Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Anglican History in the 21st Century: Remembering All the Baptized

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Anglican History in the 21st Century: Remembering All the Baptized

Article excerpt

The end of the twentieth century witnessed a turning point in the Anglican world. The 1998 Lambeth Conference was a fraught and bitter meeting, initially but only briefly committed to debt relief for countries in the southern hemisphere. The bishops quickly turned their attention to homosexuality and, as they did so, the differences between them across the globe became apparent. At that moment English Anglicans and American Episcopalians became newly and keenly aware of the breadth of diversity within our Anglican ranks. A new era in the history of the Anglican Communion was born, and a new pattern in the writing of Anglican history thus emerged. We found ourselves having to think about who we are as Anglicans all over again, not only coming to terms with our colonial legacy but also asking precisely what links our different histories - in short, what makes us a global church.

Historians are always shaped by the context in which they write. The questions they ask and the topics they choose to research are always forged by their more immediate circumstances. Over the last few decades historians have, for example, increasingly seen the inclusion of the histories of women (of all ethnicities) and African American men and women in histories of the Episcopal Church-influenced by the women's movement and the Civil Rights Movements of the 1960s and 1970s, and the consequent developments in academia. In this article, we will address some of the global and local contexts that may shape the writing and teaching of Anglican history in this early twenty-first century, while recognising that we have no sure-fire crystal balls in which to gaze. We also recognise that in the very naming of this article, "Remembering all the Baptized," we are gesturing towards the baptismal ecclesiology which particularly shapes the Episcopal Church, and are therefore writing out of a specific context that has formed us (I write as an English woman who has lived in the United States at various times, and has been much shaped by the Episcopal Church over the years) . We note too that we are therefore writing in the light of an ecclesiology which has been embraced by the vast majority, but which for a minority (a vociferous minority) in the Episcopal Church has become contentious.

Directing an eye to the historian's own context and connecting the dots between that and their chosen subject matter, is not, I would venture to suggest, irritatingly ahistorical but, rather, profoundly related to the nature of the church. What is the nature of the church in the twenty-first century and how do historians therefore write about its past? That is one of the larger questions at play in this article. And because the church is necessarily an institution, a body, that interacts with the wider culture and the world, and because Christian theology points to the ways in which the Holy Spirit is always at work in the world, the church is therefore a dynamic body, not a static one. Its history must and does change. The historian's task is, in part, to track and analyse those changes, helping us to make sense of them. In that process, the historian creates a dialogue between past and present, between the global and the local, and between the church of today and the Christian traditions that we have inherited and in which we are embedded.

So, if we turn to our global context - the "new" realization about the significance of the Anglican Communion for our local histories-it was precisely because of Lambeth 1998, and the reactions across the communion to the consecration of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire in 2004, that so many historians began to ask questions about the history and development of the Anglican Communion with more curiosity than they ever did before.1 Books on Anglican identity, liturgy, theology, and spirituality, which largely looked to England for their inspiration and source and which were a staple part of the Episcopal seminary diet until a decade or so ago, have increasingly been replaced by histories and surveys of the global Anglican Communion. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.