Shawna Atteberry

Writer, Editor, Researcher

"Every five hundred years, the church feels compelled to have a giant rummage sale"

Religion Dispatches has a great article up: Reports of the Death of the Episcopal Church Are Greatly Exagerrated:

When I interviewed author Phyllis Tickle, she placed this current crisis into a much-needed historical perspective.

As Bishop Mark Dyer has observed, about every five hundred years, the church feels compelled to have a giant rummage sale. During the last such upheaval the Great Reformation of five hundred years ago, Protestantism took over hegemony. But Roman Catholicism did not die. It just had to drop back and reconfigure. Each time a rummage sale has happened, in other words, whatever held pride of place simply gets broken apart into smaller pieces, and then it picks itself up and to use Diana Butler Bass’s term, “re-traditions.”

Such historical nuances are notably absent in the current coverage of this Anglican “crisis.” Granted Henry VIII’s Tudor tirades presented a rather dubious background to the founding of the Anglican Communion—not to mention Bloody Mary’s BBQ of Archbishop Cranmer and Bishops Latimer and Ridley, as well as the role the Anglican Church played in the global colonization of the British Empire. When Christianity Today reported that for the past ten years, the Anglican Communion had been embattled due to controversies over sex, power, theology, and money, they were only off by about five hundred years.

Moving back to the other side of the pond, we must remember that the crises arising in US Episcopal circles following the Revolutionary and Civil Wars presented far greater hurdles than this current bible battle. This is hardly the “biggest” split and challenge for Anglicans, as reported by The Washington Post and The New York Times respectively. Moreover, when The Wall Street Journal terms this debate a “schism,” it brings to mind a Christian catastrophe like the Great Schism of 1064, that separated Roman Catholics from their Eastern Orthodox brethren. In comparison, a group of 100,000 Anglicans defecting from the 80 million member Anglican Communion resembled a case of the spiritual sniffles.

Furthermore, those who choose to interpret Anglicanism through contemporary evangelical eyes fail to see the full polity picture. Historically, while Anglicans do not reach a universal consensus on a number of social and political issues, they come together through their common worship as found in The Book of Common Prayer. Having found unity in communion, they return to the pews to continue their disagreements.

Read the whole article. Becky Garrison gives a great overview of what is going on in the Anglican Communion.