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Monday, July 14, 2008

From Oslo, with love

The Op-Ed piece in the NY Times "Scandinavia's Scarred Mr. Dialogue" by Roger Cohen caught my eye this morning.

Jonas Gahr Store, the Norwegian foreign minister, is arguing forcefully for engagement with Hamas and Syria, even though they are listed by both NATO and the European Union as terrorist organizations.

I think the piece reads like a cautionary modern parable about the state of the WWAC.

While I want to be very clear that I do not consider the "orthodox" among us as having terrorist organizations, if you read the Op-Ed piece and substitute "The Chapman Statement" or "The Primates Statement from Tanzania" or GAFCON's" Jerusalem Statement" for "Hamas," you begin to understand that abandonment is not the answer. Engagement is.

Which is why one of my hopes for the Lambeth Conference is that, while it will not succumb to threats and calls for punishment, humiliation and excommunication for those who believe and function in community differently than their sisters and brothers in Christ, it will continue to seek engagement with the nearly one quarter of the Bishops and Primates who have chosen not to attend this important gathering - as well as those who will attend but for reasons other than collegiality and community .

I still don't believe An Anglican Covenant will do that. Not yet, at least. It's way too soon. The most I hope to see happen is that there will be an Anglican Statement which defines what it means to be an Anglican.

Someone is asking, "Isn't that what the Covenant proposes to do?"

Well, yes and no.

Right now, the way it reads to my mind is a statement of who is in and who is out. I'm talking about a statement which defines the pragmatic, organizational, philosophical and theoretical way in which membership in the Anglican Communion is defined.

You know, sort of like an Anglican version of Jeff Foxworthy's "You may be a Red Neck if . . . ."

I'd like to see, as a first step, "You may be an Anglican if . . . ." (I know. There's already a very humorous list like that. I'm being serious here. As serious as a heart attack.).

I want that statement to be as broad and as wide and as deep as I have understood the Classic Spirit of Anglicanism to be which defines our membership in this great mysterious gift we call The Anglican Communion.

I know. That's already been done. Many times. "The Four Instruments of Unity," blah, blah, blah.

I wish to point out, however, that, for the most part, these statements of membership have been undertaken by a singular voice, or voices from either side of the church. I could be wrong, but I don't ever remember a Lambeth Conference speaking about "TFIoU" much less agreeing that this is what keeps the WWAC together.

I would like to see this gathering of bishops from all over the WWAC make a statement for our time and from that place and in this moment in our history. I believe with all my heart that this is a critical important first step which, if taken, may eliminate the need for a "Covenant".

That being said, I hope these good Christian men and women who have been elected or appointed to leadership in the various diocese, provinces and synods of the Anglican Communion will find a way to continue to keep open the lines of communication with those who seek to create a "realignment" (schism, by any other name would smell as sour).

While, as some have expressed, I find it sad that the strident voices on both sides of the HOB/D listserv can not come to a common lexicon of terms, I also see that they (so far) are still at the table, and that is cause for hope.

Okay, so it's a noisy, unpleasant part of the table, but I think even verbal snipping from our various entrenchments serves a purpose. If you've left the table that doesn't mean that the dispute and disagreements have ended. It just means that conversation - even unpleasant, angry conversation - has ceased.

In the same manner that not making a decision can be a decision in and of itself, not being in relationship is still being in relationship. It is a relationship of abandonment. Just think of the bitter relationship that continues to exist between two people who have been divorced. I think that decision for that kind of relationship makes Jesus weep.

I've included the last few paragraphs from the Times Op Ed piece. I think there are some lessons The WWAC might learn from the politics of the world. Perhaps Lambeth should be held in Oslo.

"Norway has kept channels open to Hamas and to Syria. It has spoken with the Hamas leadership. It is convinced the West missed an opportunity by not talking in March 2007 to the elected Palestinian national unity government composed of Fatah and Hamas members. It argues that Taliban elements can be drawn out of terror into politics through talks.

In all of this, Norway has used the greater diplomatic latitude it enjoys as a non-member of the European Union. The E.U., like the United States, lists Hamas as a terrorist organization.

“We have enormous reason to be upset with Hamas because it spent every day after Oslo trying to destroy Oslo,” Store said. “But there is a strong realist tradition in Hamas oriented toward a political landscape. In general, it should be in our interest to get organizations out of military activity and into politics. The political working method has not been sufficiently tested.”

Engaging, he insisted, does not mean lowering of requirements. It can be a means to set yardsticks, hold interlocutors accountable, and probe their thinking while surrendering nothing.

“If Hamas wants to be part of the real world, it has to end up accepting Israel’s right to exist,” Store said. “The rest of the world will never yield on that.” It must also recognize the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas of the mainstream Fatah movement, as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people in negotiations."

For Norway, the Mecca accord of February 2007 came close enough to recognizing past Palestinian commitments to Israel for the West to begin rigorous engagement with Hamas. It chose another course and mayhem ensued.

Store believes a “revisiting has started in U.S. foreign policy in the direction of engagement” and this will “accelerate” under the next administration. “Part of this ideology of the war on terror has been the United States doing things by themselves,” he said. “Now we in Europe and Norway must expect to be more actively engaged by Washington.” That will bring demands as well as opportunities.

Engagement begins with allies. It can be extended to enemies. It cannot be deterred by bloodshed or personal loss. An Oslo stop is in order for America’s next president.


Fran said...

This is so good Elizabeth, wise- truly wise. I love how you connected the editorial and the situation with the church.

Engagement is so often now seen as weak or in the case of some church folk "sinful."

I am ever astounded... did we ever see Jesus stomp off angry, dragging the apostles with him?

No. He simply asked a lot of questions, told stories, stayed...engaged.

Bill said...

franiam said . . . "I am ever astounded... did we ever see Jesus stomp off angry, dragging the apostles with him?"

Only once, and not recorded in the Synoptic Gospels. It can be found in the Barely Gnostic Gospels. Everybody knows the story of the marriage feast at Canaan, but what you don’t know is that Jesus and the boys didn’t want to go to the marriage at all. It seems there was a chariot race in town and Jesus had promised his guys a good time at the track. They all snuck out the back, but Mary caught up with Him on a fast donkey. His Mom laid down the law and said He had to go, it was family. This accounts for the slightly snarky remark made by Jesus when asked to do something about the wine: Mary tells Jesus, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come." Undaunted, Mary fixes her son with raised eyebrow, turns to the servants and says, “Do whatever he tells you." Sheepishly Jesus goes out and produces 3,200 litres of fine French Bordeaux, vintage 31.

I know, I’m in trouble.