I just saw this on the BBC:
A Californian diocese has voted to become the first to break away from the US Episcopal Church in protest at its support for gays in the Church.
Now I’m not an Anglican, but there are quite a few Anglicans that I do talk to – not to mention that this schism problem is a problem everyone is dealing with, its just that the Anglicans are being open about it.
The “liberal” side of the Anglican communion made concessions earlier this year if I remember right (this is a bad phrase, “liberal,” particularly for this subject, but I’ll just run with it for this post). But, apparently the way it is right now is still not okay. This is to say, for me, very disappointing and frustrating. If the Anglican communion can’t hold together, lets just face it, we’re all screwed. They’ve got the most flexible set up; for crying out loud, their understandings of themselves, ever since Elizabeth I actually, is encapsulated in their phrase “via media” (the middle way).
Sexual theology aside, this is troubling on another fundamental level – the “conservatives” are giving up the denominations now. This is exactly how “liberals” got the seminaries and divinity schools less than two centuries ago. Read Dorrien’s trilogy for more details (vol 1, vol 2, vol 3 – especially vol 1 for this subject), but I’ll give a very brief overview: Conservatives got frustrated that liberals and unitarians made their way into Yale, Andover-Newton and Harvard (particularly in faculty positions and as visiting lecturers), so they either left or got nudged out and started up their own schools like Princeton Seminary (and then Princeton went too “liberal” for some). The liberalizing of Union was related, but also included entirely different issues as well, like historical criticism. Over all, some conservatives were clearly nudged out, but quite a few were very dogmatic on a plethora of issues and could not stand to stay. As time went on, the conservatives generally kept moving more and more to the margins.
Now it is no surprise to me that since conservatives gave up the schools, they’re now having problems staying in their denominations. However, to make that connection is the subject of a very large book and I am not prepared to write that now. I am also not advocating for “conservatives” to stay in and wrestle control from the “liberals,” rather that they should stay put. Do. Not. Leave.
When I hear the charge of sectarianism against people like my conservative undergrad or Hauerwas or some other theological position, I am very suspicious of that. Sectarians are isolationists, which my undergrad or Hauerwas is not – they’re just highly critical, nevertheless, they are still engaging. However, to leave the communion like this is to cease engagement with our community. That strikes me as sectarian. This sort of thing will continue the polarization of American Christianity and that is bad enough already. I do not think I can say this any stronger: Do not leave.
This idea of getting up and leaving is not Christian; this idea of movement despite breaking relationships is fairly American in actuality. To assume we can just simply get up and leave without maintaining ties is capitalism telling us that our job is more important than the community you’re already in. “You have to go where the company sends you or you don’t have a job” is something I’ve heard before. I didn’t like it then and I like it even less now. We have to follow jobs because we don’t have a sense of responsibility to our community and because we don’t have a community to begin with; we’re alone and subject to company power because our anthropology given by the state and the market privatizes and commodifies us. I’m becoming more and more convinced that this American incarnation of sectarianism as such is not Christian, instead it is the forces of the state and the market subverting our community. If our community of the church meant more to us than always being right, but to instead to live together, I think that this rash of schisms would not be quite as bad as it currently is.
This isn’t divorce court. Stay together.