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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 The words and the tune are out of date, as dated as Merbecke.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.

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