11/08/2012

Bishop John Welby: If he is ABC it's back to basics.

I don't know Bishop Welby, and until several months ago knew nothing about him except that he was the new bishop of Durham in 2011 and came from the "secular" world of big business, etc.  There is a good interview of him by Bishop Dan Martins over on The Living Church's pages (and BTW The Living Church is more and more a required read).  Thinking Anglicans has lots of commentary on him all written with the understanding that he is indeed "the one."

Of the various questions posed to Bishop Welby by Bishop Martins, the one most interesting to me was this, "Based on your experience in reconciliation ministry, what thoughts would you offer to Episcopalians who work for reconciliation within our province?"  After some quite wise comments he ended with this, "The biggest enemies of reconciliation are indifference and hurry."

One day we will sit down for coffee with an Anglican formed in the colonial world of Anglicanism and have a little chat about current issues that seemingly require reconciliation and after this and that bit of exchange we will discover that the real issue of reconciliation involves how we were to one another five generations back, when white men brought the Bible, took the land and either spat on or ignored the culture of those who were their unasked hosts. 

Perhaps reconciliation in Anglican circles will have to begin by deciding that the forth element of the Lambeth Quadrilateral, regarding "the historic episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the various needs of the nations and peoples...." leads first to disunity.  As bishops in colonial contexts are replaced by bishops in post-colonial contexts, whose righteous anger towards their former masters is understandable, the disunity will be there. And it may be that the Jerusalem Declaration crowd and the Anglican Communion instruments of unity crowd will be separate for a while.

But when the conversation over coffee begins, and we have time and concern to do so,  we may discover that reconciliation is possible on matters quite old, and from that matters quite new will appear to all of us in new light.

So, I also liked what Bishop Welby had to say about the matter of bishops:

"I think the biggest challenge for us at the moment is to reinvent the idea of what a bishop is, with a much more obvious emphasis on servant leadership than we at some times show. Quite often our liturgies of consecration of bishops and general liturgical practice emphasize to the unschooled observer the importance of the bishop, not the importance of Christ. That of course may be much more true here than it is in the U.S."

He was being nice in that last sentence.  One of our greatest mistakes in Prayer Book revision was to include the phrase, "Pour out upon him the power of your princely Spirit, whom you bestowed upon your beloved Son Jesus Christ, with whom he endowed the apostles, and by whom your Church is built  up in every place..."  I often think the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity of persons have a collective giggle at the idea that the Spirit that is poured out is "princely."   But we get the point, we little people....bishops are princes (not by the way monarchs).  Hokum.

Bishop Welby is right... we make bishops for the importance of the Christ, not for the importance of themselves. 

If Bishop Welby becomes Archbishop of Canterbury let us wish him every good gift and grace of the Holy Spirit, and if that includes being occasionally princely so be it.  But I'd rather the Archbishop be, well, more a servant leader. 

That's back to basics. 

1 comment:

Fr. Yousuf said...

The 79 BCP Bp. consecration prayer comes from Hippolytus, where "Princely Spirit" is from the LXX of Psalm 51: 12. In the 79 BCP Psalter it is "your bountiful spirit".
It is tha last of 3 verses that invoke the Spirit, "a right spirit" v 10, "your holy Spirit" v 11, "your bountiful spirit" v 12. As one constrained to the LXX Psalter, I am accustomed to hearing "Governing Spirit", and I belive the composer in antiquity took up this reference because the Bishop is to govern or rule so he needs the Governing Spirit, the Ruling Spirit.

If a princely Spirit makes a prince bishop, can we go the KJV and have a "free Spirit" to make free bishops?

I think that Governing or Ruling would ve preferable to Princely both for practical use and straight translation. But the use of this LXX scripture did not originate with the framers of the 79 book.
t is "Free Spirit" in the KJV, and