“Well, that's a niche market.” I was checking into my flight in Heathrow and the young attendant asked if I was there on business. “Yes,”
“What do you do?”
“I oversee some Christian churches,” leading to her final comment. All this in a nation with an established church!
I have spent a fascinating and productive week at the Anglican Communion Office for the Lambeth (Conference) Design Group. The issues, theological, political, and financial, are not hard to imagine. Nor is it strange that we should serve the Communion on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the heir of Augustine, Cranmer, and Temple. The committee represents the breadth of the Communion. At the same time, we did our work with various deeper trends rumbling beneath us (like that worrisome supervolcano under Yellowstone). One thinks of shifting social trends in the West and the rise of global south churches, all against the background of the volatility of the world political scene - one thinks of the great world mission conference in Tambaram India in 1938. One such trend is the increasing secularity of the West, of which the opening comment is an example. The very way some naturally think of us, as another consumerist lifestyle option, shows the ground shifting under our feet.
The Communion matters in our coming to terms with the issues we have before us, but it also matters for the problems only barely visible now, but of consequence for the next generation. The environment and cyber-corruption are obvious examples. But I also have in mind the way post-modern society will come to view the human, the issue of human dignity per se. Already we design our gene lines, freeze the heads of corpses for reattachment, engineer viruses, need I go on? They say military strategists err by preparing for the last war. There may be something similar in the Church, and so for reasons we do not yet really know we let our networks of fellowship fray at our peril. (An analogy might be heedlessly picking international political fights....).