Over the years I have been afforded the opportunity to meet and study under several Anglican ministers and theologians. In total they are a scholarly lot; haven’t met one yet that wasn’t gifted in the brainier aspects of faith; and they look so official in their collars. They refer to themselves as Catholic-Light.
One Anglican I’ve never met is the big Anglican himself, the Archbishop of Canterbury. I have the same chance of meeting him as I do of having tea with the Pope. The Archbishop of the worldwide Anglican Church, which includes the U.S. Episcopal Church, is Rowan Williams. He has the wildest eyebrows I’ve ever seen. I’m guessing it would take a small weed-eater to trim those bushes. He’s also one of the smartest people alive today. Let me add that smart and judicious are not synonymous. He’s made a few outlandish statements during his tenure; but even Billy Graham made a mistake or two. I believe the Archbishop’s faith matches his prodigious eyebrows. He also has the distinction of leading his faith group through a deeply divisive and troubled era. It can’t be easy being the Archbishop of Canterbury these days.
Reverend Williams, also a gifted writer, penned the following words: It is not the church of God that has a mission. It’s the God of mission that has a church. Let those words sink in and you may feel a tingle in your soul. There may also be a twinge or two of guilt as we instinctively invert this principle. Honestly, do we really see the church as part of God’s vastly larger plan? Do we really see our individual faith lives as being part of a global, infinite and inclusive scheme? Hopefully so, but speaking for myself, this is much harder than it might seem. It’s very easy to view the institutional church as the main event. It’s even easier to view our lives as being both front and center. It may hurt to admit it, but it’s true more times than not.
Again, speaking only for myself and my feeble attempts to live in the right order, an evaluative inventory is key. Why do I practice faith? Why do I practice stewardship? What is the goal of my church? If an honest answer doesn’t transcend the here and now, it may not be what the God of mission expects. Loving God for reasons beyond our own salvation, safety and stability is difficult, but necessary for living in the right order. Viewing the church (my church, your church) as existing more for God’s eternal scheme than for us is easy only while in Sunday School, but again, this is absolutely necessary for being God’s church linked-in-mission and in sync with God’s plan.
Sobering words indeed. And to think, it took a prodigiously-eyebrowed Anglican chap to make me understand this. God works in mysterious ways.