Tuesday 1 July 2008

Fruit of the Spirit or Lambeth Walk?

Every few weeks I get a Sunday morning where I can just go to Church as a punter, with Lucy. Rosie the Vicar has been preaching about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, and got to three really interesting, counter-intuitive ones this week:
  1. Faithfulness, as opposed to self-centredness, cynicism, ambition and political opportunism
  2. Gentleness, which always seems weak and weedy in a world of hard-nosed assertive achievement. Pride, anger, ambition are far more fun. It’s all that some hacks can pick up on their radar, poor dears.
  3. Self-control, flies in the face of hedonism (eat, drink and be merry) and hi-ego self-actualization. Ironically, the only real way to self actualise is to defocus on self and get a life.
Of course, like all fruit, you can’t command them to happen from the outside in. You just have to focus on the Spirit, then let them grow from the inside out. We are stuck with a persistent nagging lower nature. This expresses itself in “works of the flesh,” sometiems about sex and booze, but far, far more often among the religious, the Synodical sins of enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy. Far more people out there can’t see Christ in us because of the latter than the former.

The success of Lambeth this year is all about whether we bishops can prioiritse God through the indaba process, based on listening, where everyone has a voice. Alternately we simply stick with what we’ve always done before. The people with big mouths and hot heads exercise them freely. The same old bores listen basically to themselves on the big stage. Everybody else shuts up as usual and tries to enjoy the sideshows. Some people love it, because the process does not challenge their basic lack of self-awareness, makes them feel rather grand, and feeds their self-importance. In this (still) overwhelmingly male gathering, it has to be said this is a bit of a little boys’ thing, too. The characteristic result is a bunch of grandiose pronouncements, mostly about about other people, which end up on the shelf, as ammo for strife and dissension.

Well, it’s up to us. That’s the challenge. The resources to meet it can’t be commanded behaviourally, but need to be growing inside from the Spirit — and allowing that deeper, more personal process, to happen is the real challenge.


Steve Hearn said...

I am really hoping that the Bishops can surprise us pew warmers with some very positive results from Lambeth.... so it's over to you..... (no pressure of course...!)

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thanks, Steve!

Bishops sometimes seem to operate in a kind of purple haze, but in this zone all we need are the kind of grace and humility everyone needs every day in the local church. Breathe in, dig deep... watch this space!

Anonymous said...

Can there be such a thing as church discipline across the communion, and how might it work?

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Really good question about church discipline. In autocephanlous churches like Angicans or Orthodox, only in a very limited way, I would have thought. We all hold ourselves accountable to scriptures and creeds, but the most contentious questions beg big questions of interpretation. It can only be relational/ voluntary, and only juridical in a very limited sense, about very limited subjects, I wuld have thought.

Ann said...

Do you have a copy of this sermon that you cite?

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Ann, I'm really sorry to say I don't any more. If you were to email Rosie the Vicar (Rev Rosemary Harper — rosie51619@aol.com) I'm sure she would be able to send you one electronically.

Hope this helps


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