14 February 2007

Anglicans: Time for a divorce?

Over the last few days I've been reading in the blogs of Anglicans, some friends, and some unknown to me, or known only in the blogosphere, appeals for prayer for the Anglican Primates meeting taking place in Dar es Salaam this week.

Many are speaking of trying to preserve an increasingly fragile unity, but I think that Ruth Gledhill, the religion correspondent of The Times, gets it exactly right when she says that it's time for Anglicans to divorce.

Since I ceased to be an Anglican more than 20 years ago, it's no longer a matter of direct personal concern to me. I'm just relieved that I got out when I did, because I've missed 20 years of paralysing bickering. It's not that I haven't experienced disagreements and squabbles over the last 20 years. There have been many. But they haven't been over the fundamentals of the Christian faith.

It is interesting to see that just as the Anglicans are tearing themselves apart, the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia have been preparing to reunite after a split that has lasted more than two generations. But the reason that they can reunite is that they acknowledge the same fundamental faith. They are agreed on the essentials.
The essentials, however, are precisely what the Anglicans disagree on. When each side in the disputes sees what it regards as morality denounced by the other as immorality, there is no tent big enough to hold them all. So I believe Ruth Gledhill hits the nail on the head when she says
No Communion is big enough for these three Luthers, all equally sincere in their faith and convictions, all nailing opposing theses to their church doors. These are people who see so far from eye to eye that it is right and proper that they should go their separate ways. And there is no shame in that. There is an historical continuity in schism, reflected in the recent pasts of our political parties, in particular the Labour Party. Historically there are always critical moments and for the Anglican Communion, this is just such a moment.

What a divorce may do is free many Anglicans who are almost entirely wrapped up in their own internal problems that they cannot face the more serious problems of the world. I've seen many appeals for payer for the meeting of the Anglican primates in Dar-es-Salaam, but very few for a meeting that could have more important and more far-reaching consequences -- for the first time in 7 years there is a possibility of a meeting between Israeli and Palestinian leaders to discuss the possibility of peace. If an Anglican divorce freed those of all parties to pray for that, it might have more significant effects on the world.

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