Lambeth and Waiting

Rowan WIlliams has taken incessant hectoring for his approach to the current miseries of the Anglican Communion. Yesterday morning, I understood one reason I’d been sticking up for him through the storm of dissatisfaction.
Internal conflicts in church take shape in a context that is lost once the antagonistic parties formalize their exclusive distinction from one another. That is, once a church divides over the question of whether congregants are permitted to sing in harmony or only in unison, the two parties define themselves as “harmonic Anglicans” or “unison Anglicans” in a way that neither party was predefined before the schism. Once that “not-them” definition enters the self-consciousness of everyone concerned, it can be exceptionally difficult — impossible, as far as flesh permits — to bring together the groups who once separated, even if they no longer sense the urgency of arguing over congregational music. It will turn out that Harmonic Anglicans decide to tithe their gross income, and Unison Anglicans will make a voluntary pledge based on tax-adjusted income. Unison Anglicans will decide to ordain adolescents, but Harmonic Anglicans will reserve ordination to adults.
Especially when participants in the conflict believe that the well-being and integrity of common life depends on their interpretation of the gospel prevailing over their neighbor’s, they need to preserve as long as possible the conditions that conduce to sustaining that common life — even if that entails impatience and dissatisfaction — last we burden our heirs with the task of rejoining an even more intractably divided [ex-]communion. So far as I can tell, Williams is not rushing deliberations toward a “decisive” outcome, not because he’s wishy-washy or lacks principle, but because he cares with all his heart for the possibility of unity, and that possibility would suffer devastating harm by any formal schism.
Oh, and the Archbishop didn’t suggest that the UK inevitably adopt sharia law, as a careful, patient reading of his remarks should make clear.

1 thought on “Lambeth and Waiting

  1. akma–

    this is superb. your reminder that reified positions, especially binary either/or positions, came out of a process that was marginalized or forgotten at some point in the past, is how i want to try to understand hebrew and christian scriptures from now on…untill the next insight.



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