Thursday, October 1, 2015

Aloha to the Anglican Communion

The Hawaiian word aloha, since the nineteenth century, has come to have three meanings in English. Each meaning is applicable to the future of the Anglican Communion.

First, and most consistent with the word's Polynesian roots, aloha may mean love, peace, or compassion. Members of the Anglican Communion, all members of Christ's body, appropriately have feelings of love, peace, and compassion for one another. The conflicts of the last two decades within the Communion have tested, strained, and, sometimes, broken those bonds. However, genuine aloha should set the tone for relationships between the churches, leaders, and individual members of the Anglican Communion.

Second, aloha also means hello. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, has convened a January 2016 summit of the primates of the Anglican Communion's constituent churches. He has also invited the head of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) to attend part of the meeting. Heretofore, the ACNA has been excluded from Anglican meetings. Geography, historical ties to the Church of England's missionary efforts, and ongoing communion with the see of Canterbury, not a group's use of the word Anglican or theological/liturgical claims of being Anglican, has defined who is and is not Anglican.

Times of changed. Canon Giles Fraser of St. Paul's Cathedral in London contends in a column in The Guardian that the internet and hypertext sealed the fate of a hierarchy being able to define a group's theological identity. In my experience, few people in the pews of US Episcopal congregations or those of the Church of England understand, much less care about, the Anglican Communion. Anglicanism has always been a muddled approach to Christianity, as Andrew Gerns at the Episcopal Café has editorialized. So, let's say hello to a new model of being Christian together, one that forsakes structural and doctrinal unity for promoting communication, broadening horizons, honoring differences, seeking commonalities, and together incarnating God's love as and when possible.

Third, aloha also means goodbye. It's time to farewell efforts to develop an Anglican covenant and perhaps to the Lambeth convocations of bishops. The former is, in nautical terminology, dead in the water. Archbishop Rowan Williams' commendable efforts to preserve the Anglican Communion through establishing minimal doctrinal and structural unity failed. The latter, the Archbishop of Canterbury convening a gathering of all Anglican bishops once every ten years, was during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the best mechanism for preserving ties within the Anglican Communion. However, as much as individual bishops value their Lambeth experiences (and many do), new options now exist for creating ties between members of the Communion that would involve significantly more people at a much lower cost, e.g., multiple ways to establish relationships at all levels using the internet.

Instead of wasting time and energy bemoaning its demise, saying aloha to the old and the new represents a constructive step forward.

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