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'You've Been Served'

'You've Been Served'

By Rollin Grams
April 24, 2023

[A description of the context for this satirical play on the Church of England is provided in the Afterward.]

Knock-knock.... Knock-knock.... Knock-knock....

'Maybe I'll just peek in the window to see if anyone is here.'

'Of course someone is here. This is Lambeth Palace. Someone is always here.'

Knock-knock.... (door is eventually opened by a person holding and stroking a Yorkshire Terrier)


'Afternoon, Mum. We'd like to speak with Mr. Canterbury, please. Oh! Ah, No offense. I was just confused by the dress. Would you be Mr. Canterbury, then, Sir?'

'This is not a dress. I'm wearing a robe.'

'Right. Very good, Sir. Harold here likes to dress up, too!'

'Oi, knock it off, mate!'

'Just a little joke with my friend, Harold. As it happens, Sir, I have some document here and just need your signature that you have received it. Right on that line. Official stuff, I imagine, but only Mr. Canterbury can sign for this one.'

'Yes, yes, lots of official business here. Thank you. Let's see what we have here.' (opens envelope)

'Well, how do you like that! I'm being served divorce papers!'

'So sorry to hear that, Sir! Would you like to use my pen?'

'It's my wife, Ginger, divorcing me, and she wants most of our overseas properties. Oh, and this is rich: she wants six of our eight children.'

'Horrible stuff, Sir. But I have a note here that the papers came from a Mrs. Gafcon in Rwanda. I also don't have the name 'Ginger.' And how is it she's Gafcon and you are Canterbury? Are we talking about the right person?'

'Oh, she's already using her new name, Gafcon. And I nicknamed her Ginger, as in 'ginger group'--an insignificant yapper always spicing things up and trying to control what goes on in grand halls such as mine.'

'Ouch! If you don't mind me saying so, Sir, that might be one of the problems for this marriage!'

'Good disagreement, my man, good disagreement. Our marriage counsellor said years ago that disagreement is good if you keep walking together. Just walking together, despite our differences, can be healing, you know.'

'I see you have some very smart walking shoes, Sir. But Harold, here, tells me that that didn't work out so well for him and his trouble-and-strife. The longer the walk, the more the disagreement. Right, Harold? Better resolve the differences than try to walk them out, I say. What was the problem, if you don't mind me asking?'

'Well, it says here that I "tore the fabric of our community". What on earth does that mean? As I recall, I was the one who wanted continuous and constructive dialogue. Isn't disagreement in a marriage just a higher form of unity? This new value of diversity is so helpful as it teaches us to have 'good disagreement' and to celebrate it as a sign of our unity no matter what. The more we disagree but still stay together, the greater our unity.'

'Oh, Harold, what do you make of that?'

'All I can say is that the wife was very disagreeable, indeed! Very disagreeable. We were united in disagreement for seven years. Left me depressed in the end, and I nearly had a heart attack.'

'Oh, nothing like that, I'm sure, for us. The three of us had wonderful times of dialogue about living in love and faith together--one big, happy family over many years with lots of disagreement unity. At least, so I thought.'

'The three of you, Governor? I see a man in a dress behind you. Would that the third party?'

'Why yes, bless him, er, her. Come out over here, Fang. Don't hide yourself by the closet.... ((aside) I'm not sure he likes that nickname, but it is a play on his real name.) You see, my wife just never appreciated Fang in our marriage. She wined and complained and, well, threw everything at me, including the Bible, of all things.'

'Ooh, not very nice. Mustn't be throwing the Holy Book around.'

'Indeed! It has its place on the shelf. It's not one of the instruments of communion, you know.'

'Now that there is a fine sounding thing. What are these instruments of communion?'

'Well, I'm one of them.'

'Ah, now that is something to ponder. It must be a very fine thing to be an instrument of communion. How about that, Harold? What are the others, then?'

'Not "what" but 'who." The instruments are three other groups of people.'

'Just wondering out loud, Sir, but I once heard something about unity involving shared commitments, not just people stuck in endless disagreement with one another. Mr. Sartre there over the Channel said something about that being hell. People stuck with each other for eternity in snippy disagreement with each other--might be worse than fire and brimstone. It is a lovely thought, mind you, to have so many people in your life, telling you that you are doing a fine job. Three groups, you say? But I imagine this wife of yours wanted to lay down a few rules for your unity--maybe, like, sticking to the old marriage vows.'

'Lived experience makes the difference, not obedience to some old list of commitments that we once wrote up early in the marriage. Things have changed, and we need to move with the times. Our lived experience is what keeps the ship afloat, not the builder's plans. Hold me responsible for love, not commitments about the meaning of marriage, gender, and all that stuff. The problem with my wife was that she just did not want to live in love and faith with us. She kept whining about my not living up to what we committed ourselves to years ago. Fang needs our loving care and blessing. Inclusion--that's the word. Come here, Cuddles, I'll include you. Everyone needs to be loved and included. Everyone counts. Living in faith does not mean fidelity to commitments to way back when, you know, but to people, to one another no matter our disagreements.'

'Yes, Governor, I was wondering about that word 'faith'. You have a way of giving words a twist or two. What does 'living in faith' mean?'

'Oh, it simply means we are a big family in relation to one another. Like, for instance, there is a belching uncle in the corner, full of alcohol, at the family reunion, but he is still your uncle. That is why the instruments of communion are all living people. You cannot choose your family. It has nothing to do with what we are committed to, as though commitments to beliefs are more important than commitments to each other. It's like being in a family--we're stuck with each other no matter what we believe.'

'That Mr. Sartre called his play, "No Exit." Stuck with each other in continuous disagreement for eternity. You must have seen the play or read it at some point. Anyway, am I right in concluding that you do not believe in any commitments to beliefs or practices, just people?'

'Well, yes, you could put it that way. But we do have beliefs somewhere on file, and we love our practices. We even dress up for them. As I say, though, neither is an instrument of unity for a marriage--not in my books. Commitments have a place only because, without them, we could not disagree, and we show our unity by disagreeing about them together. When we pull out our old documents with the commitments we once agreed on, I understand them to be a way to generate good discussion. It is not as if they are revealed truth or anything wild like that!

(Fang snickers)

You bring up a good point, though, because my wife was always trying to hold me to our old commitments as though they mattered more than our living in love together in this faith family. She did treat them as a kind of objective truth. Dripping faucet, she was.'

'Oh, so what you mean by faith is not what you believe but with whom you hang out? To live in faith is to hang out with your group?'

'Something like that, I suppose. I try not to get my thoughts confused. Maybe Fang can explain.'

'I'll give it a go, Sweetie. You see, once you realise that there is no objective truth, you can't go around saying that 'faith' is something you believe to be true. It is just something you do and do together. Beliefs, truth--they are like optional earrings and necklaces. What really matters is the party.'

'That's all a bit much for my mind, Sir, or Mum. Harold, help me out here as I'm treading water.'

'I've seen this stuff before. You should take a walk down at Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square sometime. Build a statue to Eros, and you don't ask questions about who is loving whom and how. Folk who think this way say that love is all you need. They claim that anyone who says some relationships are off limits is just stuck in a past century. Instead, they say, love is a liquid. There is no container, and so we should bless it wherever it flows.'

'Harold, you are becoming a philosopher.'

'I watch TV 4 and read the Daily Mail.'

'Hmm. A well-rounded man, indeed. Right, now if what Harold says is right, I'm beginning to wonder if you're going to sign for these papers, Mr. Canterbury, Sir. Maybe marriage is anything to you because you don't really believe in marriage. And maybe you cannot sign divorce papers because you can play the same games with divorce that you play with marriage. You're wife seems to live in the real world where faith is what you believe and love does flow around but is constrained by certain do's and don'ts and that sort of thing. She seems to know what marriage is and wants a divorce. I've seen that statue down in Piccadilly. It should have its blindfold on because love shoots its arrows without reason or choice. I suppose you have a statue to Eros here, too, at this grand palace, and I am sure that, if you do, it is wearing a blindfold. Twang, twang--arrows flying every which way. Maybe the statue of justice took off its blindfold and gave it to Eros in your garden. You can make marriage mean whatever you want it to mean, and you can bless a couple of rocks on top of each other. Things here are all sideways and upside down. So, Mr. Canterbury, these papers here, they need a signature.'

'I can't sign those. The structures of our marriage are always changing. If I sign them today, they may change tomorrow. But they haven't changed, because they cannot--unless I and my fellow instruments of community change them. We have not. Not yet. Neither I nor my friends have changed them. Of course, our lived experience has nothing to do with them in any case. After another ten years or so of lived experience, we might just change these structures. Either way, she's still my wife if I say so, and she cannot divorce me.'

'I like playing 'riddle me' too, Sir, I really do. But she is divorcing you. All you need to do is sign the papers that I'm delivering about that.'

'Well, we'll give it a thought sometime. I look forward to discussing this with my friends, along with other wonderful conversations we have all the time.'

'I will need to report that you did not sign for the papers. I will be back, of course. I must say, Sir, that though this interlocution has not turned out as I had hoped, I very much look forward to visiting here again. You have such a lovely palace, and I'd love to see the garden and its statues.'

'Thank you. Perhaps. And please do tell my wife on her African tour that we pray for her and the children as they face poverty, conflict, famine, discrimination, and persecution around the world. Such a shame about all that. Goodbye.... And come, Lovey, let's finish getting dressed up for our next conversation about the king's coronation.' (door closes)

'Harold, whoever said Wonderland was down a rabbit hole? I think we found it right here.'

'Well, yes and no, I'd say. In Wonderland, the sun was trying to make the billows smooth and bright, like this Mr. Canterbury. I'll give you that. But it was shining with all its might in the middle of the night, as I recall. Here, the sun only claims that the waves are smooth when they are right tumblers, and it is the darkness that is doing the shining--and in the middle of the day!'

'God help that Mrs. Gafcon and her children!'


Context for this satire: The Anglican Communion is breaking up, with the final straw being the Church of England's vote to bless same-sex unions. While Western provinces are in the great minority of Anglicans, they have maintained power through structure, antiquity, and wealth.

The Global South Fellowship of Anglicans (GSFA) and the overlapping Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) associates, making up about 75% of the Anglican Communion, are rejecting the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Church of England. GAFCON voted to do so at its fourth Conference (21-25 April, 2023) in Kigali, Rwanda.

This follows many years of fruitless conversations in the Church of England meant to convince the orthodox to remain in fellowship with the revisionists (false teachers). Despite calls for the wayward provinces, such as the Church of England, to repent and affirm the Church's historic teaching and the authority of Scripture, the inexorable march away from the Christian faith has continued with same-sex blessings and a document rejecting Christian teaching called 'Living in Love and Faith.' These Western, minority provinces have rejected orthodox teaching on various important issues as they affirm the post-Christian culture. Yet the focus has been on revising the Church's teaching on sexuality, gender identity, and marriage.

The official home of the Archbishop of the Church of England is at Lambeth Palace. His historic residence is in Canterbury, and the recently elected dean of Canterbury Cathedral is a partnered homosexual. The archbishop of York has also rejected the Church's historic teaching on marriage and sexuality in favour of post-Christian England's cultural changes.

Dr. Grams is a professor of Biblical theology and ethics. He has served at Gordon-Conwell's Charlotte campus from 1992-1997 and again since 2006.

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