Back in July, while General Convention was in full swing, my brother Sterling shared some observations and thoughts with me about the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. I have his permission to share them here.
It helps to know that Sterling received chrismation into the Greek Orthodox Church several years ago. He's a very faithful and knowledgeable Orthodox Christian. So he's looking at the Episcopal Church/Anglicanism from the outside. But it's precisely because he has both distance from all of the divisiveness plaguing the Anglican house and a grounded spiritual life in the faith of the Church that I find his comments on the politicizing of the Church so perceptive and, sadly, so accurate.
I should also add that my brother's comments were offered to me in the spirit of love and concern. And it is in that same spirit that I offer them more widely.
This may be obvious, but the tone of these discussions is overwhelmingly political. Now, certainly there is no lack of political maneuvering within the hierarchy of the Orthodox Church. And again, there were moments when statements from Anglican sources clearly reflected a genuinely religious concern for the Apostolic Christian faith. I guess the difference seems to be a presupposition lurking behind the Anglican discussions that the search for a solution is obviously a purely political matter. I doubt that anyone would want to admit that, but where I sense fervor, that fervor feels political rather than religious. No one on either side, with the exceptions being Wright and Williams, has left me believing that they truly feel the awesome burden of standing in the role that the apostles once filled. If they did surely there wouldn't be room for such a lack of humility (and reverence) on all sides. I just don't sense the Holy Spirit in the midst of any of this. It feels like an entirely human endeavor that bottoms out in philosophical ethics at best, and at worst, again, in pure political rhetoric. Its a kind of cynicism that I'm not used to. ...
I'm accustomed to the Orthodox sensibility about authority, particularly with regard to bishops and archbishops, according to which obedience itself is a major virtue. It is a common matter of course for our priests to alter their doctrine and practice, without public comment, purely out of obedience to their bishop. Of course, this gets kind of tricky. There are certainly major saints who appropriately defied corrupt bishops. Nevertheless, those people were always acutely aware of the gravity that their actions carried in that regard. I guess I just don't see anyone in these Anglican debates asking themselves what place the whole concept of obedience should have in the proceedings. If they were, even if the answer turned out to be that obedience must be forsaken, that course would be taken with fear and trembling. I'm not seeing that.
I can't help but believe that a real gut-level faith in the divine/human nature of the Church would totally transfigure these proceedings. I'm used to ecclesiology, and ecclesiological devotion, being central to the concept of Christianity. All sides in the Anglican Communion, even those who feel it would be a tragedy, sound to me like they would find it far too easy to walk away.