I love the Church of England

P80701531-Canterbury Cathedral
My family is crazy, and they drive me mad. They make me madder and hurt me more than anyone else can.

 
But don’t you dare criticise my family. You don’t have the right. They are mine to criticise and I’ll defend them to the hilt.

 

*****

 

It has been a strange sort of week. We were there in the kitchen, listening to the speeches live, holding our breath as Archbishop John Sentamu read the results of the Synod vote, and we were so shocked we didn’t know when to breathe out again.

 

I wrote about how I felt before the vote. We haven’t had a divorce, but this is one of the more painful weeks in the Church of England that I can remember.

 

It was a shock. We knew it could happen, we knew it would be close, but we didn’t really believe it would fall. And from that moment of silence, this week there erupted a volcano of rage, disbelief, and hurt; words spewing forth like molten wounds.

 
*****

 
I remember standing before a crowd of one hundred or so students belonging to a university Christian Union. As a staff worker to the Christian Union, I had been asked to say something. It had just been announced that half the exec had resigned, because they felt that their church tradition was not being represented, that they were being continually overlooked, treated as second best. It wasn’t the fault of the present leadership, they were carrying the burdens of years of hurt, and that year it had all tipped over. In the student evangelical world, this is as near as you can get to schism, and the faces that looked up at me were shocked and white.

 
I said something – I can’t remember what, but I remember the desperation and helplessness I felt, not knowing what would happen to the CU, whether this was one division too many. And then I stepped down off the stage and sat on the floor with the others for a time of open prayer.

 

A girl’s voice rang through, someone who had been particularly hurt and sidelined. She prayed forgiveness and power. And she prayed repentance for the group as a whole, aligning herself with the CU that she had so often felt sidelined by. Another voice rang through from the other side, praying repentance, forgiveness, hope. Those students knelt at the feet of Jesus, crying out in pain and confusion, surrendering their anger and hurt, flinging that conflict to the throne of heaven, one voice after another, different voices melding together into a flow of repentance and reconciliation, knowing that the one that they had most hurt in the row was God himself.

 

The presence of God in that room at that time was tangible; in the emptying of ourselves we had been filled to overflowing with that goodness, the excruciating joy of the Spirit of God. I have never been in a prayer meeting like it, before or since. Even in the mess, we were on holy ground.

 

******

 

We are pragmatists in the Church of England. We rub alongside one another, in our different clans, sometimes uneasily, sometimes gladly. It shouldn’t work, but we bimble along anyway, and it sort of does. We are family. We hate each other, and we whisper in our circles about how we would design things so much better, but we stay together, and we love one another.

 

I am praying that from the flames and ashes of this hurt and upset there would be the kind of miracle that only God can do – a compromise and sacrifice, and pain surrendered and misunderstandings and confusions covered over in love. I hope for a way that the family can stay together. I am praying for some holy ground: a flinging of ourselves on the throne of grace, a Spirit of peace, healing amidst the hurt.

 

I love the Church of England. The liberals are sworn enemies, and we view each other with suspicion – but I love them for reminding me of Christ the man, the one who understands, the lover of justice. I don’t understand the Anglo-Catholics and their rituals – but I love them for reminding me of Christ the helpless infant, on Mary’s knee; Christ the bread, our sustainer, our ever-present God. My own tribe I can sub-divide many times over, and I love them for reminding me of Christ crucified, Christ resurrected, Christ who will come again.

 

Don’t you criticise my family. I love them. I am thankful for the Church of England.

 

 

This was my best five minutes on ‘Thank you’. (Actually, this was more than five minutes, but this was something of an extraordinary week… Forgive me?)
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20 Responses to I love the Church of England

  1. Megan Willome 23rd November, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

    I grew up in the Episcopal church here in the USA, so I understand a little. Thanks especially for sharing about the college meeting that was so taken over by repentance and love.

    • Tanya 27th November, 2012 at 10:32 am #

      Thanks Megan for stopping by! It felt good to write about that meeting, it reminded me of hope and possibilities.

  2. Joy Lenton 23rd November, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

    How eloquently you express the individual and corporate pain of trying to remain a united body of believers in the face of schisms and widely varying viewpoints. Whatever denomination we belong to (I have a Charismatic/Baptist background but my home church for many years has been Independent Evangelical with family in the CofE) I think we can all see the need to share the fundamentals of our faith and – as every family has to do – love one another despite the differences between us. Taking this to the throne of heaven is the best place to start. There we find grace to help in our time of need and love to cover all our offences toward one another. Praying that you will know His peace. Bless you, Tanya, for another searching post 🙂

    • Tanya 27th November, 2012 at 10:31 am #

      Thank you so much Joy. And I love that so many of us have been to lots of different churches and are familiar with different denominations and backgrounds. It stops us being unnecessarily suspicious of one another’s ‘tribe’. Thank you for joining me in prayer – I appreciate it.

  3. Marcus 23rd November, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

    Hi Tanya

    Great post. What are your thoughts though on whether folk from outside your communion can offer constructive critique? If you take the above too strongly you might seem to be saying that nobody is allowed to comment on any church of which they aren’t a part. And then how do we help each other?

    Is it a matter of intention and tone? Ie people intending to deride aren’t welcome, but those intending to help are? And those who interject in an unkindly tone aren’t but those of good will are?

    How do you see it?

    • Tanya 23rd November, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

      Thank you so much for asking this (and so graciously!) I can totally see why you could think I might be saying that only Anglicans can offer critique. I definitely would not want to say that. For example, the post I read at Andy’s Study this week was a useful challenge to evangelical Anglicans becoming too materially comfortable. And Krish Kandiah has just written a fab post on approaching the issue with grace and truth.

      I intended it to be an expression of the emotion I was feeling than a prohibition on all ‘outside’ criticism. It does grate a bit when people are dismissive and derisory, without really understanding the issues. As I have read tweets and seen the Press and government rip the Church to shreds, practically rubbing their hands in glee at the situation, I have found myself coming over all protective of the CofE and defensive of its better qualities, and wanting to pray for healing.

      But of course it is always good to have fresh eyes and perspectives, from within and without, and sometimes those outside of the situation can see with greater clarity than those emotionally caught up in it all.

      Thanks so much for asking this – you won’t be the only one thinking this, and it has given me the opportunity to clarify. Much appreciated.

  4. Alice 23rd November, 2012 at 2:37 pm #

    Oh Tanya. Beautiful. xx

    • Tanya 23rd November, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

      Thank you – so very much. Much love to you.

  5. Mark Allman 23rd November, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    Tanya,
    I like your words here “flinging that conflict to the throne of heaven”. Something we should be doing with all of our conflict. I do believe we can learn a lot from those we are in conflict with. We learn more about them and really more about ourselves as we work through the conflict. So what happens when all the working through leaves you worked out without a viable solution? You are back to “flinging that conflict to the throne of heaven”.
    Where do you go when the issue seems unresolved on one front and you are left with no tangible things to do? I think you go to the throne again and leave it there. Pick it back up when it needs to be picked up but move on to do the things daily we all know we must do. So many things are so very clear in God’s word that if we concentrate on fulfilling them we would do well.
    As someone very removed from your pain I will try to put it on and pray for the conflict that your throw on the throne.

    • Tanya 23rd November, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

      Thank you so much – for understanding so well, even though you are removed from the situation, and for praying. It is so very much appreciated.

  6. Mark Meynell 23rd November, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

    thanks for this – i guess it’s the flipside of what i posted yesterday:
    http://markmeynell.wordpress.com/2012/11/22/so-tired-some-post-vote-not-particularly-comic-doggerel/

    • Tanya 23rd November, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

      Yes! I liked what you wrote – it expressed so well the weariness and sadness so many have been feeling this week. Thank y very much for stopping by.

  7. Wendy @ E-1-A 23rd November, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    I’m your other neigbour at Lisa Jo’s.

    The Church of England was my father’s church, and that is the church I was familiar with as a child.

    • Tanya 23rd November, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

      Hi there – great to meet someone from the other side of the pond who is familiar with the machinations of the church of England…

  8. Julie 23rd November, 2012 at 11:58 am #

    Hey, I am your neighbor @ Lisa Jo’s. How wonderful you can see the beauty of the different clans within Christianity. We are often too focused on pointing out how we got it right and they don’t. Have a blessed weekend!

    • Tanya Marlow 23rd November, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

      Thanks for coming by, Julie! Hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving weekend.

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