Thursday, May 21, 2009

“Denial ain't just a river in Egypt.”*

Say “Egypt”, and lesser Christians than myself think of the Sphinx, the Pyramids, and pursued Israelites, but I think of Anglicanism. Think of “Jerusalem”, and the minds of some “believers” conjure images of Solomon’s Temple, while my visions are of the whole thing being torn down and replaced with a really nice carpark and Biblical Ministry Center complete with a tasteful Eldorado Stone veneer. Say “the Horn of Africa” and Brother Richthofen thinks of an oiled and muscular Numidian who dances at a nightclub quite close to his seminary, but my thoughts are only of the Primate with the most easily misspelled name in the Communion’s history – the Most Rev. Dr. Anis.

That’s because ++ Anis, who for reasons I’ve never understood prefers to be addressed as Mouneer, represents one of the Church’s most dynamic regions. Peaceful and just crawling with Episcopally-minded Protestants, the importance of The Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, like the Diocese of the Falkland Islands, or Lusitania (which I’d always thought sunk in 1915 , but I dare say things move slowly in Lambeth), simply cannot be underestimated when it comes to framing church policy. After all, if the dozens of people comprising their membership can’t push around 2.2 million Episcopalians who can?

Which is why I’ve been so delighted to read ++Mouneer’s Reflections on the recent AAC meeting. It’s a fascinating document, the opening bubbling over with enthusiasm as he recalls that “With hope and anticipation we went to Jamaica”.

As well he might: there aren’t many who wouldn’t be filled with hope and anticipation at the thought of an all-expenses-paid holiday away from a place where evangelism is illegal and you never know whether the nut next to you on the bus is just muttering because he doesn't like your aftershave, or because he's about to explode.

Yet the tone quickly changes: “The Anglican Covenant was the most important item in our agenda… the only hope left to keep the unity of the Anglican Communion.” While I’ve said a billion times that there’s nothing wrong with hyperbole, there’s a point where things really can be taken too far. Especially when there’s always the possibility that things could also be saved by a few ambitious clergy simply choosing to give their ordination vows priority over their homophobia. Admittedly that’s not as much fun as all the attention one gets when carrying on like a few cooties will kill you, and as little Martyn Minns will testify, keeping one’s promises makes it a lot harder to get a purple shirt; but there’s no denying it’s another option.

What’s more singing the praises of something your fellow conservatives are desperate to avoid is probably not the brightest way of ingratiating oneself with the fellows who have the really big frequent-flyers accounts. Yes, I know all the wicked apostate liberals are praying the Covenant is never ratified, but there's no doubt the GAFCON Primates Council are praying the same thing. Little Pete Jensen knows that if it ever comes into force he can say good-bye to lay presidency, and even worse his parishes might well find themselves forced to acknowledge Anglican fringe-practices like Eucharistic Celebration or Infant Baptism. Meanwhile ++Akinola, Venalballs & Whatshisname-from-Kenya all know that their border-hopping will be a thing of the past – and then who’ll pay for them to spend as much time as possible away from their homes?

Still, there’s no denying ++ Anis has talent: “I was amazed by the strong and clear stand of Archbishop Rowan…”. That line might have cost him any hope of ever getting a few first-class tickets from the Gafconeers, but there’s certainly no denying it had me rolling around the floor, laughing till my sides ached.

I’m Father Christian and I teach the Bible.

*Mark Twain

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