Thursday, April 26, 2012

Giving Room for Conservatives

Several weeks ago, on the HoBD list, I talked about the "political" views General Convention takes and wondered out loud how we could honor those who are in the minority of our resolutions.  I urged that we should give some gracious space to those who voted in the minority. I received quite a bit of push-back by many friends on the liberal side. 

Yesterday, Presiding Bishop Jefferts Shori spoke to Province V.  She spoke about the General Convention process, and she seemed to decry the culture of "winners and losers."  If I understood her correctly, she was calling our church into a process of conversation that would not merely result in "winners and losers."  

The Presiding Bishop reminded us Deputies that we have the opportunity to move into a "committee of the whole," apart from strict parliamentary rules -- in which we could have conversation rather than confrontation. 

I had the opportunity to talk with the Presiding Bishop this week.  I informed her that I had suggested the Deputies have holy conversation rather than just parliamentary debate.  I confessed that I am a liberal on social and political issues. However, I also feel for those Deputies who come out on the losing end of our debates.  

I sense it is time for us to find a way to hold debates that give room for the minority.  Perhaps my thinking is guided by the realization that, in the ebb and flow of things, my positions will someday be in the minority.  


Blogger MarkBrunson said...

How would you provide that space for them? If they do not accept it, what then? How do you do it without compromising, not just the church's principles, but how the space offered affects those who had no vote?

Not an attack, just realistic questioning. I've often been on the end of similar attacks for not toeing the liberal line du jour.

Keep in mind, when talking about the PB's speech, that she's talking ideals, and clergy will be the first to remind you (rather defensively, in my experience) that the church is and earthly, human and distinctly non-ideal institution. The speech, itself, is political - what people want to hear from a Christian leader on the "soft" side of the faith.

4/26/2012 11:21 PM  
Blogger MarkBrunson said...

"an earthly" not "and earthly"

4/26/2012 11:22 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Mark, I am told the HoD can move into a "committee of the whole," so that people can speak their minds outside of the parliamentary foo-fah. People can speak and be heard. I think that would be a good first step.

Of course, then, a majority vote will be taken. But at least we will have heard those in the minority.

I don't know why ... But I find myself wanting to give generous space to those who are still with us. I also heard that from the Presiding Bishop this week.

Let's face it, my friend: You and I are now in the majority. Let us be generous to those in the minority. I feel we are called to listen to them and give them space.

4/26/2012 11:35 PM  
Blogger MarkBrunson said...

But . . . how.

That's the problem.

I used to work with a principal, and, if you came to her with a good idea, she'd say, "Good idea! How you gonna do that?"

4/26/2012 11:59 PM  
Blogger Turnip Ghost said...

You could post it on the Internet.
Why not?

4/27/2012 12:13 AM  
Blogger MarkBrunson said...

This . . . um . . . I don't know how to tell you this . . . this is the internet, so . . . she kinda did.

But, no . . .that was really helpful. I'm sure. Really.

4/27/2012 1:10 AM  
Blogger Kirkepiscatoid said...

Perhaps I'm speaking a little bit from my own journey here (Lisa will "get" this) but I really appreciate the PB's comments about the "culture of winners and losers." I think, perhaps, where our culture has made a mistake (or is it a natural step in the evolution of such things? I'm willing to entertain that possibility...) is we have tried to make the nostrum for that culture to create the "everybody wins" culture in response.

So now we have a culture where everyone is "special" and everyone gets a ribbon at the track meet for "something," no matter how big a stretch that "something" is. We have a culture where the expectation is we are supposed to be "happy" all the time, and the makers of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs have enjoyed a booming business, convincing people these drugs are not just for the severely affected.

I see that "space" you desire, Lisa, and my vision of it is simply "a place where we all sit and feel uncomfortable, but agree to sit there together, and agree to see what emerges from it."

It is probably what disturbs me the most when the various African bishops snub ++KJS at the altar, because they can't even agree to sit in the uncomfortable place at God's table and see what emerges.

But yes, I think we do need that "space." A space where we sit for a stupidly long time and do absolutely nothing and feel like nothing's moving. "Doing" is important, but sometimes doing nothing and "being" is even more important.

4/27/2012 9:10 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comment, KirkE.

Perhaps I failed well to convey the PB’s comment. She is not talking about that silliness where everyone wins a medal just for showing up. I know what you’re saying there, and I hate it. Remembering my old days as an athlete, I do not believe everyone should get a medal; only those who run fastest or jump farthest should get the medals.

But we are not in an athletic competition. At our best, the Bishops and Deputies at General Convention are not in any competition at all. We are supposed to be a gathered community listening to the Holy Spirit.

The PB was talking about something very different from competition, I think. I think she was contrasting the Gospel of Christ with the current political milieu. Look at what Peter’s and Paul’s adherents did in Acts: They disagreed, but they recognized each other’s faithfulness, and they took different courses. One went to the Jews and one went to the Gentiles, but they didn’t excoriate each other. That’s very different than our current U.S. political “winner take all” ethos.

That’s what I have been trying to advocate, and that’s the course I heard PB Jefferts Schori urging this week in Chicago: Let us find a way to craft our GC resolutions so that we hold to our convictions and respect the other side.

Even if folks on my "side" “win” most of the high-visibility resolutions, let’s find a way to honor the consciences and faithfulness of our Christian friends in the minority who vote “no” on these issues.

I may be a fool. But I want a church where I and my adversaries will make space for each other – where we will honor each other. In 9 years of participating on the HoBD listserv, I know who my adversaries are. But I have come to recognize that they, too, are faithful followers of Jesus Christ. We come to different conclusions, but we don’t call each other heretics.

As you observe, that is very different than the African bishops who won’t share Eucharist with our Presiding Bishop. That’s a whole ‘nother thing!

KirkE, I hope this won’t be a situation where we “sit for a stupidly long time and do absolutely nothing.” I want to see us move forward on the issues facing us, and I think we will do so in Indianopolis. But I want us to do so in a way that honors and gives space to those who dissent from the votes we will take at GC12. I’m not sure how we’re going to do that. But I hope we can find a way.

4/27/2012 10:27 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

TurnipGhost, you were just being silly. Mark raised serious questions. Your comment didn't help. Please come back when you have something significant to contribute.

4/27/2012 10:29 PM  
Blogger Kirkepiscatoid said...

Let me point out that word "nothing" is a little tongue in cheek...or more like the monastic "nothing," which, as you well know, is not really "nothing" but "something." It's a form of listening.

FWIW, my comment about the culture of "everyone gets a medal" is my take alone...not meant to be construed as related to the PB's comments at all. It's my take on what I believe the conservatives try to label us with when we go about the listening process. But that business of agreeing to disagree while maintaining both dialogue and corporate worship is very very Anglican.

That said, I think the discomfort is important, and I think that sense of it all initially feeling like we're doing absolutely nothing in this "giving room" process is also important...because as my spiritual director is fond of asking me about uncomfortable topics, "What's behind that? Why does that feel inert to you, and what's behind your frustrations with what you perceive as "doing nothing?"

Have I confused you thoroughly enough yet on that?

4/28/2012 12:23 AM  
Blogger Haldave48 said...

Ms. Fox,
I’m glad that you are willing to include conservatives in the conversation at the General Convention, but I have to say that the tone of your post is patronizing. I’m a moderately conservative person, am troubled by the rancor and nastiness that I’ve seen take over the governance of the Episcopal Church. I followed the HOBD listserv for awhile – I gave it up because I found it to be profoundly disheartening and depressing, due to the nasty tone and vindictiveness of too many who claim leadership in the church and at least one who teaches in a seminary– and I’m not surprised that you got pushback. Too many on that listserv, during the period I was following it, wanted nothing more than to drive conservatives out of the Episcopal church. The nastiness they attributed to others was matched by their own. There is too much lip service given to hearing out conservative voices. Let them talk, then pat them on the head and let them go outside to play.
I appreciated the Presiding Bishop’s recent comments on the issue of civility and the descent of the church into a culture of winners and losers. It seems that the winners have been remarkably ungracious too much of the time. While they are quick to point out the foibles, faults and errors of the “other side”, they are remarkably blind to their own, and quick to take savage offense if anyone dares to point that out. Savage commentary was too much the norm of too many of the regulars on the listserv.
I hope that the GC is productive. It sounds like its going to be a train wreck. Good luck.

6/27/2012 8:46 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Haldave48, you say I’m patronizing. I would argue that I’m reflecting the reality of General Convention. The hard-core conservatives have lost the battle. I’m trying to urge a generous process of listening to and respecting the conservatives who remain. How is that “patronizing”? I think it’s “generosity.”

Just so you know, I agree that “rancor and nastiness” should not characterize our discourse. In fact, wasn’t that the point of my post?

6/27/2012 9:26 PM  
Blogger Haldave48 said...

I apologize if I misinterpreted your post. I hope you are correct both that the more conservative wing of the Church is given room, but also respect and a place at the table. Based on my (admittedly not recent) kibbitzing experience on the HOBD listserv, I'm not optimistic that that will happen. Rancor, Revenge and Retribution seemed to be the motivating forces behind too many comments from too many of the regulars. Those relative few poisoned the atmosphere there; I hope that they do not set the tone at the GC. I suspect, but don't know of course, that those sentiments are ultimately behind the recent presentments filed against the 9 bishops, including both of my current bishops, one of my former bishops, and a retired bishop whom I know.

As to the "hard core conservatives' (I don't count myself as one, although I'm probably more conservative than not and certainly moreso than many who will be at the GC); to the extent that they are there, I do hope that they will participate and not shrink back, allow themselves the room given (if any), but continue to fight the good fight.

I don't envy those at the GC; early indications are that it will be a very difficult session. Good luck.


7/02/2012 11:15 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Paul, I will say this briefly, and I hope to create a post with more detail.

On the floor of General Convention, I saw faithful Christians from our more conservative dioceses rise to the microphones, knowing they were going to be on the short end of the vote. More than once, I said in my heart or to my fellow deputies something along the lines of "What courage it must take to say this. I am grateful for them." Mind you, I didn't agree, but I was grateful for their witness and admired their courage.

Only after I got home did I see some of the lies that they had posted about General Convention. Then I got pretty angry.

But on the floor of General Convention, I thought there was a great spirit of respect and embrace.

7/24/2012 8:31 PM  

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