Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Being vs Doing

There seems to be a range of opinions about the effectiveness of Lambeth conference.

Some of the Gafcon people are still trumpeting in self-imposed outer darkness, although some decided to attend. Two English bishops have called for an orderly split of the Communion.

Other bishops, wanting results at any price, have said it was a complete waste of time. Still others seem frustrated and unsure. No one got what they wanted, which is very good news indeed.

One of the so-called blogging bishops, however, seems to have twigged to what was really going on. In his first post (unfortunately no longer available) he spoke of silence together during the opening retreat, and how much more of that bishops needed, both individually and collectively.

This was a Lambeth conference that called bishops back to a Christianity rooted in silence, which is where all religion begins, and to which it must continually refer if it is not to be twisted into a deadly force. It was a Lambeth about being, not about doing; about building relationships, not about manipulation.

It was designed to offer the bishops an opportunity to reflect and engage apart from power politics and the sort of debate that ensures no one will listen.

The fact that the Anglican Communion is in such a mess testifies to the distance it has fallen from silence, and its mistaken commitment to an authoritarian model that negates the message of the person, Jesus, it purports to preach.

Kenosis, or self-emptying (better: being poured out through), is at the heart of the Christian message: God's, Jesus', ours. But this message is now so alien even to bishops that few recognize that Rowan Williams, beyond the strictures attaching to his office, is a living example of kenotic leadership.

If the bishops and their flocks had not so completely lost the plot they would have recognized a long time ago what Williams is modeling. But few did. A space was created for them to recognize and practice kenosis, but it would seem that few knew how to use the silence and many were made uncomfortable by a neutral space.

If the institution is to survive as a viable entity in the coming years it is going to have to do some highly revisionist re-education from the top down. At the same time, given the number of clashing crosiers it is also apparent that there are a lot of bishops who are not receptive to Williams, to other bishops, to tolerance, perhaps even to the god they have imprisoned in the stone of law and noise.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

a few days ago, i blog on John 21:10, on Jesus' command to "bring some of the fish" they just caught, with emphasis on SOME. I'm pondering on its ecclesial and ecclesiastical significance, especially in view of the current tension between GAFCON and Lambeth.i wonder if SOME could also mean some church positions, personnel, or structures Jesus only needs for the "grilling," the Galilean version of the highly technical "kenosis". I still maintain Christianity doesn't have to be grandiose nor pompous even in its moments of choice between who's to be grilled and who's not. I think SOME is enough.

4:05 am, August 06, 2008  
Blogger RevDave said...

Sadly, Maggie, the Anglican communion is not the only place where silence is lost. And this loss is at all levels. As a United Methodist Pastor, I so easily get caught up in the results orientation of the members of my congregation that I forget myself the spaciousness of silence.

It is only when I find myself "driven" to my own wilderness that I am reminded of the inspiration of the breath of silence I am missing.

For example, today, I had blocked off some time for an appointment with someone, but they forgot. Fortunately, I spent the time in silence rather then frustration. It was a much needed appointment of a different kind that I needed.

Getting back to your post, I think part of our dilemma is that those we elect to the Episcopal office are those who show more political skills than spiritual depth. So I am sadly not overly surprised to see the lack of struggle with silence.

4:13 am, August 06, 2008  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Perhaps it is a mistake to allegorize John 21:10 (or any scripture). To change the image, Rowan wants to make sure the 100th sheep is included and instead of basking in the adulation (!) of the 99 is willing to go out in the wilderness to find the 100th even at the risk of the disapproval of the majority.

"Let this mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus" is incumbent on all of us without exception; it is this text that is used during the most important season of the year, Holy Week and Easter.

3:15 pm, August 06, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll take your reply as a teachable moment. Allegorization, or the applications of other rhetorical instruments, could get overly subjective, posing the risk of irrelevance against more credible evidences. I can sense how you view the current Anglican crisis through the eyes of compassion. In almost similar vein, I hold on to my conviction that Christianity, or AC for this matter, doesn't have to be an "empire-in-uniform" and call it communion or the catholicity of faith.Members of the Body, at their different stages in their faith-life, just have different answers to the question: "Who do you that I am?". And the Lambeth silence couldn't get more relevant and perhaps disturbing to many - every answer deserves a loving listening, a kind of listening that Bishop Williams exemplifies.

2:51 am, August 07, 2008  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

A friend sent me this comment, which is, I hope, what many Anglican bishops, as well as the Communion in general, are coming to realize. The full post may be seen at::

. . .like many Anglican traditionalists, I have often been frustrated with Rowan in his role as Archbishop. Primarily it is his apparent passivity that has frustrated me: I have wanted him to take action, to do things, to shape events for the cause of orthodoxy, but he has persistently refused to intervene in the life of the Communion, and to some extent in his own Church of England, in clear and overt ways — in political ways. I and many others have wanted him to be a leader and this above all seems what he has refused to be.

But in these past few days I have been wondering whether there might be a method in Rowan’s madness — or rather in God’s. Might it be possible that while Rowan is most certainly not the kind of leader we want, he is precisely the kind we need? That his leadership is not that of a Churchill but rather a Desert Father? We want decision, action, clearly set plans; Rowan offers prayer, meditation, stillness, silence. He models those disciplines for us, and in so doing (silently) commends them.

What if that is what we Anglicans actually need? What if our desire for decision and action is actually distracting us from what the Lord God is calling us to do and be? What if, then, in a strange way, Rowan is precisely the right man for this job at this time, and is being precisely what God has called him to be? This would be a hard word for many of us to hear; but our God has done stranger things. At least the thought deserves prayerful reflection.

4:41 am, August 07, 2008  

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