1/22/2018

Turning the Lights On: Anticipation in a Dark Time.


Turning the Lights on.

This is a sermon about An-ti-ci-----------pation.
“An-ti-ci----------pation”  is a single word quote from the “Rocky Horror Picture Show.”  Maybe the first sermon ever to quote that wonderful picture. There is another reference to the Rocky Horror Picture Show in the sermon. I trust you will find it. This is the only lighthearted moment in this sermon. Enjoy it.

We Christians are a people of Anticipation.

When we tell the story of the journey of the Magi to the place of Jesus’ birth we are telling a story of anticipation. The Magi were filled with anticipation, with a sense of wonder. 

In our day living in that anticipation, in small ways, is a bit like being ready to turn on the lights. Remember what that’s like in a darkened room? Just the moment that you are about to switch on the lights there is a moment of anticipation. What will we see?  Will we discover that the dogs did indeed get into the garbage and with quiet abandon scattered coffee grounds and vegie leavings all over the floor?  Will we find that coffee left on last night is now a thick goo in the bottom of the coffee pot? Or more happily, will we discover that the kitchen feels warm and inviting, the dog was fine and the coffee ready to go. There is anticipation in those moments between when we rouse ourselves to be ready to deal with what the light reveals and when the light comes on.  We could sit in the dark, of course, and delay the coming of light, but usually we are more eager than we are afraid of the light.

Turning the Light on is, well, like becoming free, free of the dark and things unknown, able to see and deal with the realities of the day. 

God is known primarily when our anticipation is met with the Light. And that is the source of epiphanies, of moments of insights where we know God is at work in our lives.

I want to look at two texts, one from the first letter of John. The second is from a speech by Franklin D. Roosevelt

From 1 John 4:18  :  “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with or leads to punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.” The operant phrase here is, “perfect love casts out fear.”

And FDR in his 1941 State of the Union address the list of four freedoms:
   
            Freedom of speech
            Freedom of worship
            Freedom from want
            Freedom from fear

FDR said these words at a time of great peril, when Fascist and extreme nationalists were everywhere on the march, and where freedom of speech and worship were in great jeopardy, and where fear was rampant. These four freedoms stated much of our hopes in a time of shadows and darkness. The anticipation of the reestablishment of these freedoms for the whole world was part of the hope that led to the post war development of the UN.

We also live in anticipatory times:  I believe we are pretty much in the dark, waiting with anticipation for the moment when we can turn the lights on and see clearly. And to do so we must be willing to throw the switch, light the candle, wait for the coming of dawn. We must do whatever it takes, including waiting, for what the hymn calls “the bright morning star arising in our hearts.”

While we are living in anticipation we are encouraged by the words, “Perfect love casts out fear,” and the vision of a world where there is freedom of speech and worship, and freedom from want and fear.

I have, however, become convinced that in these days, while we are waiting in anticipation, the four freedoms are under extreme attack and we are made to feel afraid of all sorts of enemies.  And hate, the product of such fear, as become palpable. Freedoms are being limited, and fear drives those limitations. Perfect love, (and even imperfect love,) is mostly missing. Only hate remains as a constant.

So:   what is to be done?  I think the way is clear: Turn on the lights, open up the doors, bring the fears into the light. Take courage. “Be Just and Fear Not.”

Jonah, the reluctant prophet, and the psalmist who knows that God alone is the source of freedom from fear, and Paul who believes that time is short and anticipation high, and Jesus our Lord who says the time is fulfilled…. They all encourage us to turn the lights on.

There is a great word of encouragement also to be found in the poetry of Walt Whitman who wrote, “Unscrew the locks from the doors!  Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs ! ” I love those words. They urge us to break out from the dark and enclosed place of fear, they encourage us to new epiphanies. New experience of knowing God’s love, present in the world.

These are the things then that must be done: break down the walls, unscrew the doors from the jambs, practice the freedoms, live into perfect love, cast out fear.

There can be difficult consequences, I know.

Speaking can be costly, prayers will be troubling, overcoming fears will be itself fearful. Freedom?  We will sometimes doubt its value when safety is at stake. Well, remember the words from the song “Me and Bobby MaGee.” “Freedom’s just another word for nothing less to lose, Freedom ain’t worth nothing but it’s Free.” 

I have sometimes held back in these days in fear…fear that I might lose good friends or the respect or love from others, and God knows I need them all. Everyone here has been a major support during my times of weakness and illness, for which I am immensely thankful.  I’d hate to lose the comfort that has come to me from friends in my dark times.

But here it is: It is time to speak up, speak out, and turn on the lights. It is time to be just and fear not.

I believe that fear mongering has become a national pastime, and its end will be our destruction as a people unless we collectively repent from living in fear and in the darkness.

Much of this is what the Women’s Marches are about – speaking up, speaking out, turning on the lights, living courageously, casting out fear. I say, let us join these women and the prophets who preach that Perfect Love casts out fear.   I’m up for it, I hope you will too.

There is no question we have real problems. What those are and how we are to deal with them will require real epiphanies – real occasions for looking at them in the full light and working hard to solve them.  But so long as we are driven by fear there will be no epiphanies, there will only be more to fear. Darkness produces only darkness.  The fear mongering of these days is no help at all.

So, let us take heart, dear friends. There are forces that want us to be afraid, and that in our fear we will give up our freedoms for safety, that we will believe in the survival of the fittest, we will believe in the virtue of strength and wealth and power.

If we give in to such forces we will lose the Epiphany of knowing ourselves to be cast in the image of the One who came among us FREE of all earthly powers to reveal the power of God’s perfect love, and who cast out fear.

Better that we join the Magi in seeking the Light, the bright morning star arising. Better that we turn on the lights, and join the marches for freedom.  Amen.



12/03/2017

Memento Mori

“Memento Mori,” the matter of reflecting on death, takes visible form in objects – notes, poems, fictions, remembering stories, visions, and remnants of bodies (hair, fingernails, skulls, bones). Sometimes the remembering is a way of closing the distance between people separated by time and space.  

My Mother, the sainted Anne, reflected on death many times in her art. Here is her take on the Angel of Death. She always liked that weird bird. It sat on her bureau next to a small container that held some of Ed's ashes.









She also made a ceramic mausoleum for animal skulls. Note that she was theologically sensitive in an Anglican sort of way, to the issue of whether or not animals had eternal souls. The hand pointed sideways, suggesting that perhaps animal souls were destined to some other future than “up.”



This last week I found myself thinking of Anne’s running commentary on life and death, a conversation that occupied a good deal of her creative energies in the last quarter of her life, that is life after the death of her husband and always present companion, Ed.

The occasion for memento mori, and the accompanying thoughts about Anne’s thoughts on death, was the death of Marilyn, who for several years was central to my life. We were married for two years, separated for one.  That was over fifty three years ago. Marilyn had the good grace to know that she and I had no business being married and divorced me. She freed me for a future that was filled with blessing and wonder. I met Kathryn and from there came marriage again and family. So much grace has flowed forward from there.

While the process of ending with Marilyn was painful it did not require or grow from dislike. We were not required by the process to deny the love and affection that had existed between us.  So, for all these years I have carried her somewhere in my heart as part of my sense that love continues in its own way.

Eight days ago I got notice of Marilyn’s death from Arthur, husband of her twin sister Marie, and good friend over these years. I had not seen Marilyn for these past fifty-three years, but Arthur had occasionally provide updates about she was doing. He emailed me that she had been found dead in her home. Very few other details were available. 

This week I was working on sketches for new woodblocks. As those progressed I realized I was doing a sketch of a death mask for Marilyn. The finished block is not in any way a realistic mask of Marilyn. After all, I have not seen her except in memory for a very long time, nor have I seen any photos of her. 

Still, what is left in memory has made it into the block. Here it is:

I printed it in two versions, one on patterned paper, one on white. Here is the patterned one. 


How do we remember? And how will we be remembered by those who loved us, or who we loved? After all the bumbling about in life, will closing memories somehow honor the best we were to one another, and not simply the bumbling worse? I hope so.


Anne, the sainted mother, had a strong sense that death was a not unwelcome visitor, but like the vulture/ angel of death, a bit frazzled and quizzical, waiting for things to catch up with the Presence and the present. And she was willing to collect remaining bones and place them in a small mansion, to remind us too of our mansion to come, where we are assured that we have reservations.

I trust Marilyn has a room with a view.



11/20/2017

The Venom of the Serpent is not enough.

( This is my first sermon after a year away from preaching at the three main services at St. Peter’s, Lewes. A lot happened in a year, both in the world and in my own life. Much of the “world” year has been filled with venom. Much of my personal year has been filled with grace. This sermon is written against the backdrop of my year with cancer and my year surrounded by love and care from all sides. It was preached on the 51st anniversary of marriage to Kathryn. So it is a time when I am very conscious of the abundance of life even in a venomous world.)


THE VENOM OF THE SERPENT IS NOT ENOUGH.

A Sermon by Mark Harris, November 19, 2017, St. Peter’s, Lewes, Delaware.

May we not be left in a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Amen.

The present seems very much a time in which people tear each other down, 
look for the sin in every soul, 
the evil in every politician, 
Where the ends are sought for which any means are justified.  

That is, the present seems to be a time where we feel it necessary to be very self-protective, self-justifying and in which we take care of ourselves first and last.  You remember Jesus’ comment, that we should be as wise as serpents, as innocent as doves?  We work at being wise as serpents. As innocent as doves?  Not so much. It seems a time when we only seek to be snakes, and particularly to be venomous snakes.

You all know what I am talking about: 
We lived with the spirit of tearing down, 
not building up, 
the spirit for destruction, 
not construction. 

I confess a certain perverse interest in getting all the scoop on just how bad it all is, and I vacillate between delighting in the fallenness or thick headed ness of leaders and despairing the general state of things. But I live knowing that what I’m mostly doing is tearing down.

Of course there is a good bit of that tearing down that is well deserved. 
Too many men have been treating women as objects, with disdain and disrespect, 
too many politicians have covered up too much from their constituents, and have made too many deals to keep themselves in office,
too many white people have been too oppressive to people of color
Too many adults have been cruel of too many children, and the children in turn have learned to be cruel to one another.

And so on….

And catching the various perps out is needed. So we do. But it also becomes delicious to do, since it feeds our real sense that it is a time of destruction, in which we too can be destroyers. We grow to love spitting righteous venom.

And of course it is true not only in civil community. It is true in our religious communities as well.  There are lots of disaffected Christians floating around out there, disturbed, and often appropriately so, by the sins and degradations of those who lead in the church.

It turns out that sin and degradation is everywhere present, and if we are not careful that is all we see, and seeing sin and degradation, we make our decisions with venomous calculation. When we do that we begin to enjoy the possibility of the whole thing crashing down.

That however is a terrible way to live. 

If we live by the venom of the snake of sin and degradation, we will die by that same venom. Taking on the wrath, even the wrath of God, as our primary way of being in the world is finally to make vengeance our byword and mutually assured destruction becomes our end. The hand that slaps the offender comes around and slaps us, for we are all sinners.

That is why the admonition of Paul to the Thessalonians is so important. 

“put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 We put on faith, love, and hope of salvation. In the face of universal damnation, we live with things eternal, Faith, hope and love, and as Paul says in First Corinthians, the greatest of these is Love. Remember thing things of venom do not last, are not eternal, but the things of faith, hope and love, they do. 

Paul writes, “Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.”  And so we ought to do as well.

Jesus ends this remarkable parable we read this morning with the odd and deeply disturbing comment : “For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” There is a lot to unpack in this parable.  But I want to note one thing:

What did the first two servants have that the third did not? The first two took what was given and saw it as something to build up, to encourage, something on which to expand. The third saw only the possibilities of failure at the hands of a venomous landlord. He saw poison, and in fear acted in a way that was surely going to poison the relation he had with the landlord. The end result was that the little he had was taken from him. The third servant believed he had nothing, so the little he did have (and he did have something) was useless. His world became an outer darkness,  one of weeping and gnashing of teeth. And we too will live in such outer darkness if we live only in fear.

It seems clear: All the gloom and doom that we see, the vision of sin and meanness and greed and the fear that accompanies it – if that is all we see and experience, then we will be blind in the gloom. It will be hard to mobilize for new action. We will do nothing that endures. 

If on the other hand we take what is given, and find a way through the gloom and doom of personal and corporate sinfulness, we enter a new place, a place of refreshment and new life. We do not have to live forever with venom as our only shield. Love and its abundance is a better way.

That is why the readings this morning are important for NOW.  Now is a time of great dread, the time of darkness. But if that is what we see, and only what we see, then we miss the abundance that is also there, is always there, for that which endures is of that abundance. 

This is not a Pollyanna sort of observation. I don’t think I’m a Pollyanna sort of person. Some even suggest that I have an edge of sarcasm and rough realism.  Rather I believe this is a realistic healing observation. 

The healing of the world begins and ends in acts of faith, hope and love. It does not begin and end in venom, even the venom of the self-protecting snake. It is those acts of faith, hope and love that endure. It is there that we must cast our vision and our work.

What this means for our little community of Christians here in Lewes is this: we need to connect to others primarily with faith, hope and love as our guides, not distrust, guile and hate. 

There will always be the need to be wise as serpents, but we need to teach the serpent in us not to be venomous. And some doves of peace might be in order.

We do not need to poison relationships, even with those who are, in our eyes, wrong or stupid or heretical or just plain boring. When we have reasons, good reasons, to disagree we need to find ways to not become disagreeable, nasty and venomous in the process, for then what little humanity we have will be taken away. And we will live in the land of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Not a pleasant possibility!

All of which calls to mind another epistle, that to the Philippians, where Paul writes,

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!”

Our obedience may not be as great as that of our Lord, but it is there. Our obedience begins by bringing out in one another all that is good and right, by lifting up and encouraging one another, not by bringing one another down. And if that means we take the form of a servant, suffering the foolishness of this age, it is a small cross for that which will endure.

And that’s what I know about the Gospel today. Amen.



11/17/2017

The Gift Returned: a poem exploration



The gift returned.

“He gave his only son,”
And we forever look on the cross, 
That tool of death,
And see God’s love exposed,
In all its terror.

Miserable sinner that I am,
I spin webs
Of petty crimes and sins committed,
Forever ungrateful.
My love is unequal to the gift,
And so I tremble in fear
Yet yearn for Grace.

Here we are then:
Caught forever
Unequal to the gift
Or Giver.
It is an unbearable condition.

O God, for whom time
Is a play thing,
A building block,
A social construct,
Take me back to the tomb,
To the moments between
Death and resurrection.

In the freedom of that moment,
Let me lift the vail
And see the face
Of Him who died
That I might live.

I dream:
I see Him there.
His face is peaceful.

I kiss him gently,
And leaning, whisper in his ear,
“It’s alright,
You didn’t have to die and live again
For me, or for the world.”

I imagine
The terror of accepting the gift 
Too great to ever repay,
Of the offering 
That requires death
And a cross,

And I say, “no.”

“No. God, no.
Don’t die for me.”
I’m not worth the trouble,

Double trouble if you do,
For then I am forever
Both a sinner and a debtor,
Locked into the dread economy
And strange dance,
Of redemption and release.

Let me run back and tell Pilate
Not to play his part,
And the Sanhedrin not to play theirs.
Let them and me look away
And not take the gift in hand
And lead Him to the gallows.

Rather let us look on Him while living
And see the love exposed and evident,
The transfiguration of mere flesh
To God present,
And see that as gift enough.

Perhaps we could look on him
And not despise,
Could look at him, 
and let him go wandering
Away, into a paradise unblemished
By agony and blood.

In imagination I wonder,
Could I or we accept the Incarnation
As enough? 

Could we see God present
Without the cross?

Is it possible,
With less severity,
To teach
The way of life
Unfettered,
Not bound to violence
And my forever debt?

“God gives his only Son,”
But must I receive
Such an encumbered offering,
Just like that?

“No,” I whisper to Him who is veiled.
“Not that,”

Rather, this:

God have his only Son
To be here, for a while,
For any / every while,
That in Him,
God might walk again
The shaded paths with us,
And we might know God’s love
In the intercourse along the way,
And Eden be restored.


10/20/2017

AAC, ACNA and GAFCON, wandering astray in the fields of the Lord


In the past two weeks the American Anglican Concil (AAC), the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), and GAFCON (the leadership of the Global Anglican Future Conference) have taken to dumping on the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Scottish Episcopal Church and even the Chair of the Board of Nashota House. It has been a busy time out there in the land of the crabby righteous.

It has taken a while to attend to these small matters in Anglican-land. The strange melt down in American political life and certain personal matters (mostly quite wonderful) have drawn my attention away from the doings of organizations that thrive only when there is separation and division in the church. Now with a bit of time to reflect, here are some thoughts on the recent dumping by AAC, ACNA and GAFCON.

(1) The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury on the first evening of the Primates’ Meeting, to offer prayers for those who were murdered in Los Vegas. An ACNA spokesperson was quick to criticize the Archbishop for so asking. See the Anglican Communion News Service article, HERE.

The article reports,“This afternoon (Tuesday), the Revd Canon Andrew Gross, Canon for Communications and Media Relations for the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), speaking on behalf of Gafcon, said that the decision to invite Michael Curry to lead the congregation in prayer at the Evensong service “put the Gafcon primates in a difficult spot.” Speaking at a press conference in a hotel near Canterbury Cathedral, he said that they were “forced to look like they are walking together when they are not walking together.” The Archbishop of Canterbury, it was reported, was somewhat taken aback.

How is it that an ACNA staff officer can claim to be speaking for Gafcon? ACNA is a church. Gafcon is the abbreviation for the “Global Anglican Future Conference.” The continuation of the movement that grew from the first GAFCON meeting gave rise to a structure, which GAFCON describes on its website, HERE. Gross works for the Secretariat, under the direction of Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen. GAFCON recognizes ACNA as a member province, and not TEC. But it is interesting that a staff officer of ACNA, the newbe on the block, is somehow speaking for GAFCON. He may be speaking for GAFCON, but I suspect he is also speaking for ACNA.

Episcopal News Service, usually fairly cautious in its editorial voice, was more than taken back. It explained Gross's presence at the Primate's meeting in this way:

" The primates’ communiqué also acknowledged the pain that has been caused by cross-border interventions when a representative of one province or diocese acts in another without permission. The majority of such interventions have been orchestrated by disaffected Anglicans and former Episcopalians who’ve colluded under the umbrella of breakaway groups, such as the Anglican Church in North America or the Global Anglican Future Conference."

Later, in the article, ENS then reports on the Gross presence:

"Most of the characters who’ve attempted to influence previous meetings from the sidelines seemed to have stayed away this time. However, an ACNA representative held a media briefing earlier in the week and attempted to infiltrate the final press conference. Cathedral police escorted him off the premises."


Those in "collusion, under the umbrella of breakaway groups, such as the ACNA or GAFCON" were called "characters who've attempted to influence from the sidelines..." The memory of the ENS article reached back far enough to remember the time when at the Primates met at Dromantine in Northern Ireland from 21 to 26 February, 2005. Various “collusion” notables gatherer around the edges of the meeting and coached a number of Primates in their actions at the meeting. Conviently enough Bishop Robert Duncan found himself in the neighborhood and joined in on the hunt. At the next Primates’ Meeting in Tanzania he was also present and working the ropes.






Collusion may be all the rage in civil society and politics these days, but the level of overt efforts to influence the direction of the discussion among Primates of the Communion at the time of the formation of ACNA was amazing for its time. Many of the characters present then are retired from the field of battle, but their organizations continue. To see a list of the "characters" at that Primates Meeting, see "Follow the Money" HERE. One purpose of the collusion was to promote ACNA as the “real” Anglican presence and Province in North America, and to push for its recognition as a Province. It didn’t work. Another was to promote the notion that a resolution of the Lambeth Conference of 1998, Resolution 1.10, was binding on all Provinces. In that they came closer, but even that failed in the end.



Now the voices are fewer, and apparently no one is putting up with influence from the sidelines. But there is the hint of the old mantra raised at Dromantine, that Primates were not "walking together" but only appearing to do so. That has become the primary charge of the GAFCON / ACNA / AAC cohort, and Gross's little excess was simply an example of what happens when the image of not walking together gets overplayed.


Bishop Venables, attending the Primates’ Meeting as Primate (again) in the Province of South America (formerly known as the Province of the Southern Cone), has had a good bit to say about this "walking together" thing. See Here. The notion that people, organizations (churches or Provinces) cannot “walk together” unless they are in agreement is the core of the move to separate the clean from the unclean - in this case the GAFCON group of Provinces from Provinces that have decided to bless same sex unions and opened ministry to all the baptized. It invokes Amos 3:3 as its biblical touchstone.






Perhaps Amos 3:3, the biblical source for the phrase “walking together,” is not such a useful place to anchor the spirit of a church, since the question "do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so" is the lead in to condemnation. It is a favorite biblical quote of fundamentalists. Many fundamentalists believe that division is a sign of God directed rejection of aposticacy and heresy. Division is at its base a context for condemnation in an effort to purify. The problem is, of course, that a church whose core reason for being is separation and condemnation of others is radioactive and will have a short half-life. The long term success of ACNA, AAC or GAFCON, or for the Anglican Communion or TEC for that matter, will rest in their positive core values and Good News, not their condemnation of others.






I would contend that a better place to begin would be Luke 24:13-35, that is with conversation on the road and a meal with the Lord. It would suggest that walking with persons trying to understand and cope with the realities of engagement with this strange Messiah who died on a cross, and who were clearly confused if not wrongheaded, was an opportunity not to separate from their failed understanding and faith but to encourage further exploration. More, communion with them while they were not as yet enlightened, pure, or faithful, was a way to open their eyes. Not sharing the meal would have meant the story would have ended too soon. At least a church grounded on the encounter with the risen Lord has some chance of being more than crabby.


Well, in the midst of that moment, where pointing out that various Primates and / or their churches do or do not walk together seemed to be the preoccupation of the ACNA / AAC folk, an ACNA bishop decided to dump on the Bishop of Springfield. The Bishop of Springfield, no slouch as a conservative bishop in the Episcopal Church, is the chair of the board of trustees of Nashota House. He was slammed by the ACNA bishop of San Joaquin for welcoming the Presiding Bishop to Nashota House. Read here.






The ACNA bishop of San Joaquin in his letter to the Bishop of Springfield is a bit testy, echoing the unhappiness previously reserved for the Dean of Nashota who invited the last Presiding Bishop to visit Nashota House. That invitation occasioned quite a stink. David Virtue, of Virtueonline, reported extensively on the similarities of these two occasions HERE.






The article references several bishops who send “Anglo-Catholic” students to Nashota: “Menees (of San Joaquin), Jack Iker, Keith Ackerman, William Wantland and Juan Alberto Morales.” Quite a menagerie! Bishops Ackerman, Iker and Wantland are all ex-bishops in the Episcopal Church. Bishop Morales was elected in ACNA to succeed Bishop Ackerman. His background is odd, to say the least. The suggestion that they might not sent their students to Nashota House is less a threat than a plea. Where indeed could they go if not to Nashota House? Where else is there an Anglo-Catholic seminary that would welcome ACNA folk, some of whom act out the worse sort of fundamentalist separatism? I think the answer is “no where.” I wonder, then, if the ACNA bishop might have been better advised to couch his objection to the invitation in a more pastoral way, suggesting that he might meet with the Board to reflect on the concerns about disconnecting from the unrighteous.






The ACNA objection to the PB leading prayers at Lambeth is, well, silly and somewhat pathetic. Venible’s efforts, as a GAFCON leader, to parse the “walking” thing is a bit pedantic. The letter from the ACNA bishop of San Joaquin is at the least ill mannered.



What gives? ACNA is quite capable of really pretty good efforts to build community and do theological work. Some of its efforts seem quite sound. GAFCON is what it is, an organization whose missionary efforts consist mostly of invasion, ordaining bishops for recovery of the true faith in England, Scotland, and North America. But even GAFCON in its better moments is able to be a voice of post colonial Anglican realities. But what gives here?






The Primates’ meeting was not good news for ACNA and the American Anglican Council, or for GAFCON. The communique of the meeting had the audacity to state the truth, namely, (a) that ACNA is not part of the Anglican Communion, (b) the Primates’ Meeting was mostly successful in including all but six Primates, only three of whom were absent for reasons of conscience and (c) Scotland got sanctioned in the same way that The Episcopal Church did for moving to bless same sex marriages, but the “hot button” issue of homosexuality as sinful or not and the related items about same sex marriage and inclusion were reduced to wringing of hands and muttering of sorrow about the facts. That is: The Primates met, the GAFCON / Global South Primates who were present (and most of them were) were engaged in the full range of common life, prayer and discussion, and ACNA was a non-starter.






The peak of influence by “characters” around the edges of the meeting was at the Primates’ Meetings in Northern Ireland and Tanzania. At those meetings outside pressure and influence by the “don’t walk with them, walk with us” crowd involved cell phones, late evening strategy sessions, coaching, media briefings, and so forth. Outside players were all over the place. Both exclusion and inclusion parties were there, but the exclusive crowd (AAC, ACNA etc) were the more forceful. International religious press folk and highly charged partisan organizations sent their best and brightest to do battle. Primates had little time for unpressured conversation and reflection. Whatever had been envisioned by Archbishop Coggen, the Archbishop of Canterbury who invited Primates for the first meeting, was overtaken by meetings more regulatory meeting, and the notion of a relaxed and deep conversation became harder to achieve with the three ringed circus of media, lobbyists and partisans surrounding it.






GAFCON has run into the internal contradictions that emerge from overly zealous use of Amos 3:3. Apparently some of the Primates (and quite a few of the bishops in the member churches of GAFCON) do not see the issues of the moment to require division and separation. For whatever reason, they have come to the Primate’s meeting and have stayed in communion with the whole, even while having some distance from TEC and other flawed Provinces. GAFCON apparently is not the solid wall separating the godly from the ungodly that it purports to be.






The crabby comments from an ACNA spokesperson, from an ACNA bishop, from GAFCON about the whole meeting, are all the product, I believe, of these organizations feeling the beginning pangs of failure. Under intense pressure they may have come close to carrying the day at earlier Primates’ Meetings. But now ACNA has little justification for its claim to be part of the Anglican Communion, the AAC has to make all the greater used of the somewhat broken down image of “walking” or “not walking” together, and GAFCON may have to back off its more extreme use of the fundamentalist tactic of separation and division.






There has not been a lot of commentary on these matters outside the realm of conservative bloggers. There seems to be a growing sentiment among more liberal writers that the organizational overreach of Primates’ Meetings, and other “instruments of Communion” have called the whole structure of the Anglican Communion in to question. From that perspective the crabby comments of characters around the edges of those structures seems profoundly uninteresting. Attacks on the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Primates’ Meeting, have become non-starters. These “instruments” seem not to be viewed as servants of the desire to find ways to travel on the road to faith but rather are viewed as regulatory instruments of an expanding world wide canon law for an emerging world wide church. Interest in the whole enterprise of the Anglican Communion seems to be lessening.






Perhaps it is simpler than that. Having discovered that sanctions from “out there” in Anglican-land hurt our feelings, but little more, many of us have simply turned our attention to more pressing matters. And there are indeed more pressing matters to which we ought turn our attention.






Still, I wonder.... I want to be part of a larger whole, whose vision is not limited to our own particular takes on liberal or conservative litmus tests. I want a church whose reason for being is not to become pure, but to live out the Christian virtues in the world where the pure and impure are so wonderfully mixed together that we have no choice but to fall altogether into the fear of judgment and the joy of grace. We should be up to the task of walking with those we only partially agree with or understand, but who we love and care for. I think we Anglicans can do that. I’d like to be part of that Anglican Communion.