When I think of Communion I think of renewal. God renews my spirit with the Body and Blood of Christ. The Episcopal Church of the United States is part of the Anglican Communion, a voluntary association of member churches who share a common historical religious tradition born from the Church of England. In the Anglican Communion each of the member churches is independent and looks to the Archbishop of Canterbury to be a good shepherd — not “the” Good shepherd—bringing the flock together to well, be in communion with each other. Except these days it isn’t quite working out that way.
The Episcopal Church in the United States is regarded as something of a black sheep in the family. It is treated like a rebellious teenager and attempts are repeatedly made to supervise and redirect its behavior to conform to the “norms” of the Anglican Communion.
There was a time when I felt that the benefits of being accepted by the other members of the Anglican Communion were more important that our rebellious nature and that we should be patient, prudent, consultative and brotherly in our decisions to help advance our objectives by bringing the rest of the Anglican members along for the ride—even if that took a little longer. The decision to install Bishop Gene Robinson changed my mind. Not because of his election—that’s what elections are all about isn’t it—empowering the people to decide for themselves. If the People of New Hampshire believe that Gene Robinson is the person God is calling to lead them then electing him is a holy, honorable, and faithful exercise of their responsibility. In elections, if the process is fair then we should accept the outcome even if our own candidate is not always victorious.
But I found much to object to when some members of the Anglican Communion threatened to shun the US Episcopal Church for exercising its Holy Communion authority to call a Bishop based upon listening to God. Time passed and attempts were made to bring the ‘black sheep’ Americans to their senses. Except trying to make nice with the other members of the Communion only made matters worse and resulted in some Bishops from other Anglican churches thinking they could violate the principles of the Communion and stick their noses into the business of the American church. This was not communion, this was just plain politics.
After being more than patient with this hubris, the Convention finally met again and said, “Enough!” The Episcopal Church of the US is a full, free and unsupervised member of the Anglican Communion and we are quite capable of running our own affairs, thank you very much—-please butt out!” And with that the Convention lifted the Episcopal Church ban on consecrating more gay bishops since, in addition to be a shameful violation of what we claimed was our inclusive belief, had not worked to get the Anglican Communion off our backs and out of our business.
Recently, the Diocese of Los Angeles gave meaning to that message by electing The Rev. Canon Mary D. Glasspool to be Assistant Bishop. Predictably, the headlines read “Episcopal Church Tension Stirred”. So be it. In many ways, her election is more important that Gene Robinson’s. Robinson’s election was as much about politics as the issue of inclusion was debated. But Robinson’s election settled that matter in favor of inclusion, and now we—at least in the US Episcopal Church—accept that as settled.
Canon Glasspool’s election was not about politics, it was about love and hope and listening to God’s call from the heart. The People of the Diocese of Los Angeles believe that God is calling her to be their Assistant Bishop because she is the best person for the job. WOW! What a concept! Gee! I thought that was the law!
So what should we do about the Anglican Communion?
We should love them, pray for them, go to their meetings, speak our minds, open our hearts to hear their voices patiently and lovingly—-and we should live our lives and govern our church the way God is calling us to do it. And one more thing—we should invite them to join us for Holy Communion—any day, any place knowing that God is with all of us.