Sunday, July 26, 2009
Anglican Schism, Ho-Hum
The Anglican church's crumbling foundations | Stephen Bates | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk:
If the Americans are shown the door the consequences for worldwide Anglicanism are incalculable and not just because the wealthy US church largely pays for and sustains the communion, including in those parts of the world where the church's mission would not otherwise survive. In the Church of England there are many who find they have more in common with their American brethren than with the strident, coercive voices they hear from the conservatives.
So the Anglican Communion as an institution is over. So what? Why did we ever need it in the first place? I can still go to any Anglican church in the world and feel perfectly comfortable going for Communion. So can anyone else, if they have the nerve, whether Anglican or not--no one is checking. What difference does it make if there's an Anglican Communion with an institutional struction and bishops that fly around the world to have confabs with one another?
I thought the whole point of having a "Communion" was that anyone who was a member of a church in the Communion could take Communion in any church within the Communion. It was like having one's money in a bank that had lots of branches around the world with ATMs where one could do banking business. Suppose Bank of America fragments so that my local branch is no longer part of the same firm as all these other branches around the world but I can still use their ATMs without paying additional fees. Why should I care? The institutional structure makes no difference to me so long as I can conduct my banking business conveniently wherever I go. The Anglican Communion makes no difference to members if they can still go to Communion in any Anglican church, whether in or out of the Anglican Communion. What else is there?
I suppose there's the money--and lots of it. For churches outside of the US being in the Anglican Communion has been like Having Contacts: it provides access to the money and power of the Episcopal Church. When the schism becomes official, will the Episcopal Church keep sending money to poor Anglican Churches in the Global South? And if it does, will they accept it? Hell I care. If the Episcopal Church stops sending money or other churches stop accepting it, then the Episcopal Church will just plow it back into endowment or use it to litigate over church property in the US and to maintain empty churches. Why should I care? I contribute to Oxfam. There are plenty of secular charities sending money to the Global South and no particular reason to have that money channeled through the Episcopal Church.
So I am still puzzled. What is the point of the Anglican Communion? It isn't needed as a vehicle for income transfers from the US to the Global South. It certainly doesn't exist to maintain doctrinal uniformity--that's the last thing I or most other Anglicans want. It doesn't issue Communion tickets because anyone can go to Communion in any Anglican church no questions asked and no ticket needed. So what on earth was it ever for? And what bad consequences will there be if it splinters into two or two hundred fragments?