Monday, June 26, 2006

From Wonderland to Narnia: What it means to be a Windsor Anglican after Columbus

By Mary Ailes

Because He lives
I can face tomorrow
Because He lives
all fear is gone
Because I know
He holds the future
And life is worth the living
just because He lives.

This was one of the first songs I learned after my conversion from Christian Science to be a follower of the risen Jesus. Yesterday Martyn Minns, my rector at Truro Church, Fairfax, quoted the line "I know He holds the future" during our afternoon parish meeting. What an awesome gift that is to know and to have confidence in the truth that He does hold the future and in Jesus there is no fear.

We certainly experienced this at General Convention in Columbus. It was a tough, tough gathering. It was clear from the moment we arrived that those who were the official representatives of the Episcopal Church wanted to do anything but vote on affirming the recommendations of the Windsor Report. In fact, because the Special Commission had gone to the trouble of fragmenting the report through its resolutions, it left an indelible mark on the General Convention that indeed the Episcopal Church was fragmented as well.

But for those of us who are Windsor Anglicans there was a remarkable sense of unity. This is a very diverse group of people - no vast right wing conspiracy here. It is a global group - and amongst the Americans it is made up of both Republicans and Democrats ("last century" labels need not apply). In fact, women clergy attended the Forward in Faith Eucharists in the morning. At the closing dinner, I sat across from one of the Anglo Catholic bishops who sat next to a woman clergy member and they laughed and told stories and demonstrated the ease in their relationship as they broke bread together at the table. Last Century Labels simply won't work.

But it was clear that fragmentation is under way in the Episcopal Church. Those who were overjoyed to screaming when Schori was elected were demonstratively unhappy by the week's end. The use of parliamentary procedures to limit open discussion of the real issues of Windsor (what happened to the "listening process?") was breathtaking. I have never seen a committee use so many parliamentary procedures as the Special Committee did as well. For Washington wonks it was amazing. Newt Gingrich or Tip O'Neill would have been in awe at the use of points of order to bring the legislative process to a standstill or to push certain agendas along. It was amazing to watch.

In fact, it was a bit like being Alice and following down the rabbit hole into Wonderland.

But it was clear in the vote rejecting A161 that whatever mythic status the "center" holds was broken. There is no "center" and the leadership of the Episcopal Church recognized that. It was stated many times that the Episcopal Church is of two minds, two religions. One is Anglican Trinitarianism and one is Episcopal Unitarianism. End of story.

I remember listening to a sermon given by a diocesan bishop who likes to say "the center held" (the center of what, I'm not quite sure). He gave it at a pre-Diocesan Council meeting in January. It became increasingly clear as I listened to him that when he used the word "Christ" he meant "the Church." One can see how this can happen following the logic of a = b = c, therefore a = c. Therefore Christ = the Body of Christ = the Church. So Christ = The Church. So when the phrase "Christ" is used, what is actually meant is The Church. An evangelical can be carrying on a conversation with someone who uses this terminology and think they are talking about the same thing, but that is just not so.

All of this is strangely familiar to me. Christian Science does a similar type of thing. Many so-called "Christian" words are used in Christian Science (including the word "Christian") but the words have new definitions. So the word "Jesus" has one definition, but the word "Christ" has another. A very similar thing is happening in the Episcopal Church.

So if Christ actually means "The Church" - then the Spirit of Christ is what? The Church! So who gets to define what the Spirit is doing? The Church. Therefore, whatever the Church decides to do carries with it the authority of "the Spirit doing a new thing." "Christ" has spoken.

This is why so many are outraged by the behavior of both the current Presiding Bishop and the future Presiding Bishop. Throwing all caution and good manners to the wind, they interjected their own personal agenda into the proceedings of the church (well, at least they did it without the cover of darkness). So now there are those who are saying that the Spirit did not do a new thing in Columbus because it turned into the Frank and Kathy Show.

But the Windsor Report, a compromise to begin with, remains clear. The Anglican Communion finds its identity in authentic Christianity, not in the newest American fad coming down the tracks where Jesus is now our Mother and Christ is now the Episcopal Church. If God is doing a new thing, we will walk together to discern the path. It is becoming clear that the fragmented Episcopal Church is sadly choosing to walk apart from the Anglican understanding of authentic Christianity.

Anglican means more than having tea with the Queen.

As the Mother Superior told Sister Maria in the "Sound of Music," where God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window. What window is God opening for Windsor Anglicans in North America?

There is a window open and the window is called Jesus. "Lord, to whom would we go?" Peter said when Jesus asked if the disciples would also leave him. "You have the words of real life, eternal life. We've already committed ourselves, confident that you are the Holy One of God." John 6:68-69.

In the coming days, weeks, months we may find ourselves following Jesus to places we never dreamed. Perhaps it's like finding oneself in the Wardrobe, behind the coats, to the door that leads from Wonderland to Narnia, from Columbus to Aslan.

Mary Ailes


Milton Finch said...

Now THAT was good! Thank you! You go!

From Wonderland to Aslan, indeed!

Chip Johnson+, cj said...


"Therefore, whatever the Church decides to do carries with it the authority of "the Spirit doing a new thing." "Christ" has spoken."

A true example of the thought processes of those at the helm of the former good ship ECUSA. It is easy to fall into giving attribution where none is due, if you continually tell yourself that it is true.

Didn't we all do that when we were children, tell ourselves (and our parents) just what we wanted to hear, unbtil it became, for us, the truth? But then, ...we grew up and recognised the [lie] for what it was and left it to history, and went on with our lives.

It is time for the Church to put the past in the past, and get on with the business of the Church, making eternal change in the lives of men, through the shed blood of Christ, after repentance, amendment of life, and forgiveness. Then to move on to serving Him, not self.