Tuesday 17 August 2010

Chicago 2010: Cleaning the Bean

August brings the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit; followed by a time back home of catching up with various jobs off the guilt list.

This year’s GL included another bit of cleaning — reconditioning the disshevelled fish tank in our front hallway, but that’s another story...

From GL to GLS —

Chicago was in fine fettle. Every year I think there cannot be a new angle to photograph on Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, and every year I come back with another thirty new angles! Look on the cleaning of the bean in glorious clean early morning light as a metaphor for the whole trip.

For a start I realise that learning about leadership is something worth giving a couple of days of regular sustained reflection to, among friends. I will comment separately on what I think I’ve learned this year in particular, but if life is a “school for the Lord’s service,” a period of structured reflection and learning helps, I find, to sharpen up the whole pattern of my work.

People this side of the pond sometimes seem to think it’s clever to be superior about US Evangelicals. Some of them, of course, are doubtless the most appalling people — but then so are some UK Anglicans, and others. Lay all that stuff aside, engage the irony over-ride, and there’s plenty to learn and to enjoy. The warmth, honesty, openness, empathy and positive faith of many US Evangelicals I meet refuses to be bound by all snotty stereotypes, and brings its own honest inspiration.

I found worship this year, especially on the Friday of the Leadership Summit, brought me directly to where my journey in faith began forty years ago — faith in Jesus Christ. I see I have 2.4 days of Bach in my iTunes library to enjoy back in Blighty, but at for a couple of days a year it does me nothing but good to learn and throw myself wholeheartedly into an American Evangelical environment. It’s also good, every year, to catch up with Anglican friends from the Diocese of Chicago. We are sometimes prey, this side of the pond, to a rather flat and stereotypical view of the Episcopal Church, and it’s good to be disabused of that by contact with real people. Real people, real faith, is the great reality checkpoint.


Anonymous said...

Vinaigrette Girl here; my usual automatic login doesn't seem to be up and running. Sorry!

13 speakers, 2 women? And both of them white, when so many of the Church's (in its widest sense) functions are carried out and sustained by women in general and nonwhites in particular? (I'm thinking of South America as much as anywhere, but also the UK and the US.)

I'm sorry to rain on the parade, and glad the meeting renewed you, but it's harder to get my head around your admittedly mild remonstrance about being nice to the American Evangelicals. They're responsible for some free-world misogyny which beggars belief, and I'm not seeing anything in the link to encourage me to find out more. And having grown up in the US, I wouldn't say I hadn't been exposed.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

VG many thanks for a pertinent comment. You're right there is a disconnect between WC's aspirations and achievements in the matter of gender. In theory (for example in Dr Bilezekian's book on gender roles in Church) they are very much in favour of engaging with God's giftedness in leadership regardless of gender, but in practice I think they have to work very hard to model it in any convincing way.

I think this arises not from WC in itself — they are very much at the enlightened end of the US Evangelical spectrum. It comes, I believe, from the inherently patriarchal undertow of both North Western business/ corporate culture and, it has to be said, some aspects of Evangelicalism itself, as it has developed. The other year, for example, when they headlined Carly Fiorina it remained the fact that she was the only femle CEO among the Fortune 500 top 20. Doesn't give them much to choose from, really. Terri Kelly was very good this year, not only for her perspective as a woman but for the comment Gore as a business offers on hierarchy and culture. The problem is as much with US business as it is with WC.

And, it would be hypocritical of me not to say I don't believe they have bigger skeletons in their closet on gender than the C of E which, bless our cotton socks, is still after all these years years faffing around all over the shop about gender and the episcopate.

I suppose the bottom line is that we are all, by dint of culture, habit and sin, resisitant materials to the growing of the kingdom within and among us. It us often easier to be aware of others' shortcomings than our own — which is another reason for taking time sometimes to step into other people's cultures to learn...

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