Around the world, friends in the 77 million-member Anglican communion are taking sides. In a letter this week, the Archbishop of Canterbury hinted that in a newly reconfigured Communion, the U.S. church and others who make "significant decisions unilaterally" might end up as "associate" members, observers with "no direct part in the decision making."In other words, the Episcopal Church is acting as a prophet. If one examines the Bible, one quickly sees: (1) Prophets in the Bible are rarely popular, and (2) prophets in the Bible are rarely wrong as seen in hindsight by the faith community. This does not imply that the Episcopal Church is prophetic. No doubt the Bible includes only those prophets that proved right in the interpretation of the faith community.
Noting that some provinces no longer have full communion with the Episcopal Church, Archbishop Rowan Williams made no apologies. "It isn't a question of throwing people into outer darkness, but of recognizing that actions have consequences -- and that actions believed in good faith to be 'prophetic' in their radicalism are likely to have costly consequences."
Regarding gays and lesbians, Williams said that "rhetoric about 'inclusion'" should not obscure the key issue -- whether a church which seeks to be "loyal to the Bible" must bless homosexual behavior or warn against it.
Rowan Williams is saying that it is indeed possible that the Episcopal Church will prove to have it right, but that for now it is proving to be a voice that much of the Anglican Community does not accept. That's quite a complement.
In the meantime, acting as prophet - being an irritant to the faith community - necessarily means bearing the consequences. Rowan Williams is right: there's no way to be a prophet and avoid the consequence of being shunned by the faith community.
Are prophets good for the faith? The Bible tells us they are.
Therein lies the answer to question: Can a divided church stand? Answer that by asking this question: has God stopped sending prophets?