I've pretty much avoided posting about the Anglican Primates meeting in Ireland last week for a variety of reasons. Schism, schmism. I think by now I really don't care how things shake out. As the late Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill once said, all politics is local. Tony Campolo said much the same of religion recently, and I'm guessing he may well be right.
I'm amused by the word primate, because on the one hand it means a bishop who has precedence in a province, group of provinces, or a nation, which is the intended meaning here, but it also includes any of an order (Primates) of mammals comprising humans, apes, monkeys, and related forms. Indeed, when these esteemed archbishop types get together it is sometimes hard to distinguish the leader-like behavior from the ape-like behavior.
And so it proved.
Now don't get me wrong, neither side in the great Anglican debate have covered themselves in glory. They're both quite adept at flinging monkey feces at each other.
The liberal leadership of the Episcopal Church in the USA, while doing what it believes is right, has run pretty much roughshod over any naysayers through the years, to the point where endorsing Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire was pretty much an "up yours" message to the conservative wing of the Anglican communion. The Griz and his pals have proved quite adept at pissing people off over the years.
Then on the other side, in the red corner, we have Archbishop Peter Akinola, presiding over the Anglican church in Nigeria. Nigeria is a country where over 5% of the population is living with AIDS (compare that with only 0.6% for the US and a mere 0.1% for the UK). And yet here's the report of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Church in Nigeria from September 2004. See any mention of AIDS there at all? No, neither did I. In the most populous nation in Africa, its leading Anglican has nothing better to do than fret and fuss over a gay bishop thousands of miles away. Nero would have been proud.
And what of the Anglican moderates? Rowan Williams is attempting to hold together a frail coalition that is slowly tearing apart in many places. Let's not forget the Jeffrey John episode. While placation may seem the like the expedient thing right now, and it does buy some time, in the long run it may not be the best course of action...
Attempting to placate the "southern hemisphere conservatives" is only going to last so long. Akinola isn't going to suddenly wave his arms and say, "Oh, sorry guys, I was just kidding!" And let's also not kid ourselves that the ultra-conservatives in the Episcopal Church (now AAC, AMiA, ACN, whatever they're calling themselves this week) will ever give up either. For them it's not just the gay issue - they are dead set on rolling back women's ordination too. Hello, Deacon Mary.
In all of this, both sides claim to have God on their side, but you know what? In many ways it just looks like the same mudslinging crap we went though in the recent US election, and may well end up with some of the same in the UK.