The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby recently compared the church to a drunk man staggering ever closer to the edge of a cliff, threatened by “a vast fall into a ravine of intolerance and cruel exclusion.”
As one excluded from the Anglican community by authorities determined to solve a problem by what a Russian professor of Comparative Education called "the Russian method" ....that is by eliminating it....I can attest to that "fall into a ravine of intolerance and cruel exclusion" as if the church had become a drunk man....and from my perspective the church, as I have known it by working inside it for a decade and a half, is drunk on its addiction to perfection, to a kind of corporate refusal to acknowledge responsibility for placing men and women in situations that could best be described as intolerable, unsupported, unsustainable and based on decisions of poverty of both money and human resources.
My first appointment found me facing a congregation angered by the removal of their previous priest, and despising the parachuting of this new 'candidate' by the bishop, without so much as a single hour of orientation, of both the new candidate or the parish council, around the circumstances into which I had been thrown. "Thrown" sounds like a verb chosen by a victim, yet it was the word used by the then-supervising Archdeacon, who observed that I had been "thrown into the deep end of the pool" in the appointment. It was a fifteen year-old son of a parishioner, at lunch in McDonalds, who, immediately upon his mother's departure for the rest room, blurted, "Do you know why the previous guy was booted out?"
I honestly replied, "I have no idea."
"Because he shot a dog and turned the gun on the owner of the dog," came the unadulterated, and also innocent story. No adult, including the Bishop or his staff had taken the time, and found the courage to pass along such a story, knowing full well, that no candidate would accept such an appointment without additional support, including a period of transition, both of which would have cost more money. So was the decision to 'throw' me into the jungle based on an attempt to "test" the neophyte, or to "break" the neophyte or to merely put a name on an organizational chart to tell the Diocese the post was filled?
We will never know, because that bishop is now deceased, and his second-in-command has shown no intention of disclosing the inner-thinking of the bishop in that appointment. Personally, I can attest to the fact that I pleaded with both the bishop and the laity in the parish where I had served a summer-extended-into-fall internship, that I would like to be placed as a deacon "under the supervision of a respected and experienced priest," a condition for which I had been told by the man who led my ordination retreat that had special, designated funds available inside the diocese. The bishop's only comment to me about my petition was, "I have no one qualified to supervise you!"
That fact, even it were only partially true, is itself a scathing indictment of a paucity of both resources and the courage imagination and leadership necessary to acquire such resources. For centuries, the "church-mouse" archetype has been the 'guiding light' for parish treasurers, who deliberately and historically, are so tight-fisted about the parish funds as to behave in a manner that could only be described 'as if they were guarding either their own bank account, or the crown jewels or perhaps both.' There is simply no sanctity, no holiness and no heavenly reward for such parsimony, either in fiscal terms or especially in spiritual terms...and yet, in each parish in which I served, (and that number includes at least seven different churches in both Canada and the U.S.) the treasurer considered herself (I encountered only one male) the final decision-maker on all parish decisions...another archetype of control and the need for absolute control under which I writhed until I finally removed as many of these shrivelled witches as I could.
Are you beginning to get the picture?...and these observations are only a brief beginning of a dozen years of enduring a culture in which no spiritual life flourished without some extrinsic insertion of a charismatic interloper, or a contemporary band, or a special project which captured the imagination of a few of the "frozen" who resided in the pews. Too much of the time was spent debating whether or not the church could "afford" a retrofit, a new building, a rental space, new choir gowns, new prayer books, the admission of gay members and/a church initiative to build community among neighbours or what to do in the case of a liturgical suicide, even two years following the tragedy.
There is much more to this story, but suffice it to say, it merits a "slow-telling" and at least this trajectory of the story can serve as an introduction.
By Joe Friesen, Globe and Mail, September 20, 2013
Today, the (Canadian Anglican) church lives in reduced circumstances. The latest figures from the National Household Survey showed just more than 5 per cent of Canadians identify as Anglican, and only a third of those are actually on parish rolls. It is also a church divided. The church now grows primarily in the global south, where congregants have been alienated by the more liberal approach to same-sex blessings and women bishops in Britain and North America. The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby recently compared the church to a drunk man staggering ever closer to the edge of a cliff, threatened by “a vast fall into a ravine of intolerance and cruel exclusion.”