Twenty years ago Sir John Harvey Jones, the industrialist, used to go around troubleshooting businesses facing significant unpalateable change. He tried to understand their operations and scope ways forward which would both preserve the bloodline of the business and ensure its future. As scared managers explained exactly why their businesses could never change, Sir John used to enourage them to dive in by reminding them, with a cheery twinkle in his eye “You can only get shot once.”
As Churches struggle to follow God faithfully, rock to his people, but also river of the spirit, they need to distinguish core gospel imperatives from auld habits. Thus we trundle round increasingly sharp bends, close to the edge of high cliffs.
In which context I was recently reminded of the way in which some friends in Sweden see the whole C of E way of handling, for example, women’s ordination. Some think it an elegant and characteristically English way of keeping as many opponents as possible on board. Meanwhile others think we are maniacs who have somehow invented a way of making “getting shot” (assuming that’s what it is for those who lose the argument) take thrty years. The same dynamic operates for church reordering, changing hymnbooks, etc.
I wonder... Nobody does gradualism like the English — horray! but when you are turning a turtle is it actually kind to the poor beast to turn it one foot at a time? Both methods have their advantages, no doubt. Such as?