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CANCER

Suddenly I’m the patient. We all thought it was arthritis. Now we know its multiple myeloma, although it is still to be determined what sort and how advanced the disease has traveled. My wife Pat first mouthed the word “cancer” to the doctor. He immediately confirmed Pat’s diagnosis with visible relief. I felt nothing. Indeed I was very puzzled by my own reaction. It was as if I was having a discussion with a young, very bright doctor about a disease other people get. It was only later in the day, when talking to my priest son that I realized I was crying.

I am assured that while there is no cure, there are very effective treatments that will keep me alive and kicking for many years. I feel a little guilty about that. I’ve seen so many parishioners through cancer deaths. Now I get the taste, but in all probability, not the result.

I know that the Trinity has me in God’s love. That is an extraordinarily consoling and strengthening fact. It is nothing that I deserve at all. Quite the reverse. That’s the wonder. Even though I am physically as weak as a kitten, I’m strengthened by the out pouring of love from God, through my wife, children, friends and colleagues.

I am more deeply convinced than ever that we have been incorporated into the church by baptism, “for the forgiveness of sins” in order that we may be changed and grow into Christ’s stature together. Baptism and the covenant are not sentimental ways for us to discover ourselves, or rather they bring us to the discovery that without God’s forgiveness and extraordinary love, we are nothing much at all and have nothing much to say or give. The church isn’t merely a self-help organization for people with a Cause, liberal or conservative. It is the New Jerusalem which is and which is to come.

So I look forward now to what God has in store for me to do, strengthened immeasurably by the love and prayers of so many people. Ora pro nobis.

DIOCESAN CONVENTION

I leave for diocesan Convention in the morning. It’s a five hour drive to Pipstem, a state park close to the Virginia valley border. It will be my first time at the annual West Virginia convention. The agenda looks calm and peaceful. Although we are not really far from the great urban centers in miles, we are remote from the feuds and fusses one encounters on the web. I think we have two Network parishes and a few moderately liberal parishes. The rest of us face problems related to survival. Can we afford clergy? Are there enough of us to get the job done? How do we manage relative isolation?

Next year we’ll celebrate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Brits – Anglican Brits – at what became known as Jamestown. The settlers setup an awning, cobbled together a table, and gave thanks by celebrating the Eucharist according to the 1558 Book of Common Prayer.

So much is made of TEC’s “creation” as if it was made out of nothing, a unique creation established by visionaries. Perhaps during the next year we may regain balance by remembering who we are, and where we came from. Jamestown wasn’t built by the persecuted, by religious pioneers or political reformers. A few years after Jamestown, the Church in Virginia was the only official Anglican church left. It was beyond Cromwell’s reach.

For nearly two hundred years Anglican people in America, in different circumstances and conditions continued to do what Anglicans do, to worship as Anglicans worship and to hope as Anglicans hope. Few were idealogues. At the end of the 18th Century these people achieved home rule. I see little evidence that they believed they were tinkering with anything essential at all, unless one believes that polity is core doctrine.

Perhaps this is worth remembering and embracing at a time when revisionists of one stripe or another – iconoclasts – imagine that God has anointed them to make all things new… or all things old?

ON THE OTHER HAND

Perhaps the view after the New York meeting isn’t as gloomy as it seemed. Granted the ever present spin encourages the cynic within, but perhaps what we are beginning to see is mutual recognition that we are walking in very odd territory indeed. Old certainties seem much less certain than they did even a few months ago.

Before General Convention 2006 TEC seemed a predictable phenomenon. Liberals of one sort or another dominated discussion and resolution as they had done since the days of Henry Knox Sherrill. Those being dominated- and they had great experience – had been around at least since 1970. True to type traditionalists lined up behind this or that leader or organization, or sometimes in uneasy coalition. Every three years those on the “right” dutifully reported for their ritual beating at General Convention.

Nor did anything look much different as GC 2006 assembled in Columbus. True, for the first time in decades, it was the liberals who were under pressure. While it seemed they couldn’t be defeated by vote, triumphantly demonstrated almost at the last minute by the House of Deputies, at that moment of crisis, the leadership, pulled back to the great disgust of their followers. Suddenly, by vote, a possible new majority was born.

The leadership of the old parties hasn’t yet woken up to the extraordinary significance of the final moments of General Convention. Moments of change are seldom recognized by those who have invested their hopes and dreams in the present. Perhaps one of the reasons why the recent meeting in New York failed to make progress is that the participants, or some of them, haven’t turned the page.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe that kingdom come is about to break out among us. I’m pretty sure it hasn’t. This is particularly so if one envisions the kingdom in terms of a liberal or conservative triumph.

I’m hoping that the Windsor bishops in their Texas meeting will catch on to what is happening. They are a significant group, many of them young bishops and only a few of them shaped by the Sixties. They look to the naïve post-millennium dreams of their elders in much the same way as young people look at Youth Sundays. The words and the tune are out of date, as dated as Merbecke.

The agendas of left and right in TEC are fly blown and archaic. It is still assumed that TEC is still its own self, influential in the nation and in the local community. They assume that TEC still draws to itself tasteful types who experience a frisson at the sound of choir and organist.

The church the old parties fight for doesn’t much exist outside the bastions of their faithful. Indeed fewer and fewer people squat in our pews or are drawn to our altars. No one much outside the church hears our resolutions on social and political issues or cares that we care. In short we have a government and an opposition and a middle heavily into talking to themselves. The choir is preached to because there’s no one much else to listen. During the past 40 years, TEC has adopted every good cause in the book, many of them worthy, and then, having done the right or left thing, gone on to another cause or obsession. The tragedy is that the exercise has made us feel good or bad, while watching world averts its gaze.

So I’m hoping for good things from Texas, not because the bishops who assemble there have signed on to the Windsor Report but because some of them seem aware that times are changing and our present mantras, left or right, have very little to say to anyone.

HUH?

The first of two important meetings has ended in stalemate. We shall see if Texas can do better. In the first meeting, held in New York through the past few days, bishops representing dioceses which seek to be in TEC but not of TEC, met with the Presiding Bishop who is and the Presiding Bishop who is to come; with establishment bishops, moderate bishops, and less conservative conservative bishops to find a way to resolve the present crisis.

It took three days to come up with the following report:

“We had honest and frank conversations that confronted the depth of the conflicts that we face. We recognized the need to provide sufficient space, but were unable to come to common agreement on the way forward.We could not come to consensus on a common plan to move forward to meet the needs of the dioceses that issued the appeal for Alternate Primatial Oversight. The level of openness and charity in this conference allow us to pledge to hold one another in prayer and to work together until we have reached the solution God holds out for us.”

Those used to what I term 815 Mandarin, may be able to interpret the report readily. For others I supply this brief translation. The report says everyone had a chance to speak and “share”, all agreed that there ought to be “space” for everyone, or maybe space for some, but no agreement emerged about how to get to the space, or what the space looks like. Indeed it all sounds very spacey.

Having realized that there was no common agreement on a plan to help the grieving dioceses, the report goes on to agree that everyone would pray for everyone hoping that God might step in to provide the solution and answer the prayers.

One can’t imagine what useful purpose such a report serves. It states the obvious and ends in cant.

It would seem to me that it might be a good idea if the bishops all read Tom Wright’s little book: “Simply Christian.” It’s a delightful read. It demonstrates the Bishop of Durham’s ability to speak clearly to ordinary people. In the process he gently steps on the toes of fundamentalists and liberals and everyone in between. Wright, I think, asks the Church, asks our Church to get beneath our divisions and capture once again the vision of who we are and whom we serve. There’s certainly enough about justice to satisfy any liberal, enough about the visible church to delight the Catholic and enough about the Bible to resonate with the evangelical.

It is to be hoped that the bishops who meet in Texas in a couple of weeks will seek to pierce through the hopelessness of Cause and Crusade, slogans and lobbies, fears and reactions. When these bishops have something to say, it might be a good idea to hire a journalist to write the report. If they can’t say anything much, better they say nothing at all. Surely the wretched report of the New York meeting demonstrates that!