Saint John the Evangelist (Lockport, IL)

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Upcoming Anglican Communion Conversations

In view of the ongoing actions and reactions of Anglican bishops to the Windsor Report and to each other, here is one priest's current take on his options if the ECUSA "opts out of communion with other Anglican bodies." The author of this blog is A.K.M. Adam, professor of New Testament at Seabury.

We need to pray for the Anglican Communion. We need to pray for the Bishops of the Anglican Communion. We need to pray for our ECUSA bishops. We need to pray for our diocesan bishops. We need to pray that the Holy Spirit will lead us through this troubled time. And we need to pray that the Anglican Communion will follow the Spirit's leading.

To be honest I have conflicting thoughts, as I think all of us have, as I reflect on this.

First, I am an Anglican. I suppose I should say I am a Christian who chooses to worship God with others in the Anglican communion/tradition. Most Anglicans in the United States worship in Episcopal churches (ECUSA). Thus, if the ECUSA in the future "opts out of communion with other Anglican bodies" (to use Dr. Adam's phrase), what happens to the ordinary Anglican communicant sitting in the pew in ECUSA churches?

Second, most individuals in the pew find themselves unable to comprehend the intensity of the response of the African and Asian Anglican leadership to the presenting cause of this trouble in the Anglican Communion, namely:
the decisions of the Episcopal Church (USA) to appoint a priest in a committed same sex relationship as one of its bishops, and of the Diocese of New Westminster to authorise services for use in connection with same sex unions [page 7 of the Windsor Report].
These thoughts lead me to these questions:
  • Is the North American and European Church (or is it culture) being led by the Holy Spirit, and the rest of the church (or world) is being urged by the Holy Spirit to follow our leadership in this area?
  • Or are the North American churches so out of step with the Holy Spirit that we need to be rebuked?
My point here is that I don't think we Anglicans are listening to and learning from each other! We in North America don't fully comprehend the situations that the Anglican church in Africa and Asia face in this regard. And the leaders of the Anglican churches in Africa and Asia are unable to assent to the reasons why Anglicans in North America (specifically) have been so open to the presence of and receptive to the ministry of the gays and lesbians in our midst. I think what bothers me the most here is that I don't see a lot of activity on either side trying to patiently explain and humbly teach why they hold the views they do.

What I see instead are (small) groups of ECUSA bishops getting ready to anathematise each other, while (it seems) the majority of our bishops are trying to stay out of the line of fire and remain invisible. Why, for example, hasn't the Bishop of Chicago invited a Bishop from Africa to come and present the African side of the issue(s) to Chicago? Is it because he believes there is no such argument to be made and consequently there is no reason to listen and learn? With all my heart I hope this is not the case. Because if so, how can he ever hope to dialog with and influence the development of his colleague's thought? On the other hand, has the African Anglican leadership invited a bishop from North America to present a reasoned case for the North American belief that the Holy Spirit is leading the church into new ministries and ways of ministering to people? Is it possible that such meetings can't happen because neither side is willing to learn; they can only lecture? I don't know the answer to any of these questions! It may be that these are even the wrong questions to be asking.

I do believe, however, that unless we ask these or similar questions, and encourage our bishops and leaders to reach out to the other side to engage in this dialog, we soon will be trying to figure out which of the options Dr. Adam forsees is best for us individually.


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