One of the most significant failures of modern progressive Episcopalians is the belief that the application of reason to any given conflict will ultimately prove effective in convincing our opponents of the correctness of our cause.
This is proved false again and again, of course; people are often irrational. But our own innate ”“ sometimes arrogant ”“ belief in the reasonableness of humanity and its susceptibility to what we perceive as rational discourse seems to have the ability to overwhelm the mountains of evidence to the contrary.
This is clearly the case in the current struggle within the Anglican Communion. The majority in the Episcopal Church continues to maintain a tolerant attitude to those within our own province and in Africa who have adopted a stance toward our actions that has profound echoes of the scapegoating and exclusion that the first Puritans practiced.
It should be said that the perception of Episcopalian tolerance by these Puritan heirs is quite different than our own self-understanding. Part of their concern is, I think, that the very beliefs they abhor will be imposed on them, either by canonical action or the pressure of the majority. Calming fears is surely a part of toleration.
Yet those who stand against our vision are driven by a narrow imperial ideology that denies our right simply to exist and seeks to delegitimize our identity as Anglicans. The overall conservative message ”“ certainly presented by the leadership cadre of this group ”“ is “Think as we think, be ”˜our sort of Christian,’ or we will seek to exclude you from the Anglican community of Christians.”
Such rhetoric is not an empty threat. We continue to see well-planned and organized attempts to bring about the replacement of the Episcopal Church as the U.S. embodiment of Anglicanism by such groups as the American Anglican Council, the Anglican Communion Network, Forward in Faith North America, and, most recently, the “Convocation of Anglicans in North America” (Archbishop of Nigeria Peter Akinola’s extra-territorial “Nigerian” mission to the U.S.A.).
And such a strategy is being pursued elsewhere in the Anglican Communion, most notably in Canada, England, and Australia.
Until now we have not prepared well to face this assault. And so we have been blinded to this narrow totalitarian vision seeping into our nation’s and our faith’s ”“ and even our Communion’s ”“ DNA. It is a vision that threatens to destroy our open North American society and emerging Christian identity.