Monday, November 24, 2008

Inside Looking Out - Outside Looking In

Recently, The Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner published an essay entitled "A New “Province” in North America: Neither the Only Nor the Right Answer for the Communion" in which he states that the new province is not the best way forward because it doesn't meet all its aims and the solution is not a communion wide solution.

Dean Robert Munday of Nashotah House wrote a response the core of which argument I find here:
While some may argue that the best way to preserve the unity of the Anglican
Communion is to preserve the unity of the American Church (or, failing that, not
to recognize any group that splits off from the American Church), I would argue
the exact opposite. The best way to preserve the unity of the Anglican Communion
is to allow the American church to divide (which is happening anyway, whether
anyone likes it or not) and to recognize two North American provinces. Some
overseas provinces will relate to one of the North American provinces more than
the other. But there will not be the present level of vigorous advocacy (and
border crossing) that now threatens to divide the Communion.

Now for my own feable attempt at reconciliation. I believe that the majority of the leadership of TEC is heretical and becoming apostate. I also believe that TEC is, itself, not apostate. The official positions of the church are, for now, Christian (with a few exceptions, such as membership in the Religious Council for Reproductive Choice). However, I live and worship and work in an orthodox diocese under orthodox bishops and an orthodox priest. It is easy to remain in TEC here in Dallas.

What I am more interested in, for this post, is the reasons than people pursuing an inside strategy (by remaining in TEC and working for reform within the structures of the Anglican Communion) and those purusing and outside strategy (by breaking from TEC and forming partnerships - particularly this new province) have so much animosity towards each other.

Those who are "outside looking in" seem to think that we who are on the inside are cowards who want only to keep our pensions and our pretty buildings and our jobs. Likewise, those on the "inside looking out" also have called those on the outside "cowards" because they have left the fight for TEC. The insiders point to the leftward shift of TEC since the 1970s when the Anglican Continuum left (and fractured even more).

Here is my take on the subject. Many of the outsiders and insiders are correct that the church in which they were raised and that they love and that nurtured and uplifted them through many bad times is gone. The majority of the leaders in the church have become unfaithful to the faith that was given to them. They have subsituted the god within for the God that created the universe. They have searched for self-fulfillment rather than self-death.

One of the images that God uses for Israel and the Church in Holy Scripture is that of marriage. Read Hosea or Paul's letter to the Ephesians or the Revelation to St. John if you doubt me. So, with an unfaithful wife we have two alternatives. One is to live with the unfaithfulness and the other is divorce. What we are witnessing right now is the emotional baggage that come with a divorce or from a marriage that has been destroyed by an unfaithful spouse.

We have two groups of people who agree with each other on what has happened. We don't agree on what to do about it. So, with our hearts wounded by our Church leaders, we often act out of anger and injured pride.

So, then, what should we do? I believe that we should recognize that we are fighting a common enemy - the spirit of the age - and we should work together where we can and we should not condemn each other nor should we hinder each other's efforts. I believe that TEC will not be a full member of the Anglican Communion for long (say 10 years). I also believe that God is in charge and that He will act when He deems it best, not when we deem it best. For those of us fighting the inside strategy, we should continue that fight and be ready to move when God gives us a clear sign. We need to consider that we might be wrong and the outside strategy is what God calls us to. For those of us fighting an outside strategy, we should be faithful and consider that we might be wrong and the inside strategy might be best and what God desires.

When it comes to discerning the will of God, we are all still clouded by sin. All too often, the voice of God sounds like our own voice and urges us to do things we want to do anyway. We need to guard against that.

In the end, we should look towards the whole communion for a solution. As Americans, we are all to often ready to serve God and the Chruch as adivsors only, not as servants.

To the Bishops and priests who lead the orthodox Anglicans, I call on you to remember that you are first, and foremost, deacons - servants. Lead as servants, not as masters.

Phil Snyder

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