04 February 2008

Is the Anglican Communion worth fighting for?

According to a recent blog entry, Bishop Idris asked this question at the end of a recent Regional Council meeting. Having spent a year or so trying to find an alternative where I would feel at home, my short answer is a definite ‘yes’. Of course, being a notorious pedant, I can’t resist giving a longer answer, beginning with the observation, ‘It depends on what you mean by “this Anglican Communion”’.

What it means to me is an international network of churches who broadly share the same approach to Christian worship. In my year of wandering, I (re)discovered that the Eucharist was an essential part of my personal spirituality. I find the worship of churches that marginalize the Eucharist (i.e. most Reformed and Protestant churches) simply unsatisfying. On a more theological note, I think the marginalization of the Eucharist calls into question the apostolicity of those churches.

After a central emphasis on the Eucharist, what I expect to find in a church/network of churches is an openness to diversity. I think that is implicit in another of the classical marks of the church, namely, catholicity: universality in the sense that it is able to embrace all human cultures and all human experience. No one is excluded simply because of the colour of their skin, their gender, their sexual orientation, their politics or their taste in music. Conversely, everyone is challenged to work out for themselves what it means to live a Christ-like life.

Given those emphases, my return to Anglicanism was a simple process of elimination. The only churches that meet the first criterion are Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Lutheranism. Roman Catholicism is simply too centralized and monolithic. The various Orthodox churches in Scotland mostly seem to be trapped in ethnic ghettoes of their own making (I’m not Greek so I can’t see myself ever being fully at home in the Greek Orthodox Church, and I have no wish to commute all the way to Dunblane for English-language services in the Russian Orthodox Church). There is one Lutheran congregation in Scotland. They are a very welcoming bunch of people and, if I lived in East Kilbride, I might be tempted to align myself with them were it not for the fact that their form of Lutheranism takes an exclusive approach to the Eucharist – only Lutherans in communion with the Missouri Synod may receive the bread and the wine. I couldn’t in good conscience belong to a church that puts a wall between me and my fellow believers in other parts of the body of Christ. And so I am once more part of the Anglican Church (specifically, St Ninian’s, Pollokshields).

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