Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, forbade his ecclesiastical equal, Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church ("Presiding Bishop" is the American and democratic term for "Archbishop") to wear her mitre while preaching in an English cathedral. In addition, Lambeth Palace ran the ecclesiastical equivalent to a background check on Presiding Bishop Schori--just to make sure she was rightly and duly ordained.
American Episcopalians are up at arms. After all, their church was founded during the Revolutionary period as a response to English interference with their new style, New World democratic Anglicanism. During the War, the Church of England tried to force their colonial offspring to pray for the King. Many American parishes closed rather than obey the directive; others cut those prayers out of their prayer books and replaced them with supplications for George Washington and the Continental Congress.
So, it is particularly galling to American Episcopalians to have the Archbishop of Canterbury direct their Presiding Bishop not to display any signs of her spiritual authority--sort of treating our "archbishop" as if she is a visiting ecclesiastical serf from some colonial outback. That she is a she mightily compounds the insult, as most American Episcopalians are pointedly proud to have consecrated the first woman archbishop in Christian history.
In case the Church of England hasn't noticed, this is why people are rejecting Christianity. It isn't because some Christians chose women to lead their churches, ask questions about traditional renderings of theology and the Bible, doubt God's existence, or want their gay and lesbian friends and relatives to be part of their church communities. Canterbury, please know that western people are rejecting Christianity because--as noted in a recent survey of young Americans--Christians are "out of touch with reality."
That's Diana Butler Bass over at Beliefnet. Read it all.
In an earlier post that should your full attention DBB wrote about the dueling Pentecost letters:This is not a conservative/liberal argument (both Rowan Williams and Katharine Jefferts Schori are theologically liberal). This is a fight between rival versions of Anglicanism--a quarrel extending to the beginning of Anglicanism that has replayed itself periodically through the centuries down to our own time.The British are fond of their hats.
Rowan Williams' letter articulates "top-down Anglicanism," a version of the faith that is hierarchical, bishop-centered, concerned with organizational control, and authoritarian. It is an old vision that vests the identity of the church in a chain of authority in the hands of ecclesiastical guardians who agree on "a coherent Anglican identity" and then enforce the boundaries of that identity through legal means. This version of Anglicanism stretches back through the Middle Ages and relates to similar forms of Christianity as found in Roman Catholicism and some forms of Eastern Orthodoxy.
Katharine Jefferts Schori's letter speaks for "bottom-up Anglicanism," a version of the faith that is democratic, parish-based, mission-oriented, and (even) revolutionary. It is also an old vision, one that vests the identity of the church in local communities of Anglicans at prayer, who adapt their way of life and liturgy according to the needs of Christian mission. This version of Anglicanism is rooted in both the ancient Celtic traditions of English Christianity and the missionary work of St. Augustine of Canterbury circa 600.
As history unfolded, different cultures have picked up on one or the other of these two streams--for example, the British church remains primarily hierarchical (even referring to their bishops as "My Lord Bishop"); while the American church is primarily democratic ("God alone is the Lord").