Church Unity? Who gives a crap!

More on the whole GAFCON and Lambeth deal...

There's been a little bit of interesting discussion happening over at Anglimergent on the whole GAFCON/Anglican Unity/Lambeth deal. Tim Baer made a great suggestion, that

"Maybe a post-modern way to look at the Anglican Communion would be to say, who cares what bishops are in agreement or recognize each other, because Christians and Anglicans on the grassroots level will continue to have relationships and do important MDG/poverty causes on the ground."

My general impulse is to affirm that such an idea makes a lot of sense. There's something theologically sound and appropriately snarky about the idea of grassroots Anglicans protesting their leaders' inability to maintain communion by maintaining that communion themselves. That takes a bit of the edge off of the whole GAFCON/Lambeth discussion, and probably appropriately recognizes the silliness (and increasing social irrelevance?) of church leadership--what with their fancy hats, pretentious titles, expensive world conferences, and websites with ridiculous second by second countdowns to their expensive world conferences. (Thanks for the hot tip, Mary Little.) Ultimately, as Tim suggested, what's going to happen isn't really a fracture in communion in the spiritual sense. Ecumenism has dealt with institutional divides for years, and emerging Anglican leaders are already building networks that cross institutional boundaries. That's the spirit behind Anglimergent and my mostly flaccid Facebook group, "Anglican, whether you like it or not". If there's a split, it will just produce birth another idiosyncratic group of Christians that we other Christians have to learn to love, accept and apologize for. Hell, we're all heretical schismatics anyway, except of course the Traditionalist Catholics.

I do have to wonder if that's really good enough though. I don't know. It just seems like too quick of a resignation when it comes to the traditional structure stuff. No matter how post-modern we are, ultimately our political affiliations do matter pragmatically, and those issues aside, it matters at least a little to me spiritually that the symbolic unity of the Anglican Communion--as amorphous as it is--might be be breaking along liberal/conservative lines. A big part of the appeal of Anglicanism to me is that we're supposed to be above all that. We've been on the same team since the 16th century, right? We're an icon of catholic unity, a symbol of hope in a divided world, yada yada yada...

Let's get real though. Maybe Anglicans are ultimately above all the conflict only to the degree that they don't have to confront it. Maybe we like unity with our liberal or conservative or northern or southern or black or white brothers and sisters only as long as it doesn't cause us any problems, or make us deal with any of our real issues. Nowadays, with the internet and HAM Radio and all that, we know everything important that's happening when it's happening (in bed) and it irks us. When we have to deal with it on a regular basis, it drives us crazy. So we split, head back to our geographic/political/theological enclaves, and preach to our respective choirs about the other guy's problems.

My hope is that it doesn't devolve into all of that. My expectation is that in the coming decades there will be a significant number of leaders on both sides of the theological fence and in the middle who will continue to struggle for the unity of the Anglican Communion, and that it will continue as a diverse, vital and vibrant expression of the Christian faith on all continents. People that don't want to participate don't have to, I suppose.


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