Friday, December 29, 2006

Viral Anglicanism

Mark Harris has once again provided us with learned, historically informed, and incisive analysis of the current divisions in the Anglican Communion, harkening at least as far back as the Elizabethan Settlement; which really didn't settle anything, as the different theological emphases of the English missionary societies demonstrates. Harris likens this evangelical/liberal split to a virus with which the Church of England has infected all of its descendents.

Of course, such divisions are part of the warp and woof of the history of the Church, including its tendancies toward imperialism or, at least, its willingness to benefit from the imperialism of the dominant culture in which it is embedded; our own Anglican Communion is hardly unique in that regard. Imperialism necessarily gives rise to division and opposition, and that is certainly being played out in the post-colonial churches of the Anglican Communion.

It seems to me that one lesson those of us of a more "liberal" persuasion might learn from our "evangelical" sisters and brothers, is the importance of developing personal and institutional relationships rooted in shared faith and witness with Global South Anglicans. I wonder if the current impasse isn't rooted, in part, in the failure of "liberal" congregations, dioceses, and the national Episcopal Church to develop shared missionary ties with the churches of the Global South (and, as Archbishop Barahona, the Primate of Central America, reminds us, the Global Center, which doesn't always share the perspective of the Global South). Our "evangelical" sisters and brothers have been more effective at building international relationships and defining us "liberals" as heretics in the process, than we have been at building direct relationships ourselves.

It is time for that to change. I hope it isn't too late.

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