Friday, June 21, 2013

What is a little Anglican pain to God?

"Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight; none was left but the tribe of Judah alone. Judah also did not keep the commandments of the Lord their God but walked in the customs that Israel introduced." 2 Kings 17:18-19

Reading these verses brought a new perspective on the 'exile' of Israel. The definitive, shattering event, to my mind, has been the Babylonian Exile, the 597/587 BC destruction of Jerusalem, Temple, and nationhood by exiling most Judahites to Babylon. But from God's perspective the 'removal' of Israel from his sight began with the exile of Northern Israel (i.e. 'Israel' above) in 721 BC and ended with the removal of Southern Israel (i.e. 'Judah' above) in 587 BC. A process of shattering all Israel  as a matter of divine discipline took 134 years.

Whatever is going on with the Anglican Communion this past decade or so may not be worked through any time soon, much and all as we might want it to be. God's timetable is rarely ours.

The above verses are sobering because they also demonstrate that God's anger against his people can override his commitment to them, to the point where a death occurs. Yes, later there was a resurrection, a restoration from exile, but it was for a remnant. Greater Israel died between 721 BC and 587 BC. God's commitment was overridden by his anger, but not absolutely. Is God committed to the life of the Anglican Communion?

I do not know the answer to that question but I would not rely on some vague sense that God might like Anglicans as a foundation for future Anglican life.

Israel was removed from God's sight because it had removed God from its sight, cluttering its vision of God with a plethora of idols and a haze of smoke from sacrifices unwanted by God.

An Anglican future may depend on the clarity of our vision of God. Is our vision cluttered and obscured by a haze of smoke?

Israel post exile was somewhat chastened. Right up to the end of Jerusalem, there was a chirpy confidence that all would be well. Jeremiah tried to confront this false confidence but failed because there was a smidgeon of theological base to it. Events proved Jeremiah right.

Might God be chastening Anglicanism around the globe? We are somewhat chirpily confident, are we not? Here in NZ we Anglicans act at times as though we are the state church, even though not formally established like the C of E is. But I have noticed a chirpy confidence to Anglican churches in other places. Perhaps it is the effortless superiority of our heritage in all things English. Or maybe the superiority of believing that we are the best church, being both catholic and reformed?

Now we are in a pickle. We won't be bound by a Covenant. Bonds of affection are fraying as affection gives way to anger. Post colonial churches are refusing to fall into line with former colonial masters. Diversity is everything, many Anglicans cry, lauding differences to the point where ability to distinguish heresy from orthodoxy is zero. On great issues of the day, women bishops and gay marriage, we seem unwilling to find a catholic and reformed way forward: some catholics seem intent on reforming the church to the point where it will divide; some reformed seem intent on avoiding the compromises which could yield a catholic solution! Why wouldn't God give us a shake down in order that we become humble about our role in the great plan of God?

Postscript: The above reads somewhat negatively but it is about the state of global Anglicanism. I think that state is less hopeful than it could be. Yes, today there is news of Hong Kong agreeing to the Covenant. But that does not change the fact that other Anglican churches are not agreeable to it, including notable churches such as TEC and the C of E. The state of local Anglicanism - ministry units, dioceses, missions yields many more positive assessments. Deo gratia.


Andrew Reid said...

One of the most tragic parts of the story of Israel is how God sent prophets of the calibre of Elijah and Elishah, who performed mighty miracles and spoke powerfully in the name of God, and yet the nation remained unrepentant. May we be ready to hear and act upon God's discipline of us, rather than respond with sullen disobedience like King Ahab.

On a more positive note, Archbishop Justin is visiting us in Egypt and the Middle East this coming week. He is already well aware of the issues facing Christians in this region, but we hope the visit will lead to greater personal engagement with ME Christians, and re-establishing some of the relationships that were damaged during recent years.

Peter Carrell said...

Best wishes for the visit.