Who cares about Anglican schism?

All this week, The Guardian asked the question: “what difference will any of this make?” After Rowan’s long letter about the “futures” of Anglicanism, after all the meetings, resolutions, papers and blogs, “who cares about Anglican schism?” They asked four Anglicans, two English, one African and one American, for answers.

H.E. Baber is a philosophy professor at the University of San Diego and an Episcopalian. On Monday, she said something that most laypeople feel and most parish priests know as they deal with the day-to-day of pastoral care and vestry meetings:

None of this has anything to do with me. My local Episcopal church has a priest to conduct services and do pastoral work, sextons to maintain the facilities and an organist. That is all I, and I suspect most other lay people, expect or want from the church: a building, liturgy and pastoral care if needed. I don’t understand how the operations of the Anglican communion facilitate the work of parish churches or benefit their members.

And if you think that Anglicanism influences the decision-making of governments and cultures, she says, basically, forget about it:

As for prophetic proclamation and witness to the world, the church’s efforts are pointless. Christendom is over: the world does not recognise the Anglican communion as a moral authority and pays no attention to its statements on matters of public concern.

Bishop Graham Kings thinks that the Anglican Communion matters very much and as such it should speak with one voice. He believes that the quality of our institutional expression should reflect the ideal of Christ’s oneness, and that mere federation reduces the Anglican Communion to a mere description of institutional functions. He likens the depth of relationship within the Communion to the relationship of the persons of the Trinity, and from that extrapolates that a functional notion of the Anglican Communion doesn’t measure up to what God is calling us to be. Kings says that we should care because he God cares: “for communion mirrors the love of the trinity better than a loose federation – the federation of the holy trinity?”

(T)he Anglican communion is interwoven and intermeshed in its personal relationships. The concept of “communion” emanates from the eternal intensity of love within God – shared between the father, the son and the holy spirit. This participation and interlacing with each other, in the one God, is the model for our being together as a world-wide communion. The son “doing his own thing”, in contradiction to the father and the spirit, is an abominable thought. Breaking the bridges of love in the holy trinity is unthinkable.

Some prefer to relegate “communion” to “federation”. The latter seems to me to be more related to “function” than to “being” – more like a bag of marbles than a bunch of grapes – and stresses isolated autonomy over personal interdependence. Rather than close, intimate, interconnected relationships, provinces of an Anglican federation would be able to “do their own thing” – whether that be authorising lay people to preside at holy communion or proceeding with official public blessings of same-sex unions.

Davis Mac-Iyalla, of Changing Attitudes Nigeria, says people care because where he is from the decisions of Anglican Churches have life-or-death consequences, and not just for LGBT persons in Africa, but anyone who must deal with daily issues of survival:

As black gay Anglican, I disagree with the archbishop in his interpretation of homosexuality as a “chosen lifestyle”; in essence it is our natural lifestyle. There are gay clergy in every part of the communion and not only in the west. The problem in Africa is that there are laws that criminalise and punish homosexuality. The church is supporting these laws and helping to force people underground. But ordinary African Anglicans do not care about gay priests or bishops. They only care about their daily survival, poverty, polygamy, security and global warming. In all these areas the church and government have failed them, and so one wonders why a gay bishop in America causes such problems for an archbishop in Nigeria.

Today, Simon Sarmiento says “It makes no sense to split over same-sex unions, when we are in communion with churches that already sanction them. And we will not let our LGBT clergy be hounded out.” He writes:

First though, there’s a specific reason why a dispute about same-sex blessings in the US or Canada is a very poor argument for having a schism in the Church of England now.

Few know this, but the Church of England has, as a matter of plain fact, remained in communion with the Lutheran Church of Sweden, and also with some Old Catholic dioceses in continental Europe, throughout the past decade, in full knowledge that each of these bodies had given official approval for same-sex blessings at various times during the 1990s. So breaking communion with North Americans on this issue now makes no logical sense.

Sarmiento says that Williams’ statement that openly gay clergy living in civil unions have chosen a “lifestyle” which is incompatible with holy orders. Bishop Tom Wright has jumped on this saying that this clearly means that there is no room for gay clergy in the church. Sarmiento asks:

As the Bishop of Durham well knows, there are hundreds of priests in the Church of England now, to whom these strictures could apply. Is he (or any other bishop) now going to harass gay and lesbian clergy out of their jobs?

It is this issue alone that has provoked a reaction within the Church of England.

Read the Guardian piece here.

H/T to Thinking Anglicans, which has its own summary here.

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