Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Smashing the Silos and Tearing down the Walls

It seems to me that the four quadrants we see in the political test that Mark Harris alludes to here at the Cafe and elsewhere is closer to the truth then Graham Kings' quadrants, or what I might describe as Graham's Silos.

In the four political quadrants you have degrees of residence, it's not a done deal. Above the horizontal axis you have what I might call those who primarily desire Order (Authoritarian) and below the axis you have those who I might say primarily desire Freedom (Libertarians).

What Graham Kings' graph doesn't account for is the fact that orthodox Episcopalians and those who have separated from TEC remain in Communion with one another - not just ecclesiastically but also relationally - we have moved out of our silos.

For example, I received communion at the Diocese of Virginia's Diocesan Council earlier this year - though in court with the Diocese of Virginia, I take communion in the Diocese of Virginia. I've taken Communion several times in Episcopal Churches this year, including other churches in the Diocese of Virginia and the Diocese of Washington. But this is understandable, not from Graham's Silos but because politically I'm below the horizontal axis. I am more politically libertarian than authoritarian. What matters to me are the relationships, not who owns the chalice.

The events of recent days in London of the marriage between two ordained men in the COE Church was done by those who are also probably below the horizontal axis, though over on the far left toward the anarchy side. Their actions are more akin to exerting their freedom than in upholding Order, as the terse statement that came from Canterbury and York illustrates. In fact, it appears to be their intention to set off an explosion (oh I know, they say "who little ole me?" but that's just part of the crazymaking) not only at those who have opposing theological views (i.e. Gafcon and Reformed) - but those who in fact hold the same theological views as they do but retreat into Order - like Rowan Williams.

Rowan Williams is on the left politically, but is an institutionalist so is above the horizontal axis. In fact, he's diagonally across from me (I just don't know how far in). He will frustrate all of us - conservative or progressive who are below the horizontal axis, whether we are aligned with Integrity on the Left or GAFCON on the Right. We all don't know how far up the grid he is or if he might at any moment cross the line. The activists in London set off a bomb to see where he might land. His statement with York indicates he's not that far in, but he's in. Rowan will preserve order over freedom.

It is then no wonder that those who are theologically conservative but above the horizontal axis - like Graham Kings or John Howe - would do all they can to support Rowan Williams because they are both devoted to Order. They live above the horizontal axis on the right. That makes them natural allies with others above the axis, even if they are on the left.

I find this way of thinking - as much as I often grieve over the politicization of the church - as frankly a more accurate - and creative - way of understanding not only our differences, but also how we can sometimes surprisingly find ourselves allies or at least friends when we least expect it. We can be diligent when one quadrant is pitted against another and recognize it for the political strategic decision is is. In my case, the enemy of my enemy may also be my enemy. And that can be plenty surprising.

It was a discovery to see that Mark Harris is also below the horizontal axis and closer to what I might term the "Freedom" side then the "Order" side (you can take the test here). How close we find ourselves to the vertical line might denote that we have some common ground - as I know we do since we both support Five Talents, for example.

The preaching of hierarchical structures by 815 has been a big surprise to me since I assumed that that all the progressives were below the horizontal line - that they were more aligned to freedom than order - sometimes to anarchy. But this has not been the case in TEC - where at least in the legal and canonical theatre, those aligned with 815 are in the upper left quadrant, politically liberal but authoritarian. They are preaching structures over relationships, they are not political libertarians. This is quite illuminating.

It helps explain why they can find John Howe a useful ally since he is also above the horizontal line, but on the right. He too craves Order over Freedom. That can come in handy if imposing Order is your primary concern. But it can cause tremendous rebellion as well, as Great Britain found out in 1776.

It is clear then that if you are above the horizontal line, you will want to gain security by pitting the two sides below the line at each other. That would mean you have a battle in the streets between what I guess we could call the Integrity lobby (and all their many facades and umbrella organizations) and GAFCON. If these two wings fight with one another into oblivion (blessings vs border crossings) then those above the line step back and watch the rest implode and pick up the spoils.

In that way, 815 could be encouraging the political antics of the left - hoping it will inflame those on the right into public blood baths of the messy kind and in doing so, rise above the fray and impose order as a solution to the chaos - the Episcopal Communion. But that may not be what those who desire freedom will want in the long run. At some point, all the orthodox will be gone and then what? How much will those who desire Order first tolerate those who desire Freedom first? Getting the marriage certificate and the consecration may not be everything one bartered for in the end.

For those of us who continually pray for a peaceful resolution - or even a peaceful cease fire - it's clear that if Order is your primary focus, then this is not going to happen. It can't - because Order is the dominant value. Seeking peace means tolerating a certain amount of creative chaos. It will not be neat - it will be messy. It seems that those in the upper quadrant of the left cannot so easily handle creative chaos - and neither can those on the right. Ultimately they want Order.

But for those of us who value freedom (NOTE: I'm using shorthands here - as in the test there are level of degrees as the illustration shows) we can think creatively of how we might be able to call a cease fire as we try to find resolution. For us, it is not ordered structures but relationships built on trust that would hold us together through such a process. It's Jefferson and Adams banding together - and those two were so different, they spent most of their time fighting, but in the end they found peace and America is built on both their ideals. Thank God they didn't kill each other.

The structures of TEC are imploding and imposing more stringent attempts to maintain the semblance of order (new canons to discipline the laity, more lawsuits, more defrockings and inhibitions) does not solve the problem! The grip tightens which lessens freedom - freedom to be creative and to love and to have the audacity to risk failure. There can be no growth, spiritually or as a church, if we are not free to risk failure.

I maintain that for all the ConCom's protests - many of them are now finding themselves slipping under the horizontal axis. And what Rowan is realizing if our sources are correct is that those who are below the horizontal line on the left are not loyal to the institution. They are using the institution for their own political agenda and that's not lost on him, believe me. The events of this past month went too far. Or as Janis Joplin sang, freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose. I am not that far from the horizontal line to discard the importance of order and of institutions. I am not an anarchist. But the actions in London proved to be a form of ecclesiastical anarchy.

Again, where Graham Kings analogy breaks down is that it does not grasp that there are many in the Common Cause Partnership and Gafcon allies that desire order, but it's order based on a common vision of scripture and the trinity and the place of common worship. not on propping up old broken structures. The Church does not save us. That's a job for Jesus.

It is for freedom Christ came to set us free. He didn't bring us authoritarian order (though he could have - Judas and the other disciples expected it and He let them down), he brought us true freedom in Christ. I would maintain that the freedom we enjoy informs our reading of scripture - to read scripture is not to read it as an oppressive rule book of a Cranky God out to play Blue Meany to His people, but as the autobiography of God our Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and of His people. The scriptures are alive as He is alive and they breathe into us freedom, a freedom born in Jesus - it is a freedom to do good. It's one of the great paradoxes. "He that loses his life for My sake, finds it." That's not holding tightly, as we would when we crave order, but by letting go - which seems to be the last thing we think of to do these days. Let go.

Our nation was founded on a document that spelled out our freedom in the most vivid terms. It has since then gotten into our DNA. The Declaration of Independence was not about imposing authoritarian structures on the American colonies but about being set free from them - including the Church of England. We in Virginia used to remember that.

This is why many of us call what's happening to us in the Anglican Communion the "realignment." We have to think differently about ourselves, about our structures, about our relationships to one another, about smashing the silos and tearing down the walls. The Episcopal Church wishes to live in a Silo of their own making, while many of us - surprising allies perhaps - wish to tear those Silos down and be set free - not to be autonomous anarchists, but to be born again.


Rosemary said...

The freedom Jesus died to give us, is the freedom to choose to obey, and it's freedom FOR, not freedom from. Please read Jim Packer here .. http://www.the-highway.com/Authority_Packer.html


Sibyl said...

Christ overcame, defeated the power of sin to give us the freedom to choose between good and evil. In His power, we are free. Until we choose to follow Him, we are not free, but captives of sin...live in the fetters and dust of our own sinful choices and responses conditioned by our societal, ancestral spiritual heritage.

Anonymous said...

My dear Baby Blue,
I am AUTHORITARIAN and a bit right of Attila the Hun. For me, however, God owns the Chalice so yes, I too could take communion in the Diocese of Virginia (as long as the priest was a male and believed in real presence :)).

Phil said...

BB - this is one of your best. Great analysis - great writing.

Craig Goodrich said...

My problem is not with Graham's quadrants but with his structural proposal, which seems to completely miss the point -- as you imply.

The Communion's problems are not due to inadequate structural complexity; we have bureaucrats everywhere for everything. The problem is the nature and locus of Communion-wide authority (if any). Even such weak and wooly structures of authority as we have -- the Primates' Meeting, the office of the ABC, etc. -- are incapable of exercising (or unwilling to exercise) any interprovincial discipline, and multiplying levels of hierarchy is an exercise in fatuity as long as that remains the case. It is not, after all, that firm Communion action is required to bring, say, the Asian provinces back to Jesus...