That would be Queen Elizabeth I -- the one who managed against all odds to pull of what we still call "The Elizabethan Settlement" putting to rest (at least institutionally!) the theological wranglings between the firmly entrenched camps who were frankly more interested in keeping the argument going than they were coming to some kind of settled compromise that would let the church get back to the work of being the church and quit burning each other at the stake.
The Elizabethan debate du jour was over questions that make today's divides look positively "bridgeable": Transubstantiation or Real Presence: was "it" the Body of Christ or not? Was the Church of England going to be Protestant or Catholic? (to name just two of the "biggies.")
If Elizabeth had waited for agreement -- consensus -- to come on these and other theological issues that consumed the 16th century equivalent of the "blogs" of her day there would have BEEN no Church of England ... and no Anglican Communion for us to be arguing about these many centuries later. Perhaps there would have been no Golden Elizabethan age at all, as the energies of those who turned their attention to securing their borders, exploring the "New World" and writing the sonnets and plays we still treasure today would have been used up by continuing to beat each other up over the church splitting theological issues of their day.
Instead we had the brilliant "Elizabethan Compromise" -- believe what you want about the bread made holy but come to the rail to receive it -- summed up in the quote attributed to Her Majesty: "I have no desire to make windows into men’s souls. There is only one Christ, Jesus, one faith. All else is a dispute over trifles."
And couldn't we do with a good-sized dose of that kind of leadership about now? The kind that was willing to recognize that the coming together in communion is far more important than the differences we bring to the rail? The kind that was willing to give up the fantasy that we could achieve agreement over differences that are in a very real sense irreconcilable and leave them instead to be reconciled in Christ?
That IS the tradition we inherit as Anglicans -- and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the "orthodoxy" being championed by the revisionist neo-Puritan ideologues who insist that agreement with their understanding of the “clear truth of scripture” is the criteria for communion and demand that anyone whose theology fails their litmus test be voted off the Anglican Island.
A case in point this week is the conservative blog site titusonenine. While not exactly known for its hospitality to diverse perspectives on a good day, the recent posting of the Eucharistic Prayer Louise and I chose for the liturgy for the Blessing of our Covenant last month has elicited a feeding frenzy of theological outrage. Adoptionist, Gnostic, Lucifer-designed and Pagan were but a few of the descriptors in the 70+ comments so far on a text that from my perspective falls firmly within the bounds of Anglican Eucharistic theologies.
Imagine how much closer the kingdom would be to coming if that level of outrage was focused on … say … those whose lives hang in the balance in Darfur. Those who remain homeless and hopeless in New Orleans. Those suffering from the AIDS pandemic with no access to the drugs that would make survival at least a possibility.
Nope … we’re too busy making windows into men’s souls and bedrooms for that – too busy protecting our precious orthodoxy from the pollution of inclusive language, incarnational theology and (God forbid!) couples who want to commit themselves to Christ and to each other and make a life together.
The rabid insistence on theological uniformity consistently reflected in the polemic of the conservative fringe is yet more evidence that they are indeed committed to keeping the “fight” going rather than seeking a settled compromise. Nothing short of complete capitulation will be enough to keep us in communion with each other.
Elizabeth had an answer for that: get over yourselves and come to the table anyway. Like I said, where is she when we need her?