I have watched with interest over the last two weeks as a small Anglican tempest has brewed in the small Anglican teapot. Anyone who is unfamiliar with our old “trouble” will probably want to pass along by on the other side of the road, but some of you might want to stick around because it’s a little bit sticky, and a little bit gossipy and therefore well worth your while.
So several weeks ago a service was held at Duke where seminarians from both TEC and ACNA are engaged in their theological studies. Everybody has to go to church, of course, but not everybody has to go to church at the same time or in the same place, and certainly, not everybody wants their bishops to come together to shake hands with the bishops of their fellow students, especially when those bishops are institutionally, theologically, and doctrinally divided from each other. Nevertheless they all did and the seminarians were the acolytes.
A week later one Hannah King, recently ordained in my own church, the ACNA, along with her husband, wrote this piece. As nice as pie, she praised God that she and others of her generation have been able to move past the rancor and division that went along with the split—what she calls “schism” of the ACNA from TEC. She could have gone either way, she says, because really, it is time to move past all the division and trouble.
In time, she was answered by this person. Respect your elders, he answered her, they gave up everything. And also, they left for decent and godly reasons.
I read through all the posts with the uncomfortable realization that I am probably one of the “elders,” not withstanding the flabbiness of my neck, and that certainly I have lived through the “wars” and managed to come out on the other side basically alive but with a pronounced limp.
I wanted to say just three things.
First, the war isn’t over. We left the Episcopal church in 2007 and lost our building in 2009 and are just beginning to stop the twitching. Our children lived through the “war.” They are highly suspicious people and know that the church—all corners of it—is brimming with sin. While we were in the thick of it, though, we all knew that that battle was only a practice skirmish for the greater contest surely coming down the line, that of the total rejection of all orthodox Christian expression from the public sphere. All that the little Anglican war did was help build up our calf muscles and our deftness in battle. If you think that a lot of us are still really combative, we are, because there’s more to fight about now.
Second, TEC is worse than it was then. Back then we had the small potatoes of whether or not to call God “she” and life long monogamous same sex “marriage.” Now we have Desmond the Amazing, which in my view amounts to child abuse. Oh, and if you’re a girl and you want to do sports, a boy can come along and compete against you merely by proclaiming that he basically feels like he must be a girl, because how hard can feeling like a girl even be? I won’t bother with a link. There are too many to chose from.
Third, the New Testament is still the New Testament. Christians are not allowed to even eat with someone who claims to be a Christian and yet denies the gospel. I mean, it’s too bad, and I know that Michael Curry got to do the sermon for Meghan and Harry, and that even the Queen was there, but that didn’t make all the division go away. Jesus still wants us not to accept heresy as part of our way of life.
Of course division is nasty and upsetting and it would be so nice if we could all just get along. But one of the ways I think we best can understand God is to feel in ourselves, in our own bodies, in our own churches, the grief of division. God came to cleave us away, to rescue us out of the world. This kind of rescue was a violent thing. Jesus himself endured the total alienation from those whom he had made, whom he knew from before the foundation of the world. This was, to put it mildly, painful. And yet he endured it because he is the Truth, and the Way to the Truth. When any of us follow after him, we will experience a violent cutting away from those things and people that we love. Not because we no longer love them, but because the Truth of Jesus is so precious, so necessary, that to do without it is to die forever.