by Bishop Charles Jenkins of the Diocese of Louisiana
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Each action taken by a leader or a group in leadership towards clarity is not necessarily a movement towards differentiation. The difference between mature leadership and tyranny is that the former makes room for points of view differing from the majority, while the latter can hardly tolerate divergence from the majority opinion. As Ed Friedman once noted, “the more monolithic the system, the more dissent is seen as destructive.” Both the differentiated leader and the tyrant may be clear and well defined but clarity alone does not make an action a mature response. To quote Ed Friedman, “The critical issue in determining differentiation is the ability to tolerate difference.” The paradox between clarity as differentiation or as tyranny is defined in part by the attempt of the leader or group in power to coerce the other into accepting the majority opinion.
Dissent from the actions of various General Conventions does not imply a desire to “divide our Church.” I am one who has a deep “love for the Episcopal Church, the integrity of its identity, and the continuance of its life and ministry.” I have for years suggested that the Episcopal Church should separate (do not hear what I am not saying) in order that we need not separate. Again, this is a concept put forward by Rabbi Friedman. By “separate in order not to separate”, I do not mean division or schism. I am not talking about parallel jurisdictions, as the concept seems to have been put forth. I am not talking about two Anglican Churches in North America or anywhere else. I am saying that we Episcopalians have lately become too close and as in a marriage, such over-closeness, or fusion, often leads to separation or even divorce. I have been told the Canons do not allow for an appropriate sense of distance in our ecclesiastical relations to avoid an absolute separation for divorce. I may be the only person in the Episcopal Church who believes that we have become fused with one another (I have not been able to sell this concept).
I disagree with the widely held perception by members of the House of Bishops that the “Communication from the March 2007 Meeting of the House of Bishops” was in fact a differentiating move. For sure, it was clear, but the inability of the majority to tolerate dissent, to engage a spirit of adventure (one would hope under the guidance of the Holy Spirit), and the tendency towards historical gloss make me question the value of the Communication as an act of self-differentiation.
The Lambeth Conference of 1998 was a clear demonstration to all in the Communion who had eyes to see that the traditional connections and relationships of the Anglican Communion were under great challenge as insufficient for the future of the Communion. The traditional axis of the United Kingdom, North America, and Australia was not alone representative of the future of the Church. I think the great adventure for us as Anglican Christians is to seek prayerfully the guidance of the Holy Spirit to discern humbly where God would have us grow as Communion. The opportunity to avoid fusion and herding as well as separation and schism, is the exciting adventure that is sidetracked by the Bishops’ rigid appeal to our polity. Episcopal Bishops have said repeatedly that brothers and sisters from around the world do not understand the polity of The Episcopal Church. Such a statement seems to suggest that if our brothers and sisters did understand our Episcopal polity, they would accept it. I am not willing to make such an imperialistic assumption. I think many outside of the Episcopal Church do understand our polity. They just do not buy it. I assume that to engage a great adventure of where the Holy Spirit would lead us does not necessarily mean that we know the answer before we even bend our knees in prayer.
I was not at the March 2007 meeting of the House of Bishops when the “Communication” was discussed and voted on. I had returned from Camp Allen to New Orleans for a series of meetings and events that demanded my presence. I would have spoken against and voted against the “Communication” had I been present. It was a done deal by the time I was able to return to Camp Allen.
The Gospel of John tells us of Jesus’ prayer from the Upper Room “that they may be one as we are one.” (St. John 17.22b) As we keep this Maundy Thursday, let us pray that God will in all truth make real in our lives even a dim shadow of that perfect unity of the Holy and Undivided Trinity.
Posted by Bishop Charles Jenkins at Wednesday, April 04, 2007