Wednesday, September 3, 2008

More realism, more holiness

The once-a-decade world-wide Lambeth conference of Anglican bishops has been over a few weeks, and the bishops are filtering back into their dioceses after vacations/holidays. And a few are offering their perspectives with the benefit of rest. Our own Bill Bergen at St. Paul's will be giving a talk on Lambeth after worship services Sept. 14 and 21. Today let me offer the reflections of Alan Wilson, the Bishop of Buckingham in the U.K., whose blog continues to offer both serious reflection and amusing diversion (and the photos are his, all four of them repeated!). Here is what Bishop Alan had to say about Lambeth earlier this week, and it is about more than just distant bishops but what all of us could learn about being the church:

The Learning from Lambeth

OK — now I'm back at work, what is clearer to me as a result of Lambeth?

  1. The sheer scale of our communion in global terms. It was immensely moving to meet colleagues from around the world — Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Darfur — and learn directly about the human and gospel dimensions of their lives. Most moving was the experience of being in a huge congregation saying the Lords prayer together in over a hundred languages. Quoting a Tanzanian brother, God’s Word speaks to each of us in our own language as the people we are, where we are. I was often reminded of Max Warren’s saying “It takes a whole world to know Christ.”
    So? Get to know and prioritize time for the world Church
  2. The experience of African led Bible studies in community was fantastic. Some of the more academic English felt it wasn’t quite their cup of tea. It was mine. I am ashamed at the comaratively modest amount of time I have spent down the years in teams and groups studying the scriptures personally together. Business always seemed more important. If only I had seen that corporate study of the scriptures was our business, I might have prioritised things rather differently!
    So? Direct, personal, corporate Bible study could be given a greater place in the engine room of our decision making processes.
  3. Indaba is a considerable discipline that takes a while to master, but it’s worth it.We are so inculturated into parliamentary methods and tactics, with winners and losers, as the way to make decisions. Indaba is slower, and requires a higher order of listening skills. Imagine, say, the last General Synod, without all the locker room intrigue, hysterics and theatricals. I am still haunted by a Japanese colleague, who had needed continuous translation, thanking the group in broken English for “the beauty of being listened to.” It brings no glory to God that the same would be very improbable feedback from many of our church meetings.
    So? Be more aware about the negative effects of parliamentary processes on people, and work for more patient, open, mutual, emotionally inteligent ways of deciding things together.
  4. Rowan’s big Lambeth strategy seemed to be about committing to personal and corporate holiness, and alowing our plans to grow out of that. I have no grand overarching command and control strategy for Bucks. Here’s my strategy: Grace through Faith — strive to become the kind of people God needs us to be, and he will show us, on the ground, what needs doing and, more importantly, how to do it. As we step out, with authenticity, in faith we grow; as we shrink back, our visions get bogged down in fear and trivial pursuits. Therefore, as well as looking outward, centering our team processes in Scripture and being rigorously self-critical of our methods, we will be richly rewarded by God as we prioritise faith over fear, realism over fantasy, personal and spiritual excellence over mediocrity.
    So? We need more Faith, more realism, more holiness!

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