Out there in Anglican Land, the land of blogs and fogs, there are intimations that Preludium has been wavering in its defense of the pluralist opportunities. In particular the criticism of the particular gifts of the bishop-elect of the Diocese of Northern Michigan has come up. The matter of consenting to his election has given rise to quite a bit of noise on the blogsphere.
The most recent and quite good response in defense of Fr. Forrester has come from the grand one from New Jersey, who is Telling Secrets. Elizabeth said, in a comment on a blog entry here at Preludium, "The legalistic, zealous, uber-conservative "Young Republican"-type Evangelicals in the Episcopal Church are no different from their counterparts in other denominations. The real irony is this: they are our religious terrorists, on their own lawless jihad to bring about their sense of theocracy. They will break any rule, exaggerate any claim, push any boundary, all "in the precious name of Jesus."
But there are other warning signs from good friends. The Pluralist has written one of his usual romps through the wilds of the coastal marsh that is Anglicanism at low tide. An Island Coastal Village is a cautionary tale concerning chopping down the trees, and therefore the forest, and leaving only barren land, and a cross on which the bishop-elect is hung. It is an amazing piece of writing.
The Pluralist wrote a warning there to the little Preludium thingy and noted, "As this campaign develops with ever more vigour and smear, the villagers that might have enjoyed and defended his classesoccasionally start to wobble and doubt their own mindfulness: perhaps they might have to accept what is going to happen in order to dampen the stresses and strains of actual communal life."
The Pluralist knows that occasionally on the coast one finds at low tide coastal schmutz, dirt that moves, and casts itself up on the beach. Such things happen, and when it does the gaze moves from the horizon to the near at foot. It is indeed possible to start to wobble and doubt ones own mindfulness at such a time. Particularly when this distraction comes shortly after removing dog poop from the carpet in the home of Preludium's dog Sarah, a home in which Preludium's blog guy is allowed also to live.
Having been thrown off balance by the schmutz of the railing against Fr. Forrester I did indeed suggest that some questions were in order if we had them. I still believe that is true.
Many of us had considerable reservations about Mark Lawrence, now bishop of South Carolina. Many of us had concerns about the now deposed bishop of San Joaquin. Sometimes our questions were answered and sometimes we as a church found them unsatisfactory. We can expect no less in this instance. But the schmutz on the beach can indeed be a cause of stumbling.
Here's my take on the matter. Every person elected or nominated as bishop brings gifts to the table. Not all of them are easy gifts, and some are not gifts at all, but simply schmutz.
I believe the creative gifts of imagining and envisioning ways to meditate, sing, dance, to lift our eyes to the horizon, the event-horizon perhaps, and to God present with us, are gifts to be desired. Are they the gifts we want in a bishop? Most are, I think. But better in a bishop who works with others in leadership, who is committed to life together both in the diocese and in the Church as a whole. There the gifts are part of a wider range of gifts, and not the only images available.
God forbid that Fr. Forrester is hounded and finally crucified on the altar of Communion unity through the smashing of imagination. It will be on our heads.
Read the Pluralist again. Is this the story that will hold? Let's hope not.
Here along the Atlantic coast the late winter storm has passed and the schmutz is on the beach. It will wash away and our gaze can still be upon the horizon and the event-horizon of our hopes.
If we trip a bit over the shortsighted attention to the trash talk perhaps it is because we want also to hear the legitimate questions that tell us people do indeed care about leadership here in Episcopal Church land. Having to elect bishops is a mess, but then again having them appointed is its own mess. So we need to stumble on. If Fr. Forrester is chopped down, perhaps, as with Fr. Lawrence, the tree will spring from the roots.
Meanwhile, Jesus Christ holds, then, now and always. Wish there were other ways to that horizon than by way of stumbling and mumbling and various crosses, put there by the imperial powers, state and religious, of our present world.
Thanks to the Pluralist for the dread story. Thanks to Fr. Forrester for standing.