Ever since the hapless Rowan Williams began his exit from the stage of Lambeth Palace, and the former oil executive Justin Welby began measuring the curtains, there has been a great deal of optimism about the future course of the Church of England. Would there be a way of putting the Communion back together again? Would the revisionists be sent packing from Albion’s state church? Would the Evangelicals be triumphant in the end, as their numbers show they should? Once again we see hopeful signs.
However, in the Anglican Communion, which has in the eyes of much of Christianity the reputation of boring, repetitious liturgy and even more boring homiletics, there’s never a dull moment, and even before the mitre was officially passed the word got out that Canon Jeffrey Johns, the poster child for full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the Church of England, was being considered to succeed Welby++ in the see of Durham. This has generated the predictable reaction from the Central African provinces and a cloud for those in the U.S. for whom recognition by Canterbury is the silver lining of ecclesiastical life.
Let’s start with the obvious: does anyone really believe that the relationship between Canon Johns and his partner is celibate? The LGBT community is about a lot of things these days, but celibacy isn’t one of them: not for themselves, not for anyone else either. If the Church of England seats him on the same throne that once held up N.T. Wright, it would only do so on that representation of celibacy. What’s going to happen if, after this is done, he comes up with the lame “I lied” admission that’s so fashionable these days?
Even if that event doesn’t happen, the transformation of the Church of England into an irreproachable repository of the orthodox faith has more obstacles than somewhat.
The Church of England is, after all, a state church. The brouhaha over women bishops brought threats that the state would take action to override the vote of the laity in the matter. The debate over same-sex marriage in churches has brought similar threats, although these may be abated for the moment. But face it: the Church of England was formed so that it would do the sovereign’s unBiblical bidding about a divorce, so why not do some more unBiblical biddings?
As far as Evangelicals and their numbers are concerned, back home in Palm Beach it wasn’t the number of people you knew, it was whether you knew the right people. The LGBT community has, implicitly or explicitly, worked the system with that ethic, and it didn’t hurt that they were economically privileged in the first place. Our political and other systems, awash in cash and influence-peddling, only have the form of popular choice; the deal is rigged far more than most will realise or admit.
This whole blather about the Evangelicals’ numbers doesn’t matter: the right people have decided, the rest of us just have to deal with the consequences. Has everyone forgotten that the revisionists started out in TEC as a minority, well placed in seminaries? (That, BTW, is the message behind the Louis Giglio fiasco, which has led to responses like this. Personally I think it’s for the best; Christians don’t need to give either the UK or the US any more cred than they have to).
Anglicans are and have been for some time in a place to respond meaningfully to this, because they have a new orthodox centre in Africa and elsewhere. The old colonial powers are doing their best on more than one level to curb their “progeny”, but the world is changing. It’s time for Anglicans to pull the plug on Canterbury, to leave ethnocentric dreams behind and live in a world where the only blood line they’re concerned about is the one started by Jesus Christ himself. And wasn’t that the idea to start with?