The new conservative Anglican alliances are clearly wrong in their prime conviction. They claim they are returning to the unique, authentic roots of Christian biblical orthodoxy and tradition, universally recognised as such by all the major denominations throughout Christian history.
The most superficial glance at Christian history, or at the differences between denominations in 2009, or at the extraordinary proliferation of free, independent congregations and churches, shows the conservative claim to be a fallacy and a fantasy.
The fundamental documents of Christianity don’t change – the Bible, the creeds, the Councils of the Church, and for Anglicans, the 39 Articles and the Book of Common Prayer. But the weight of authority and the interpretation of them by each particular church at different times in Christian history has undergone constant change. This is reality. This is the real world in which ACNA and FoCA are being launched.
What conservatives are doing is creating a new, different relationship with their roots, one affected by the needs of this decade and the international context in which they are formed. Their narrative is constructed in their minds to convince themselves that they are returning to secure, unchanging and unchangeable foundations. They are not. They are doing a new thing.
All the foundational documents of Christianity and Anglicanism are the result of the work of God in creation and human history, God always doing a new thing. Jesus was and is God’s new, unique revelation who set in motion awareness that God is always doing a new thing in creation, things which upset human traditions and undermine our attempts to achieve security through stasis and control.
No, says God in history, move on. I call you to set out on the road, not there yet, always journeying, adventuring, exploring. Launch out into the deep – I am calling you to risk all, your very selves, your souls and bodies.
It’s natural and normal for human beings to seek security, safe harbours; we each live through periods of personal exploration followed by reflection and integration. Huge conservative forces are at work in today’s diverse world of religious movements, Christian and Moslem. They in turn affect political movements. To our shame, secular political movements have become more radically creative than the dominant religious forces.
There are other global movements working painfully slowly but inexorably towards racial equality, economic equality, equality for women and equality for sexual minorities. They are countered by religious and secular reactionary forces of power. Conservative Christians campaign to resist the global forces seeking transformation of human society and relationships. They will fail. God’s Kingdom is not a kingdom of oppression.
What stance should more radical, liberal Christians take – those who support Changing Attitude?
Hold the faith. Root yourselves in God, in prayer and spiritual practice, in self-awareness, in all that is good and holy and life-giving in creation; root yourselves in your heart and in your body. Conservatives want to disembody, disempower, desexualise and dispossess us – to eradicate our soul. Don’t let them!
Living God, as we struggle to understand and use aright the power that you entrust to us, set before us again the way of Jesus, and work through us in your Spirit, that we may steward our power in ways that do not bind others but free them to take their share in the inheritance of life. May we grow tall but humble.
Jim Cotter, Out of the Silence . . . Prayer’s Daily Round, p206