"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
A friend emailed me with this response to my last post:
Mike, as your friend, I invite you to try an experiment. Read what you wrote in your most recent blog post imagining that you agree theologically with those who have requested APO, and thus make your "they" into those who would say e.g. "Lambeth 1.10 isn't *my* Anglican doctrine" and your "we" into those who would say "we are the ones doing true civil disobedience; they are the ones resisting suffering," etc. (After all, we are the ones waiting for the deposition letters to arrive, going without health insurance, with our pensions frozen......)
See how many of the statements and convictions of your post you can make from inside that assumption. (Nearly all, if you have good intuituveness and empathy.)
This is yet another reason why it's madness to give one minute more to sitting in the nest eating each other's young.
This is a good exercise. It doesn't make me any more receptive to APO because the polity I signed up for when I was ordained has to do with obeying my bishop. There are times when I disagree with my bishop, and then I have to decide how to deal with that disagreement. It can go to the point of deciding to disobey my bishop ... but at that point I have to realize - even welcome -- deposition. But nowhere did I sign onto a system that said if I didn't agree with my bishop that I could request another one.
Those clergy and people who are conservatives with liberal bishops and liberals with conservative bishops represent most strongly for what they believe when they keep the courage of their beliefs under fire. (Frankly, I wish conservatives and liberals alike would be a little more accomodating to those with whom they disagree .... but that's another story.) The person who wrote me this email is a great example of this, having stuck to her beliefs and actually quit her job because she questioned whether she could serve with integrity in a post-2003 Church. She was respectful to her bishop every step of the way, never asked for a new one but instead took it as a sign that God was calling her to something else. That's courage. That's the way it should be done.
The part of the exercise that is most interesting is when you play out the liberal Episcopal viewpoint in terms of the Anglican Communion. Now granted, the polity is different. Provinces of the Anglican Communion have a certain amount of broad autonomy and Lambeth resolutions are not officially binding ... but beyond the legalisms, we are bound together in a communion, and that means we need to love and respect one another.
Essentially what we as the American church are saying is that we want to overturn 2000 years of Church teaching -- if not practice -- for what we believe is a better, truer interpretation of Christ's dream for us. That pretty much sums up how I feel about it. As such, we have two choices -- we can rest on the fairly recent legalisms and structures of the Anglican Communion and argue that we have the right to do this and nobody else can tell us what to do. Or, we can ask the question of Jesus and Gandhi and King and others - How can I love change into their hearts? The answer for all of them was nonviolent self-sacrifice. Maybe that's the answer for us.
Maybe the answer for the Episcopal Church is allowing ourselves to accept whatever discipline the Communion offers to us ... and to do it gladly, and with the conviction that we will keep on being the Church and that if what we are doing is of God it will stand and if it is not, it won't.
There are some other concerns, of course. There's the concern that much of what is happening is being financed and manipulated by wealthy conservative bigwigs. There's the concern that the real battle is over whether the communion will be Anglican or fundamentalist. But those don't change my growing sense that us standing up for what we believe in and accepting whatever consequences might come from that in the communion with love for those who oppose us is the best route -- after all, it is the model of Christ.
This same friend has suggested to me that perhaps the best road for us is an amicable separation -- and that it would make it easier for us to get back together 50-60 years down the road. I don't think that's such a bad idea. Certainly there are a lot of people on either side bent on an ugly break ... which would be much more difficult to heal.
Frankly, all I care about is being able to work together. If we split and yet had the same kind of "called to common mission" relationship that we have with the Lutherans where we could continue to work together while acknowledging a need to be separate, that would be fine with me. Sure beats eating our young, which is what it feels like we're doing now.
| Mike at 8/23/2006 07:26:00 AM
Friday, August 18, 2006 Oh for the days when APO meant Army Post Office...
The latest thing in the Episcopal Church is for dioceses to request Alternative Primatial Oversight (APO). It's a riff off what conservatives have been doing for awhile, requesting Alternative Episcopal Oversight when they feel the bishop of their diocese is not someone they can have allegiance to (usually because of his or her views on sexuality issues). In cases where AEO has been granted, there have been arrangements made for a bishop who more closely lines up theologically with the people in question to have a quasi-bishop relationship with that congregation (I really don't know how this works and I haven't read up on it because, frankly, I really don't care how it works). Mostly, it seemed to me a way to take the concept of "flying bishops" -- bishops who were exercising ministry in dioceses without the permission of the diocesan bishop -- and give it some structure, accountability and legitimacy. Whatever.
But then came the last General Convention. And before the echoes of the shouts around Katharine Jefferts Schori's election as PB had died out, dioceses were announcing that they were appealing to the Archbishop of Canterbury for "Alternate Primatial Oversight." In other words, they don't want to be responsible to the presiding bishop (Primate) of the Episcopal Church, they want to be under the jurisdiction of another (presumably one who is more in line with their theology).
First of all, if this isn't enough to convince any outsider looking into the Episcopal Church that we have nothing of substance to say to the world, I don't know what is. That we are spending our time wrangling over stuff like this is just beyond me.
Second, I can't see the difference between this and something else I just despise -- which is people who don't like President Bush wearing shirts and plastering on bumper stickers that say "He's not MY president!" Well -- sorry. You might not like him. You might (like me) WISH he was not your president. You might even think there were some dirty tricks in both elections. But the fact remains that the vote was certified, the oath of office was taken and, barring impeachment and removal from office he IS our president.
In many ways it seems like a combination of two things run amok -- individualism and a sense of entitlement -- both of which the church should be in opposition to.
There's a sense that personal freedom means we shouldn't have to endure anything we don't like. That anything we find distasteful is somehow infringing on our rights. That we are entitled to be free from anything that challenges us or makes us uncomfortable or, God forbid, that we flat out hate. It is both a cause and effect of a society that is increasingly litigious, it reflects a lack of sense of a common good that is worthy of individual sacrifice and, more than anything, it makes us all begin to resemble a bunch of spoiled children who have to have everything their way.
If Jesus felt this way, I think the conversation with God in the garden at Gethsemane would have gone a lot differently.
You can dress this up any way you want. You can call it "standing firm in faith" or any other such thing. But it just looks like whining. And the problem is that the people who do it are really shooting themselves in the foot.
If people are really interested in defending what they believe in against laws or leaders they believe are unjust -- the most powerful weapon over time has been civil disobedience. The power of civil disobedience is that people feel so strongly that they cannot obey unjust leaders or follow unjust laws that they flout them and willingly suffer the consequences. It is the suffering that is the key. It is the willing suffering that makes people stand up and notice and maybe think "wow, maybe there's something to this if these people feel so strongly about it."
Belief and love that is so strong that you're willing to undergo suffering for it. Hmmm ... I'm sure I've seen that somewhere before.
| Mike at 8/18/2006 12:31:00 PM
Tuesday, August 01, 2006 All right, mistakes were made.
The most interesting part of the book is how the UN and the international aid community ended up making things far worse not just because they acted too late, but when they did act, they gave aid and comfort to those who had carried out the genocide ... actually helping them to regroup, re-arm, and resume the killing.
What's happening in the Middle East is a legacy of a lot of things -- a lot of which is us getting into bed with all the wrong people in that region in the last 100 years. But it's also the result of the world standing by during a genocide (the Holocaust) and then when we did act, doing so in a way that created a thousand other problems. Action that in many ways was fueled by our guilt in not acting in the first place.
So how do we break that cycle? Not just in Palestine ... but in other places. What is going to happen with Darfur? We are continuing to ignore the genocide that is happening there. Will that just be the first chapter of the insanity. Will the second chapter be aid organizations helping the janjaweed resettle in Chad?
The next book on my bookstand is The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good. It was recommended to me as a compelling argument for bottom-up programs of development (as opposed to the top-down, government imposed programs). I imagine the answer is some sort of a combination of the two. The guy I know in Rwanda with MVP worked with the government to choose the location of the village and insisted on an open-door relationship with the Ministry of Finance to make sure that the places where the power is are logged into what he's doing. But it's also a bottom-up affair -- the people on the ground retain autonomy and get to make their own decisions.
I was listening to "Mike and Mike" on ESPNradio this morning and Mike Greenberg was saying that what drives him crazy about so many people in the media is that even when it's obvious that they're wrong, they will continue to defend their prior opinions against avalanches of evidence to the contrary. If only that were confined to sports media! I think of President Bush being unable to come up with a mistake he'd made in his first term. Why is it so difficult to admit that we were wrong? Doesn't it show growth? Isn't being able to learn and adjust more important than meeting a standard of perfection that no one non-fictional will ever meet?
Rufus: I'm telling you, man, this ceremony is a big mistake. Cardinal Glick: The Catholic Church does not make mistakes. Rufus: Please. What about the Church's silent consent to the slave trade? Bethany: And its platform of noninvolvement during the Holocaust? Cardinal Glick: All right, mistakes were made.
How much better would things be if it we moved that quickly from the reflex of "we don't make mistakes" to the truth of "All right, mistakes were made." And then acted in the present in ways that weren't about assuaging guilt or covering up, but taking an honest fresh look at the situation and looking for the new duties that new occasions teach.
Did that come into play in the establishment of Israel? I don't know enough of the history to know, but I have to wonder if the Allies guilt because of their own relative "noninvolvement" during the Holocaust drove them to a unilateral decision that seemingly didn't take into account any of the possible rammifications for people already living there. Does Israel really have an incontrovertible "right to exist?" Where is the room for anyone to say "mistakes were made" -- on all sides -- and look at this thing fresh?
| Mike at 8/01/2006 04:12:00 PM
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"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."