I Was Wrong says Frame Remain
The well known Toronto theologian, admits, in an even more extensive article than usual, that he has been wrong all along.
I, Frame Remain, the well known Toronto theologian, have been wrong all along, and now wish to confess all my sins intellectually.
Now that Bishop Duncan Eyebrows has left and set up his little operation, along with others I agree but can't associate with, I must now justify where I exist.
It has been such a struggle inside The Geographical General Convention Episcopal Church (Anglican Communion) of the United States (GGCECACUSA). Let's add to that the Canadian Anglican Church Union (CAChU). And what an effect on the Worldwide Anglican Communion! Hardly a day goes by without some report on the mother of all schisms, of breaking up is hard to do, of congregations going on coach trips and committing mass suicide, and others undergoing sleep malaise during heretical sermons and wishing for the coffee afterwards. As we rattled on and on about structures, membership continued its savage decline with people instantly turning into atheists, Pagans and fundamentalists. Yet these structural conversations have been vital, even if people come at them from various architectural angles and provide a variety of diagrams and taxonomies as they rattle their cups and saucers.
All my friends have left me! There is no one left I know. They have become drinkers of Latte, Cappuccino, Macchiato, Mocha, Café Freddo, Café au lait - all orthodox arabica and robusta - whilst I have stayed here, sacrifically, with the poor remaining ones consuming Budget Coffee, full of what seems to be no more than dust scraped off the street. Still, they have said, "Come on, Smell the coffee", and those real aromas have stirred the faithful budget consumers towards the desire for a new direction of drink whilst staying in our little declining coffee bar.
My friends elsewhere have said, "You cannot drink this stuff any longer. You will be high as a kite! It's like being on the nastiest of drugs, with your eyes peeled open and wandering around like a zombie." I have indeed thought this myself at times - but as you keep drinking, you get used to it, and I have become less anxious. I, Frame Remain, have become happier in myself, wrenched from the selfishness of wishing I could have a decent beverage. Still, there is always soup when we get home. We mustn't grumble.
Here we are, now, at the season of Advent. It's like waiting for a bus. The bus is due, but has not come yet. It humbles you, especially when it is cold or raining, and here in North American Anglicanism, we have both. It is the weather we expect among the downtrodden faithful. In such weather we can warm ourselves rubbing up against other people, so long as we have first introduced ourselves to each other in the pews that are our bus stop. Otherwise we get arrested. As Lenin himself asked, when putting out his hand for the coming bus, what are we to do? Well we must wait, to see what the bus looks like, to let that bus tell us about the journey, and hope to have a cup of coffee at the other end of the journey that forms who we are.
This is what the journey tells us:
1. Not getting one's own way today
Five years this has gone on. Gosh I, Frame Remain, have struggled as I have dashed off article after article pleading for what I have now given up. No sooner was one article finished and posted on the Internet, with that dirty cup and saucer put by the sink, that I had the kettle on and was writing another one. My arguments have been brushed aside like the dust I drink. Yet, how arrogant have I been! I thought my views were so obvious that everyone would come and change the structures just for me. The Archbishop of Anglicanism - he likes a good brew - would come and sort it all out. Yet with what wisdom he sits on his hands! From that same cup, like the miracle of five loaves and two fishes, he keeps drinking, with supreme patience, as he writes in a way that no one understands and about which I am so jealous. I must find out how he does it, because he is such an inspiration, as the coffee stains on his beard constitute more than went into the cup at the beginning. Truly a miracle; his theology is so orthodox, so wonderful in its robusta flavour, and yet he starts with just a spoonful of the instant stuff like me, and a bit of water, and some of that horrible UHT milk because it lasts for ages and ages.
As I realised no one could give a toss about what I think, write and drink, I had to further realise that, quite simply, the fact that my own views, however carefully constructed and believed in, are not the measure of the Church’s life or of anybody else's, including mine. So that's that, then.
2. Parishes are mixed up and should be built up with my teaching, not fighting places
Even if you think you are faithful and knowledgeable, you realise that others have their own tipple. I just never realised before that people are different and have their own preferences! There was I saying, surely you ought to be like me, and they were saying, "When are you going to sod off?" I had to say, stop fighting these people, especially if I'm not going to go off with the other people who have gone off.
3. The Communion also requires such non-conflictive building
It must have a common mind, I mean, come on: surely I can't give up this idea as well? Well, I have been wondering, and I'll just say that there are quite some different folks in this ragbag collection we call Anglicanism. Look at the psalms, and how they show what a messed up bunch we all are. I'd always assumed the psalms meant everyone should agree with me, but a little more exegesis put that right.
No one coffee bar, café or restaurant is alike. Even if you ask for the same coffee in each place, they turn out to be different! This has such radical implications for orthodoxy that I am only now getting some paper to dash off yet another online article.
We can still dream of coming back to the same place and supping together. Archbishop Kolini of Rwanda said to me personally that we should not be too distressed if some of us in America (and anywhere really) went our separate ways in the brewing conflict: we would be like Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15:39, disagreeing, but to come back and sup again. Let's be honest, we have been poisonous all the time, producing the most bitter taste, saying, we need more sugar, or perhaps those revolting sweeteners that don't seem to stop Americans getting fatter and fatter.
4. Legal matters
Tittilation has been the order of the day. We must confess, that, along with alienating, we have tittilated. We are tits. Going to court has been one big entertainment for the faithless. Too much enjoyment for those who have laid out their jars of coffee for members of the jury. It has to stop. Stop trying to nick the spoons and leave behind the saucers. Otherwise they are just going to keep getting hold of Plod and the lawyers and this will never end and we'll be on Court TV for evermore. [Editor: I have sharpened this up. It was a whole page long originally.]
5. Tricky dicky relationships between growing global culture and Christian life
"Fancy a coffee," he said to him, and we all know what this is about. We cannot have ministers of religion offering others coffee after the meeting has finished. This is a cultural trait of Americans, that they suggest this, with nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more - and it shocks the Africans who drink in public, in large polygamous Indaba groups. I have agreed with the Africans all along, ever since Bob said to me, "Fancy a coffee?" It makes my coffee go cold. Let's be honest: this is down to mission that is historically and culturally nuanced, the meaning of words that can mean several things. It's not as if he is simply saying, "Come and give me one," is it? Though perhaps he is saying this in terms of coffee, except of course he would be the giver and not the taker, as we forever imagine what they do with spoons.
6. We repeat the mistakes of the past [Editor: Keep it simple!]
As a student, professor, and learner, my miscalculation, I think, has lain in my vain hope that I could in fact gain and learn from my past mistakes! This is what I am trying to do now. But we all go on not learning from history. "Do you not remember what that tasted like?" Yet, we take it off the shelf over and over again. It's cheap: it will do! Do you have to boil the water?
But let's build this in, let's relax about this over a coffee: that we will never learn until that last day comes and Jesus will turn water into that most delicious of the equatorial drink.
7. Not a sudden change and solution or suspension
Let's face it, we've been waiting long enough for that last day. They were wrong, Jesus and Paul, a mistake made twice as they knew not each other: they thought it was instant coffee, but it was clearly a slow filter job and we are still waiting for that most excellent cup, a cup for those who accept the taste.
And so it will be with GGCECACUSA and CAChU and the Worldwide Anglican Communion: a long and difficult struggle all over the map, full of a menu of sufferings and yet the spray of the grace of God who supports our weak drink in the meantime.
I look still for the new brand, the Coffee Covenant, which we need, not because we will agree, but for a standard menu arrangement, so that we know who is in and who is out. After all, despite my reversals and realisation that I have been wrong all along, if this Coffee Covenant brand doesn't happen, it really has been a waste of all those uploaded dashed off articles.
I know this may not happen either. I, Frame Remain, know. And so, in the meantime, being ceaseless and tireless, I shall just bang on and on and on about this, so long as I have plenty of coffee to keep me awake.
8. No one person or group is capable of such filtered solution
I admit: I thought the Archbishop of Anglicanism would have stepped up to the saucer. [Editor: This is pure repetition and removed.]
But expect nothing of Primates, groups, associations, Communion structures, Nersen or anyone. I have several Bible readings about this, such as going into the wilderness, and we like to have a good scattering of quotes for our Evangelical friends. Here's one: "now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, otherwise go to sleep because you are very boring." (Lk. 21:28)
9. Not defending the integrity of adversaries or remaining silent in the face of indefensible behaviour by allies or being a bit noisy
So I am wondering just how much further I can extend this effing long article. What is the point of going on and on? Could I not write things more succinctly and perhaps get my point over more effectively? I mean we get this with students who write page after page with the intention of impressing the tutor, only to find it is full of persistent verbage and utter crap. I am such a failure with this and need to repent of all my words.
10. Avoid spiritual mice
These things get everywhere. If you have a nice piece of cheese with your coffee, the bloody things can come out of any hole and nick your cube. I find this especially likely in old churches, and so we must remove conflict where possible from these ecclesial structures. It has happened for centuries, but it should not go on, not while I repent, but may once have I supped and lain among the mice.
11. Israel, wait on the Lord (for a while)
So, I am adjusting my time-table. I think having four terms is better than three seasons. So many universities have changed like that. It gives a sense of bunging more in, and specialising for revision. For months powerful forces have come from Christian and non-Christian sources regarding timetabling, and of course there is the different time zones from Winnipeg to Singapore. Saying "wait" is not to be passive: having had five years to drink the cup, like the Archbishop of Anglicanism, is not actually long at all. After all, it will take years for Covenant Coffee to appear, if it does at all. So we can be like the spacemen at the speed of light, where time slows down and indeed can stop.
So you won't be hearing from me again, despite my toilet roll-busting output.
The Mostly Reverend Professor Frame Remain is Professor of Horrible Theology and Coffee Tasting at Wycliffe Hall and senior fellow of the Archbishop of Anglicanism Wishfulfilment Society.