by Andrew Stephens-Rennie
The Anglican Church must die, and I’m thinking it’d be better sooner rather than later.
Before you jump on the bandwagon, or line up to pillory me, let me make it clear that this has nothing to do with culture wars, the Episcopal Church’s recent convention, or anything of the sort.
This has nothing to do with my sympathies for the liberal, conservative, or the caught-in-between. It’s not about the role of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered people in the church. It’s not even about the divinity of Christ.
How can it be about Christ’s divinity, when what we’re most concerned about is our own grasp on power? How can it be about the centrality of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection if we’re more concerned with drawing attention to our version of the faith than pointing towards the figure of Christ crucified.
How can it be about Jesus, when we’re constantly drawing attention to ourselves, and how we are superior to some other group of people?
I fear that on many sides of todays debates, we are not primarily dealing with a deeply nuanced theological issue, but rather, the fear and “amorphous anxiety,” as Walter Brueggemann puts it, that accompanies a loss of power.
The reality of the church becoming less and less integral to North American society is with us. We long ago lost our perceived rightful place in society, and we are anxious.
In the midst of this purification; in the midst of this division of sheep and goats, it seems as though we all want to claim that we are the sheep, “they” are the goats, and we’ve got it all sorted. We are the faithful remnant, they are the ones who have strayed.
We’ve got it all nailed down.
Or, at least, we’ve nailed the other one down, pegged them for who they truly are, insurrectionists, threats to our better way of life. We’ll nail them for who they really are. We’ll nail then down, and in so doing, crucify them.
Who then, in this unravelling narrative is like Christ?
Not one. No, not one.
I’m sick and tired of these power hungry games. I’m sick and tired of the back-and-forth, and the empires that need to be rebuilt in the wake of recent skirmishes. Of churches that “need to be planted,” or “re-potted,” or whatever, in order to prove a political point.
If so-called Christian communities are formed, not in faith to Jesus’ radical, self-sacrificial gospel, but faith to a leader, to a particular power-hungry hubris that boldly proclaims “we’re right, you’re wrong, and that’s the way it is. Oh, and by the way, are we ever going to show you!”
Our power hungry hubris gets in the way. All the damned time. And it doesn’t matter much whether it’s the Anglican Church of Canada or the Anglican Network in Canada, or any other denomination, for that matter. So much of the grandstanding on either side has everything to do with power and control, and little to do with Christ Crucified.
Power couched in the language of moral uprightness is still, in the end about power.
So I’ve been thinking. What if the Anglican Church, in its variety of forms actually did die? What if rather than using every last tool in its arsenal to keep this thing afloat, what if it was allowed a proper burial at sea?
Or, more to the point, what if we got back to the heart of the matter? What if we died to ourselves, our desire for power, and the need to prove a point? What if we stopped hanging on to the way things have always been, the need to hold things together, and allowed new and fragile expressions to emerge from our sacrifice?
What if we allowed our dreamers to dream new dreams, to point us towards a path of life. What if the royal consciousness of our hierarchy was replaced by a disruptive, prophetic imagination?
What if such imagination was not captive to the narrative of power and control, of friend and foe, of us and them, but were to give birth to new life, new adventures, new possibilities in rich, fertile soil?
And what if our aging expressions of church, what if our once-powerful bureaucracies issued a final DNR order for when death finally comes? How would such willing sacrifice be honoured, and what nutrients would be offered up to new life for generations to follow?