Advent now shifts into the manifestation of God’s good will in the Nativity feast. So too the church takes its self-scrutiny and penitence, and turns in hope to the gift of God’s own and new life among us.
The final text of the Anglican Covenant has now been sent out for adoption by the churches of the Communion. The slow process by which this text and its official dissemination for action has occurred has frustrated some, yet its persistent progress forward to this point at last puts the lie to the naysayers and early eulogists of the Covenant’s purpose. Joined to the restarting of the Anglican-Roman Catholic international dialogue, to be focused on substantive matters of ecclesiology and moral decision-making, what seemed merely slow now appears to be the visible sign of a tectonic shift in global Anglicanism and Christianity itself. It is one in which the Episcopal Church in the United States has placed itself on the far side of a widening channel separating the ballast of Christian witness, Catholic and Pentecostal, from marginal spin-offs of liberal Protestantism in decline.
And so some stock-taking is in order. I would like to speak as honestly as I can about the Episcopal Church, of which I am and remain a member, as we enter this new decade. The purpose of doing so is not to provoke response or to encourage reactive apathy. Honesty is necessary, simply and straightforwardly, for anyone who seeks God’s will, and surely that is all of us, and especially those of us who are Anglicans in America and in the Episcopal Church.
To be sure, this is not a favorable time or place for honesty. I am about to speak what, from my point of view, are hard things to receive. But I do not wish at all to play into the greed for TEC’s failure that is fueled by the anger of some former Episcopalians and former Anglicans. I do not count myself in this group. Nor do I want to confirm the consistent dismissal of traditional Episcopalians by others as defeatist and in love with misery. The moment of the Covenant’s finalization and ARCIC’s reinvigoration are far from miserable; they betoken new promise! More importantly, I do not want to discourage the many faithful Episcopalians who look for hope in the face of too many voices of hopelessness about their church and about most Christian churches. There are many people, especially among the young, who are seeking to serve because they are in fact called; and I believe they are called by God to serve in this strange Anglican place, but they are rightly questioning. And there are many who are wearied of the struggle in this church over the past few years, and simply afraid of their own anger; they neither wish to be challenged anew nor reminded again, and in so doing have failed to speak to the genuine questions that are now in our midst.