It might have escaped your attention, but there is some big Anglican conference happening this summer. For those of you with long memories, you might recall that the big issue is something that was discussed the last time the big Anglican conference met ten years ago.
And that’s the problem. Our longest memories go back ten years.
Which is all very disappointing, when you consider that the Church of England in particular, and the Anglican Communion in general, like to think of our selves as a historic church, with our roots in the succession of our apostolic churches. We haven’t just made all this up: we are inheritors of the past. And yet, “big picture” knowledge of our origins and our history seems to be pretty vague: not just among the people in the pews but also among the prelates in the palace.
Which means, of course, that we may face a problem when the newspapers and the blogosphere start writing about course of the conference. We will hear, I am sure, that the Church is facing an unprecedented crisis of faith and confidence, due to, they will say, its authoritarian and/or weak-willed Archbishop, its oppressive and/or irrelevant nature, its ultra-conservative and/or ultra-liberal character. Much of what will be printed will be contradictory, and lacking in any historical or theological context. This doesn’t matter, so long as it makes good press.
Which presents a problem for those who wish to remain faithful members of the Church. Too often we know too little about where we have come from (the history of our church), and because of that, we know too little about where we are going (the future of our church). Too many people think the Church is facing difficult questions for the first time, that this is the worst crisis in the Church’s history, that this is the closest we have ever been to breaking up. Of course, this is not the case.
So, in order to prepare ourselves for the Lambeth Conference, in order to have some idea about where we have come from, to recall the greater crises of our Communion, and to see the hand and purpose of God in what has happened in the past, I am going to start a new series of posts:
Based upon a study day hosted on Pentecost eve by St Stephen’s Canterbury, and Affirming Catholicism, Canterbury, I will look at eight significant dates in the history of the Anglican church, four significant movements and four significant inheritances the present day Communion possesses.
I hope that this won’t be of just historical interest. I firmly believe that the past, if not determining the future, at least builds it’s outline. Or, to put it more theologically:
If we know where we’ve come from,
we might learn where it is
God wants us to go.