Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Paradox and Polarization

One of the great things about the blogosphere is that there is such a treasure trove of opinion and research from which to draw. After my own blog entry regarding bishops, I happened upon this excellently written post by Fr. Tony Clavier which discusses exactly the difficulty we get into when we relegate our bishops to a political role as members of simply one of two Houses of General Convention. It is very much worth a read. Coupled with that, the Episcopal Majority blog has an excellent article by The Rev. Matthew Dutton-Gillett on the struggle for the church to embrace paradox over exclusion, something he points out that we've never done well.

In my opinion, both of these articles point to a difficulty we face in this conflict. We face a cultural chasm in which most Western cultures have been in conversation regarding issues of sexuality for decades, while in some African and Asian countries such discussions cannot even begin due to cultural taboos. Even beyond that, the foundational point in the modernist/postmodernist divide--the conflict between the "either/or" way of seeing things and the "both/and" way of seeing things--means that the clash between the "one truth" aspect of thinking (i.e., the "plain truth of scripture") wars with what former Presiding Bishop Griswold has referred to as "pluriform truths." I also note that, at least in my experience in the Episcopal Church, such a tolerance for paradox is less likely to occur in the Baby Boomer generation than it is in postmodern generations (Generation X and Millennials).

Add to this conflict in both culture and ways of thinking the fact that, at least according to this article in Ekklesia, most of us have both very short memories and very little tolerance for long explanations. The author also makes a point related to my last post, that is that:
Hard work will be needed if the gulf which has opened up is to be bridged. Moves towards increasing the power of senior clergy, and their unaccountability to those they supposedly serve, will not help. Why should laypeople used to taking responsibility in other areas of life, and having to argue their case if they are to persuade others to take their views on board, passively accept the pronouncements of bishops who have not done their homework, especially if this undermines local mission and ministry?
In other words, while I would assert that bishops do have a charism and responsibility for teaching and for 'guarding the unity of the church," they also have an obligation to study and consult widely as they consider their positions. As well, we are well past the time when anyone can be said to have the final word on anything, much less an aspect of a two-thousand year old faith tradition.

I'm not sure just where this leaves us, except that we need to be in a lot less of a hurry to resolve the situation and a lot more willing to deeply consider possible solutions, including the possibility that this particular issue may remain unresolved for a long time to come. Perhaps we just need to live with that fact.

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