Saturday, July 28, 2007

Listening is not just for the comatose...

A Reflection
Thomas Bushnell, BSG

Responding to
the Blessings in the Canadian Diocese of New Westminster, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams writes:

In taking this action and ignoring the considerable reservations of the Church, repeatedly expressed and most recently by the Primates, the diocese has gone significantly further than the teaching of the Church or pastoral concern can justify and I very much regret the inevitable tension and division that will result from this development.

Young children define words by giving examples of their use. If you ask young children to define the word cooperate, they give examples that do not fit that word, but instead fit the word obey. The reason is obvious: it's because adults around them keep telling them to cooperate, when the adults have no interest in simple cooperation, and demand instead obedience.

The same newspeak is going on here in Williams' comments. The Diocese of New Westminster has not ignored the reservation of the church. It has listened, taken it into account, and then proceeded as it does best. The rest of the church has a right to be heard, and heard they were. But our structures do not require New Westminster to obey the Primates' Meeting.

Rowan Williams has thus greatly confused the two. The Primates' Meeting doesn't even have the right to demand to be heard (unlike the ACC or maybe Lambeth); if they want to be heard they must stop the silly seclusion and secrecy attached to the meeting. But regardless of whether we must listen to the Primates' Meeting, we have listened.

Ironically, the Primates' Meeting does not listen. They shut themselves up behind closed doors, proudly announcing that it's just a private conversation, and then issue magisterial statements from on high, which the Archbishop of Canterbury now thinks must be obeyed by each and every diocese of the Anglican Communion.

But listen and obey are different things. Williams seems to think that if you don't obey, then you must not have been listening. This is a dangerous thing to say. We are now on the second Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church who talks a nice line about the inclusion of gay people, but when push comes to shove, doesn't really speak up for us. (Remember Lambeth and his abstention? My bishop at the time,
Tom Shaw, SSJE, did speak up.) I believe we are now witnessing the slide of Rowan Williams into the miasma of selling us out to preserve a facade of unity.

[I found this in Louie Crew's Do Justice papers.]

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Blogger jsd said...

Thanks for posting this; it's very interesting and it isn't something I had thought about consciously before but upon reading the light bulb of uh duh went off.

5:55 PM  
Blogger Lee said...

This one triggered an interesting reaction. Found myself in a fantasy where I was scolding Williams soundly for his insensitivity and not being in touch with reality and his congregation. Of course that latter had to do with me wondering how many gay friends he might have that he didn't know about or how many were in his congregation. And that was before I read Gene's statement on another website. Is this guy in his position for life? Or can we hope to see a change in the future?

6:12 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Lee: I've not been able to unearth anything about specific terms for the Archbishes of Cant, but a look at the list back to Augustine (the first) shows that 8 of the last 9 before Williams retired while in office; most before that died in office (at least one was executed).

Historically, Williams would seem to be relatively progressive with respect to LGBT issues, but apparently now he has become more a church bureaucrat than a civil (and spiritual) rights activist: the "Church" and its survival takes precedence over the rights of its people. An argument I find not the least bit compelling.

1:00 PM  

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