Published: September 2009
Now that the Anglican Church of North America is a fact on the ground it may be an appropriate time to access what, or whom, we have lost, and what led to the schism between them and us.
The one person whom I miss the most in our diocese is my former pastor and friend, Charlie Masters. Charlie proved his friendship recently at a church supper at an independent church, not Anglican, by inviting my wife and myself at which we were sitting at a table alone, and just about to leave to eat at home, to go to sit with him and Judy. This was after I had been a thorough thorn in his side.
Long ago when we were at Wycliffe College on a visit by Archbishop George Carey, I asked him if the stand taken by Essentials was not pharisaic. I've gone public in a letter in the Anglican Journal stating I no longer thought that the Way Forward taken by Essentials was the Lord's way. I've pestered him with e-mails about the Biblical authority in going to court, and other matters. I've written articles in the Niagara Anglican stating why I think schism was not the way to go. But in spite of all that, he's still my friend. I may fault Charlie for putting the Holy Bible on a higher pedestal than the Holy Spirit, but I can never say enough about his love for people, literally everybody, and his genuine humility. He's a totally unpretentious guy, even though he is now a Venerable. He wears that title lightly. He's still the same old Charlie.
Sadly, such humility and unpretentiousness is a rare find in our church. Those who say that any who disagree with them have parked their minds outside the church door, reveal a hubris all too common. There's an intellectual snobbishness among Anglicans that alienates those outside the church, and many within. Many sadly have left for other churches where they don't feel put down.
A common complaint among Anglicans is that there is poor communication between the church council and members of the congregation and between members of the congregation themselves. This is no wonder if one half of the congregation think themselves intellectually superior to the other half, and the other half think themselves intellectually inferior. Modern means of communication will never bridge this gap.
Recently I read in the New York Times online, on the Opinion page a column "Weekend Competition: Define Faith," which led me to an essay by Fr. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest, who wrote an essay, "Utterly Humbled by Mystery" (thisibelieve.org/essay/21932). I quote from his essay, the title of which I've taken for my own:
People who have really met the Holy are always humble. It's the people who don't know who usually pretend that they do. People who've had any genuine spiritual experience always know they don't know. They are utterly humbled before mystery. They are in awe before the abyss of it all, in wonder at eternity and depth, and a Love, which is incomprehensible to the mind. It is a litmus test for authentic God experience, and is—quite sadly—absent from much of our religious conversation today. My belief and comfort is in the depths of Mystery, which should be the very task of religion.
What he says is, I think, very pertinent to the malaise in our Anglican Church. Have we experienced the Holy? And, if we have, perhaps we should be more humble about it. This applies to all who call themselves Anglican.
I find Rohr speaking directly to me for my thinking, as Lord Melbourne is purported to have said to Queen Victoria, that there may be other roads to heaven than the Church of England, but no gentleman would take one. Certainly, in the realm of church music I'm an absolute snob. I find it hard to worship to the accompaniment of a guitar....
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