9/24/2007

Radical Hope and Compromise: The Fork in the Road

OK, mutterings for the morning of the House of Bishops conversation about response to the Primates. Not news, not even commentary, but a hope for hope.

There has been considerable speculation as to just what anything done at the New Orleans House of Bishops Meeting "means." The Archbishop of Canterbury has insisted that the questions from the Primates Meeting are real and have consequences, so the bishops responses mean a great deal. At the same time he has said the judgment day September 30th date is perception, not reality. So what the bishops say today (Monday) is important to an ongoing engagement with others in the Anglican Communion, but it need not be definitive.

An effort is underway to make a less than definitive statement - one in which there is at least some interpretive or administrative wiggle room. Such documents are called "compromise" statements. Stephen Bates has reported that a drafting group is working to produce such a compromise. Fr. Jake is right to point out that " If this is an accurate glimpse of the preliminary proposal, it's about what was expected..."

The Living Church earlier reported that the drafting team was being chaired by Bishop Wayne Wright of Delaware. If the group of bishops reported by Stephen Bates constitutes that team then we have an interesting spread of the bishops - Parsley, Jenkins, Bruno, Chane and Wright.

If this is indeed the appointed working group fine. If this group is somehow a second group, well, less fine.

Assuming that this is the "official" group, what is interesting in the Bates report is the note of the presence of both Kenneth Kearon and Gregory Cameron from the Anglican Communion office in the mix. The forces for compromise grow exponentially with the involvement of these two, even if they are there in an advisory capacity. The press is on to make some sort of compromise that will express the will (even if weak) of the broad middle and exclude only the "radical" fringe of dissenters and progressives. This has all the makings of classical compromise.

The answers this group will propose, if they can actually hammer it out, will involved bishops of this church acting unilaterally to make promises that answer the questions raised by the Primates - to effectively guarantee no further ordinations of gay persons in relationship as bishop, to make blessing of gay relationships a localized phenomena, and to initiate a "robust" form of alternative episcopal oversight. The effort will be to make the proposals squishy enough to be acceptable to the majority of bishops at the NOLA meeting and politically palatable enough to those who believe we are an Episcopal church but one in which leadership comes from the whole church, not just the bishops. At its best it will be a classic effort at compromise.

If all that was being done was to hammer out a compromise that would be one thing. But the hammer of compromise can also bash heads. If it goes forward it will bash the heads of legitimate candidates for ordination, the quiet desires for blessings by couples, and the body politic of The Episcopal Church.

Some on the dissenter side will also point out that compromise will also bash heads and hopes from their perspective. Some there believe compromise simply continues the bleeding and exhaustion of hope.

Kendall Harmon has put out a challenge for some radical solution to the current impasse in The Episcopal Church. It is quite a challenge.

Stephen Bates opines that " No such compromises ... are likely to appease conservative groups." The Moderator of the Network and others have already left the House of Bishops in NOLA, their arrangements to do other things already planned out long in advance of this meeting and their minds and hearts already set on another path. Apparently they believe whatever compromises are found will not meet their test - namely the guarantee of a "turn around" of the HoB and indeed of the whole of the Episcopal Church.

The compromises outlined in the Bates article, if they are indeed what will be proposed today, may or may not be useful in the effort to keep the Anglican Communion from unraveling. But if these compromises are made heads will be bashed and The Episcopal Church will not be the better for it. Friends will be brought low and the lights will dim. The compromises, if reached, will concern making the best of a bad thing. They will not be about hope for life, but about the avoidance of death.

It is one of those moments in which it is useful to ask if we believe more in resuscitation or in resurrection?

So much of the effort at compromise seems like the effort to rescue. Perhaps that is what is going on, but my sense is that something more is required of us. If what is going on is rescue then we can hope for a better more radical "solution." The person or people who provide it would be heroes, having rescued us from some terrible fate.

But we don't need heroes right now, and I don't believe we need rescue. What we need is the strength of convictions and the power of compassion combined.

Oddly, I agree with Kendall that a more radical solution is needed. Radical in the sense of offering real hope and clarity. Such a solution is not, however, about saving something - The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion, Orthodoxy, Progressive Christianity, whatever...
The radical solution is to live into death and find new life from it.

Again, all the talk of sacrifice makes the hearer think that there is something voluntary about the death and resurrection that is going on. What is happening in Anglican land is not about sacrifice, it is about taking responsibility for what we do.

There is no question that what The Episcopal Church is doing will involve death and resurrection. We will indeed die to the old way of being and have to find a new way of being. Because we believe in resurrection, not in resuscitation we do not hold that there will be a new body just like the old one, only breathing better. The body we will have in the time to come will not be the same, but hopefully one that grows from strength to strength in perfect service - or perhaps in perfect joy.

Meanwhile compromise will not be so helpful, and will lead down more paths without light. It is time to affirm our slow walk into a new day.

We live by hope.

7 comments:

  1. If I may risk paraphrasing the One in Whom our hope is supposed to reside, the communion that seeks to save its life will lose it, but the communion that loses its life for my sake will find it. Why are we so afraid to die to how we've always done it before? Is that really a Gospel principle?

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  2. Mark - We say we are an inclusive church. We are about to find out how inclusive and on what terms. We are being transformed by this process, regardless.

    If "compromise" is seen as giving in and giving up -then it is a dimming of the light. But if it reflects repentance and a seeking to reconcile and be renewed - then it is a new thing with much light.

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  3. I hear it's NOT the "official group" ... but then what do I know?

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  4. "The radical solution is to live into death and find new life from it." Amen.

    Luckily, Jesus is totally about the death and resurrection business.

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  5. Paul Bunnell24/9/07 11:57 AM

    The closing lines of T S Eliot's The Journey of the Maji ....

    . . . were we led all that way for

    Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,

    We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,

    But had thought they were different; this Birth was

    Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.

    We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,

    But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,

    With an alien people clutching their gods.

    I should be glad of another death.

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  6. I posted the following this am at Fr. Jake's, it might make sense here?

    Did anybody notice the last week's BBC interview with +Akinola. Simon Sarmiento linked to it at Thinking Anglicans. In it he states that what is demanded of TEC is "repentance" This is the word the GS has adopted rather than Windsor's "regret" When ask what that meant by "repentance" he said they "must undo what has been done" He then clarified that to mean getting rid of +Gene Robinson.

    I do not believe that it is possible to "appease" the far right, they will keep pushing and pushing the line in the sand, but I do believe that Joan Chichester is right. If we can find compromise for the broadest possible inclusion it is our duty and witness to try. That might make postponing some of our most worthy hopes but allow us to remain at the table. Sometimes being at the table requires table manners and we might look at that too? It is sometimes not so much what we do but how we do it. As to inviting the counsel of extra-provincial observors/advisors, with the consent and under the ultimate authority of TEC, there may be possibilites. So I have strong hopes for the work of this group. I wish that a strong conservative were on this committee so that their voice would be well-heard as it is their future that is being considered. As not going to Lambeth would extinguish the voice of US LGBT people there, we can not afford to extinguish the voice of our conservative brothers and sisters here.
    EmilyH

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  7. The call for sacrifice makes me queasy, too. Jesus said, "...let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." He never taught us to lay crosses on the shoulders of other folks. In fact, he castigated the Pharisees for doing just that, "They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others...."

    Let those who call for sacrifice first set the example of sacrifice.

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