Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Anglican Splinters

My friend Mark forwarded me the latest news on the Episcopal schism. For the past few years, a patchwork of restless conservative priests and bishops in the Episcopal Church have been more and more boldly cutting their ties with the Episcopal Church USA, ever since that church ordained an openly gay bishop and won't renounce him. Four dioceses and a number of other parishes have "broken communion" with the Episcopal Church, while still trying to claim the mantle of "true Anglicans", by claiming to be ecclesiastical exclaves of Uganda or Nigeria, where they find archbishops more to their liking. The renegades and their African abettors have also been cool to the Archbishop of Canterbury (traditionally, the leader of the worldwide Anglican communion), as Canterbury has been desperately trying to hold the communion together and not take sides. Today comes an announcement that they are forming the "Anglican Church of North America", to peel off their remnant 100,000 members from the 2.3 million member Episcopal Church. This is sad because of the strife it will cause. There are divided congregations, and there will be inevitable legal battles over whether church property belongs to the denomination or the individual church congregations. But it takes a mighty summoning of Christian charity not to simply say "good riddance" to those who would prefer to divide the church, and line up with the thugs who call themselves Christian archbishops in Nigeria and Uganda.

A couple of things in the NY Times article about this latest announcement jumped out at me. The breakaway denomination would like to be embraced by Canterbury as part of the Anglican communion, but apparently they've decided that they'll go with him or without him. "Bishop" Martyn Minns, of the Falls Church in Virginia, was quoted saying, "One of the questions a number of the primates are asking is why do we still need to be operating under the rules of an English charity, which is what the Anglican Consultative Council does. Why is England still considered the center of the universe?" What does he suppose that "Anglican" means, if not that England is at the historical and ecclesiastical heart? That's like asking why Roman Catholics think everything revolves around the Bishop of Rome (a.k.a. the Pope). Moreover, that is the long-established tradition, how it's been since the beginning of Anglicanism. Hypocritically, "tradition" and "that's how it's always been" are their favorite argument against same-sex marriage, but when they're the ones making a radical ecclesiastical change, tradition is no longer compulsory.

The article also noted that this splinter movement, which has only a handful of bishops, can't all agree on just how conservative they want to be. At least one of the splinter dioceses has ordained women priests, but a couple of the others have said they refuse to recognize women priests. You've got to see where that leads. Without the constraint of reasonable moderate leaders in this new denomination, there will be a rush to the right to see who can out-conservative whom, alienating more and more people in their wake, and the splinter will dwindle or split into smaller splinters. In a few years, look for the announcement about Dallas and San Joaquin splitting off to form the True Anglican Church of North America Except Pittsburgh and Canada, leaving behind the Anglican But Not Anglo-Centric Church of the Northern Part of North America.

1 comment:

robert said...

Well said. The comments from the splinter groups seem like those from rebellious teens. Not a whole lot of logic to them.

The Anglican Communion is what it is. If these radicals do not want to uphold a tenet of Christian tolerance and inclusion, they should go along their way.

I cannot understand why they cling to being included in the communion. My cynical thoughts are that they want to continue to benefit from the financial support of the Church, while not upholding the beliefs of the Church.