I'm of an age to remember a short-lived satirical news show from the late '60s called "This is the Week That Was." For Anglican Christians, and those interested in Anglican Christianity, last week was "the week that was." I'm assuming that anyone reading this probably knows his or her way around the blogsphere well enough to garner the raw data, and most of the interpretation. If not, send me a private email and I will hook you up.
I will simply add my voice to many others to the effect that both the Camp Allen and the Kigali meetings were good things, and their outcomes positive for the future of Anglicanism. In fact, I'm almost ready t0 say that, in my 33 years as an Anglican-Episcopalian, I've never felt more optomistic about the future of this speciation of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Yes, the official behavior of my own denomination--the Episcopal Church--has made me uneasy for most of those three decades. Very uneasy. I have sweated through ten General Conventions--eight as a distant observer, two as a close-up deputy. I have bitten my fingernails, and then shed tears, at the actions of those conventions. I have been privately chagrined and publicly embarrassed by the actions of my church. This has happened so much, and persisted for so long, that it feels normal. Friends and family of other persuasions (my family of origin doesn't have reunions; we have ecumenical councils) wonder why I stick with it. I have often wondered the same thing.
But now--for about the past six months, actually, ever since the buzz generated by the leaking of contents from the Special Commission report at a House of Bishops meeting--I'm cautiously optomistic. The Episcopal Church started developing amnesia about its apostolic roots even before I joined up, but when it really started going south about 20 years ago, no one could have foreseen the confluence of forces that have come into play since then. Let me just name three big ones:
1. The churches planted by the flowering of Anglican missionary activity in the nineteenth century came of age and demanded to sit with the grownups in the main dining room. They're now known as the "Global South," and they are feeling their oats. They are flourishing while the older provinces are stagnating. One might offer many explanations as to why this is so, but I suspect it may have something to do with actually believing the basics of the gospel and acting as if they're true, rather than joining the deconstructionist frenzy of the post-Christian west.
2. The internet happened. It is difficult to overstate the importance of this technological development, a sacramental sign of which is the very existence of this blog. In 1981 or so, I read that Timex was selling a computer for $100, and I thought that was an amount I could probably afford, but then I couldn't imagine what I would actually use a computer for! Five years later, I bought (used) one the original IBM PCs--the ones with two floppy drives--purely for word processing while in seminary. Even then, few, if any, could have imagined the impact that the internet would have on access to information, the democratization of the exchange of information, and the breaking of the monopoly that a few news organizations held on what people know and think. There is no way we would be at the place we are in the evolution of Anglicanism without the internet.
3. Rowan Williams was appointed to the See of Canterbury. I've admitted in other arenas that I initially found this a disappointment. My man was the Bishop of London. Now I repent. Dr Williams is the right man at the right time--to borrow from Luther, "the man of God's own choosing." Intellectual brilliance complemented by humility, charity, and patience is just what we need at the helm of ecclesia anglicana at this time. More than anything, the scope of his vision, the breadth of the context in which he is able to view current events, is astonishing. On top of all this, he refuses to pander, despite what have to be enormous temptations from all directions. I hold him in my prayers constantly.
So, the Episcopal Church has the dubious distinction of pushing the envelope far enough and fast enough to put these and other forces into play in such a way that something truly creative and renewing is happening. Anglicanism is on the verge of emerging from its adolescence and beginning to behave like an adult. Oh, there will still be occasions for weeping, lots of hard work, and lots of confusion. My own generation may not be around to enjoy the fruits of what I believe God is up to. We hunger for defining moments, but we'll only know them in retrospect, long after the fact. Perhaps last week will be one of those moments.
I think I see an icicle melting in Narnia.