I have been doing a bit of reading up about Ukraine. What an awful history the present region enscribed by internationally agreed boundaries as Ukraine has had. The western region particularly has known various imperial masters through the centuries, most recently under Polish control before WW2. Stalin drove the Crimean Tatars out of Crimea but reports say they have been returning to Crimea more recently, with fervent loyalty to Ukraine (especially anti-Russia Ukraine) and hatred for Russia. Yet clearly many Russians in Crimea are the pretext for Putin's takeover of Crimea (which is some kind of 'South Florida' for freezing Russians from more northerly latitudes). So the region is full of antagonisms from the past and present shifting tribal or nationalist loyalties. As an outsider watching a country overthrow a democratically elected but corrupt leader and being set upon by a despot from a traditional imperial overlord, it is difficult to work out where the best interests of Ukraine in respect of governance lie if it is to be a united rather than a divided country.
Not dissimilar thoughts attend the Anglican Communion these days. To ask, "Where do its best interests in respect of governance lie if it is to be united rather than divided?" seems only to have a complicated answer. The complications lie with the tribal (and sometimes nationalist) loyalties of differing groups within the Communion.
Yet any Anglicans thinking schismatic thoughts might be advised to pay attention to Ukraine. It seems that some protesters in the Maidan in Kiev now realise they were naive. What they thought was an open and shut case of protest against legitimate-now-gone-bad rulers, with optimistic thoughts about replacing the government, has now become a murky situation in which the power of Russia over the dislodged government has become more dangerous rather than less. Is it possible that any Anglican schism in today's Communion looks an open-and-shut case to those contemplating it, but the reality will prove more difficult?
There are several scenarios to consider. What happens, for instance, if a parish or diocese attempts to breakaway from the body above them but then finds that within that parish or diocese are Anglicans loyal to the body above them and not to the breaking away entity?
But the particular concern I want to highlight in this post is that on the GAFCON if not Global South side of the Communion there are some 'interesting' ideas (to put it mildly) which beg questions about whether all conservative Anglicans wish to be in the same conservative boat. Recently we have seen the Nigerian and Ugandan Anglican churches taking stances on respective legislation in their countries concerning homosexuality which I assess as being - at best - ambiguous about the draconian nature of the laws. (At worst, it would appear that some Anglicans in public statements have been enthusiastic supporters). Now we find the Nigerian Anglican church may be making moves towards requiring office-holders swearing an oath that they are either not homosexuals or are former homosexuals. (I say 'may be' because it is not clear from this story whether this is a move confined to one parish or not).
Conservative as I am, I do not want to be in the same boat as Nigeria and Uganda Anglicans as they sail in the particular direction they are taking re homosexuality. Respectful understanding of their dilemmas re their local situation and how they are handling it is one thing, pledging undying tribal loyalty to this particular form of Anglican conservatism is another thing.
These are not the only issues for conservative Anglicans to ponder. Some of us support the possibility of women being bishops, some do not. Some of us are crazy about using prayer books and some are prayer book averse. In these very columns we have had commitment to one or other form of creationism while others are recognising of evolution as a fact of life. (Lest anyone think such theological division is a small thing, I once lived in a parish with a creationist vicar - it is not the easiest of theologies to live with when one is trying to be in unity and harmony with other Anglicans).
It is possible to then warn against schism by prognosticating about further schism then taking place as the schismatic group finds it is only united on the reason for the first schism. Such warning should not be discounted. But my greater concern is that Anglicans focus attention on what makes preaching the gospel possible in our local contexts (cf. my post on Monday this week).
I do not see, for instance, that public aligning of Kiwi Anglican conservatives with Ugandan and Nigerian Anglicans at this time is a better alignment for the sake of the gospel in NZ than remaining aligned with our church, messy as it is in the complexities of our current dilemmas.
Surely Ukraine would have been better off finding a way to live with its many tensions than ending up in the place it is now in?
PS Speaking about Ukraine, it appears NZ is punching above its weight with Putin ... !
PPS A serious and sober article about varying 'Orthodox' responses to Putinesque Russian nationalism is here.