On the Road in Kansas City (Part 5)

After arising and having breakfast in the little morning room at the hotel (scrambled eggs, sausage, biscuits & gravy, OJ, coffee — you really needed to know that, didn’t you?), Missus and I went for a walk. Right across the street from our hotel is the Merriam Visitor’s Bureau and there is a small park there with an historical walk — we took it — I now know more about the history of Merriam, Kansas, than I ever wanted to know. For example, it was originally settled by a man named Arthur Gee Campbell, his wife America Victoria, and their seven children. It was originally called Campbellton, but a second parcel was subdivided and developed by Charles Merriam, secretary of the Kansas City, Fort Scott and Gulf Railroad, and became the more important commercial center, so the name Merriam became more common. This all took place in the 1880s … Merriam wasn’t incorporated as a city until 1950.

The Bear Pit by Kwan Wu, Merriam, KansasIn the little Merriam Historical Plaza at the visitor’s center is a sculpture entitled The Bear Pit by sculptor Kwan Wu. A plaque says this piece commemorates “three wandering bears” who lived in the Merriam Zoo (long since closed) during the early 1900s. They regularly escaped their “bear pit” and went for strolls through the town. Each time they would be rounded up and returned to their enclosure, only to escape again. The comments of the sculptor say that he wanted to portray “the human kind” of bear….

I’m not sure there are “human kinds” of bear, but I know for certain that there are “bear kinds” of humans.

When you travel through some of our national parks, Yellowstone comes immediately to mind, there are signs warning you against feeding the animals. And if you are a backpacker (as I used to be) you learn early on about bear-proofing your supplies. But despite the signs and despite the experience of backpackers, there are people who try to feed the bears and end up badly injured or killed. They seem to think that the bears will be like Yogi and Boo-Boo (maybe those are “the human kind of bears”?) but they aren’t. No matter how friendly you are, no matter what you offer them, no matter what you do to placate them, wild bears will rip you apart.

There are people like that. Some of them wear purple shirts and pointy hats and get to put crosses in front of their names (and some people, when referring to them put double crosses in front of their names) and have titles like “The Most Reverend.” No matter how friendly you are, no matter what you offer them, no matter what you do to placate them, these people will rip you (or your communion) apart. One of these people is named Peter J. Akinola: he is the Primate and Archbishop of the Church of Nigeria.

Bear Warning amendedToday he will be in Virginia installing a man named Martyn Minns as bishop over a group called the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, something set up by the Nigerian church to minister to those who claim they cannot accept the leadership of the Episcopal Church. He has been asked by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church not to do this. He has been urged by the Archbishop of Canterbury not to do this. What he is doing is contrary to centuries of tradition and ancient canon: bishops and archbishops do not cross diocesan or provincial boundaries and conduct episcopal ministry in another bishop’s or archbishop’s geographic jurisdiction.

+Akinola doesn’t care. He’s going to go after power (having alleged authority over Minns and CANA) the same way a Yellowstone Park bear will go after your lunch — with dangerous and deadly intent. The bear will tear your tent, your car, your backpack … and you … to shreds. +Akinola of Nigeria seems hell-bent on tearing the Anglican Communion (or at least the Episcopal Church) to shreds.


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