Saturday, December 23, 2006

Friendly Fire

Apropos of the most recent blog post before this one, I find myself increasingly concerned by tensions within those quarters of the Anglican world that understand themselves as reasserting the received theological and moral tradition in resistance to the movements of the last several decades to radically reassess and revise that tradition. (If you found that opaque, it's because I'm trying to avoid such unhelpful labels as "conservative" or "orthodox" or "traditional.")

Significant events are occurring with some regularity, and the landscape is constantly shifting. Earlier this month, the Diocese of San Joaquin (full disclosure: my diocese) voted overwhelmingly to prepare the way for separating from the Church-of-General-Convention (aka the Episcopal Church) en route to . . . well, that's not entirely clear, but en route to something else, some other way of being Anglican. More recently, the Virgina secessions have been announced, and the spin doctors are in the red zone.

Whether, and how, all this will reach a tipping point is anybody's guess, and that uncertainty is spawning a fair amount of internecine squabbling. There are those who have already made the break (I hesitate to say "left" because that opens up the question of who's actually "leaving.") There are those who are fully "orthodox" in their faith and morals but have announced that they see no need, and foresee no possibility of a need, to separate from the Episcopal Church. Here one thinks of some of the "Windsor bishops" who are not affiliated with the Network. And then there are those at various points in the middle. I would number myself in this latter category.

As long as everything was theoretical, "reasserters" of various persuasions were capable of making common cause and being of great mutual support. Now that the quantity of "facts on the ground" is increasing at an ever faster pace, people are having to choose sides, make difficult decisions. This leads to strained relationships among friends, and sometimes outright ruptures. Parish communities are split down the middle. Diocesan colleagues find themselves at odds.

My biggest fear, and the Evil One's hope, is that the whole thing will develop a revolutionary psychology. The dark side of revolutions is that they inevitably consume their own. Monsieur Gilloutin eventually lost his head on the device he had invented to prosecute the cause of the revolution. In the Islamist revolution in Iran in 1979, two of the early leaders of the Ayatollah's new government were before long executed by that government. The specter that hangs over the Anglican realignment is the potential development of a "more orthodox than thou" revolutionary zeal.

Great will be the tragedy if the Anglican Communion founders on the rock of such misdirected zeal. I am at a loss to suggest what concrete actions might avert such a fate. I can only pray.

1 comment:

kim said...

I too will pray. Anybody else?