The Bishop of Southwest Florida, John B. Lipscomb, is an honorable man and a good bishop. But much as King John, of Now We Are Six , he “has his little ways.” He has, according to the report in the Living Church, called for a forty day fast from reading blogs.
On the one hand, this is precisely what a moratorium should look like, a fast or break from doing something for a specific time period for a specific purpose. I wish the Windsor Report had understood that. He is suggesting that not reading blogs for forty days would be good for our spiritual health. He may be right. Read his full essay HERE.
I like the title given on the Diocesan newspaper web page: “If a blog falls in the forest and no one reads it, does it make a sound?” Of course, the answer is ‘no.’ Blogging only makes a sound if people check in. So checking out is a way to reduce blogamania. (I’m not sure how one spells that.) So an additional purpose in not reading blogs is that if enough of us did that the blogs would dry up and disappear.
The Living Church article does little justice to the full comments of Bishop Lipscomb. I cannot do them justice here either, except to say they come from a deeply committed person of faith, even as I also admit disagreement with some of what he says.
Having said that, it should be noted that the Living Church did indeed pick on his little ways; one of which is to point the finger at blogging as a whole and not at the specifics of “those who hide behind masks of anonymity.” About them the Bishop said, “The damage inflicted by half-truths and outright lies has taken a far greater toll on the mission of the Church than any erroneous teaching. Once a word has been spoken into cyberspace it takes on a life of its own.”
At the risk of defending blogger life, I would suggest that the Bishop’s cautionary call for a spiritual life (as in “get a spiritual life,”) is both salutatory and overreaching. Reading and writing blogs can indeed get in the way of a real life. Still, writers in the blogsphere are often able to continue a line of concern and questioning beyond what the “traditional” modes of journalistic investigation can take on, and sometimes with bias no greater than journals themselves.
Both TLC article and the Bishop’s letter note that Bishop Lipscomb is co-chair of a meeting of bishops to be held September 11-13, reportedly at the Church Pension Group Offices , one which the Bishop said,
“…has set off another round of speculation on the web blogs. I am amazed to see self-proclaimed prophets write minutes and resolutions for a conference that is yet to happen. Perhaps it is time for us to allow the unfolding of the future in God’s time and not our own.”
Well, those who are writing minutes and resolutions, etc, deserve the hit. But to ask if there are items being produced for consideration by the group meeting, and by whom, seems quite appropriate.
But the interest in what Bishop Lipscomb wrote is directly related to the meeting next week, which is news. That news is fed by further speculation (not on the blogs) but by TLC and other journalistic efforts. So Bishop Lipscomb’s accusation that all the speculation is from the blogsphere is just “one of his little ways.” The speculation abounds, and is fueled by regular journals.
I noted several days ago that there seem to be document(s) produced from a small group working at Lambeth headed for the group. TLC today added further fuel to the speculation when it reported about the petition from seven dioceses for primatial oversight, that “the appeal described in the document is believed to be one of several items on the agenda of a Sept. 11-13 meeting that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams asked the Rt. Rev. Peter J. Lee, Bishop of Virginia, and the Rt. Rev. John B. Lipscomb, Bishop of Southwest Florida, to convene.”
Now, Bishop Lipscomb, this is not a blogging report of some event and speculation on the agenda, but the speculation of a respected journal in the Episcopal Church. And the report of a working group at Lambeth producing papers for the meeting is from a respected English journalist.
What’s a poor blogger to do? The stuff is out there for the picking. But the real concern is what is going on here? What was announced as a meeting among American Bishops to discuss issues now has transmogrified into a meeting to deal with a petition / appeal from seven dioceses wanting something for which there is no precedence in the life of the Anglican Communion at all.
This meeting, obviously advisory, will make some real contributions to an ongoing discussion in the circles of the Anglican Communion, but the concern is that it circumvents the legitimate engagement of (i) bishops at all identified with the progressives in the Episcopal Church, (ii) the clergy and laity of the church, by way of representatives from the House of Deputies, and (iii) any spokespersons from the Gay and Lesbian community. Nothing of this concern is being addressed in any way at all.
Concerning in particular the possibility that the Appeals from the “Seven” will be part of the conversation at the meeting, Appendix C directly confronts the Presiding Bishop Elect with the petitioner’s reasons for rejecting, out of hand, her elected role as Presiding Bishop. She is being asked, in other words, to attend a meeting whose agenda may include the accusation that she is unfit to hold the office she has.
Responsible journalists have put the matter on the table, and it is highly appropriate for responsible bloggers to ask just what is going on here? No doubt all sorts of matters will be discussed at the meeting. I hope we all hold the participants in prayer. But if the meeting is going to discuss a document that disassociates its petitioners from the leadership of the Episcopal Church, we have very reason to ask what is going on?
Bishop Lipscomb asked that instead of reading blogs we go to prayer: “I would encourage you to join me in a 40-day fast from reading the web blogs. Instead, fill that time with prayer, join other members of your congregation to reflect on the Scriptures, and allow God’s Holy Spirit to guide the church through these difficult times.”
Well, for starters, I spend considerable time with my congregation reflecting on the Scriptures at all times and in all seasons. I pray together with others and alone, but never enough. I am as ready as anyone to be corrected in the time spent on this or that activity, including reading and writing blogs. But Bishop Lipscomb is theologically mistaken, and tragically so, to believe that to “allow God’s Holy Spirit to guide the church through these difficult times” is an activity separate and distinct from engagement with the issues part of this or that small group of bishops. I believe that holding what he is doing in prayer, and acting on the prayer that that group stay honest to what the Episcopal Church is as a participatory faith community, is one continuous task. The work of the Holy Spirit may or may not include the input of those of us asking questions and wondering outside the meetings in New York and Kigali and far Texas, but the Bishop does not know that, nor do I.
I note also that the call to prayer is quite similar to the call issued by the Anglican Communion Network. Prayer is always the order of the day. The ACN call concerns "outcomes" of several meetings in September. Perhaps we ought also to concern ourselves with the conversations themselves, and the intent of those having them as well.
But I fear too that the call to prayer is meant to help us all glance away from what is going on behind the screen. Prayer instead of watchfulness is not the answer. Prayer and watchfulness is. Something like the injunction, "Pray, but keep your eye on the dog, serves us well as it did Dorothy."
On that happy note, I wonder if anyone else senses the irony or perhaps the justice or injustice of the meeting in New York taking place at the Church Pension Group offices rather than the Episcopal Church Center?