The Church is Flat: A New Anglicanism
We are determined to reclaim a vision for the church that holds true to its founder’s intentions. We take God at His Word and are trying to live out a gospel of radical inclusion and profound transformation. Jesus of Nazareth didn’t give his life for a structure but rather for a vision of a world where every person can know that they are loved by God and given new hope for tomorrow ....
Source: CANA Web
By Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, May 3, 2007
In his book The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman explains how our world has shrunk. Thanks to instant information and rapid transportation, hierarchical structures have been flattened.
One global organization that should be ideally positioned for this transformation is the Christian Church. The genius of its founder was that it was designed to be “flat;” small groups with a common vision, a common language of faith, and international networks that crossed national boundaries. As often happens, initial flexibility was soon lost and replaced by more predictable and controllable structures and the early vision forgotten while waiting for another fresh wave of inspiration and creativity.
We are witnessing such a new wave. A prime example is the Anglican Communion - an international community of more than 75 million in 164 countries, ordered into 38 separate provinces.
In the good old days mandates, money and missionaries flowed from the traditional power base of London and, more recently, New York to their grateful recipients in the developing world. But that is all changing now and we have, as noted Penn State religion and history professor Philip Jenkins describes it, ‘A New Christendom’ where much of the energy, leadership and vision now come from the Global South. The old ways of doing church are being shaken and we are rediscovering what it means to be part of a truly global community.
One example is the birth of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, or CANA. It was first conceived as a way to provide a safe harbor for Nigerian Anglicans who no longer felt welcome in The Episcopal Church because of its deliberate distancing from traditional mainstream Christianity but now includes a growing number of other Anglican congregations from across America.
This realignment isn’t simply about issues of human sexuality but on the other much more basic questions such as the role and authority of the Scriptures and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. It is part of an emerging movement of formerly Episcopal churches and new congregations, which are breaking out of their hierarchical straightjackets and connecting directly with other parts of the Anglican Communion. What unites them is a vision for global Christianity; a commitment to a common language of faith and abiding friendships that connect across challenging cultural divides.
This movement is variously derided by the hierarchical power brokers as being either a small group of American malcontents or an example of reverse colonialism. They are missing the point - the Church got flat and they didn’t notice.
There are serious questions, however, that must be addressed. How do we make sense of our common commitment to individual human rights in such dramatically different civil and religious settings? How do we preach that every person is made in the image of God, is loved by God and is of inestimable worth when one part of the family is dieting from eating too much and others are dying of starvation? How do we demonstrate the love of God to people whose life experience is so very different from ours? In this global network how do we find a common language so that we can talk with one another about differences without demonizing those with whom we differ?
We have a long way to go and CANA is only a small part of the solution. We have no delusions of grandeur. We are merely an association of churches who love being in the mainstream of the Anglican Communion.
We are determined to reclaim a vision for the church that holds true to its founder’s intentions. We take God at His Word and are trying to live out a gospel of radical inclusion and profound transformation. Jesus of Nazareth didn’t give his life for a structure but rather for a vision of a world where every person can know that they are loved by God and given new hope for tomorrow - whether they live in Kaduna or Kansas City, in Bethlehem or Boston, in Darfur or Dallas.
The Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns is Bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America.