Who are the predominantly younger theologians and priests clustering around The Living Church’s Covenant blog? Or “A Tribe Called Anglican”? Or those who read more individual blogs like “Creedal Christian” or “The Conciliar Anglican”? Or those who have contributed to the recent book Pro Communione? Or who attend seminaries like Wycliffe College or Duke Divinity School? They are the future of Anglicanism in North America, that is who; and they are the reason why I am not so much worried about The Episcopal Church as eager simply to see the inevitable fruit of faithfulness whose seed is well-sown.Later he says their existence is all but a "secret," and I've found that to be true at least in the circles I travel; thus the deep breath of surprised recognition. In TEC, when "younger" people come up, everyone wants to talk not about these deeply Anglican folks, but about less specific "post-evangelicals" with "new ways of being church" (and about how their dislike of aspects of their former traditions can be commandeered for political self-promotion purposes by folks in the power structure, but nobody says that part out loud.)
I was commenting on this family of blogs at a clergy gathering last month (though I cited a few other examples: e.g. Haligweorc and The Curate's Desk) and saying that all of a sudden, after about 5 years of despairing weariness, I actually had an "Anglican" section in my RSS reader again, and was happy to see new items pop up in it because they were often so very very heartening. I once again recognize what I know as Anglicanism when I read these folks, and I'm with Radner: I want to see what this faithfulness produces. Later, he comes back to the theme:
One of the best-kept secrets of The Episcopal Church is that within its current membership are found the Anglican Communion’s most vibrant, creative, and serious younger theological minds; among its clergy are some of the Communion’s most humble and grace-filled pastors; among its people the most fervent prayers. It is a secret, because they have not sought to kick against the pricks (Acts 9:5), but rather to let Jesus lead the way; they have not sought to advertise their embrace of cultural approval – whoever’s culture! – but have instead immersed themselves in the witness of the saints and their forbears in faith; they have let weakness provide a forum for divine strength.It's nice to see this positive stuff in what is overall a very sobering article, yet in some way (I'm not sure which) a deeply true one. (Note to readers: if you click through and have not lived through the trials of American Anglicanism, I think it may be possible that the piece will just be thoroughly incomprehensible; if so, honestly -- it's not you; it's us.)
I can't really say how thoroughly I agree with Radner's specific construction of the situation we are now in in American Anglicanism, but I sense on some subterranean, pre-conscious level that what he is trying to articulate with his Israel/the Nations image is something I also feel deeply and have not been able to put into words at all. One piece of evidence for this is that over the past -- well, let's see, I think it started in Lent, so four months? -- it has seemed possible to me in a way I never imagined it would again to go back into a parish because, somehow, something invisible out there is different. Which does not mean better. One Sunday in May I tried, in a bizarrely electric scene in a church parking lot after Mass, to expound to a colleague all my careful, longstanding reasons for not re-engaging full time, and they fell to the ground like language usable only on some other planet, while he delivered words about sanctification, vocation and suffering that at the time freaked me out and now sound eerily like this article.
Even the fact that I am writing here, these days, about my denomination. What's that about?
More from Radner: The insight that "Israel falls completely... bit by bit, over many years, and formally in the shape of separated bodies – just like the Church," and that all bodies whether separated or not are just as implicated and just as judged through what has happened to us all. That the judgment has a "force ...now as much transformative as depleting." That now is the time "not to run away, as if Egypt were safer than Babylon. The Nations are all the same, and we are now scattered among them and they among us.... The fact that the boundaries of our church have now become one with the vast erring of the Nations – Assyria and Babylon both, as it were – is a disclosure that there is no place to hide from the calling of our witness." And the "just here, only within; never outside. I know that this is disputed, over and over. Let the argument run its course. But in the end, 'it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside Jerusalem' (Lk. 13:33). It cannot be. And it cannot be that the church should find her resurrection outside the place of her judgment."
Whenever Radner writes, he writes a lot, and in a tone of eloquent importance, and frankly I read the entirety of an article by him only about half the time. But I'm prepared to consider that there could be an insight here that I, as someone with years of active ministry potentially in front of me, and as someone who has, perhaps, been camping in a place that was once "safer than Babylon," may need to take on board.