The question the Anglican Communion can’t answer

Jesus’ piercing question to religious leaders came up in the Daily Office this week,commun logo

 

Again they came to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him and said,’‘By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin? Answer me.” They argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘Of human origin’?” -they were afraid of the crowd, for all regarded John as truly a prophet. So they answered Jesus,“‘We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

Then he began to speak to them in parables… (Mark 11:27-33)

 

I think that the Anglican Communion still has some kind of “Bible project” in progress, struggling and straining to answer a similar question.  “The Bible – is it divinely inspired or a human invention?”  Sure, the AC has it sounding more pragmatic and less controversial, as “The Bible in the Life of the Church.”  But it’s another Indaba dance to avoid the real question: Is the Bible the Word of God that is normative for our Christian life, or just a human invention gathering cobwebs in the workshop unless useful to this or that ecclesiastical or political project?

 

The Bible was useless to the AC when faced with a major controversy.  Scripture was given no authority to settle the question and then no authority to guide a response to those Provinces that “walked apart” and “tore the fabric of the Communion” by betraying such consensus as existed.

 

Like the religious leaders in the Gospel passage, AC leadership huddled and decided not to answer the question.  “If we say it is the Word of God, then the dying rich Provinces who hold our inheritance and our culturally important friends won’t like us.  And if we say it is just a human invention, the poor and uncool Provinces who have all of the spiritual and numerical vitality, not to mention the less intelligent but still symbolically important ecumenical community might turn away from us.”  The AC didn’t come out and say, “We don’t know,” they just put on another “Well-let’s-talk-about-it-for-a-few-years” fest, in effect the same answer.

 

The Gospel tells us that when the religious leaders gave their lame answer, Jesus began speaking in parables.  This is how the Lord keeps teaching those who have received him, while intentionally rejecting those who won’t,

 

This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.’ For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.” But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.  (Matthew 13:13-16)

 

The Anglican Communion is divided, whatever forms of ecclesiastical connection might continue to exist.  It is divided between those who are listening to the Word of God and those who, for the sake of their own agendas, have lost the capacity to hear and do it.

 

 

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