[continuing modern parables for the Anglican Communion--and others facing similar issues]
The disciples were walking south along a hedgerow on their way to Brecon. One of them remarked on the lovely view of the Brecon Beacons in the distance. Another commented on how they helped guide the traveller no matter which way the road twisted, as they could be seen above the hedgerows and hills most of the way.
As they continued in their conversations along the road, they came upon a most surprising sight. Heading towards them was an African archbishop, wearing his mitre that sat a tad squiff on his head and limping along as though injured. His progress was aided by three Americans from Manhattan.
When the two walking parties met, one of the Americans asked directions. ‘We have lost our way,’ he said.
‘You must just keep the Brecon Beacons in your sight to keep your bearings,’ a disciple said, ‘although you are headed in the wrong direction to see them. But they will tell you in which direction you are headed if you only look to them for guidance.’
Then the disciples noticed that the African archbishop was weeping. They asked if they could be of help. ‘No,’ the Americans said, ‘He weeps for people whom his Church will not bless. He is in great agony because most of his bishops, clergy, and laity insist on calling sin what the Church has always called sin. But he knows that sinners who wish to keep sinning will not like his Church if this does not change. He wishes to stop calling that thing a sin and instead bless it.’
The disciples were shocked to find such drama in the middle of a brambly hedge in the Welsh countryside, let alone such confusion in the mind of an archbishop. One of the Americans said, ‘Do not worry. He has already learned from us how to revise the meaning of Scripture, and we will further teach him how to control his bishops, clergy, and laity on this issue with our money, endless conversations, and new teaching.’ Then the archbishop’s face brightened, and he was encouraged to travel on. With a wry smile he said, ‘Yes, this is only the beginning, not the end. We have three years to soften them before the next synod.’
The parties continued on their opposite ways. The disciples wondered if their master would say something. One of them was about to ask when he noticed that their master was weeping silently, so he did not speak. ‘The master is also weeping,’ he told the others. ‘I think he is also weeping for those people in the care of this archbishop.’
When they arrived in Brecon, they found a place to eat and rest. While they were eating, the master said, ‘The hyena in Africa prefers to roam in the darkness rather than in the light. It steals the young and the weak, dragging them from campsites. Let no one forget the hyena’s crushing jaws when hearing its disarming laugh. The striped hyena is a scavenger, like the vultures. It is happy to eat rotting flesh and scrummage around in the garbage pits of humans at night.’
The disciples knew he was speaking of the archbishop and were shocked. ‘Were you not weeping for the people in the archbishop’s charge, just as he was?’ they asked.
‘I was, indeed,’ said their master. ‘But I was weeping precisely because these people are in his charge. Weak and sickly from their sin, he will snatch them from the true light and deprive them of the Kingdom of God. He will let them die in their sins rather than warn them of the consequences of their actions. He will crush them with his bad theology while appearing most compassionate and amiable. He will scavenge some things from the true Church but add to these the fetid errors that he finds from his foraging in the darkness.’
‘And what about the Americans helping him?’ asked a disciple.
‘They are the vultures,’ said their master. ‘They aide the hyena in its feasting. They circle about in the lofty skies, offering aid to other scavengers. The hyena sees them in the daytime and comes running at night.’
‘As for you,’ said the master, ‘show the young and the weak where the safe fire of God’s Word burns brightly, dispelling the darkness. Warn them of the hyena, and chase away the vultures.’