Lately I’ve been coming across more and more people threatening to leave the Anglican Communion if xyz doesn’t happen. The particular xyz bugging them varies; some are convinced their parish will grow tenfold if a bishop in the North-eastern U.S. resigns, while others feel victimised by a centuries-old colonial conspiracy preventing them from being proclaimed Archbishop of Canterbury, but their response to the bee in their bonnet is always the same ultimatum – “play my way or I’m going”.
Now everyone here knows I’m no fan of much of that’s currently occurring in our dear old Communion. In fact, if truth be told I don’t really like any of it, except perhaps what we’re doing here at St. Onuphrius’, and even then I’d gladly sell my Curate for scientific research if anyone made a decent offer. But two things stop me from joining the “meet my demands or eat my dust” brigade, and if those reasons are good enough for the World’s Greatest Doctrinal Warrior then I can’t for the life of me see why they don’t also apply to everyone else.
The first reason is straightforward: I took my vows of ordination because God called me to be a Priest in the Anglican Communion, and as confirmation of that He first convinced a Vocational Assessment panel and their Bishop. Like Evangelical Eric you might find that a mysterious act on the Almighty’s part, and to tell the truth even I wonder about it from time to time, but none of this changes the end result one little bit: I’m here because God called me to be here. If I’d have been predisposed to praise bands and fluorescent ties God would doubtless have called me to another denomination, and you’d call me Pastor Troll instead of Father Christian. Or perhaps if I’d have had a predilection for Jesuits and doing creepy things with the deceased the call would have come from across the Tiber. But instead I was called to be here, and here I am.
This is just as true for all other clergy, as well as lay people. If God calls you to be somewhere else, then don’t muck around making threats. Go, and get moving quickly in case the liberals really are wrong and that stuff about Lot’s wife is as literal as I say it is to scare the kids in Sunday School. If, on the other hand, God isn’t telling you to get going, then don’t try and hold everyone else to ransom with meaningless threats. Being faithful means being where you’re supposed to be, and then doing there whatever it is you’re supposed to. Not sitting around doing nothing because you’re so busy complaining about how any day now you’re going to be somewhere else.
The second reason is just as simple: the Communion is a family, not a business, sporting club or lodge. Whether we like it or not, part of belonging to our church involves accepting each other as brothers and sisters, and uncles and aunts. You might think I’m a wicked old parody who’s not even very funny, and I might think you’re living proof of the dictum that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing – but we’re no less called to be part of the same family as you and that terrible uncle who’s always “rearranging himself” and can never remember he already told that same fart joke last Christmas. When it was no less inappropriate. Or the Great-Aunt who discusses her rectal fistula over the chocolate mousse. And little Dwayne, who was “only kidding” when he broke into your car looking for cash.
Alright, so the Communion is a dysfunctional family, and like most such families we sometimes need counselling to stop tearing at each other’s throats. You might hate the way my branch of the family fills the yard with old cars up on bricks, and my branch might find ourselves strangely obsessed with what yours does in the bedroom – but we all need to remember God called us together, and then get on with doing what families like ours are meant to do: bicker, scream, love, laugh, drink, ridicule, eat, shout, screw, barbeque, play, garden, seek God and fight like hell if someone or something harms one of our kinfolk – even if that same relative is a person we’d ordinarily rather see in Gitmo. Real family members don’t boast about how they’ll be walking out any day now. Especially not ones who’ve been called into the family by God.
I’m Father Christian and I teach the Bible.