Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Anglican Communion: Pace of the Slowest Hiker or a Campfire?

     If you've not heard of the Anglican Communion, it includes churches that trace their lineage back to the Church of England such as the Episcopal Church in the United States. Some of what could be termed the more conservative national churches in the Communion think the Episcopal Church is a bit too progressive: we ordain women, we make them bishops, we do the same for those who are gay, we welcome all to the table of the Lord. We take that part of the baptismal covenant seriously that says we will "respect the dignity of every human being." It's kind of radical, and I guess it makes some people uncomfortable.

     Metaphors do not prove facts, but sometimes the illustrations we adopt can help explain our own inner truths. Perhaps without realizing we have done so, the Episcopal Church and other parts of the Communion are living different metaphors to explain to themselves and our joint life in Christ.

     When hiking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains that shelter my little valley, there is a safety rule that says the pace of the hike is always the pace of the slowest hiker - that way, no one will be left behind. This seems to be the metaphor the Archbishop of Canterbury, as one of the leaders of the Anglican Communion, has adopted. He wants the Episcopal Church to wait, to not officially recognize the gifts all people bring to the church, to delay justice until most everyone can agree. I'm sure it's a very safe metaphor to live.

     I wonder, however, if there is not a different hiking metaphor that explains our attitude in the Episcopal Church: the campfire circle. We all gather round – those who took today's hike quickly; those who walked slowly. We're all bound together because we were on the same journey. It doesn't matter that your story or your pace is not the same as my own – in fact, it is the different stories that make our evening around the campfire all the more interesting and magical. The campfire crackles and snaps, and a million stars wheel overhead, and my journey is made all the richer because I've heard how it looked to you.


  1. I like your post and in particular the campfire analogy.
    If a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and we all make our journeys at a different pace, it is essential that those already beside the campfire are prepared to wait and share the stories of the late arrivals.

  2. I miss the days when I could hike the Sierras. Not only am I way too far away, but I doubt I have the physical stamina any longer to do difficult treks. I have often been the weakest link especially on steep uphills and have always appreciated those who walked along side or waited at crucial forks in the road to point the way. However I really appreciated who could and did go on ahead. They were often the ones who caught the trout or started fire to cook the soup and sometimes carried what I couldn't. Thank you for bringing up this really good analogy for the Anglican Communion.


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