Generous Orthodoxy  

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

More on Anglican meltdowns

My previous post on this subject has received a certain amount of attention. The most interesting responses came from Bishop Ed Little of Northern Indiana, whom I invoked in my first post. With his response, I am quoting part of what he said. Bishop Little is an exceptionally intelligent, measured, wise person and I always find his comments to be edifying and enlarging. Here is some of what he wrote:

These are indeed treacherous times for Anglicans, and the challenge gets more and more difficult as time goes on. You are absolutely right about the various iterations of breakaways. Thus, sadly, it shall always be. I have a theory that Anglicans don't do schism well because our ecclesiology is essentially catholic and thus, when we splinter, we're acting against our DNA. (Other Christians, without that catholic ecclesiology, actually grow by schism. When a large Baptist church splits, for example, the result is often two churches larger than the original.) The "continuing churches" of the 1970s are now divided into more than 50 competing and mutually excommunicating jurisdictions; and, I fear, the ACNA, AMiA, CANA, etc., are headed in the same direction. Like you I have many friends in the breakaway groups, particularly ACNA. (I imagine that some of these are mutual friends.) They remain beloved friends, and it breaks my heart that they're gone. Indeed, their departure has made my work - and yours - harder.

But I also believe that you and I have a vocation to stay, as hard as that is. I don't imagine that we will live to see the healing and re-direction of our church. That's not given to us. Our call is to follow Jesus on a road that often seems dark and hopeless.

I thought the observation about the Baptists versus the Episcopal DNA made a lot of sense. However, I didn't know what the "continuing churches" were, so I wrote back and asked. Here's his explanation:

The phrase "continuing churches" refers to the people who broke away from the Episcopal Church over the ordination of women in the 70s. Four bishops were (uncanonically) consecrated for this group in Denver in 1978, with the idea that they'd be the nucleus of the true ("continuing") Anglicans/Episcopalians. What happened, in fact, is that they quickly fell out with one another, split into four churches, and those churches have in turn split, and split, and split - more than 50 of them now, tiny groups with (so it seems) more bishops than members, all claiming apostolic lineage. A very sad tale indeed. And, sadly as well, that pattern seems to be repeating itself with this newer iteration of Anglican breakaways.

I am just so sad about this, not only because it is surely a result of the power of Sin which has such a grip on us all, but also because so many dear friends are involved. (And perhaps I am the one who is wrong.) The good news is that Sin will have no power over us in the End. The End belongs to God alone.