Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Fixing a hole where the rain gets in

Just finished the preliminary Windsor report hearing, next to brothers from Tanzania, England and Canada. I have to be very honest and say I was not expecting this to be a wow. Shame on me. The room’s still there. There weren’t any custard pies. And I can say that for me and the people sitting around me it was a very special experience, for the respectful, clear and charitable way strong points were made from all sides of the Wndsor report issues. It was good also to have affrmation from an ecumenical colleague that they acknowledge as deep a probem in other churches and commit to travel with us towards ways forward for the good of all, not just Anglicans. It’s good to know some partners see us as leading the pack in working this through, though it’s a scary place to be.

The official output will be streaming out soon enough, no doubt, but there was a general buzz of approval in the room for the willingness of everyone involved to talk to each other, not about each other. People experienced realism all round, which is a good place to start.

The highlight soundbite for me was from +Keith Ackerman, Bishop of Quincy, who placed before us big ecclesiological questions about finding a way to bring the family back together. All models, magisterial, conciliar, confessional have upsides and downsides, but we know we've got to do something, and the vast majority it seemed this afternoon, believe that, in God, we can. +Keith wisely drew attention to the limits of Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis compromise over things that matter absolutely: Thesis? Jesus is Lord. Antithesis? Jesus is not Lord. Big discussion synthesis? Jesus is occasionally Lord. Not. That one raised a laugh.

We are trying to learn enough about each other to be able to dance together, as another bishop put it. Before hysteria and extremist rhetoric steal the day, we were given an estimate that 0·7% of Episcopal congregations had split. We need to learn in conversation, not judgment; and we began to do that for real this afternoon. To use a Caribbean metaphor, you know you need a good roof for the hurricanes. It’s far from easy to fix your roof in the hurricane season — but it can be done, and we surely got going this afternoon. Praise God!


the Reverend boy said...

I have enjoyed keeping up with your blog during the Conference. I have found it insightful.

One thing you do mention is the willingness to talk to each other instead of about each other. WIll there be any talking to or with gay men and women?


(the Reverend boy)

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

David, I hope so. One potentially depressing response is to say of course there will be because x% of the population are gay, but it just won't be out gay people. There are fringe events on all sides also, of course. I'm beginning to feel the cultural perceptions people have about this are so varied and incompatible, it would be very difficult to set the stage for a really meaningful interface; but one day, I hope before we get to heaven, I hope it won't be. I dare to believe the communication that is going on here may help us move closer to where we need to be here...

Anonymous said...

'...we were given an estimate that 0·7% of Episcopal congregations had split.'

No problem, then? You surely know that most Tec/Ecusa congregations number c. 80 and are on the decidedly old side. Plano, Overland Park KS, Falls Church, a whole swathe of Florida churches etc have left, and many of these number in the 100s or even 1000s in attendance - not to mention San Joaquin diocese. Bob Duncan is almost certain to be deposed in September. '0.7%' is by any stretch a gross underestimate of the significance (and I doubt even that figure is true). The propsect of losing the church you may have paid for (and certainly maintained) and having to fight off David Debeers and the legal machinery of 815 bankrolling endless litigation (as in Virginia) is what is keeping many more from leaving. Where is the Christian love in all this? The Archbishop of Sudan spoke clearly the other day - and now I read that +Nazirali has said pretty mcuh the same thing on his decision not ot go: how could he confer with people who had openly defied the will of the Communion?

Anonymous said...

Alan, here are Tec's own figures for 2005 and 2006:
A 22,000 drop in attendance that year, and I overstated above usual parish attendance - it was 72 in 2006. The figures for 2007 can only show an accelerating trend, even if they're distorted to include CANA churches in Virginia and San Joaquin.
The pattern has been persistent decline for over 35 years, while the revisionist ideology has taken root and evangelism has vanished. Press releases from 815 remind me of Comical Ali.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Dear Anonymous,

I really am no expert on the demographics and congregatinal analysis of the Episcopal Church. I know my friend Simon Sarmiento has done good work on trying to scope the size of the current splits. It's very difficult, because some congregations involved are very splintered in themselves, and there are various options people are following, sometimes simultaneous. I just report that as the figure that was given to the first Wondsor hearings here. It is open to contest and correction, though nobody did on that cocasion.

On +Michael, a Candian bishop was telling me this morning how sad they were that he has decided to remain aloof — it's a voice he was wanting to have heard. It's his decision.

Not knowing the exact quotation from him, I would still want to say, in Christ how can you not want to confer with brothers with whom you disagreed? Various people have defied the will of the communion, if you want to put it in that very shallow way, including people who have ignored Windsor and the primates about incursions. We all need forgiveness and understanding, shared Scripture and prayer, not political boycotts. What sort of witness is it to a world where Mandela talked to deKlerk, Gerry Adams talked to Ian Paisley, and we cannot achieve that degree of willingness to engage? That is a missional scandal, and that is what really weakens our credibility in the eys of a broken world that looked to us for pure and oeaceable wisdom, thinking different, not just mirroring their political process.

Anonymous said...

Alan, you call my straightforward description of the consecration of VGR and ssbs ('defying the will of the Communion') as 'very shallow', in spite of Lambeth 1.110, Windsor, Dromantine, Dar es Salaam etc (if that's 'shallow', I'm happy to swim in those waters!)- and then you bring in the total non sequitur of politics and terrorism in South Africa and Ireland? What on earth does that have to do with a Christian Church trying to maintain apostolic faith and order? There has been no end of talking, talking, talking - what there hasn't been is repentance and obedience. It took the Archbishop of Sudan to say this plainly. We in the 'west' (esp. the US) know all about 'processing' and filibustering a thing to death. Thst's why we have cloture votes. Well, this is your blog and you're entitled to your bias, but the 'logic' of your diversionary comment completely escapes me.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Dear Anonymous, if I may, what you all a straightforward description is actually one among a series of contested narratives. That's one part of the essence of the whole problem. The same process did not endorse territorial incursions either, but people have still gone ahead. That's another part of the puzzle. A deeper narative would take into account more than simply one point of view.

I commented about terrorism because a Caribbean colleague suggested the other day that what we really need to work on is our attitudes. Some websites on this subject on both sides are almost copybook expositions of the works of the flesh in Galatians — pride, envy, strife, emulations, cursings etc. We really have to get beyond the namecalling. I am not saying what has gone on is terrorism, but rather that I encounter epople missionally people who simply cannot understand why we cannot talk directly together. We go out and tell them Jesus died to deal with the sins of the world and break down every dividing wall, and simultaneously seem to present them with a dividing wall of our own. We have had a plateful of dogmatic approaches to this problem which only seem to have made it worse. I think the time has come to take a missional approach to it.

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