Now that I have gotten your attention with a naughty header, I refer you to today’s (July 27th) statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury, following the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.
Read it if you will. It is hard sledding.
I read it and in another naughty moment, it made me think of this bit from T.S. Elliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1919)
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous--
Almost, at times, the Fool.
Already both liberal and conservative Christians are picking the Archbishop’s statement apart, phrase by phrase, and line by line. Neither liberals nor conservatives like it, for after all it is indeed: Politic, cautious, and meticulous; Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse.
I’ll not parse the statement line by line. But for what it is worth I will say four things.
1. I wonder who is listening. No, I did not say “reading”, but I did say “listening”. Good and wonderful as this present Archbishop may be, I doubt that either conservatives or liberals in the Anglican Communion are listening to him. Both conservatives and have become tone deaf to all manner of pronouncements which are not to our liking.
c/f Matthew 15:8, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.”
2. The Archbishop is not an Anglican Pope. Keep this in mind as you read his words. The official Anglican Communion website lists four “Instruments of Communion” for Anglicans viz: (1) The Archbishop, (2) the Lambeth Conference of Bishops, (3) the meetings of Primates in the Communion, and (4) The Anglican Consultative Council. (The Archbishop of Canterbury does not trump the other three “instruments”.)
3. The current Archbishop of Canterbury is respected as a brilliant theologian. He must surely be aware of biblical criticism (e.g literary, historical, textual, form, linguistic). [I was enriched by this scholarship as a student at the Evangelical St. John’s College, Nottingham UK College – 1972-1976]. Would not the Anglican Communion be greatly enriched if the present A.B.C. would speak from this critical place?
4. Why are the Archbishop and we obsessed with the doctrine of the Church? Is not the Realm of God more vital? In other words, are we not called to be proclaimers of the Kingdom, rather than defenders of the Church?