Monday, March 19, 2012
Look Ma, No Covenant!
It seems many of us know this already, and maybe - just maybe - Lambeth is learning this important lesson.
The news about Rowan's early retirement and move back into Academia has reached the status of a huge yawn here in the Land of Smiles. The news of the death of the Coptic Pope has at least made the local papers. No one here really know - or much cares - about the Archbishop of Canterbury.
There's no Anglican (much less Episcopal) Church in Pattaya and the one in Bangkok - Christ Church - doesn't recognize (or pray for, either) The Episcopal Church or Canterbury as having anything to do with them.
Thailand is part of the Diocese of Singapore and the Province of South East Asia. I'm told that, after the tsunami hit Phuket in 2004, representatives of The Episcopal Church came to Bangkok with a really large (in the neighborhood of $500,000 US) donation to help the recovery efforts. The good Christians at Christ Church sent them back after a few day - along with their money - saying that they didn't want to take anything that had been "tainted by homosexuality".
So, there it is, then.
From what I understand from the very few Anglicans I've met here, the rector at Christ Church is a bit....well...."odd" would be the kind thing to say I suppose.
For example, he determined this year that there would not be any distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday. "Too Romish," he declared. And that, as they say, was that. No "Ashes to Go" - or stay - in Bangkok.
However, there will be palms on Palm Sunday and the Church Ladies will be helping the children make palm crosses again this year on Good Friday. Or, so it has been decreed by Himself+.
Rob absolutely refused to take me there the first Sunday I was here. A few years back, he went to Christ Church with one of his dear friends, also an Anglican. He was so excited by the possibility of being part of a Christian community again, he began thinking he might even make a twice a month commitment to attend and was already figuring out the pledge in his monthly budget.
He was a bit surprised that the priest did not wear vestments - not even a stole - when he presided at Eucharist and mentioned it to him at the pleasantries on the way out the door.
"No vestments, eh?" asked Rob.
The good rector pulled himself up and said, "No, and if you're expecting them, don't come back."
Rob said he got into his friend's car and cried the whole way home.
And this from a place that fancies itself "an oasis of diversity".
Ah, the love of Jesus incarnate in His priests!
Despite all that, we did meet up with an American journalist - an Episcopalian, mind you - who is living and working in Bangkok. That's a picture of us at the beginning of this post. He and his wife and daughter came down from Bangkok to visit with us. We had dinner together last night and then met up on the beach at Jomtein this morning for a bit of a late breakfast and coffee and conversation.
Actually, his wife is from Burma and is Baptist. Their daughter attends Baptist church and is very, very bright. Her English was absolutely flawless and she hopes to attend private school in USA this coming September, where she and her mother will live with relatives.
We share much in common in theological perspectives but, being Anglicans, we have our differences as well. It didn't matter. We all share the love of God as we know it incarnate in Christ Jesus. We have a common religious language to share and created our own "oasis" in the midst of The Land of Smiles.
We don't need an Anglican Covenant to help us understand what it means to be Anglican. Neither do we need a piece of paper to define the "relational consequences" of any action that gives "offense".
Indeed, we don't even need the institutional church or one of her buildings to have us a little "church" in the midst of all the Wats and Spirit Houses and statues of the Buddha.
Perhaps Rowan, in his "retirement" and return to academia can continue to think Very Big Thoughts about the nature of Anglicanism and the role of the church and the need for community. I'm sure his thinking will have greater clarity when he doesn't have the Nasty Evangelical Boyz nipping at his heels and buzzing hateful things in his ear.
Being an Anglican - like being a Christian - is more a matter of the heart and soul than it is of the mind.
Then again, ensconced as he will be in academia, he might miss that opportunity as well.
Perhaps the next Archbishop of Canterbury might take a page from this statement from the Bishop of Liverpool. He said:
"When we are in Christ we are in Christ with everybody else who is in Christ, whether we like it or not - or like them or not."
Now, that's my kind of Christian.
And, the best kind of Anglican.