January 11, 2007

Just to Be Clear ...

My last post on the upcoming primates’ meeting was long in coming. I had intended to write about possible outcomes of the meeting, but I was diverted, first to consider the value of the Anglican Communion, then to ponder how our Presiding Bishop should conduct herself in Dar es Salaam. The danger in writing a moderately long essay without first outlining it is that the project can take unexpected turns. That is also the joy of just jumping in when you feel you have something to say, even if you don’t quite know how your ideas fit together. It gives God an opportunity to work a little magic.

The essay that became “Advice to the PB for the Primates’ Meeting” never did go where I expected, but I’m not sure my imagination is good enough to predict what might be the outcome of the meeting, anyway. It is probably more productive to try to encourage a favorable outcome than it is to fantasize about the worst possible one. In any case, in the middle of writing the piece, by chance—I was driving to church for an evening meeting—I heard a radio commentary on the Democrats’ plan to require the government to negotiate with pharmaceutical firms on behalf of seniors for lower prescription drug prices. Sadly, the commentator suggested that passing the proposed legislation would have little actual effect because the government was unwilling to not buy a particular drug if its manufacturer failed to offer a significant discount. He contrasted this approach with that of the VA, which has been able to negotiate meaningful discounts by being willing to alter its formulary based on what drugs it could and could not get economically.

And what does a government prescription drug program have to do with The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion? The commentary gave me an idea which became the central ideal in “Advice.” That idea is so important—and perhaps not as prominent as it might have been had it been in my mind when I began writing—that I thought I should reiterate it here.

The Episcopal Church has been treated like dirt by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion because it has behaved with such extraordinary affection and restraint toward its Communion partners. The Puritanical primates of the Communion have concluded that The Episcopal Church will meekly accept whatever abuse they heap upon it, and they are taking advantage of this insight to create a tyrannical fundamentalist curia intended to dominate the Anglican Communion in the future. The Episcopal Church has become the co-dependent enabler of this behavior. Alas, this dynamic would have been impossible without the feckless coöperation of Archbishop Williams, who, all along, had the power to, if not break the cycle of abuse, then at least to expose it clearly for what it was.

Let me be perfectly clear: We have no hope of finding ourselves in a satisfactory Anglican Communion as long as we are unwilling to walk away from the Anglican Communion as it presently is.

The notion that we should intimate that we are willing to walk away from the Anglican Communion would be broadly upsetting. The loss of the American church as the designated Anglican scapegoat would, to some degree at least, cause those who have been united in their vilification of The Episcopal Church to turn their passions against one another, since their views on Christianity are not as uniform as they would have us believe. Our showing our courage and determination to live out our beliefs would embolden liberal elements of the various Anglican provinces, particularly the Church of England, but it would be disruptive throughout The Episcopal Church as well. Cultivated by the clever propaganda campaigns of the likes of the American Anglican Council and the Anglican Communion Network, many Episcopalians who, as recently as a few years ago, had hardly heard of the Anglican Communion, now view it as a mystical bond that tethers us tenuously to the Church Universal. Some quick re-education will be necessary in our own back yard.

The Episcopal Church has made many mistakes since August 2003, and we cannot undo the various battles we have lost. We can, however, realize that we are followers of Jesus Christ and not of Rowan Williams or Peter Akinola. Let us lay aside our white battle flag, pick up The Episcopal Church standard, and ride proudly forward in the name of Christ, our Savior, promoting a Gospel that speaks to our time, and not one belonging to some mythical world that never was. Please, ++Katharine, make us proud and grateful to be members of The Episcopal Church.

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