Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Talking Across the Divide

Do you wonder sometimes whether it does any good -- trying to talk across the theological and political divides that are so much a part of our contemporary cultural landscape?

Case in point du jour ... this quote from Kendall Harmon's Titusonenine:

"I am very struck by our inability to communicate."-- Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori toward the very end of the [2/25/08] session with active clergy of the diocese of South Carolina
Telling, eh? Well, you won't have seen the half of it until you gird your loins and check out the comments (up to 72 in number as I post this) on this single sentence statement from the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

My own two thoughts in response are:

#1 -- To say "No wonder the Kingdom hasn't come!"
#2 -- To pray for the church -- AND for our Presiding Bishop: the Most Reverend Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Won't you join me?

Holy God, we pray for your holy catholic church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Savior. Amen.

UPDATE: Kendall closed the comments at 90 with this comment of his own:

Kendall Harmon wrote:
I am ending this thread. I would like to say in conclusion that charity is to be extended as part of living out the call of Christ. To all. Jesus even called us to love our enemies. It is very difficult, yes, but it is our call. It is an important part of our witness to give attention to how we say things as well as what we say.

And let the people say: AMEN!


Jim Costich said...

I don't think that what we are experiencing is a theological divide. If it were just that theologians would actually be sought out, listened to, debated and followed. You don't see theologians in the movie, "Jesus Camp", you see them in "For the Bible Tells Me So." There are no Theologians, Biblical Historians or Textual Critics demanding that women and GBLT people must be kept out of the clergy and GLBT people ultimately driven from the church. Biblical literalism and inerrancy are not orthodox theologies, they are 20th century heresies.

Before being disbled I was a scientist, and like PB Jefferts-Schori I know how to start with a question and seek an answer. Sexists, Racists, Homophobes and Genderphobes start with an answer and look for excuses.

There is nothing to talk about with these people. Either you build your reality upon the same hateful biases they do or you don't. The comments on Titusone are no surprise at all. They've made very clear what they're about. They don't understand why anyone is still expecting them to negotiate.

How big is this divide really? How far is yin from yang, oil from water, hate from love, good from evil?

Many years ago in my city the Downtown United Presbyterian Church tried to call Rev. Janie Spahr, an out partnered lesbian as their rector. They fought their national church hard for it and the organization, "That All May Freely Serve" was born out of it. Janie retired last year never freely serving. At the time she was being vilified by people who spat that God hates dykes she sadly said, "I don't think we're talking about the same God."

In my opinion, that's how big this divide really is.

Jim C.
Rochester, NY
2 Saints

Lindy said...

Oy... I don't know why I clicked over there. from now on I am just going to take your word for it. After all, you communicate clearly enough.

Brant Wiley said...

Sounds like +South Carolina's "Ten Suggestions for Resisting (or “differentiating") Parishes, Pastors, and Laypeople in TEC" have taken root. Just one discouraging example:

"2. Do not live into the tension. There is no "tension" between the clear biblical standards. . and those promoted by the Episcopal
Church. There is only contradiction between the Word of God and the word of General Convention. Do not participate in "conversation" or "dialog" that publicly implies or may be used to suggest that. .is a possibility within scope of orthodoxy or is in any way an "open question."(The rest is at SFIF)

So, it looks to me not so much a matter of 'inability' as intentional 'unwillingness' to communicate that is so striking. I don't know what to do with that other than to pray exactly as Susan suggests.

Pfalz prophet said...

There were 80 comments when I checked, but I only got to 60 before my spirit rebelled and called me to return here.

There were a lot of short, one or two sentence innuendos, presumably the "regulars" whose point of view was assumed. But what I found remarkable was the number of posts that challenged ++KJS' authority as bishop. They haven't left the 70's, still believing that clergy be male. How curious. My good friend Robert Orpen+ points out that if you obey the Scripture at that level of literalism, then all our clergy must not only be male, they must also be Jewish, and of one tribe. Have we been proof-texting, folks, to take umbrage merely at penis-free clergy?

Muthah+ said...

I don't go to places like T19 or SF. I have put up with their intrangency for years. There is a certain place where we are instructed to shake the dust from our feet--so says the Gospel.

Where I do want to spend my time is with the folks in the Dio of SJ or FTW or places where they have not heard the Gospel in so long that they don't know that there is loving kindness in TEC.

rwk said...

This, meaning a collapse of dialogue and a stereotyping of the "other", is what happens on both sides in a conflict and it does not surprise that either side cannot see it in themselves -- that is the nature of conflict. In conflict situations we see the worst in our opponents' comments and only the best in our own. Add to that studies have demonstrated that ideologically like groups of people will shift over time further in the direction of the ideology and you create a situation where the comments seen on this page are bound to arise. If you think you are free from this type of thinking cruise your own posts for words like "them", "these people" and "they". Those are classic metrically valid flags used in conflict analysis to gauge the level of the conflict. That does not include the more important negative words used.

Honestly, three years ago I contacted my Master's thesis advisor at George Mason University's Institute Conflict Analysis and Resolution and advised him to have grad students look at the internet-based nature of the TEC conflict. The way it's going it may even get someone their PhD.

To most of the commenters here I have to say that I am a "self-described" reasserter and I have much the same reaction you have at SF or T19 when I visit the "friendly confines" of Thinking Anglicans or Fr. Jake's and sometimes here. Casually tossed about words like "hate-filled" and "racist" are just as thoughtless as "heretic" and "pedophile". It is difficult to sift through the chaff of one-liners to get to the substantive posts of value. I also do not derive any psychic pleasure in the less than Christian comments I see on any of the sites.

Might I suggest that the next time you "clip" phrases from the "other" you find those that humanize "them", ones that cause you to think. The thoughtless phrases on both sides are like so many grains of sand on the seashore, unfortunately.

In this whole conflict, there has been one effort that was truly wise from a conflict management perspective. It was Bishop Lee's commission. Representatives of both sides met for over a year in mediated discussions to try to close the gap. From what I have read, the sides came to a full understanding of one another and decided that an amicable separation was best. Unfortunately, that became the road not taken.

rwk said...

Susan, if you will be gracious enough to let me add the following to my previous post: I was looking at the "offending thread" on T19 and right away saw this posted in the wake of the first derisive comment on the Presiding Bishop.

"The titles of a Christian or other leader, whether or not you agree with them or their status is for the church concerned to determine, whether they be Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Episcopalian or anything else. It is not dependant on the ecclesiology of anyone else and whether one would personally accept their ministry surely is irrelevant. I will respect others by using their correct title: Moderator, Cardinal, Metropolitan or even Grand Ayatollah. This diminishes the person addressing them not one jot." This was posted by T19 regular and by my memory "reasserter". I would characterize this as a humanizing post. The question is, how many of you who read the whole thread remember this post or posted a "thank you" to this person?

That is one way to rebuild dialogue.


rwk ... thanks for taking time to comment.

Let me return the favor.

My point in the post in question was to ILLUSTRATE the breakdown of dialogue -- and this particular thread over at T19 certainly shows that there are some who will never hear anything "the other side" has to say without going into a feeding frenzy.

I don't know how long you've been reading this blog, but as one committed to conflict resolution and reconciliation, you might be interested in:

Story Time


Reflections on Reconciliation

While I applaud the work of Bishop Lee's commission, it is not an accurate thing to say that his has been the "only" such initiative. And perhaps, knowing that, you can appreciate that there are many, many, MANY faithful folk out there who have just run out of patience, tolerance and willigness to be in "negotiation" with those whose only criterion for reconciliation is capitulation to their Absolute Truth.

And now I'm off to work for the day.

David said...

Would that Canon Harmon step in more often with the same advice to his crowd of usual suspects on T1:9...

uffda51 said...

I did notice and appreciate Canon Harmon’s post but I must admit I did not take the time to thank him. It does seem that some posters have more time on their hands, and appear to be consistently angrier, than others. I appreciate that both sides in this debate need to be respectful and civil towards each other.

Trying to be as impartial as I can be, it does appear that some conservatives do try to demean their opponents by the way they address them. We have seen this happen both with our presiding bishop and the Bishop of New Hampshire. Currently, Fox News seems to have an irrational obsession with the fact that Barack Obama’s middle name is Hussein, while ignoring the fact that John McCain shares the same first name as John Wilkes Booth and John Hinckley. Why not talk about the merits of Obama’s positions on the issues?

We are also told that “values” voters, based on a commitment to a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, elected George Bush as our president. They then voted to re-elect him after he led us into a war based on 935 lies. Seeing bigotry as a “value” but ignoring blatant dishonesty from the most powerful man on the planet seems irrational. Wearing a lapel flag pin does nothing to change this. http://www.publicintegrity.

Similarly, many of the positions taken by conservatives in the current “schism” conflict seem irrational. Everyone is free to leave their congregation or diocese but I fail to grasp where diocesan property enters into the discussion. The boycotting Lambeth by some, because Gene Robinson was elected a bishop in 2003, and at the same time failing to invite Gene Robinson, for the same reason, strikes me as irrational. Differences cannot be resolved by not talking about them.

Claiming that “tradition,” Scripture,” “orthodoxy,” and “doctrine” are unchanging, when in fact the church has, over the centuries, changed its position on multiple issues by 180 degrees, seems irrational. Ignoring the cultural, historical and linguistic context that 200+ years of biblical scholarship have revealed to us seems irrational. Referring to homosexuality as a “lifestyle,” despite what 100+ years of research into human sexual orientation have taught us, seems irrational. Using the Bible to continue to justify bigotry (and there really is no other word for it) seems irrational.

All of us in TEC who now advocate full inclusion for LGBT persons were also taught Leviticus when we were young. We were all taught “the faith that was handed down to us once for all time.” All of us came to see things differently. How and why did this happen? This seems like something worth talking about.

If, on the other hand, rationality and reason are dismissed as tools of the devil, or LGBT supporters are seen as simply being “trendy” in a “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” world, then the communication stops.

boat10boy said...

Dear Susan,

please also remember in your prayers those of us in the diocese of SC who support our PB and the work of the Episcopal Church. There are MANY of us in this diocese who work day in and day out to make sure that God's house is a 'HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL PEOPLE'
We also suffer with not being "heard" by many within this diocese who work very hard to silence us. Please pray that God continues to provide us strength in our struggle and that we will have a 'VOICE' in our diocese.
God's peace,

RonF said...

uffda51 said:

Why not talk about the merits of Obama’s positions on the issues?

Why not talk about the merits of Sen. McCain's positions? Why not talk about the merits of Sen. Clinton's positions?

Unfortunately, the news media in the U.S. cover political races like they were a cross between a "reality" TV show and a horse race. The story is who may or may not have tried to pull a dirty trick, who may or may not have slept with someone else, or, and here's the big one, who's got "momentum". Obama has "momentum", Clinton is desperate, and you have to read down to the 10th paragraph to see that there's actually less than 10% difference in delegates between them with far more than that yet to be elected. And McCain may as well as go hit the strip clubs for the next month for all the press coverage he's getting.

Obama keeps getting touted as holding hope and pressing for change. Nobody seems to be interested in getting specifics from him on what those changes will be and what he and other people think will be the result of them. And the statements of the other candidates are treated much the same way. A web site publishes a picture of Obama in native Sudanese clothing. That becomes a national story. Why? Who cares? Who would have known other than the readers of that blog if it hadn't been publicized?

Nobody's talking about the issues because the media doesn't discuss them. Why doesn't the media discuss them? Is it a bias towards a given candidate? Is it because covering style rather than substance gets better ratings? I wish I had the answer.

[ /rant ]

RonF said...

lilbearsings said:

You don't see theologians in the movie, "Jesus Camp", you see them in "For the Bible Tells Me So." There are no Theologians, Biblical Historians or Textual Critics demanding that women and GBLT people must be kept out of the clergy and GLBT people ultimately driven from the church.

Are you seriously proposing that these movies should be taken as indicative of the theological underpinnings of the respective positions? Do you seriously propose that there are no theologians who oppose women and homosexuals as clergy?

Oh, and could you tell me what Christian denominations are trying to drive homosexuals from their church? Or do you equate pastoral care with an eye towards helping people deal with their temptations as "driving them out"?