First, a brief history lesson: the Church of England was created when King Henry VIII split the Church in England away from the Roman Catholic Church. It’s important to understand that Henry only wanted to get rid of the rule of the pope and the College of Cardinals when he created this “new” church. So while he wanted to get rid of the church’s “foreign” leadership, he didn’t want to change much about the church’s theology or organization.
When Henry died, his son Edward VI took over, and during this time the Church of England became much more Protestant. But then Edward died, and Bloody Mary took over, and the Church of England rejoined the Catholic Church. But then Mary’s sister, Elizabeth, became Queen and the Church of England finally settled somewhere between Catholicism and Protestantism.
Around this time, the Age of Exploration took off, and soon English people were traveling the world, opening trading routes in some places, and making colonies in others. And of course, they brought the Church of England with them. Over the next two centuries, most of these colonies would get their independence and the English would go home… but the Church stayed, and so what had been the “Church of England in America” became the “Episcopal Church”, the “Church of England in Canada” became the “Anglican Church of Canada” and so on.
These churches are collectively known as the “Anglican Communion”. And for decades, they all existed happily with each other. Towards the end of the 1960s, however, the Episcopal Church in the United States (TEC) has become progressively more and more liberal. In 2003, TEC nominated Gene Robinson, a practicing homosexual, as Bishop of New Hampshire. And this created a giant mess for the Anglican Communion.
Although each national church is independent of the others and can act in (almost) any way it sees fit, the consecration of Gene Robinson alienated most of the Global South, the staunchly conservative members of the Anglican Communion in Africa and Asia. And this is a problem because the Global South constitutes a large majority of the Anglican Communion. Where TEC has less than 2 million members, the Church of Nigeria has 40 million… and they’re not happy with TEC.
Continue reading “What now, Rowan?”