07 October 2011

Essay contest entitled "Why are you an Anglican?" – and the trap of schism

Over on the blog of +David Hamid, who is suffragan bishop for the Church of England's Diocese in Europe, he mentions a new contest for writing a 5,000-word essay on why you are an Anglican, and will remain an Anglican. The grand prize is £1000. More information is available on the website of the Anglican Communion.

Given all the strife and division that has been rocking the Anglican Communion over the last few decades, hopefully this will encourage people to think about why we should stay together, rather than heading for the exits and essentially excommunicating each other.

The seed of my essay will be this: Surely we have more to gain by sticking together than by dividing ourselves into ever-smaller splinter churches, as the history of the "Anglican Continuum" of Continuing Anglican churches has sadly demonstrated.

Those of you who know the Monty Python movie The Life of Brian will no doubt remember the farcical scene where the "Judaean People's Front" condemned the "People's Front of Judea", and vice versa. Well, I kid you not, but there is an Anglican Church in America competing with the Anglican Province of America, with nearly identical logos, as just one example. Of such things are schism made. As it happens, the ACA and APA now have full communion between them, but it remains to be seen how long it will last: Such churches are constantly merging, falling apart, reorganizing and such, so that it is extremely difficult to keep track of them all. Over time, they tend to get ever smaller as schism becomes ever more attractive for those intolerant of other views. Invariably some bishop with a big ego decides to go it alone and start his own church, and the cycle of schism starts anew. The list of "Continuing Anglican" churches is thus long and getting ever longer. So much for Catholic faith and order being a pillar of Anglicanism.

I certainly don't see how cutting each other off, fighting over church property, freezing out members with differing views, and all that has anything to do with being Christian, let alone Anglican. (And that goes for both sides of the argument, by the way.) Surely Anglicanism means to join together in one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, which almost by definition means we have to accept a variety of views and try to stick to the ecumenical Creeds as the basis of our communion, and above all, to overcome our differences. Instead, far too many "Anglican" churches come up with laundry lists of beliefs suddenly deemed mandatory, as is all too common in Lutheranism (which is even more fragmented than the Anglican Continuum) or the various Congregational churches. Oh, by the way, there is even an "Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church".

So...dear reader, if you are Anglican, please do participate in this contest and maybe even publish your essay online to inspire others. I certainly intend to, and will plant the seed in the hopes it will grow. Ut unum sint: That we may all be one.