Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sad, but Confident

As one who I am blessed to call a brother in Christ aptly called it, this past week (Lambeth 1) has borne some real resemblance to a roller-coaster, and not just for those who find themselves in or near Lambeth.

Cause for real joy yes, primarily in the wondrous work our sisters and brothers at St. Stephen’s Hall are daily publishing The Lambeth Witness
Magnificent work & witness!

No, I’m not going to tout any individual articles, but would rather encourage you to have your own ‘Lambeth Witness’ experience.

Sadly of course, Lambeth week 1 brought us a lot more than that- ending not with the witness of the Millennium Goals March, but with the ‘Faith & Order’ proposal, with more to come next Monday apparently. (See Mark+ Harris’ usual great analysis at Preludium )

Not that we should have been too surprised. In my opinion at least, the noise and chaos too often being inflicted on our beloved Communion has correctly called as ‘the last gasps of patriarchy.’ Only a fool would expect them to give up their centuries of privilege without a fight, and elsewhere I’ve detailed Who and what I believe its is they’re taking on.

That said, I admit to still being shaken.... no make that deeply saddened by the ‘Faith & Order’ proposal, and even more by ++Rowan’s public support for it.

Taking all of this to the bench of my practice I’ve sat long and hard ( no cushion on my meditation bench) praying for understanding, mindfully breathing myself into that unconditionality where insight sometimes happens.

A seamless, confident attentiveness.

Those who know me, if only from previous writings, understand that much of my appreciation and understanding of current events in our beloved Communion is influenced by the my reading and work in organizational transformation perhaps most succinctly embodied in the word ‘process.’

As noisy, threatening and confrontational as things may appear at times, we are part of and in an on-going process, which if we truly believe ourselves to be the Living Body of Christ, is being overseen and supported by the Holy Spirit Herself.

A dance, where the music might not always be audible.

A process, where some perceptions or understandings are outgrown, others re-contextualized; where some things fall away and in other, perhaps less-appreciated quarters new life and growth appear.

Process: alive and as on-going as the dance of life itself.

That said, I continued to sit- hoping for some real insight.

Reflectively back-peddling on the course of the last week; at one point, I sat with the fact that even with all goodwill and earnest prayers many have brought with them, the millions spent, the carbon footprint of the Conference, the Big Top, the wonderful work of the stewards, the faithful blogging of a surprising number of Bishops; week 1 has perhaps been most remarkable for its avoidance of what’s really going on in the Communion: the real context of Anglican life these days.

Two, not one elephants in the room, as several media have suggested.

And neither of them bare the slightest resemblance to the much beloved Bishop of New Hampshire, whose Christ-like exile has only invested him with greater moral presence and authority.

Elephant #1 (Under a throw of finest Episcopal purple silk) the pronouncements, provincial poaching, and public contempt heaped on both the Episcopal Church and its Presiding Bishop and the Anglican Church of Canada by the several forces working so very hard to do damage to the Church.

Elephant #2 (Under a generous rainbow-hued throw) The Episcopal Church’s sense and engagement with its vocation to grow into an ever more inclusive embodiment of the unconditional love of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

I could wax long on the list of those faithful Christians insulted or erased by the simplistic misrepresentation of what’s going on in both North American Churches as the consecration of the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, but I’ve done that elsewhere.

As obvious as it might appear to many of us, I would suggest that it is only by throwing off the over-organized, polite denial this current exercise appears to be built on, inviting the ‘elephants’ into the centre of the room, thanking them for their presence, trusting in the Holy Spirit and joining them in colegial prayer; listening in non-accusatory judgement, and sharing the fears that some may have, that the real work of our Church can begin.

As conscientiously as many good people may be prayerfully trying within the precincts, more than 200 brother bishops are boycotting Lambeth, showing real contempt for this exercise in faith. And I would suggest that it is only by owning this loss, by grieving for much of the posturing and rhetoric of the past months that this Conference will find itself capable of realizing any real gifts for the future of our Communion.

Likewise with the prayerful, faithful on-going experience of the Episcopal Church. In any real-life context, the loving, graceful response to someone one does not understand or appreciate would be to engage one’s friend or sibling in dialogue, perhaps even prayerful dialogue.

Haven’t see too much of that from our Primate and Bishop’s though, have we?

A conference built on denial and avoidance- even polite denial and avoidance, I would suggest, has about as good a chance as the house built on sand cited in Scripture.

As to this infamous ‘Faith & Order’ proposal, and the other ‘bomb’ anticipated in so many quarters, currently undergoing the effects of monolithic bureaucracy in another quarter of my life, I can’t say I’m surprised so much as saddened by their predictability.

That’s what patriarchy does:
pronounces instead of working to consensus
legislates instead of listening
outlaws instead embracing the gifts of diversity & ambiguity
manages instead of trusting
defines rather than opening itself to the grace and life of a ‘situation.’

Was this the only Lambeth possible?

Hardly, I would suggest-

But of course anything else would have required the prelates, collectively and individually to step beyond the precincts of the patriarchy so many of them find themselves trapped in
to own the grief and loss of the boycott;
to graciously, attentively receive and listen to the struggles and experience of the North American Churches;
To trust,
and to faithfully wait upon the Holy Spirit for insight an understanding.

Such a Lambeth would have been built on a humble, honest ownership of the brokeness
of our Communion-
the same brokeness which, with God’s good grace leaves us open to be possibility of the Holy Spirit’s partnership at work and at play in our individual lives.

Faith & Order?
Whatever it is which threatens to land on our heads and hearts Monday?

As sad is it would be for Lambeth 2008 to be known primarily for the reports which weren’t endorsed, for the proposals which failed and at least one headline about an ’aborted Anglican Inquisition;’ as sad & confusing as things might seem at times, my faith is in the very real presence & working of the Holy Spirit, and in the essential goodness of the 1,000+ brothers and sisters meeting in Kent (Bishops & spouses, LGBT brothers and sisters, even the media-) all elements in a sacred, on-going process of living transformation.)

Is there a future for the Anglican Communion?
What does it look like?

In closing, I’d offer the words of the blessed & blessing Bishop of Colorado, the Right Rev. O’Neill, writing on the day in London.

While there is no disagreement on the sentiment of opposing global poverty, our collective will is sadly lacking. If we, the Church, do not speak a powerful word of compassion and equality and justice (the very words of our Lord) into the indifferent structures of our government and society, then who will? Is that not what the prophet Micah meant when he wrote, “and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It gets back, I think, to the fact that when it comes to participating in God’s mission “the road is made by walking it.” Period. End of sentence. This is what our world longs to see—not spectacle, but women and men of faith standing together courageously, without condition, in Love.

Until we Christians are willing quite literally to stand in complete solidarity to the poorest of the poor in our world, we bear witness to nothing more than a garden party and we have no good news to share with a world that is starving to hear it.

Let the people of God say Amen!


FranIAm said...

Just coming by to return your greeting from Elizabeth's and to add your blog to my reader.

Pax my brother, I will be back to actually read your blog later.

Thank you!

FranIAm said...

OK, I am back and after a day of being an Episcopalian - really, I attended a TEC service of a fellow (LGBT TEC) blogger today.

I've read this post several times know and I have a mix of not sure what to say and if I am in any position to say it.

I do know that I agree with you 100% about process and transformation. It is in that often uncomfortable/ambiguous/chaotic process that the real fruits are found.

If we don't run away before then.

At least you all are working through whatever happens - and trust me I pray for a communion that includes all... Not sweeping it under the rug and pretending as we do.

That Holy Spirit that you speak of, in all her glory, is so much needed right now for all.

I will continue to walk and pray with you and the others as we find our way to whatever new thing will come.

Whatever it is, I suspect it won't look too much like what is for any of our denominations. (Oh dear that makes me sound like I've gone all end-times on you and nothing could be further from the truth!)

I hope you know what I mean.

Pax my brother.

Fred Preuss said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.