Saturday, November 15, 2008
Creativity and Courage
The Diocese of Fort Worth will probably leave The Episcopal Church today. This will make the fourth diocese to leave TEC for The Southern Cone.
Mark Harris, brilliant as always, has an analysis of what that means for The Episcopal Church. You can find it here at Preludium.
Bottom line: Mark says, "The point is, that in terms of The Episcopal Church these four dioceses account for something like 2.4 percent of the whole. When it is all over I still believe about 7 to 8 percent of the Episcopal Church will have left. The number leaving and taking the property? 1 percent. But that’s another story."
I think he's right. I believe that, when the dust settles, about 2% will make their way back to TEC, having seen The Light of the restrictive, draconian doctrines and policies of The Southern Cone.
It remains a tragedy, of course, and a sadness, but both sides are absolutely convinced that their actions are the cost of discipleship.
No stranger to all things draconian or restrictive, much less flat-out wrong, Bishop Jack Leo Iker doesn't believe that he's leaving The Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church, he claims, has left them.
The brilliant cartoon above is from MadPriest ,of course. (Note to Matt: I won't be bullied into taking down my link to him and I won't stop visiting him or abandon my friendship with him. Friends in Christ don't do that. They work out their differences, speaking the truth in love. But, since you've already left The Episcopal Church, I suppose my words will fall on deaf ears.)
That's Iker's own spin on what Ron Regan said when he left the Democratic Party to become a Republican. He didn't even give the former President any credit for that. Sheesh! He can't even be original or creative when he speaks falsehoods.
Can you say 'institutional mediocrity'?
Which brings me to some thoughts about creativity and courage.
There were at least several options facing those who consider themselves "orthodox" in their faith to settle their differences, including Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's plan for Alternative Oversight, which was given an unofficial 'imprimatur' by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
There is, in the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, a way to be received as a diocese and a way to leave as a diocese. It has to do with seeking and gaining the approval of The General Convention - which represents the fullness of all orders of ministry in the church in legislative session.
In a recent interview on a very nasty blog in a galaxy not far enough away (to which I won't be linking. Sorry, Matt), Bishop Iker claimed that this was not how the Diocese of Fort Worth came into being - that they were named "The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth" when they were carved out of the geography that once was The Episcopal Diocese of Dallas. And so, claims the not-so-good bishop, it will be the name they retain once they move to the Southern Cone.
They must be putting something funny in the incense down there in Fort Worth, because that sounds like a man who, to use a Texas phrase taught to me by my friend Katie Sherrod, is just "all ate up with dumb."
Of course they called themselves "The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth" but it wasn't "official" until General Convention approved it. That's the way it works in the institutional church. That's the way it works, even in the Southern Cone.
This is legal maneuver masquerading as historical truth.
Pul-eeese! If it were any more transparent, it would be embarrassing.
In fact, it is.
I can't believe that there are people in that diocese who actually buy that line. which isn't even Iker's line. Indeed, I'm sure there are some who are humiliated by the actions and statements of Jack Leo Iker.
Well, truth be told, there are many, many intelligent people who haven't bought that or any other line from Bishop Iker, et al. There are some who ain't sniffin' that incense or drinking that ecclesiastical Kool Aid.
There is, in fact, an organization of them called "The Diocese of Fort Worth Via Media" which you can read about over at Katie Sherrod's Blog Desert's Child.
You'll find there the courageous "Statement of delegates who will remain in TEC" which is being read today at the convention. It lays out in clear points the reasons not to take this action and urges lay delegates and clergy to vote against the proposed changes in the canon to leave TEC and move to the Southern Cone.
You'll also find an audaciously hopeful statement "The Once and Future Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth" which includes this vision: "We want a diocese based on the two great commandments – to love God with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our might; and to love our neighbors as ourselves."
Please do go over and read it all, and, of your kindness and mercy, leave a little note of prayer and support. http://wildernessgarden.blogspot.com
Here's the thing about courage and creativity: It takes real courage, born of raw hope, to find a way to live the Two Great Commandments. It takes an emotional and spiritual maturity to live with differences.
I have come to believe that it is these things - real courage, raw hope, and emotional and spiritual maturity - to be creative. To be able to color outside the lines, in the name of justice, and, risking the displeasure of others, to boldly explore the crucifyingly obscure boundaries of faith. To leave the safety and comfort of mediocrity and move into the excellence of our baptismal promises. To take a step out through your fear and into faith.
I'm not talking about 'creativity' here which is about clever photoshopping or witty reparte. I'm talking about claiming and acting on our co-creative status with God.
That takes a kind of audacity which is intolerable to mediocrity - especially institutional mediocrity.
I do believe that Jesus modeled that kind of audacity - which is why the institution of his day hated him enough to have him killed.
So, pray, sisters and brothers, for the people of The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. Pray for those who will stay and those who will leave.
But, pray mostly for the strength to touch into raw hope, for emotional and spiritual maturity to respectfully honor differences and live together in that tension, for the audacity to resist mediocrity, and the courage to claim their co-creative status with God and, guided by the Holy Spirit, to work to bring about the vision of Jesus of the Realm of God.
There is a saying that if you 'free your mind, the rest will follow'.
I have found that if you open your heart, your mind will follow.
And, and therein lies the genesis of courage and creativity, two things which, when spent, rise like incense and are pleasing to the mind of God and warm the heart of Jesus.