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The Idol of the Church of England - A Voice of Experience

This is the second in the "A Voice of Experience" series - blogs written from a more personal perspective by Anglican lay people and clergy.

The author of this blog is currently residing in England, but has also lived in Canada. This is a reflection on the similarities and differences in what they have observed.



Fifteen years ago, what is currently happening in the Church of England happened in North America. The watershed events then, as now, were simply the point on a long journey when matters became untenable. In Canada, the Essentials movement was formed in response to the innovations of the day - which was then, as now, same sex blessings. Although, at the time same-sex blessings were very much the vanguard, rather than the compromise position now painted. 

Whilst there was one united diagnosis within the Essentials movement, there were two prognoses - inside and outside. Inside became the Anglican Communion Alliance, remaining within the Anglican Church of Canada. Outside became the Anglican Network in Canada, eventually taking their place within the Anglican Church in North America. Although one could debate which was really inside, and which outside.

Why the history lesson? Because the story in the Church of England was similar, but has now diverged from that path. As opposed to what transpired the other side of the pond, in England we appear to have predominantly one diagnosis and one prognosis. This single prognosis can be summarised in one word - stay. 

For many, prior to the vote in General Synod, same-sex blessings was determined to be the red line. That line was duly crossed in November 2023. It was, as such, surprising to see the alacrity of the orthodox leaders' response to that vote - to state they were remaining in the CoE and encouraging others to do likewise.

There appears to be two key differences in England that may have fed into this response.

The first difference is the raw power of the institution itself in English Anglican minds of whatever theological persuasion. An institution of itself is no bad thing, clearly is necessary and indeed has been the source of many good things - and still is in many places. 

However the institution becomes a problem when it starts to look more than a bit like an idol. This church is woven into the very fabric of English life, at least in the past, and it appears that many cannot see beyond it.

This isn't a problem limited to the Church of England, however the Anglican Church of Canada is like a small bronze household god compared with the full blown golden calf that the Church of England seems to represent in the minds of many!

The second difference between the English and Canadian Anglican Church is the Church of England is much more parochial with respect to the wider Anglican Communion. In Canada the relationship with the wider Communion was important, in England it appears to be a second order issue at best. Idolatry too may play a part in that. After all, what do we, the Mother Church, have to learn from second class Anglicans?

Can we not see when the branch is separated from the vine? The branch is familiar, its structures comforting. Surely, we say, it will endure? Much like the second temple, it is what we know. But what happens when the glory departs? Then, the structure that remains becomes dead, inert, ichabod.

To stay in such a scenario is not neutral. It is like a man on an escalator loudly exclaiming that he is, indeed, standing right here and will not be moving.

Amos 3 v3 writes "Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?" The question is rhetorical, but many Anglicans appear to think this is a challenge to be accepted, one writing that "we need to learn how to walk together even while our paths on this matter must diverge, for the sake of mutual integrity". Seriously?

It currently appears that the CoE Bishops are planning to offer a more formal vote on SSB in 2025. They’re not stupid, are they? There was an insightful article written recently. The byline was The process IS the outcome. And, with a process that led to a defeat by only one vote, dangling another vote someway down the road is a little like Lucy setting down Charlie Brown’s football yet again, knowing that Charlie is just not going to be able to resist. Let’s keep contending just a little bit longer, just a little bit, one more push. We’re almost there.

As if a vote, even a successful vote, would make any difference at all.

For the division must occur; we are heading in different directions. Focusing on canons, on legal interpretations, on votes – is to miss the point. 

We do not - will not - see, because idolatry blinds us. We do not see what God is doing in this time. We do not see that He is building His Church for the times to come that will transcend what currently exists. Because it will be necessary. 

Are we going to remain in the second temple, or are we willing to be sent out? We will save ourselves a lot of heartache and pain by making the right choice.

 

If you have "A Voice of Experience" which you think would help others, as they consider their Anglican future, please get in touch - we'd love to hear from you.


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