Thursday, October 05, 2006

Are Primates a Good Idea?

The Daily Episcopalian points us to a new blog by the Rev. Michael Hopkins; From Glory into Glory. Some of you will recognize the title as a line from the hymn "Love Divine," which is one of Michael's favorites. It is without question my favorite.

In a sermon based on a Gospel lesson we have previously discussed, Michael makes this observation:

...More importantly, however, my point is how dangerously close we are as a church—be it Episcopal/Anglican or Roman Catholic—to acting completely antithetical to the Gospel we are called to proclaim in word and deed. Those of us who live in “high church” traditions have always lived in this danger, mind you, and frequently succumbed to it. The Church ends up getting in the way of the Gospel because it begins to consider itself more important than Jesus himself.

For Anglicans, one of the principle reasons we remain separated from Rome is that we do not trust that particular system not to succumb to that temptation (and I don’t mean to score debating points with my Roman Catholic sisters and brothers here, I am just describing what is real), and yet, here we Anglicans are, in the full nature of human hypocrisy, screwing it up just as royally ourselves. We’ve created a system with rules of behavior that determine who is in and who is out and created a super-hierarchy with persons we call “primates.” Can anyone in their right minds imagine Jesus—or even Paul, for that matter—thinking it was a good idea for Christians to call some people “primates” who have “primatial authority?” It’s enough to make this good catholic boy a mad-raving protestant!
The authority claimed by this newest group identified as one of the Instruments of Unity is indeed troubling.

Beyond the concern of a developing rigid hierarchy, I've often wondered if we might come up with a title for our leading bishops that does not cause smirks, and sometimes giggles, when first used in the context of Inquiry classes. One can only imagine the image that the term causes to wander through the minds of our newcomers.


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