Skip to comments.Andrew Carey: Those Exceptional Americans
Posted on 03/15/2005 7:13:17 AM PST by sionnsar
A major shift took place in the Primates Meeting [not long ago], and was probably the most encouraging aspect of their communiqué, that now the responsibility for any future schism lies where it belongs: with the North American provinces of the Anglican Communion.
For far too long, African provinces, British and American conservatives have been accused of behaving ungraciously and schismatically. But the Windsor Report, and now the Primates Meeting, took a different view, that unilateralism was to blame for the crisis in which we now find ourselves.
The most vexed question we now face in attempting to avoid the widely predicted break-up of Anglicanism, is how the North Americans will receive this wisdom. Will they draw back from the brink, consent to withdrawing from the Anglican Consultative Council and come in a spirit of reconciliation to explain themselves in June, or will they baulk at this final chance?
There are mixed signals. On the one hand, the Primate of Canada has gone back home to a flurry of criticism from some of his clergy, including the Bishop of New Westminster, Michael Ingham, who have scorned the suggestion that they should send no representatives to the next ACC meeting. His stance is backed by most of the pro-gay groups on both sides of the Atlantic. On the other hand, extremist liberals like the Bishop of Massachusetts, Tom Shaw, have conceded that this is probably the best way forward.
However, even if there are some concessions in the short term, I cannot see how the North American Church with its trail-blazing attitudes, its blend of theology-lite and American exceptionalism can ever finally back down.
In the Daily Telegraph, Clifford Longley shrewdly noted that the crisis is developing into another Independence Day for ECUSA in particular. He recalls a conversation with an Episcopalian Bishop before the 1988 Lambeth Conference, in which he was told that Americans didnt see such events as an opportunity to take but to give. Do not forget, he said, the Revolutionary War was not just a military and political rebellion against the English Crown. It was also a religious breach. In our eyes, England had lost credibility as the most favoured among the nations. We were no longer prepared to look to it for guidance or leadership. In fact, henceforth we would lead. That is why we come to the Lambeth Conference.
To be an American is something to be proud of. To be a Christian American is something to strive for, to live up to, not simply in some sort of blind narcissistic national pride, but with a sense of purpose that this nation was founded for a reason, a noble reason, a reason that is congruent with, and indeed based upon, the Judaeo-Christian notion of human creation, declared one priest from his pulpit in a sermon defending American exceptionalism.
Foreign policy expert, Russell Mead, a lifelong Episcopalian, noted in a recent interview the irony of the ordination of Gene Robinson: Many of the Episcopalians who strongly support the ordination of this bishop are people who strongly criticise Bush for a unilateral posture vis-à-vis Iraq.
In fact, both the left and the right in America subscribe to some extent to the idea of American exceptionalism. Bishop Spongs 1998 attack on African Christians as primitive reflected how dominant Enlightenment notions of progress are in this notion of Americas special purpose and identity.
In the case of Canada, closer links to the Crown and an uneasy relationship with the US results in an even greater ambivalence about colonialism. When Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali warned ECUSA in 1997 about how its policy of ordaining practising homosexuals could lead to a split in the Anglican Communion, Canadian Primate Michael Peers wrote to The Church of England Newspaper protesting against English Bishops in English Palaces with colonial attitudes. A strange charge to level against a Pakistani-born bishop.
As Longley notes, the notion of provincial autonomy has primarily come from the North American interpretation of what it means to be in Communion. Yet this autonomy has meant a fractured and unequal relationship from the start among the provinces. America has paid the piper and called the tune. The dollar has appointed successive secretary generals of the Anglican Communion Office, as well as other staff.
Yet since the 1990s, South-to-South consultations, the development of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa, and the discovery of such a strong voice for global south Bishops at the 1998 Lambeth Conference, has led inevitably to this cultural clash.
England is little more than an observer of this cultural battle that is now going on for the soul of Anglicanism. In other words, this crisis now has little to do with the colonial inheritance of the Anglican Communion, but it is strongly about American exceptionalism, and the emergence of a new generation of African church leaders. The rest of us are mere spectators.
This article originally appeared in the Church of England Newspaper, March 4, 2005, page 8.
Mat 22:21 They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.
" the crisis is developing into another Independence Day for ECUSA in particular."
Count me as a sort of Tory, I suppose.
LOL, me too.
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