EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

August 31, 2013

Column:

The German shepherd’s name was Trapper and he came to St. Peter’s Anglican Church with his owner, a newcomer at the historic Toronto parish.

At the end of the Mass, Trapper went forward with everyone else for Holy Communion. That’s when the vicar, in what she later described as a welcoming gesture, served the dog some of the consecrated bread that some Anglicans believe has — in a mysterious manner — become the body of Jesus Christ.

So one parishioner complained to the bishop and, in a flash, critics online were quoting Matthew 7:6 (“Do not give dogs what is holy...”), and the controversy — this story had legs — even reached BBC with the headline, “Canadian priest sorry for giving dog Holy Communion.”

It seems that strange and dramatic events of this kind happen year after year in the global Anglican Communion — truly one of God’s gifts to headline writers.

It appears unlikely this trend will change anytime soon. Recently, in a burst of candor in Mexico, the current Archbishop of Canterbury harkened back to the English Civil War and quoted sobering advice from Bishop Jeremy Taylor, who was executed in 1645 by the Puritan parliament.

The Most Rev. Justin Welby noted that Taylor warned: “It is unnatural and unreasonable to persecute disagreeing opinions. ... Force in matters of opinion can do no good, but is very apt to do hurt.”

These are hard words in an era in which England’s shrinking flock of Anglicans is still fighting over female bishops and, across the Atlantic, the shrinking flock of Episcopalians continues to fight over non-celibate gay bishops. Meanwhile, leaders in the growing Global South churches of Africa and Asia are calling for repentance and doctrinal discipline.

During an August 13 address in Monterrey, Welby said he sometimes worries that Anglicans are “drifting back” into a true civil war of their own.

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