Rights, ++Rowan, and the state of the Church

My additional comments around ++Rowan Williams’ statement to the Anglican Communion after the Episcopal Church’s General Convention, with regard to much of what I am reading on Facebook and the blogs from Church folk.
I don’t think that many of us are approaching the whole problem (by “problem” I mean that our pressing issues over which we are fighting are only external manifestations of a deeper, underlying problem of how we regard and deal with one another). We are not dealing with one another from a particularly Faith-centered, Life in Christ kind of way. The Christian vision of loving God and neighbor before and beyond ourselves or our little groups or our particularly theories or ideologies has collapsed, I think. If we want a picture of how to love neighbor, then review the whole incident in Pennsylvania where a gunman shot down a bunch of Amish kids in their school. The parents of the slain where compelled by the Gospel to go to the killer’s family to offer forgiveness, support, and comfort. Well, we see ourselves casting each other into utter darkness because of differences of interpretation of Scripture or “feeling” that after 20+ years we are not moving fast enough in our overturning of thousands of years of human tradition (even though like so many other historical examples within the Church, I agree that we’ve gotten it wrong all this time).
Here is the thing: Christianity is not a right! It is a privilege. God’s acceptance of us in whatever form we may be at the moment is not a right, it is a vouchsafed privilege. Communion is not a right, it is a privilege. Holy Orders are not a right, they are a privilege. Attending Mass is not a right, it is a sacred privilege. When I turn to begin my journey down the road that leads to God, to a Life in Christ, and as God takes up my life and begins to transform me – I give up my life so that I might have life. I give up all my rights – I am a person with no appeal for the right to anything – so that I might be free. We have lost the vision of “Freedom” and “Life” as defined within the arch of Holy Scripture. When we cast the Gospel in the language of politics, we have already failed.
Much of what seems to be driving the chaos within Anglicanism are socio-political agendas of either the left or the right. The IRD pushed the conservative side for political gain in the U.S. (as they said they would, read more here, here, and here), and now too many conservatives say they can do without TEC (they have cut off their leg). The left has been co-opted by identity-politics and political-correctness, and too many liberals say that we can do without the Communion (they cut off their arm). Both means are wrong, from a Christ-centered perspective. The strengths of “conservatism” and the strengths of “liberalism” should be complementary and only strengthen the overall mission of the Church, but when understood in socio-political terms and when advocated for by secular means, they become enemies.
I’m convinced that’s why both sides of the divide are so critical of Rowan. He won’t give into the politicized agendas of either side. As I’ve said in other places, I used to think that Rowan and Anglicanism would have been better served if he had stayed in academia, but not now. The fact that criticism comes from all sides suggests to me that he is going in the right direction. He seems to be one of the few Anglican leaders that are actually acting like an Anglican – willingness to keep all sides at the table talking. Whether he succeeds or not, whether he is doing it the right way or not, I think Rowan is a least trying to confront all this stuff from out of the faith-Tradition as Anglicans have understood it.
When the mainline churches were overwhelmed by liberal politics in the 60’s and 70’s, people left because they didn’t want politics, but life-giving faith. They tended to move into more Evangelical denominations or at least those churches that eschewed a socio-political emphasis. American Evangelicalism has been overwhelmed by conservative politics since the late 80’s, and we are witnessing the beginnings of the collapse of the politicized Religious Right. People of younger generations are moving out of Evangelicalism. Some are moving into other faith communities (Emergent), but the primary difference these days is that the younger folks for the most part are leaving the church for no other faith community. This is the state of the American Church and what it is exporting overseas.
I think there are so many people who are seeking faith communities that actually focus on the Faith, centered on growing closer to God and one another, rather than on socio-political agendas of either the left or the right. This is the opportunity for evangelism, for the fields are ripe for harvest. Anglicanism is primed in its ethos and aestheticism for the younger generations at least in North America, but the Enemies-of-our-Faith are succeeding in destroying our ability to be a witness of God’s grace and restoration to these generations. We need to rediscover and reappropriate the best of the Tradition and focus on the Church’s ancient Disciples for one goal – that all may now the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ by the enabling of the Holy Spirit (otherwise know as the Cure of Souls). The result of this focus, of course, is that people’s hearts will be changed so that we cannot help but engage issues of justice, fairness, and the regarding of all people as God’s creation. I give up all my rights to help achieve this goal, as best I can and with God’s help.