There’s something brass in the Anglican Communion these days. Something in the water that guides the people to follow the Spirit moving through the church structures.
- First, the Episcopal Church in America consecrates a gay bishop and a woman presiding bishop.
- Now, the governing body of the Church of England (not the worldwide communion) has voted to approve women as bishops.
Naturally, this has caused concern from some of those who disagree with the current policies. But what most struck me was the following quote from the Telegraph by a supporter of the decision:
A couple of hours ago, the Church of England decisively severed itself from its Catholic roots. By voting to ordain women bishops without significant safeguards for traditionalists, it reasserted its identity as a Protestant Church. Whether it will be a liberal or conservative Protestant denomination remains to be seen. But any hope of unity with Rome and the Orthodox has gone forever.
To this person, unity means going back and establishing common roots. By holding fast to the values and practices of the ancient church, that is the only possibility for full communion with other traditions.
Silly, don’t you know? The Spirit gives you wings. Wings that allow you to outfly your roots and be open to the movement of the spirit that is empowering the ministries of women.
In fact, unity means grabbing ahold of these wings together and not letting others stay put.
- In the Church of England, since 1992’s decision to ordain women, there have been pockets and groups of clergy and parishes that refuse to ordain women. For a generation now, they have kept women priests from their pockets of influence and embraced the roots of the human church rather than the wings of the spirit.
- In the United Methodist Church, my home conference last year revealed that several churches are explicit in saying that they don’t want a woman pastor. Which, to me, seems the only surefire way to get one! By confronting these roots
- In the Episcopal church, while there are churches that seek to disband and reaffiliate with a different Anglican Communion bishop, there are some who decide to stay because of both roots and wings.
All this is evidence that unity comes not from turning back the clock to ancient church practices and values. It comes from grabbing ahold of one another and wrestling with the issues face to face, not schizms and segregating churches into pockets and pinholes.
This is a challenge for forward-thinking leaders that while we must do all we can to pull people out of their roots and comfort zones…there comes a time when we must do what is good and right and push churches to uproot themselves.
But don’t worry. The Spirit gives you wings!