Laying Fractured on the Floor

From the Daily Office Lectionary for Friday in the week of Proper 19, Year 1 (Pentecost 16, 2015)

2 Kings 1:2 ~ Ahaziah had fallen through the lattice in his upper chamber in Samaria, and lay injured; so he sent messengers, telling them, “Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this injury.”

I don’t know what lattice the Anglican Communion has fallen through, but it sure looks like it may suffer the same fate as Ahaziah. The Archbishop of Canterbury, traditional “first among equals” head of the Communion, has invited the other 37 Primates of the Communion to meet with him to discuss some sort of restructuring of our common life in a way that would allow the differing provinces to be in communion with Canterbury although not with each other. (He has also invited the “archbishop” of the break-away “Anglican Church of North America” to attend.)

The conservative (that’s a loaded word, I know) Primates of the “Global South” (mostly African) provinces which several years ago formed something called GAFCON (originally an acronym for “Global Anglican Futures Conference”) have rebuffed the invitation because they refuse to sit at the same conference table (or the same Communion Table) with The Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church of Canada.

Maybe I do know what lattice the Anglican Communion has fallen through . . . it is the open-weave of cultural diversity. So long as the Communion was built with the relative solidity of English colonialism, all was well. When all of its provinces (other than a few rebellious folks like the Scottish and American Episcopalians) were “The Church of England in [fill in the blank],” all was well. When its provinces started to become independent and autocephalic (as their host colonies became independent nations) but still looked to England (and sometimes America) for guidance (and financial assistance), all was well.

But when those newly independent churches reached adolescence and early adulthood and began shrugging off the paternal arm of the English and American establishments, when the cultures of the former colonies reasserted themselves and the local leadership lost the thin gloss of British gentility, when the young churches began to flex their ecclesiastical muscle, fractures and gaps began to appear. The plaster of English churchmanship began to fall away from the apparently solid wall of Anglicanism leaving behind a lattice-work of cultural diversity and diversity’s evil twin, disparity.

The Communion fell through that fractured, lattice-work wall and, like a soft boiled potato pushed through a ricer, fractured itself. Laying injured like Ahazia, it called out to its gods, but not with a unified voice; the parts of the fractured body called out in many voices to many gods. Some parts called out to “inclusivity” and “toleration”. Some parts called out to “doctrinal purity”. Some parts called out to “covenant” and “structure”. All were valid “Anglican” appeals, but each seems not to have heard the Anglicanism in the others’ cries.

This remains the state of the Communion despite the Archbishop’s invitation to conversation. Like Ahaziah in his chamber, the Communion lays crippled on the floor still crying out to its various gods. This morning’s reading ends with Ahaziah’s death and his kingdom passing to his brother “because Ahaziah had no son.” Anglicanism, however, has many children and they seem hell-bent on continuing the fractious discord of diversity and disparity.

On the other hand, however, is the promise of the God to whom all the parties claim to call yet none seems clearly to have addressed, the God Incarnate who promised us that people (even members of our own family, of our own Communion) would “revile [us] and persecute [us] and utter all kinds of evil against [us],” but that on the other side of that would be a reward (Mt 5:11-12), something very like resurrection, I suspect. So, he said, stay salty and keep shining, even as we lay fractured on the floor.