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Hallo again to all.

The Anglican world is steeped in talk of schism; of planning it by those who have wanted schism for years; of praying against it by those who prefer unity; and of covering the ears by what it seems to us is the vast majority of people.

We recall some years ago a friend of ours had a job at the Buttery at Timothy Dwight College. He sold ice cream, milk shakes, and soda to Yale students. He determined that the most profitable item on the menu was the extra thick milk shake, so he proposed that the menu be reworded so that instead of 'regular' and 'extra thick', the items were called 'regular' and 'thin'. It worked, of course; no one wanted a 'thin' milk shake. Profits increased, as perhaps did waistlines. Changing a name without changing the named object can have significant effects on the way it is perceived.

If there is a split in the Anglican Communion, then the various parts will need to have names. The only requirement for the names is that they be different, but we know that everyone will try to encode meaning in names and use them to stake out conceptual territory. The Anglican news these past few years is filled with names like 'Reform' and 'Integrity' and 'Anglican Mainstream' and 'Virtuosity' and 'Claiming the Blessing' and 'Witness' and 'Forward in Faith'. And have a look at the hundreds of church names on our Not in the Communion page, or the exhaustive list of autocephalous Anglican-related churches maintained by

When there is splintering of an old organisation, the custom is to avoid using the word 'splinter'—because no one wants to be called a splinter group. It's all in the name, after all. The usual word used by groups that choose to separate is 'continuing', because they feel that they are continuing in the same direction while the group from which they are separating has changed direction. Extreme name-hugging can give you two competing children's cartoon video series, one called Ghostbusters and the other one called The Real Ghostbusters.

So if there is a split, will the pieces call themselves The Orthodox Anglican Church, The Real Anglican Church, the Traditional Anglican Church, the Honest We're the One True Anglican Church? Or will Anglicans do it as the Lutherans did, which produced the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod?

It would never work to tell the truth in a name. No one would want to join a church whose name actually incorporated the reasons that the church separated, because those reasons are always messy and political and not faith-based.

Our best proposal is that, if there is a split, all of the pieces use the same set of names, but not at the same time. While the moon is waxing gibbous, one piece can call itself The Real Anglican Church and another piece can call itself The Orthodox Anglican Church, except, sigh, that name is already taken, so perhaps it will have to be The Real Orthodox Anglican Church. During a waning moon, the names can be reversed, and the Reals can become Real Orthodox and the Real Orthodox take a turn as Real. This scheme will confuse everyone except the instigators who sought the split in the first place, but it will give them something to do while the rest of us worship God and get on with our lives: they can travel around holding seminars explaining the differences between the various pieces. 'If you think the Bible tells you to hate this, then here's the piece for you, but if you think the Bible tells you to hate that, you'll want this piece over here.' If nothing else, it will keep our church in the newspapers for another year, while editors everywhere write their sidebars on telling us apart.

What do we think? We think Galatians 3:28 means what it says. We are all one in Christ Jesus.

See you next week.

Brian Reid's signature
Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 26 October 2003

A thin blue line
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