Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Stop the world. I want to get on!

Yesterday evening I chaired a well attended public Climate change consultation at St Michael’s Amersham, with Revd Profesor Ian James (head of the school of Mathematics, Meteorology and Physics at Reading University), Sandeep Sengupta (International Relations doctoral student from the Enivronmental Change Institute, Oxford University) and Miranda St John Nicolle (Diocesan Environmental Group). We got a comprehensive overview of the basic science, human and development issues, and practical possibilities. I found the whole experience disturbing and energising.
  1. We have a phenomenal depth of expertise and passion about environmental justice in this diocese. Out and about, if I say "gay bishops" everybody except the occasional couple of zealots glazes over almost instantaneously. When I engage about Creation, which I do rather more often, I notice that people light up. Of course they do. There are four or five verses in the Bible that just possibly could have anything at all to do with the Gay issue. Meanwhile ruddy great chunks of it, say a fifth of the text, is the Creator’s love song — heavens proclaiming God's glory, people exercising stewardship, prophets drawing messages from God out of nature. Apart from the anoraks, a few religious correspondents and rentaquote coteries, nobody in long trousers actually gives a pig's burp about gay bishops, compared to staying alive. Sometimes I feel like a kind of Kierkegaard / Nietzsche character who sees the village is burning down and runs into the square shouting, but nobody wants to know! This diocese is already engaging closely with the environmental challenge in a few parishes and most of our schools. Now we need to get out onto the streets more. We need to change, whilst there's still anything left to argue about. Here endeth the Bishop's rant!
  2. No it doesn’t! The hacks are brilliant, and are doing some great consciousness raising, thank God, but UK editors still give astounding amounts of airtime to wacko contrarians, as though there were any doubt about the basic science. For them it's just another story. For everyone else it has to be more than that. It took us forty years, nationally, to learn about smoking and health, and change our public habit. We haven't got that kind of time on this one.
  3. Lambeth 08 will be a fantastic opportunity to network around and explore the global dimension Sandeep talked us through last night. I'm taking his stuff with me on my pre-Lambeth South India schools visit next week (watch this space), and I'm praying we get quality time together on it next July at Lambeth, especially if we can pull together the various strands like we did at last night's seminar.
What is God going to say to the Anglican Church in the hour of death and the day of judgment? Well done, you sorted out the property disputes over gays in Virginia but, oops, bad news, you destroyed my world! It's time to get real and get out there.

8 comments:

Sam Norton said...

Wonderful post - but I wonder if you're familiar with the related issue of Peak Oil? If not I could send you the briefing I recently gave to the Bishop of Chelmsford.

Xico said...

Thank you Bishop for raise this relevant issue that challenges us as Church. Responsibility with the Creation will be a criteria to show how we were loyal to God's mission.

Mary said...

I think the most distracting thing we've had is a bouncy castle in the nave, although to be fair, it wasn't there during a service.

I went to a service for scouts and guides once, and they had a Tardis which looked suspiciously like a toilet tent!

The only other thing I would add is that our no smoking sign has a picture of a thurible next to it with the words "incense exempt"

BanjoVicar said...

So what you're saying is that we should ignore the gay issue? If that's not what you're saying then it would be helpful not to poke fun at those who regard it as important. There can be more than one important thing on the agenda.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Sam - Peak oil, I'd love to know more. please email me (bishopbucks@oxford.anglican.org). I've heard the name but not much else.
Francisco — One of the things I picked up from Sandeep was the inter-relatedness of everywhere on this one. The degradation of Brazilian rain forests was one of the frightening images from space we saw, and it's easy to call it a "Brazilian local" problem. Actually the whole process driving this is economic, and has its home outside Brazil.
Renewing the earth is one of the five marks of mission, and not one we've been that brilliant at so far.
Steve — I may be wrong, but my instinct on this is we have to prioritise, which doesn't mean entirely forgetting everything else, but it does mean redressing a balance. A lot of the gay debate as hitherto conducted consistently fails the 2 Timothy 2:23 test, showing both process and fruit that Scripture warns us seriously to shun. Missiologically it is extremely destructive, because it skews people's perceptions and erects an artificial barrier to the gospel. And the fact there's next to nothing about it in the Bible is in itself worth pondering. It's an interesting subject for an essay in year 3 of an ordination ethics course, and pastorally, it's a heavy burden for those whom it affects in their personal walk with God (q: how does turning it into a political issue help them walk faithfully?). The suggestion that it is somehow, for the first time in 2,000 years, a big ecclesiological deal is, in itself, a bizarre innovation. Timothy Radcliffe has suggested it will take us at least 100 years to digest twentieth century anthropology into Christianity, before we know what in the whole Freud approach (including the 20th century concept of "homosexuality") was dross and what was gold. One place to start would be to do some serious bible study, which I haven't yet seen done competently, on how it really relates to Biblical anthropology. Without this basic job done, it's just too early to start chaining ourselves to the railings over it either way, particularly in ways that bring the gospel itself into disrepute. Lambeth 1:10 got it right, in many ways. We ought to try following that before jumping on the whole current right wing panjandrum.

Sam Norton said...

+Alan - I've emailed you some material. Do let me know if you don't receive it!

BanjoVicar said...

When Gene Robinson was consecrated bishop, he remarked that the "toothpaste is out of the tube now".

And so the pro-homosexual agenda advances politically in western society and in the church while we wait for the definitive piece of bible study which will convince all sides.

Actually, I believe there is plenty of adequate orthodox biblical material out there - some of it going back to the 1990s.

I may well be an anorak and may not be mature enough to be in long trousers yet, but I do give a pig's burp at gay bishops because I'm conerned about the number of people who will be morally and spiritually damaged while yet more toothpaste is squeezed out of the tube.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Sam — many thanks for the oil peaks information, now safely arrived. I have not studied this before, and have downloaded your powerpoint, with a veiw to giving it an hour or two in my study time after Christmas. I can see right away that it doesn't matter really whether we are talking a 30 year peak or a 5 year peak — the former argument could just be another strategy for putting off serious behaviour change but sooner or later, the bigger logic kicks in, and the sooner we respond the better. When I've studied it better I's like to post a bog item... I'm really grateful for the information.

Steve — I think my deep seated problem about the whole gay bishops row is that people use terms wily nilly like "orthodox" which actually have absolutely no meaning in reference to this modern/postmodern American spat. I don't know what a gay agenda is, but in so far as I understand the way that, again almost uniquely US term is used, I don't accept it enough to agree with Gene Robinson's assessment of the significance of his consecration, or his opponents' reaction. I think there is a great need for a reality check about the whole thing. Bibically we need to study it carefully, although actually there is almost no biblical material to study. What there is should be taken seriously in its own terms, not squeezed into service for a reactionary agenda. In framing our thoughts I think we have to be very wary about taking late twentieth century secular anthropology as an absolute framework within which to understand the biological phenomenon of homosexuality which, in itself, is not a subject well understood. We are on very swampy ground here, and the only sane way is to apply basic biblical tests about fruits and disputes in the Church, just because so many people are getting hysterical about the subject.

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