Sunday 21 March 2010

On getting shot once

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?
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Ann said...

I find making a joke of being shot hard read in light of the attack on Bp Barahona in El Salvador last week.

Erika Baker said...

Hm, as a non-native maybe I should not comment here, but it always strikes me as though the typical English approach is to upset as few people as possible at the time while ensuring that the problem is never solved and resentment continues to bubble under the surface.

And it's not only the church - I can't think of another country that voted for going metric 45 years ago and still has a "keep the pint" campaign, still teaches children miles and kilometers, still has people who are proud of not understanding pounds and kilograms etc. without anyone taking note of the huge economic costs of this, never mind the hidden costs of continuing to feel special and separate from the rest of Europe.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Ann, thank you for your reference to the El Salvador shooting ( ). I had not heard of it.

Erika, thank you for great examples of playing it both ways. I'm basically a Hungarian Scot, and therefore find myself sometimes bemused by these things. My one eighth English bit tells me it's the best way to be, but I can't believe it always is...

To my mind the reintroduction of local currencues (the Brixton Pound) is another thing that is simutaneously profundly noble and profoundly barmy, and all in a good cause.

Anonymous said...

Comments from Adrian C

Seems to be a curious absence of native English perspective from those commening - but I'm working in Wales and am apparently 25% French, and the rest mainly English with a bit of Romany thrown in - so perhaps that explains why I struggle too. Interestingly, having inherited a new group of 5 parishes recently I've found myself dealing with the 'what happens on Easter morning if everyone wants the eucharist at 10.30' by going for one service. Maybe we won't do it again, maybe I'll be burning at some stake before Easter Day, maybe everyone will just turn up as usual and do their own thing where they have always done it, but the reactions have been very interesting - for everyone I've talked with who is very, very, very, unhappy there's someone else who thinks that turning the turtle round in one swift movement will create, on balance, less pain. Only one thing seems clear - turning the turtle in one go feels very un-brit, un-english, un-anglican. Interestingly it is worth observing in this particular case(and I guess others) how many of the conversations reference their views to gospel or theology, and how many point to the tradition. I'm inclined to feel both views are valid but which carry the promise of the best advantage I'm just not sure about.

Ann Memmott said...

I too hadn't heard of the matter of the shooting, so thank you, Ann.

Always a difficult decision on timescales for major changes. Those very anti- women being Bishops, and anti-people in stable and loving relationships with someone of their own gender have the opportunity of 'voting with their feet', as much as it would be a sadness to lose anyone over these issues. We can pray for unity, but I do think sometimes a swifter well-debated and well-considered decision is kinder than decades of fretting.

Erika Baker said...

Ann Memmott
please don't forget that "voting with their feet" cuts both ways and that people who support women priests and are aghast at the ongoing debate, as well as same sex couples and their friends and families are also abandoning the church.
That's one of the real problems with this approach - what is a legitimate interest becomes an apparent obsession resulting in ever hardening positions, that alienates all but the hardliners on both sides.

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