Fr. Ben’s Response to the Anglican Primates’ Recent Actions

compass_rose_400While God may have called me to ordained ministry, I have long claimed that there are two core reasons why I am an Episcopal priest.

The first is centered around my experience as a navy brat. On average I moved every two years. I lived in the south, New England, the Pacific Northwest, and even overseas. Regardless where I lived, I belonged to ONE church, each new building or congregation an extension of the other.   The second reason is affirmed in the prayer for the newly baptized. We pray for an “inquiring and discerning heart”.   Our creedal beliefs and our identity as the body of Christ hold us together, but while we may have one head, Jesus Christ, we do not share one mind.

There is no ultimate earthly authority on the myriad of complex issues we face in the world today. We have tools, the three legged stool of scripture, tradition, and reason, our ecclesiastical governance, our common prayer, but we do not have universal consensus or a crib sheet of the church’s stance regarding x, y, and z (for which I am mightily grateful).

Even here at Saint James’ Episcopal Church, as the rector, I still speak only for myself. Our congregation holds as many worldviews, political, social, and theological views as we have members. I revel in the dynamism of our Thursday discussions with the bishop as we share, challenge, and learn from our different perspectives. I also believe when we gather communed by Christ’s grace and love and not by our like mindedness, we stand as a witness to our faith and an icon to the outside world.

Currently these two critical elements of being Anglican are at odds or are at least creating a tension. We are ONE body so the decisions in part of the communion have consequences across the globe. However, theology has always thrived when it is contextual, from Ubuntu theology in South Africa that contributed to a peaceful end to Apartheid and subsequent racial reconciliation, to the hope and solidarity liberation theology has brought the poor, particularly in Latin America. However, the context in urban centers of the United States differs greatly from that in Africa.

Recently the church has made the news for what has been called a suspension of the Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion. That is not entirely accurate but it is fair to say that the decisions of the Episcopal Church have caused stress to the Communion. The Primates, head bishops from around the globe, in an effort to keep the Communion intact, did vote to deny vote to representatives of the Episcopal Church from certain bodies and commissions of the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church will have seat and voice, but not vote for the next three years.   Some will read this as an admonishment of our branch of the Communion; others will see it as a commitment to find a way to remain together despite the considerable tensions that exist.

I found our Presiding Bishop’s comments from Canterbury, England encouraging especially as he described the Anglican Communion and why it exists. He described it as a network not of bishops or legislative bodies, but of relationships profoundly committed to following Jesus of Nazareth. And those connections, he says, will endure and grow. The bonds of affection between Soroti, Uganda and Saint James’, Warrenton, our deep desire to understand each other more fully, and our Gospel work together is at the heart of what it means to be the Anglican Communion. I pray with considerable confidence that that connection and those like it will continue and will represent communion between God’s churches. As a Global church we have acknowledge a hurt, we have created a way to be in communion while we work through these differences, but we have also pledged to continue to walk together.

If you have any questions about these issues, about the Anglican Communion, or the implications for Saint James’ Episcopal Church, I would love to sit down and discuss.

Also, please take a moment to read a response from our diocesan bishop, Bishop Johnston.