There’s a lot going on these days; the problem for me is that most of it either doesn’t deserve comment or I’ve already done it before. The topic at hand falls into the latter category, but it probably deserves a little recap.
Liberals like Mark Harris like to remind us from time to time that “We are part of the Anglican Communion because we are in communion with Canterbury.” That’s true, although that’s not all there is to the AC. Ever since the Anglican Revolt started in North America the impossible dream has been for a non-Episcopal Anglican structure to be recognised by the See of Canterbury, TEC and ACoC get the boot, and everyone lives happily ever after. The affiliation with the African provinces and others represented trying to obtain that on an indirect basis, but the goal (for many at least) has not changed.
The dream was impossible from the start. Beyond TEC’s money favouring and Anglican fudge, the core problem has always been the Church of England itself. To start with, there’s probably little stomach in Albion to take sides in a substantive way in a Colonial dispute. Beyond that, however, the Church of England is the state church. Its existence stems from an Act of Parliament and the monarch’s “broad seal”. The state exercises authority over the church, although in general that overlording has been rather light.
But it doesn’t have to be. As I reiterated in this 2011 post, incorporating material going back to 2006:
Obvious? It was to this blogger at least. From last year:
The CoE’s position as an established church has always made it vulnerable to state interference and control of the kind that Cameron is implicitly threatening (over same sex marriage). That’s why North American Anglicans’ endless desire to find validation by the CoE (along with getting into an Anglican Covenant, with the CoE as the natural centre) is misguided and will end in disaster.
And earlier, in 2006, re women becoming bishops:
It just gets crazier and crazier out there…
In our Island Chronicles fiction series, we document the successive edicts of an autocratic Island monarchy which by decree imposes first women ministers and then women bishops on its reluctant Anglican state church. They do this because the first woman to hold each is a favourite of the kingdom’s strong-willed queen and crown princess.
Now we see that certain members of Parliament in London are considering doing basically the same thing to the Church of England to force it to have women bishops. While some have described it as a “constitutional crisis,” the blunt fact is that, as long as the Church of England is basically a creature of the state, the state can pretty much tell it what to do when push comes to shove.
On this side of the Atlantic, we’ve forgotten what it means to have a state church. Some worry about the consequences of religious influences on the state. The rest of us worry about the reverse. This is a reminder of that simple fact.
The only amazing thing is that it’s taken so long.
What it took was a government willing to put the LGBT’s agenda at the top of its own, and David Cameron’s certainly has done so, to the benefit of the UKIP. But that’s little consolation to those who were hoping that recognition from Canterbury would settle things on this side of the Atlantic. The Church of England, long the beneficiary of state support and approval, is on the verge of reaping a whirlwind from this association.
The new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has seen which way the wind is blowing, both in Westminster and elsewhere, and is trying to come up with an accommodation, much to the displeasure of his African counterparts. Some, noting his pre-clergy experience in the oil industry, have sneered at his attempt to cut a deal. Now, having spent some time in the oil patch, I would be the first to admit that some of the people one does business with are interesting and some equally interesting agreements come out of it.
But Welby is about to find out that his attempts to “cut a deal” on the matters at hand won’t work for two reasons.
The first is that the people he’s dealing with, especially in the LGBT community, can’t be negotiated with. As I’ve noted before, they’re looking for unconditional surrender, not accommodation.
The second is that neither surrender nor accommodation will reverse the CoE’s decline. There are just too many secular ways of doing what liberal churches offer, as I pointed out to Susan Russell in 2007. If Welby’s goal is to run a system of wedding chapels and museums, he will do that. But I don’t see that this is what Our Lord had in mind.
As painful to those with roots in Britain as it is, we need to stop our earthly tribalism and understand our place as a heavenly people. To repeat David “Spengler” Goldman’s advice to Donald Rumsfeld:
The blood of the pagan was his life; to achieve a life outside of the blood of his tribe, the pagan had to acquire a new blood. It is meaningless to promise men life in the Kingdom of Heaven without a corresponding life in this world; Christianity represents a new people of God, with an existence in this life. That is why Christianity requires that the individual undergo a new birth. To become a Christian, every child who comes into the world must undergo a second birth, to become by blood a new member of the Tribe of Abraham. Protestants who practice baptism through total immersion in water simply reproduce the ancient Jewish ritual of conversion, which requires that the convert pass through water, just as he did in leaving his mother’s womb, to undergo a new birth that makes him a physical descendant of Abraham. Through baptism, Christians believe that they become Abraham’s progeny.
If that means moving the earthly centre of our faith away from the West, so be it. And that, friends, is not only true for those in what is presently the Anglican Communion.