By Kit Carlson
So I was meeting with a family prior to a funeral and someone in the group pipes up out of nowhere and asks, “What is an Anglican, anyway?”
The wheels ran ‘round in my brain like the fruits in a slot machine. Ka-ching! Does he mean like the breakaway “Anglican” church here in town? Ka-ching! Does he mean like Peter Akinola? Ka-ching! Does he mean like Anglican like it used to mean … a member of the Church of England? Ka-ching! Could this actually be someone who knows what the Anglican Communion is?
So where to begin … well, at the beginning. So I did, starting with Henry VIII. We took a quick spin through the American Revolution, the re-name to Episcopal, the British Empire, the Anglican Communion, what it means to be “in communion” with the Archbishop of Canterbury …
“But what is this African guy doing in our country? What’s all THAT about?” he pressed.
And you know what? I was just embarrassed. I was embarrassed that our family troubles are being fought in the pages of the press. I was embarrassed that we have not figured out a way to sit down together at the same table and work through this stuff. I was embarrassed about the entire Peter Akinola visit and how silly Rowan Williams looked after the whole letter-exchange business. I was embarrassed that the word “Anglican,” which once meant so much to me, which connected me to people around the world in a great web of religious practice and fellowship, has become so debased, so tied to conflict and reactionary politics.
Did any of my explanation help? More than anything else it made him smirk. I could see the image in his eyes: Just more Christians behaving badly, not living like their words proclaim, biting and tearing at each other, ready to throw out “little children, love one another,” just to try to win an argument.
I was not sorry about being an Episcopalian. I was not sorry about Gene Robinson. I was not sorry about our House of Bishops or Katharine Jefferts Schori or General Convention.
I was sorry though, that when people think about us now, they think about our controversies and our schisms and our bitterness What’s an Anglican? Someone who can’t make peace in his or her own family, apparently.
The Rev. Kit Carlson, is the rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in East Lansing, Mich.
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