It’s time to ponder once again whether membership in the Anglican Communion is actually worth it. Today I’m wondering whether it is an asset in evangelism.
As you may remember, on Christmas Day, The New York Times carried an article in which Archbishop Peter Akinola, supporter of repressive anti-gay legislation, described how he recoiled the only time he knowingly shook a gay person’s hand. Today the Telegraph of London carries a story headlined Anglicans ‘can reject women priests.’
Readers following these stories closely might understand that the Episcopal Church favors the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the ministries of the Church, that it has been ordaining women to the priesthood for three decades, and that within the Anglican Communion it is on the outs with the folks who want to limit ordained leadership to heterosexual men. But most readers aren’t following closely. What they see is that we keep company with precisely the sort of folks who have kept/scared many of them away from church in the first place.
Readers following the story very, very closely are another problem altogether because what they see is a Church that, at least at the moment, does not seem to have the courage to articulate the convictions it once held for fear of having to pay a price for doing so. Witness the fact that no one in a position of authority in our Church or Communion has called Akinola out for what even the crudest individual would realize was outrageous behavior.
When you consider that a significant percentage of Episcopalians (The figures I have seen quoted range from 40 to 60 percent) have joined the Church as adults, when they were perfectly capable of judging the theological direction in which our church was heading, you have to wonder whether our current public profile isn’t diminishing us in the eyes of the very people to who our witness for Christ had been most attractive.
Yet, this timidity in articulating our beliefs in the public debate does seem to be part of the price we are paying to help the Archbishop of Canterbury to keep the Communion together. So my question is, is it worth it? Are we killing our Church to save the Communion?