Reducing a question to scale can sometimes be a helpful intellectual step toward understanding. Just how wide is the divide between liberal and conservative Christianity? Just look at the current issue of TIME magazine.
Reporter David van Biema profiles two bishops of the Anglican Communion in “Gay Bishop vs. Straight Bishop,” published June 7, 2008. Van Biema looks at the divide in the Anglican Communion through these two bishops. The first, the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, is the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire. An openly homosexual man, his election as bishop set the stage for a world-wide controversy that threatens to tear the world-wide Anglican Communion asunder.
This past weekend, Bishop Robinson and his partner Mark Andrew were united in a civil ceremony Saturday in the narthex of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Concord, New Hampshire [see Religion News Service coverage]. The ceremony came exactly five years after his election as bishop. When he announced the date for the ceremony, Bishop Robinson said that he had always wished to be a “June bride.”
Van Biema also profiles the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, who was recently elected a bishop of the Anglican Church of Nigeria. He, along with several other ministers, eventually decided that the Episcopal Church U.S. was beyond repair or recovery after, among other things, the election of Bishop Robinson. They along with their churches, have sought oversight from more conservative Anglican churches in what is now called the “Global South” — a great swatch of the world’s map ranging from South America to Africa.
As David van Biema reports:
Bishop V. Gene Robinson of the Episcopal Church USA and Bishop Martyn Minns of the Anglican Church of Nigeria are the twin bookends of the current struggle within the worldwide Anglican Communion. Fallen bookends, one might add, insofar as they are the only two Anglican bishops so far to be disinvited from the Communion’s once-a-decade Lambeth Conference this July by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.
It says a great deal that these two bishops have been “disinvited” from the Lambeth Conference. In the case of Bishop Robinson, it is because his election as an openly-homosexual bishop threatens to tear the entire Anglican Communion apart. In the case of Bishop Minns; he was disinvited because his election by the Church of Nigeria was so loudly opposed by the Episcopal Church U.S.. Orthodoxy, we should note, is as controversial as homosexuality in some circles.
This tale of two bishops does indeed reveal the much bigger story. The divide between orthodox Christianity and its liberal rival is not getting smaller. To the contrary, every new issue of theological and moral apostasy drives the divide wider.
Indeed, the current alignment of controversies is truly astounding. Those wondering where theological liberalism must eventually lead should look no further than the man at the center of this controversy within the Anglican Communion — an Episcopal bishop who always wanted to be a June bride.