We are now two and a half weeks from the beginning of General Convention. I am weary from all the negative crap on all the negative blogs that can't stand The Episcopal Church. I am depressed by the sound of many voices that can't stand the possibility of bishops and deputies acting on their own, using their own sense of how that balanced stool of Scripture, Reason and Tradition works, and from that making decisions.
There is a sea of unrest on which the General Convention will float. Some of the unrest produces comparatively mild currents, some is more rough. I've been chasing around trying to find some way to state what I think is going on.
Three quotes come to mind:
"At any given instant All solids dissolve, no wheels revolve, And facts have no endurance -- And who knows if it is by design or pure inadvertence That the Present destroys its inherited self-importance?" That's from W. H. Auden's "For the Time Being", (1940). It is the opening quotation in Simon Winchester's "Krakatoa," which concerns the Krakatoa volcano which erupted on August 27, 1883.
"There is great disorder under Heaven and the situation is excellent."
Supposedly from Chairman Mao's little Red Book, quoted by Uncle Duke in the Doonesbury cartoons of G. B. Trudeau. MacArthur responds, "sounds like one of your parties, Sir."
“There is a lot of wreckage in the fast lane these days.”
That is Hunter S. Thompson, RIP. And there is indeed.
So in Anglican land the shakedown seems volcano - like in its rumblings, and "the present destroys its inherited self-importance," there is great disorder under Heaven, wreckage in the fast lane, and yet, the situation is excellent.
Fine. My depression of the past few days is lifted. That depression is the all purpose Anglican depression here in the pit, getting the car ready for the ten day race called General Convention. It was due to my forgetting Auden, Mao and Thompson and all the others who know the intemperate demands of the mob. The thing is, dear friends, while we may be up to all sorts of things "for the time being," actually we are all running the race that is set before us and disorderly or not, we do what we need to do. Once we have set our hand to the plow it is time to look forward, not back. Otherwise we miss the turn, miss the party, miss the point.
So time to get some little things straight:
(i) The House of Bishops Theology Committee has a "secret" subcommittee looking at issues of same sex relationships. There is considerable concern that this secrecy is not right. It isn't but don't turn in here. The fact is no one will care very much what is said by this group. Time has passed them by.
(ii) A conservative, traditional, and well loved order of Nuns is moving from The Episcopal Church to the Roman Catholic Church. This group, some of whose members I know, is a fine and caring community. But they have been on the edge of The Episcopal Church for years believing as they do that women cannot be priests and therefore refusing to receive Communion when a woman is celebrant or when the elements may have previously been consecrated by a woman. They will go where they will, and God's speed. But they seem to understand this as their problem, not necessarily the problem of The Episcopal Church.
(iii) The formation of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is underway, with two more resigned bishops of The Episcopal Church part of their number, two bishops in TEC as members of ACNA governance, and three new bishops being ordained by Rwanda to serve with one of ACNA's member groups. Going, going, gone. We will miss them, but not their constant harping on the belief that TEC, at least its leadership, is unChristian and unorthodox, and revisionists, and wrong, and destroying the church, and all that. They do not wish to be part of the Episcopal Church. OK, don't. But that is no reason why we ought to let you take the silver, the pews, the records, the inheritance, and oh yes, the name Anglican from us.
Still, if several African Provinces and the Province of the Southern Cone and a considerable crown of malcontents formerly of The Episcopal Church do snatch the name Anglican from under our nose, damn fool us. We can live with being fools. In the end perhaps the name Anglican will be inherited by people who never were English, don't speak English as their native tongue and who now have U.S. and Canadian branch offices of an Anglican Church that is neither Anglican or Episcopal but just sounds as if it is.
Wreckage in the fast lane, bubba. That's what we will see. And we will have to steer through it to the other side. "We are plowing North America, come blow your horn," to paraphrase Wallace Stephens. We are plowing new furrows in a new land and the present times loose their grip on self-importance. Time to move on. Nothing to see here. Move along.
ACNA will be a highly successful first beginnings of a world wide Anglican Church or it will be a wreck in the fast lane, or both. Since when did we think yet another world wide church was an improvement? No. Time to keep on keeping on. We will make whatever decisions we make at General Convention and live with them, but we need to face into the future, not the past.
(iv) The Archbishop of Canterbury will lead a study at one of the Eucharists during the General Convention. He has made no comment on Rwanda's announcement, or on ACNA , but has urged the churches to work on the Anglican Covenant proposal and to maintain the moratoria on rites of blessing and the consent to the ordination of gay bishops in relation. General Convention needs to make its own mind up and without his direction. No need to worry. When he is helpful he is immensely so, when he is not he is another ripple in the disorder of the times. We need to get about God's mission for this people.
(v) There is considerable grumbling about the legislative process getting swallowed up in the miseries of constant wrangling over B033 and the blessing of same sex relationships. People might do well to read the resources of Claiming the Blessing and THIS by Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Kaeton. So they are suggesting that we get over it and move on. Actually so is the Chicago Coalition and almost everyone else in the universe.
So the suggestion has been touted about that on the first day of Convention there might be a special order of business, vote the two propositions up or down, save the various committees and the whole Convention a heap of verbiage and get on with other business. All sorts of good, bad and ugly things might transpire from doing this sort of approach, but it has the distinctly 21st century sensibility to it that grows from a community of people who, while they gather at General Convention, actually have been in fairly deep contact over some considerable time. For them, and perhaps for many of us, the various takes on the issues have already been vetted. More talk is not better talk in this case. Let's just get on with the business of being a missionary church.
(vi) In the midst of being rocked about by all this, I was expressing my depression to my trainer today and she said, "well, everybody is nervous. The economy is belly up and people, even those not immediately touched, are anxious. These are anxious times." They are indeed. General Theological Seminary has done a good thing economically and the Chronicle of Higher Education has dumped on them. See the story HERE. Anxiety abounds.
Interestingly, in the various blogging about the Church, the new thingy that is ACNA, the array or disarray of the Church Center, the ecumenical doings, and even the Anglican Communion affairs almost no one is talking about the anxiety that is the product of these economic times. Sure, there is moaning about the legal costs of trying to retain property, title, and such things, there are cutbacks going on in Dioceses and parishes, and re-ordering of things at The Church Center. But very little about the anxiety that goes with the "whole picture." Our faith has something wonderful for us to bring to the anxiety. It is the message of Jesus on the troubled waters, "don't be afraid." Indeed not.
(vii) No one has raised yet (but we will) the fact that the anxiety in the US concerning the church related implications of the economy is only magnified for churches that we support elsewhere in the world. The dollar may not buy as much here, but there are some of them available. What about in Haiti or the Dominican Republic or Guatemala, or Liberia? We may suffer some, but it is hitting them even harder. It always does. So into the mix at General Convention somewhere we need to wonder if it is time to send help to the saints elsewhere, not from our surplus, but from our core, or perhaps coeur.
How do we send help? How do we say, "do not be afraid," and have it be more than hollow nice words? We will find a way. If not we will have missed it. And there is more... always more. But I am more and more convinced that the Situation is indeed excellent. The disorder gives us all sorts of opportunity to proclaim the Good News in Jesus Christ, to others, to ourselves, to the world. If we did not think so going to General Convention would be a waste.
Time to live into the disorder under Heaven, and the excellent Situation. For we are bound for Glory. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.