Time lines and responsibility

Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini, Primate of Rwanda

It is useful to be reminded that the present row did not begin with the authorisation of services of blessing of the union of homosexual couples in 2002 in New Brunswick, nor with the consecration of Gene Robinson in 2003 as Bishop of New Hampshire.

Sexuality (the role of women in the church, women's ordination and consecration, birth control, divorce and remarriage, as well as homosexuality) has been a subject of conflict throughout the whole of the last century. Conflict over the use and application of Scripture took its present form with the development of critical methods from the 1840s. Both battle grounds are as old as the church and endemic to it.

One timeline of events in the divisions in the US is here, written from a conservative perspective. However it omits to mention the dates of the first intrusions into US Anglican jurisdiction from other Anglican provinces. This is from the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA) site:

In 2000, Archbishops Emmanuel Kolini ( Province of Rwanda) and Moses Tay (Province of South East Asia) consecrated the Rev. Chuck Murphy and the Rev. Dr. John Rodgers as missionary bishops to the U.S. At a gathering in Amsterdam on July 28 of the same year, the Anglican Mission in America was formalized as a missionary outreach charged with fulfilling the Great Commission through church planting. Four additional bishops were consecrated in Denver in 2001 by Archbishop Kolini and Archbishop Yong Ping Chung (Archbishop Tay’s successor who served as archbishop until his retirement in February 2006).

These things are important. Events - and how we forget or continually reiterate certain events - are key elements in telling the story of Anglicanism, shaping its present by the way we reshape the past.

The telling of history helps in the attribution of blame in order to make them look bad and us look good. It helps to shift responsibility for our actions on to the uncomplaining shoulders of the past. It also traps us into certain courses of action. We understand our own faith in the terms we have inherited and embody it by aligning ourselves with particular strands in history. By that identification we preclude certain possible choices and are predisposed to others. Inevitably.

I wish to assert and argue that we are all responsible for our own actions and share responsibility for the actions of those groups with which we align ourselves whether or not we have any control over them. It doesn't seem much, put like that, but in my experience accepting responsibility can be rare in the church (as in wider society). (A plea for greater social responsibility - in a slightly different meaning of the word - in church, academia and media is here.)

It is also important, I think, for the interpretation of events and the telling of our story to remember that no-one acted first. Every step has its predecessors: the choices that we make are based on what we know, or believe we know, about the past. On the other hand we are judged by what follows.

Thanks to Get Religion, and this story in particular, for the links.

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