light out of our eyes.
At the end of this "season," whatever this means, our Church should re-commit itself to what it already is: a Church where there are no outcasts, where the Lord is called Blessed, where His mercy is sought, and where the hand of mission and friendship is extended.
There will come a time when other churches will extend their hands in friendship to us, in the ways they have in the past.
We shall leave the light on.