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Monday, July 13, 2009

The Lambeth Kool-Aid

Well, by now you know that the House of Deputies is on the move - beyond B033 and forward into mission. If you don't know about it, check into stories over at Episcopal Cafe and "The Lead".

In summary, Resolution D025 passed the House of Deputies yesterday and will be sent to the House of Bishops sometime today. The vote was 77-31 in the lay order and 74-35 in the clerical order.

You can find the summary of the resolution here, but it, in effect, rescinds B033 in very carefully crafted, very gracious language.

C056 is a major resolution on same sex blessings that has cleared the Prayer Book Committee by a huge margin (6-0 among bishops, 26-1 in deputies).

This is a critically important resolution which will direct the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM), in consultation with the House of Bishops Theology Committee, to collect and develop theological resources and liturgies of blessing for same-gender holy unions, to be presented to the 77th General Convention (2012) for formal consideration.

It also stipulates that all bishops, noting particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships’ are legal, may provide generous pastoral response (B012) to meet the needs of members of this Church.

This, folks, is huge. HUGE.

It is expected to pass the House of Deputies and will then move on to the Bishops.

There's another breaking story that, until the other day, was being told in hushed terms. The "moderate" publication "The Center Aisle" had another story in this morning's edition.

It's best summed up in the term: "Lambeth Kool-Aid"

You hear the term in not-so hushed, concerned conversations on both sides of the aisle in the Exhibit and Convention Hall, usually in response to the question, “What will the bishops do?”

Some long-time deputies are lamenting that they’ve never seen the split so deep between the two houses. Others refer to it as “a rift” between deputies and bishops.

I disagree. The mood here in Anaheim is more cordial than I've experienced in years, and that includes the relationship between deputies and bishops.

Our baptized sisters and brothers who wear varying shades of purple are being described, alternately, as “more conservative,” “anxious,” “fearful,” and even, “depressed.”

It’s about that time that the term “Lambeth Kool-Aid” begins to surface.

From where I sit, that's a short hand way to talk about the seductive and intoxicating effects of power.

The Episcopal Church is hardly unique in our democratic process of legislation and decision-making, and in our more egalitarian approach to the application of our understanding of the theology and ecclesiology of our Baptismal Covenant.

The ‘standard’ of the rest of the Anglican Communion tends to be much more hierarchical – if not heavy-handed – in its polity and ecclesiology than The Episcopal Church.

Being a distinct minority in a majority of bishops who have that much decision-making power can give a body a serious case of 'miter envy'. One can begin to imagine that one has waaayyy more power than our canons allow.

There are two other ‘side effects’ of this ‘purple Anglican brew’.

The first has to do with the ‘paradigm of success’ which is operative in the world and, unfortunately, in the church.

We should not be surprised. St. Paul tells us that ‘we are in the world but not of the world’ but that doesn’t mean that the world isn’t in the church.

‘Bigger, faster, better, wealthier’ are the standards in the corporate world. The corporate body of Christ has, unfortunately, also embraced this paradigm of success.

The rise of the evangelical movement in the World Wide Anglican Communion has led to an even more aggressive embrace of this paradigm.

Many bishops in the Global South have hardly been shy in telling anyone who will listen about the amazing, rapid (although largely undocumented) effects of their evangelism efforts.

Their ‘orthodox’ evangelical North American counterparts have capitalized on this information, using it to try to shame and intimidate their more progressive sisters and brothers.

In many ways, it’s worked. Many North American bishops are facing serious declines in their home churches. When not dealing with the fruit of disaffection sewn by seeds of discord intentionally being planted by those on the Right, the economy is playing havoc with pledges at the local level, resulting in deficits that have ‘trickled up’ to the diocesan level.

In my own congregation, while we remain pretty much untouched by the discord in the church, I would guestimate that there are about a dozen or so folks who have lost their jobs, and another 1/3 are anxious about their job security.

My medical background informs my perception that many more people are on anti-depressants and/or using higher amounts of alcohol as self-medication.

The ‘silent shame’ in many of the affluent suburbs of Northern New Jersey is the increase in suicide attempts (just ask any EMT or ER staff) as well as an increase in stress-related disease: high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.

I can’t imagine what this is like in other states where the unemployment rate is in the double-digits.

This feeds the anxiety about the ‘paradigm of success’ we currently hold.

I don’t think clergy in general and bishops in particular are ‘depressed’ about this, per se. Rather, I think ‘compassion fatigue’ is a more accurate description of what we’re all feeling.

Compassion fatigue is now classified as a Secondary Traumatic Distress Disorder. Sufferers can exhibit several symptoms including hopelessness, a decrease in experiences of pleasure, constant stress and anxiety, and a pervasive negative attitude.

This can have detrimental effects on individuals, both professionally and personally, including a decrease in productivity, the inability to focus, and the development of new feelings of in competency and self-doubt.

I think the antidote to “The Lambeth Kool-Aid” and the local manifestations of the harsh realities of this global economic crisis is to embrace a new paradigm of success, one that is based in biblical values as opposed to the dictates of our culture.

Jesus did not count sheep. He fed them.

He was able to feed five thousand people (by one account) by getting them to sit down and talk with each other.

Parker Palmer's understanding of this biblical account is that this was the first recorded incident of 'community organizing'. If you get people sitting together to address an issue like hunger, miracles can happen.

Palmer's understanding of that miracle is that people opened their travel packs and brought out the food they had carried with them.

The second miracle was that people SHARED what they had. And, when that happened, not only was there enough for everyone to eat, it resulted in a third miracle: there was plenty of food left over.

The answer for the institutional church is organizing the church community for mission. That’s never been the question. The question for all Christians – all the baptized in all of our various institutional variations – is this: “How will we prosper the mission of Christ Jesus in the world?”

If we answer that question, we will prosper as a church – financially and spiritually– no matter what we ‘drink’ or how drunk it makes us with an illusion of power.

If we focus on THAT question, we will be moved out of the immobility and paralysis of fear and into a sense of hope and purpose.

We are promised that our thirst will be assuaged by the ‘living water’ of Jesus and our hunger satisfied by the ‘bread of heaven’.

Now, more than ever, we need to preach that Good News – apparently and especially to the ones who seem to hear it most: the bishops.

6 PM Monday the 13th: House of Bishops vote on D025 as amended: 99 in favor, 45 opposed, 2 abstentions.

Because of the amendments, it will have to go back to the HOD where it is certain to pass.

We are 'officially' beyond B033.

Somebody cue the choir to sing the Doxology.

Woo hoo to God in the highest!


James said...

This is an excellent post, Elizabeth. And, I really like that cartoon.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Yup. I thought it expressed 'Compassion Fatigue' quite well.

susankay said...

I didn't know quite how much I cared until I started crying at the news from "The Lead"

Glory to God in the Highest, and Peace to His People on Earth.

Christopher said...

Be watchful of that word "mystery." In my experience mystification often hides behind that word, and does so, in the way "mystery" covers over others behaving badly in ecclesial processes and then calling it God's Spirit at work. Seen this one too many times in ordination processes by friends in this Church.

Catherine said...

Thank you so much for the update on D025! Alleluia, Alleluia, ALLELUIA!

PseudoPiskie said...

Woo Hoo, indeed! Folks here at the Berkshire Choral Festival have been wondering why my iPhone didn't leave my hands all evening.

I almost whooped aloud when I read the news. Wish I had someone here to share it with.

MarkBrunson said...

As I said at Mark Harris', I am not sanguine about D025 at all. Rather than Lambeth Koolaid, I see it as ongoing Lambeth poisoning - the treatment is removal from the toxin and treatment to remove it from the system. This - and the supposed "tiny" alteration from HOB - simply allows the bishops to maintain their sense of lordship, and a large degree of personal autonomy - rule by episcopal fiat.

Doorman-Priest said...

This is excellent news. Now, where's my Nigerian phone directory?

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Allewoot! Wootalluia!