Rev. Canon James Rosenthal: "Becoming a Global Family"
He wrote the following for the Diocese of New York's study and report on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.
Well, visiting 60 countries in 12 years isn't bad, or is it? Not at all. For a simple Episcopal Church missionary from the Diocese of Chicago, the past 18 years have opened new windows and doors that never had been tried before and sadly may be closed in the years ahead.
When Archbishop George Carey retired, I, with the help of the Rev. Dr. Dan Matthews, then-rector of Trinity Church, Wall Street, created a tribute book entitled "Becoming a Global Family." Having lived seven years side-by-side with Lord and Lady Carey at Old Palace in Canterbury, I knew the then-Archbishop was clear that we, as a family, were not quite there yet. By the time Archbishop Rowan Williams came to Canterbury, the reality of "not quite there yet" had taken on added dimensions.
In the last several years, things have surfaced on the journey of "becoming" that are not foreign to any family in any part of the world: the family feud. So what was yet to be uncovered became a new focus. For some, the new horizons caused jubilation, for others insurmountable obstacles for family/communion life to remain, much less flourish.
The World Council of Churches Yearbook tells us that there are 85 million Anglicans worldwide in Communion with the See of Canterbury—the singular necessary criteria to use the term Anglican in an honest manner, though the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) does have a role in the process. Our small but eager office in London is more circumspect and claims a mere 77 million.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu calls the Communion "God's rainbow people," and so we are, like it or not. But what is not to like? Sin? One thing that knows no boundaries is sin. But it is at the heart of attempts to destroy the "becoming" as family—the mutual responsibility and interdependence in the body of Christ. The reality of being as family today is best lived out through mutual sharing of the companion diocese links. As others argue (usually bishops), medical supplies come in by air; evangelists from the south spread their experiences and faith to those in the north; there are student and faculty exchanges; and skills are shared and learned. Many of these links stem from relationships formed at Lambeth conferences, when bishops gather in Canterbury at 10-year intervals.
The Communion must survive its wave of discontent for the sake of Christ's gospel and the sake of the people so neglected in the slums of Brazil or New Orleans, in Zimbabwe or Pakistan. Some people see in the Archbishop of Canterbury and other instruments of the Communion (the Primates Meeting, Lambeth Conference, ACC) a stronghold for advocacy and representation in the power structures of our world. Look at the possibilities of the role Helen Wangusa as Anglican Observer in the United Nations, an office needing more support and finances to be an effective tool for those whose stories need telling.
The Communion, as a family with its myriad blemishes, exists to aid those who see their Anglican Christian identity not only as the way to heaven and life after death, but also as a means of living life fully before death. We can't be less than a church that honors its historic formularies and lives it life based on Scripture, tradition and reason. Like our Orthodox friends, we respect the autonomy of our various churches. There is no Anglican Church, but Anglican churches in 38 provinces in over 160 countries.
I was recently ordained a deacon in St. Paul's Cathedral in London and was duly humbled when some 13 bishops from provinces such as Rwanda, Canada, United States, Middle East and Spain came together along with lay friends from Syria, Nigeria, Philippines and elsewhere. Bishop Richard Chartres ordained 45 deacons. Not bad for a supposedly dying church.
What we need to re-learn is the language of Paul and the body of Christ and the words of Teresa of Avila and others who demand that we use our very being to build up, not destroy, the fragile body we are at present. Some seem to choose some sins—or perceived sins—as more defining than others. We did not learn that in deacons' training.
We can talk, even clamor and banter, because we are able to do so as Anglicans. Some other Christians do not enjoy that freedom. Our witness to our interfaith and ecumenical friends must be one of confidence in what we are and the faith and practice we share.
I suppose the challenge is actually how broad can Anglicanism be. If you think it is wildly broad in the United States, then come to England!
Does Anglicanism have a vocation in the array of so-called Christian options? I say a hearty "yes" because I have seen it, smelled it, lived it, and I know that who we are can be a reconciling force in many ways.
A strange concluding thought might be, if we ceased to be faithful to our Anglican heritage, where would we go, I wonder? I just wonder.