Friday, 12 October 2007

What kind of party spirit am I on?

Someone asked me if I’m going to the Lambeth conference.
  1. Yes, because I’ve been invited. Since 1867 it’s been the Archbishop’s personal bash. Does it have to be a Big Boys Business meeting for it to be worth my while? I am just not self-regarding enough to mind. If Rowan wants a Vatican Council Theme Party, fine. If he wants to partay by showing us his Simpsons Videos, fine. It's his party, not mine. There is a self-important little prat in me who feels business meetings matter more than parties. Jesus disagrees. The Sanhedrin has business meetings on Thursday nights. Jesus has a meal with his friends. This is a matter of substance as well as style. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer says how grievous and unkind a thing it is, when a man hath prepared a rich feast, decked his table with all kind of provision, so that there lacketh nothing but the guests to sit down; and yet they who are called (without any cause) most unthankfully refuse to come.

  2. Actually, there are bishops with whom I don’t look forward to sitting down. They say some of my African brothers are systematically breaking the Ten commandments, indulging with their governments in envy, false witness and theft. These are primary moral laws. How do I feel about sitting down with people like that? Well, hang on, how do they feel about sitting down with me? The real question here is, who do I think I am? God? Perhaps we all need a bit of a reality check, here. We all have consciences, and we must all render account. How about I render account for my sins, and they render account for theirs? How can I comment on my zealous but misguided sister Vivien's Matthew 7:1 / I Corinthians 4:5 free zone, and then forget what an old Evangelical street preacher told me years ago — when you point your finger at someone else, three fingers point back at you? If I overcome my pride and we sit down together, I can listen to their side of the story, learn whether what people say about them is true anyway, and then we can pray together, and God will help us both to help each other to walk faithfully as disciples in our different circumstances.

  3. But what about the Windsor report and Lambeth 1:10? Well, this kitchen is full of dark pots and kettles. I don't believe in gay weddings, but have I worked as hard as Lambeth 1:10 asked, to listen to and understand gay people’s experience? Honestly, I doubt it. Has the Episcopal Church complied with the Windsor/primates process? They seem to have tried, a damn sight harder than brothers who have ordained other provinces’ dissidents as bishops, flying directly in the face of the Windsor/ primates plan. Why should I be a hypocrite and apply a double standard? All this proves is what I knew all along, that I am as big a sinner as my brother, and we all need grace, and we all need to talk. That's an argument for coming together, not walking apart.

  4. I'm not an Anglican for the sake of being an Anglican, but in order to be a Christian. You always need a higher vision of the kingdom than of the Church, or you cannot begin to understand how to be Church. There are many interesting discussions to be had about contemporary anthropology, post imperialism, and moral theology, but none of those things matters as much to me as what Jesus did on the cross, breaking down every dividing wall, and showing me how to think differently. Why can I not sit down with my colleagues? Hannibal Lecter could talk with Agent Starling. Less facetiously, Ian Pasley can work with Gerry Adams, and F. W deClerk could talk to Nelson Mandela. Thank God. One reason they could, was because Jesus sat down at the Last Supper two along from Judas Iscariot.
So who can I NOT talk to, and why not?

16 comments:

Dave said...

Daer Bishop Alan,

Thank you for posting this. Apologies for ruining the sayings of the old Evangelical street preacher...

Dave

Huw said...

Dear Bishop -

Amen.

1000 times over.

Donald Schell said...

Bishop Alan,

Wonderful! Lambeth as a parable of the Kingdom - what a lovely, disturbing, joyful thought. Reading this piece felt like a party and made me laugh, but it also had strong echoes of prophecy, so none of us gets off with indictment unless we're all sitting down together with the one who forgives us.

Donald Schell

Chris said...

I don't really know much about this Lambeth Conference but what a fantastic post!

Tom Allen said...

Will the refuseniks apply the same principles at the Pearly Gates checking with St Peter who is already in heaven - just to sure that God has made the right decisions about pre-deceased Bishops.

An excellent post thank you

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thanks, Tom (& Chris)
This whole thing is getting to remind me of the corny old joke I've heard applied to all sorts of groups — Catholics/ Mormons/ Fundamentalists at the latest count — where they have a high wall in heaven and when the guy asks why? St Peter has to explain that it would ruin the experience for them if they thought there was anyone else there!

J. Michael Povey said...

Oh what fun! A real Bishop.

Not a caricature, but a fabulously true follower of Jesus who is a jumped up Vicar!

Michael Povey, St. John's, Nottingham 1972-1976, now retired in Sarasota FL

http://jmichaelpovey-retiredpoveinsarasota.blogspot.com/

Claire said...

This seems a scarily logical point of view. Don't they chuck you out of the Bishop's Club for radical common sense like this?

Thanks for posting this, much appreciated.

Claire

Peter Lear said...

There is a sound argument by Wm Barclay that Jesus actually sat NEXT to J Ischariot, with John (or whoever the beloved disciple was, on his otherside.

Rev'd Peter Lear - Rothbury

Anonymous said...

Dear Bishop Alan,

This is all very fine and quite amusing, as long as you and those who agree with you, don't think it is the whole story.
My concern would be that the implied generalised slur on African Bishops can so easily stick, when I count two of them amongst my friends by reason of a water and sanitation project which I support in their Dioceses. These guys are continuously doing battle against the very things you mention, sometimes at the risk of their very personal safety! Fortunately we don't have to worry about that!
Secondly I think it behoves us to listen to and support post-gays as well as those who continue in this life-style. They too have much to teach us, and there are many of them!

With the greatest respect I must register disagreement, if not protest, at the tone of this posting.

Ian Bensted

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Ian, I don't intend any generalised slur on anyone, African or American. In the learning sessions in this diocese on the gay issue in 2001, we were careful to ensure that at every meeting the True Freedom Trust had a major voice. I learnt much from their contribution, and feel very deeply for the isolation and misunderstanding that often surrounds Christians who find themselves agonisingly in the middle of this debate, including those who share my own traditional view of the matter, and struggle to live faithfully. You must know, however, that that is not the whole story either.

Xico said...

Thank you for your your post. I commented it in my blog www.xicoassis.blogspot.com

God bless your way to Lambeth...

Francisco
Provincial Secretary of Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil

Fern said...

Dear Bishop,

I have found it difficult to reconcile some of the things being said within the Church with the over-riding message of the love of Gpd that we have, and the sure knowledge that we are all sinners.
It was so very re-assuring to know that whilst we may have different views on this issue, there are others in the Church who feel as you do. We are all brothers and sisters, and sometimes in a family we will not all agree, but how can we walk away as though we know what is right.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thank you, Fern, for your gracious words. I believe Jesus is trying to heal the world through us, but, sadly, some Christians, in all sincerity, get the basics of Christianity confused and conflicted around detail — not seeing the wood for the trees. Holiness begins when we are Christlike, not when we "get it right" about moral issues, about which it is possible to be so right, we're wrong.

writing_here said...

Personally, I think that those bishops who refuse to go to the ABC's party should have to do some sort of public penance. Maybe wear their miters backwards for a whole liturgical year or some such.

Tiffer said...

Thank you for giving those with a more conservative/traiditional view on sexual ethics a good name! I am getting quite tired of being labeled a homophobe because of sharing views with outspoken clergy who do show extreme prejudice about this one issue. I wish the loudest conservative voices on this issue were in tune with yours.

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