Anglican Angst

At Get Religion, the best religion journalism blog on the Net, two stories on the the latest spasms in the Anglican Communion. First, Broken Communion notes how some Anglican clergy now “refuse to share Holy Communion” with their diocesan bishop. The equivalent in Mormonism, I suppose, would be a Bishop refusing to shake hands with the Stake President. You know, serious disagreement. Second, Everyone Loves Justice notes that the Episcopalians (the American branch of the Anglican Communion) have voted a one-year moratorium on the election of new bishops, the best way they could think of, it seems, to honor the Anglican request to avoid approving any “noncelibate homosexual bishops” until the Anglicans of the world can figure out where they stand on this troubling issue. Why should Mormons care?

First, it’s nice to see other churches struggle over tough issues. I don’t mean that in a negative way, it’s just that from reading most Christian blogs, you would think other Christians don’t have an institutional care in the world. But as shown here, an ugly issue can flare up out of nowhere and threaten an eminent Protestant denomination with imminent schism or implosion. Catholics haven’t had it too good lately either. Maybe the COB isn’t doing such a bad job!

Second, gay issues aren’t going away but will continue to arise in US and European political and ecclesiastical contexts. The Proclamation doesn’t eliminate the problem for the LDS Church, it just limits the ability of future LDS leaders to make reasonable compromises, if the need should ever arise.

Third, note the distribution of frozen bishops in the second article. The five frozen straight bishops are from the South. The two frozen gay bishops are from California. This is interesting because of LDS demographics: there aren’t many LDS in Southern states, but there are hundreds of thousands of Mormons in California. In other words, gays and the Church will clash again in California, possibly sooner rather than later. Prop 22 was not the end of this political issue for Mormons, I’m afraid. Just ask Mitt Romney.


  1. Great articles, Dave. I think the commonality of struggles amongst Christians are both educational and fundamental to our compassion for others. It helps us all to get along and work together when we realize we have similar trials.

  2. HL Rogers says:

    We often seem to have two reactions to troubles in other churches. 1. ignore them as irrelevant or 2. gloat (in a nice way) about the fallen churches and their troubles. The view that we can examine the different difficuties of other churches and see both a glimpse to a possible future for our church (running into more issues with SSM) and to see how others deal with similar issues. Very illuminating, thanks Dave

  3. danithew says:

    I get the impression that in some other churches, local leaders and parishes enjoy far more autonomy and self-ownership than do LDS wards and their bishops. I imagine that if real enmity/hostility existed between a bishop and his stake president, the bishop’s tenure might be shortened a bit. Usually bishops aren’t the kind to utterly defy a stake presidency anyway.

    Also, there is a overall ownership in the Church that is nearly impossible to defy. I heard of a local leader somewhere in rural Guatemala who tried to take over a chapel/congregation and preach polygamy. From what I heard there was a standoff and the Church couldn’t get the keys to the chapel back. Rather than tolerate an apostate takeover, bulldozers were sent in one evening to level the building.

    Modern technology helps too. In our stake the PFRs were recently given a sheet of paper on which to write those who had electronic keys to the outside of the stake building. The main reason for this is that there were people out there with keys who were no longer authorized to have them. Because of these electronic key systems, its quite easy to take away access without ever getting the key back. The computer system is simply “updated” and any keys that aren’t listed will fail to grant access or unlock a door. The term that was used in the paperwork was to describe this process was “purge.”

  4. HL Rogers says:

    I like the idea of the Church conducting a purge of any kind. I think I’ll talk to my bishop about conducting a purge in our ward. I would suggest a purge of all orange carpet.

  5. a random John says:

    There is an interesting episode in early church history in Hawaii in which a man sent to preach there by Brigham Young declared himself prophet and took all the church property, which was quite a bit. My understanding is that the dispute over the property did not end in the LDS Church’s favor.

    More on topic, I am going to say yet again that I have inside info that there is a SSM compromise position that has already been decided on, over a decade ago. It is that the Church does not oppose civil unions. They’ve just never said that publically, and President Hinckley dodged the question when Larry King asked it recently.

    Ok, now back off topci: danithew, what kind of “electronic keys” are these? The keys that I have seen in use in Utah have black grooves which look like they might be a mag stripe or something else that is fancy but in fact simply conceal a series of holes. There is nothing electronic about the keys, they are the equivalent of the hotel punch card keys you used to see. I could easily justify calling them digital keys though.

  6. danithew, you are very correct that local LDS congregations lack any “ownership.” In Protestant denominations, the individual congregation often owns their own chapel or church building, and even in the Catholic Church it is generally the regional diocese that legally owns the church buildings, not Rome or some national Catholic organization. Only in the LDS Church (at least as far as I am aware) does the central church organization actually constitute a corporate body that has legal ownership of local buildings. LDS Inc. is like a huge landlord, with every LDS congregation being essentially a permanent renter.

  7. “… some Anglican clergy now “refuse to share Holy Communion” with their diocesan bishop. The equivalent in Mormonism, I suppose, would be a Bishop refusing to shake hands with the Stake President.”

    Refusal of shared communion is, I think, more along the lines of declaring someone excommunicated. The Episcopal Eucharist is central to the church’s worship much as the temple ceremony is to ours, even though it’s public. In effect, these clergy members are saying that their bishops have no place at Christ’s table, and no authority in the church. It’s pretty extreme.

    I say this as someone who was a catechized Episcopalian before I joined the LDS church.

  8. We have electronic keys on our newer buildings here. Coded, and chipped and they update the database from a lap-top (once they learned how to do it without messing it up). One thing it does do is tell you who is using the building and when as it tracks every key use.

    Neat stuff.


    Completely missing from many discussions is the Church in the third world (by which use, in this context alone, I mean the Christian Church).

    Anglicans in Africa are sorely afflicted by other groups over the gay bishops issue. Every gay bishop in the United States results in deaths, rapes and defections in Africa. It is rare for any congregation choosing a gay bishop in the States to acknowledge the cost to others of their action.

    It is a complex issue.

  9. Steven,

    Defections I’d expect. Deaths and rapes? I’ve never heard that before, and when I was active in the communion I tried to follow the African bishops’ complaints. Can you give me a reference to check out? I feel as though I’ve committed a dereliction of intellectual duty by missing this information.


  10. Stephen,

    That is interesting. The keys I am familiar with look like they might have chips but they do not. They all just have a unique set of holes hidden by the dark plastic that allows them to be identified and for usage to be tracked.

  11. — random John

    I suspect that there are multiple vendors. One interesting thing is that different keys can also have different times for access. Nothing like putting off setting something up, going over in the middle of the night, and then not being able to get in.

    In removing numbers from a system, the technical term to describe this process was “purge.” It is used all the time.

    — Serenity Valley

    When my parents were in Africa on their mission, in some areas, who gets targetted as outside the protection of being a people “of the Book” can hinge on a local mullah’s reaction to things like ordaining gay bishops. Being outside makes you fair game for being despoiled, raped and pillaged, with a fair number of deaths. Certain kinds of actions trigger opportunistic responses.

    The African bishops have real concerns. They are constantly under pressure from religious groups claiming that they are no longer Christians of the Bible. Some just wish to convert their members (hey, just like the LDS do), but others wish freedom to engage in otherwise outlawed slavery and related practices and in theory are only allowed against the animist groups.

    Anyway, just as the Roman Catholics have been addressing just what it means to be a global Church, so have others.

  12. a random John says:


    I’d love to see a picture of such a key if possible. Yes I am strange.

  13. Stephen,

    Thank you for the information. I had no idea this happened.

    While I can think of a number of possible motivations the African bishops might have to avoid discussing this problem explicitely, it’s too bad they haven’t done so. Perhaps recognition that the relevant imperatives of some African churches are a matter of life and death might help the American bishops see that their own motivations, while good, are of less import to the welfare of the Communion.

    I find myself doubting that the Anglican Communion, as it stands now, will be able to retain its identity as a unified global church. It’s so decentralized, and each region’s church is so independent of all the others, that the end of the British empire knocked out its one real common denominator. Even the prayer books are no longer very similar. Compare, for instance, ECUSA’s book to the New Zealand book. The language is very different. Even within the U.S., major differences in liturgical interpretation are finally beginning to create major differences in liturgical form.

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