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Monday, March 19, 2012

Look Ma, No Covenant!

Here's a news flash for Lambeth Palace from Thailand: Anglicans can find each other and get on quite well despite our differences - all without a 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.

Once he's out of the inner workings of the institutional church, my hope is that Rowan will discover what some of us already know: 

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.


SCG said...

That was my favorite part of +Jones' statement as well!
And I hope the same things for ++Rowan as he moves back into academia.
I would say that, for me, being Anglican is about the heart and soul and mind working together, not necessarily any part being more important than another.
It's cool reading about your experiences!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

You're absolutely right about heart, soul and mind, of course. I fear Rowan's big flaw is that he over-thinks things. I guess that's what I was really trying to say

Glad you enjoy the posts. I make time every afternoon when Rob is taking his nap and we are having a bit of a break from each other to write. It's been very cool and I've loved the luxury of it.

Fr. Theo Lewis said...

While it is true that St. George's Pattaya is not part of the Diocese of Singapore our small congregation serves a very important purpose in Pattaya. The 3 clergy ( one Australian & two Americans ) are non stipendiary and since the congregation is very generous the collection goes to providing food for some elderly Thais and also helping to care for some children living with HIV/Aids.The clergy also visit the hospitals when required. Our information leaflet states that at St. George's, through our Services & fellowship we try to respond to the needs of all people who are coping with the effects of alienation, depression or just every day life. We are a totally integrated and accepting congregation.. for everyone.Our congregation statement is:
May the doors of this room be wide enough to receive all who hunger for love, all who are lonely for friendship. May it welcome all who have cares to unburden, thanks to express, hopes to nurture. May its threshold be no stumbling block to young or strained feet. May it be too high to admit complacency, selfishness and harshness . May this room be for all who enter the doorway to richness and a more meaningful life.

es, we also wear vestments!
Fr. Theo Lewis.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hi, Theo - Well, you must be one of the best kept secrets in Pattaya because no one I spoke with seemed to know of you. I certainly would have gone to church one of the three Sundays I was there as I missed it.

Thank God for your presence and your ministry.

Unknown said...

I realise I am replying to an old blog post.

However, I'd just like to mention that there is now another independent Anglican/Episcopal church in Thailand: All Saints, Chiang Mai. We are not connected with the Diocese of Singapore, either, and we are an inclusive and welcoming congregation.

And I also wear vestments - when it's not too hot!


Rev. Iain Baxter

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hi, Ian,

So good to hear from you. I am desperately hoping to get back to Thailand one day soon, in the not too distant future. I didn't spend half as much time in Chiang Mai as I would have liked. When I'm there again, I will be happy to worship with you.