Comments: August Bank Holiday opinions

Re The Anglican Communion as a gift from God, such language is very problematic. It tends to put the institution on a pedestal, and champion internal political hegemony, usual in favor of power, over true unity based on justice.

Churches make mistakes. The Anglican Communion is in many ways a Victorian era institution struggling with identity in the wake of colonialism.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 25 August 2012 at 3:51pm BST

Dear Rod, a tough criticism, but maybe true - except for some of the more emancipated colonial churches, where justice can be seen to overtake some of the more un-just traditions.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 25 August 2012 at 10:28pm BST

Thanks for the rejoinder Fr. Ron, I'm always interested in your posts. A little elaboration, I'm thinking of the very different contexts that various local "Anglicanisms", if that's a word, face across what was formerly "The Empire".

In Canada, we are dealing with the horrific legacy of the [Indian] Residential Schools, which sadly, most of our Canadian society, except interestingly the Churches that were so culpable, would like to forget, if our National Truth and Reconciliation Commission is any indicator.

I'm also thinking of the efforts of Anglicans/Episcopalians who are trying to adapt moral theology to meet the challenges of the sexual revolution while at the same time trying to remain "in communion" with Anglican churches elsewhere in the world who are contending with very different social pressures.

One of the issues is governance, in Canada, for example, our General Synod is still very much influenced by our House of Bishops,and so we have a kind of kinder gentler feudalism at work which makes impairs true synodical government. The HoB is in many ways a Victoria throw back.

I'm also interested in what appears to be, from a distance, the very different take on things when one compares neo-Colonial male leadership in The (wider)Communion with the Communion wide Anglican women's network.

Which brings me to the very high stakes credibility issues for old mother corp.(Cof E, and the rest of us, on the matter of women in the Episcopate.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Sunday, 26 August 2012 at 12:03am BST

To say that the Anglican Communion is a gift from God - which I would take to be axiomatically true - does not mean that it is an unqualified good, never mind that it is intended simply for our peace and comfort. Such a view takes a rather saccharine view of God's gifts, which include suffering and soul-searching as well as sweetness and light.

Posted by rjb at Sunday, 26 August 2012 at 6:39am BST

"One of the issues is governance, in Canada, for example, our General Synod is still very much influenced by our House of Bishops,and so we have a kind of kinder gentler feudalism at work which makes impairs true synodical government. The HoB is in many ways a Victoria throw back."
- Rod Gillis -

Precisely, Rod! The Church of England General Synod is in much to same situation - still inhibited by and enclosed in the colonial understanding of monarch bishops - who seem to think that clergy and laity in Synods need to keep their place, and that, for them, seems to be well in the background.

An additional problem with the House of Bishops is its tendency to cling to political power in the House of Lords - a situation that, fortunately, does not obtain in any other Anglican Province.

What will be interesting - at the forthcoming General Synod where the issue of Women Bishops will be discussed (perhaps hardly debated) - will be the effect of the H.o.B.s' amendment to the enabling Measure. If the Measure fails, it will be because of the power of the House of Bishops over the General Synod.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 26 August 2012 at 8:39am BST

I think, rjb, that one might prefer to say that the Kingdom of God is a gift from God. To the extent that the Anglican Communion, or any church for that matter, seeks the kingdom, lives out the values of the kingdom, then it has a nature of grace about it.

This allows the caution, pointed out decades ago by Pannenberg, that the Church ( any church) ought not to confuse itself with being the kingdom on earth.

But your use of the word saccharine is interesting. The outcome of an emphasis on sweetness and light tends to generate a saccharine sense of self i.e. syrupy sweet with less of a taste for the leaven of justice with regard to its very own daily bread.

"The kingdom of God is not something that we can bring about, nor is it identical with the life of the church. It is, rather, the horizon and criterion of individual and social life, including the life of the church." -Wolfhart Pannenberg

Posted by Rod Gillis at Sunday, 26 August 2012 at 1:34pm BST

rjb, that's a very insightful comment.

It occurs to me that saying something's a gift of God doesn't preclude its misuse. You could fairly call lots of things gifts of God, but I'm hard-pressed to think of any that can't be misused and abused in one way or another. Even things like grace and faith, which are indisputably free gifts, can be twisted.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Sunday, 26 August 2012 at 8:02pm BST

The Anglican Communion - a gift from God - a treasure? Nah!!! more of an aberration. However within the Communion at its head we have indeed been blessed with many gifts and treaures from God - I think particularly of Archbishops Temple, Ramsey, Runcie and Williams. Each one of the first three followed successively by Archbishops Fisher, Coggan and Carey - who were outshone as ornaments of the Church by their immediate predecessors. I hope and pray that Rowan's successor proves to be a gift and a treasure from God but if recent trends in archiepiscopal appointments continue then sadly, I have me doubts.

Posted by Father David at Monday, 27 August 2012 at 5:48am BST

I was more concerned in Elizabeth Kaeton's article about her statement that she "loves Jesus unconditionally" which might suggest a degree of superiority that lacks self-awareness. But to the main issue.
I can't but observe that the main reaction here has been to think of the Anglican Communion in terms of hierarchies and governance, which to me misses the point. We are all the people of God, and the Church is not defined by its leaders but by the members and the presence of God's Spirit. I have had the immense privilege for the past 6 years of serving as a Trustee of USPG: Anglicans in World Mission (watch this space as it is about to change its name to reflect better its identity and mission). The one thing that has impressed time and again as we have heard reports from the overseas churches where USPG is a partner - and there are a large number, many with relationships going back to the 19th century and even earlier - is how the church everywhere is looking for ways to be an effective Christian witness through local projects as a gift of God to local people, delivered through local churches. The gift is not to us who are on the inside, as it were, but to all those who need to experience the love of God in Christ. Recently the Trustees affirmed in a statement of values that USPG's "goal is for every person to lead a full life (John 10.10)" and "We believe that the church is a precious gift and offers one of the most sustainable mechanisms for tackling poverty and delivering positive change." In our tradition the Anglican Communion represents the Church. Again my experience is that to a great extent, through the worship, prayer, reading and study of the Scriptures, and Christian witness, which come as naturally to all parts of the Church/Communion as breathing, the Church is received as a gift. Sure, this gift can be misused, as scrutiny of any congregation anywhere will reveal, but that should not deflect us from seeing the indwelling of the Spirit of Jesus throughout the Church/Communion which is God's gift to us and the world.

Posted by Roger Antell at Monday, 27 August 2012 at 7:25pm BST

I find it difficult to take issue with the fine sentiments of Roger Antell, especially when he writes "The one thing that has impressed time and again ... is how the church everywhere is looking for ways to be an effective Christian witness through local projects as a gift of God to local people, delivered through local churches."

However, congruence is one of the main principles of integrity and ethical action. One cannot divide those who may be well served on the outside from those minorities who are not so well served on the inside. (Supplementary,how are women in any locale well served by a sexist church?)

And so, the one statement I do disagree with is when Roger writes, " think of the Anglican Communion in terms of hierarchies and governance, [which] to me misses the point."

Hierarchies and governance, most especially hierarchies within a polity hierarchical governance, have a great deal to do with whether or not those within the body of Christ are treated justly.

The best witness we can make to The kingdom in the wider human family is in how the kingdom is lived out within the household of God.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 27 August 2012 at 10:34pm BST

I watched the cathedral at Renk in Sudan being dedicated; a total triumph for the local Anglican community and built with the help of Episcopalians who didn't simply give money but turned up in the heat to help. I've been given tea under the shade of the trees in western Africa by the local Mothers' Union who rejoiced to share with us everything they had; I've listened to Joan Chittister speak on Benedictine Spirituality in an Anglican Church in New York; I've visited Anglican aid projects in Pakistan and listened in awe to their witness despite the huge risks they take; I watched as the local Bishop in Zanzibar showed us the spot in the cathedral which served as the whipping post in the slave market that preceded the building and explained that this placing was was deliberate; I found a memorial to soldiers from my Regiment faithfully preserved in the Cathedral in Jerusalem and I've worshipped covertly in Anglican homes elsewhere in the Middle East; I've sat with courageous Anglicans in Ireland during the troubles and listened to the accounts of those who today stand in hard and dangerous places for the sake of the Gospel; I've heard Nelson Mandela thank the churches who sent missionaries, teachers and doctors and nurses to South Africa; people who who taught and showed his generation thy they were loved and cherished and I've watched enthralled as Desmond Tutu preached in a whisper to a spellbound Durham Cathedral which was so full, people were standing on the base stones, clinging onto the pillars so they could get a view. I've sat fearful and proud, whilst Robert Mugabe harangued Zimbabwean Anglicans for their European heritage, knowing that they were getting under his skin; And I've listened to a bishop explain that he might well give his son a snake if he asked for fish, 'for a snake is a good meal'.

And I've watched close up as the leaders of other churches have puzzled and wondered over who and what we are.

I've had my spiritual life so nourished and challenged and enriched by the breadth and depth of the Anglican Communion, for all of its failings, that I have to believe that it has been a gift from God.

Even if, like so many of his gifts, we are incapable of recognising it as one.

Posted by Jonathan Jennings at Monday, 27 August 2012 at 10:38pm BST

@Jonathan Jennnings " so many of his gifts, we are incapable of recognizing it as one".

Interesting. I think the same thing might be said of Anglican bishops with regard to women.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 28 August 2012 at 3:13am BST

Thank you, Jonathan Jennings.

Posted by c.seitz at Tuesday, 28 August 2012 at 3:55pm BST

@c.seitz. Pleased you like Mr. Jennings catalogue of great moments in Anglicanism. I like them too--as long as they are understood to point beyond Anglicanism to Christ, and beyond Jesus the Christ himself to the kingdom which Christ proclaimed.

Understood in that way,they run less of a risk of being a read as a form of provincial cheerleading aimed at obscuring the ways in which the church falls short of the kingdom.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 28 August 2012 at 10:00pm BST
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