08 May 2009

impaired communion and ACC dreaming

If a community is in conflict over something, then a council process like the indaba of the Zulu people can work. In fact, similar facilitated processes are a staple in some businesses. I have served as a trained facilitator. But(!) a business is a community of a sort and everyone entering a discussion room has a powerful incentive to make the process work. The community contains the ability to accept one's resignation.

Episcopal Life Online has a report on what ACC staff with less reality than hope call the 'listening process.' I quote in part:

That mutual listening process "faces people with hard questions and doesn't presume that we at the communion office have any of the answers, which we don't," Groves said. "Those have to be discovered within the communion rather than imposed in any way from a pre-formed packaged from above."


What I think ABC Williams and his staff refuse to get is that there is no such thing as 'impaired communion.' One is either in communion or not. It is perhaps polite for Uganda and other provinces to call their current relationship 'impaired communion' but what they mean is out-of-communion. The reason for the polite term is that they don't want to say what that means for relationships with CoE in particular let alone what it means for the rest of the communion.

This process wont succeed if we think of success as resolution. The community has to proceed the conversation and there simply is no longer a community. We can launch arguments about who started what all day long. Unless and until we agree that we are a community, we are not going to get anywhere by listening.

How do we get to community? That is precisely the question the ABC and his minions wont address. To posit a community and then announce it is going to listen without checking to see in anyone is in it simply fails to advance anything.

Community arises from shared desires, needs and activities. That is what happens for instance because some of us are helping the work of the Episcopal Church of Sudan. We are not stupid: we know they disagree with us in both areas of sexuality and other things. They are not stupid: they know that too.

What we do not do is 'buy their votes.' Consider that the recent Lambeth Conference saw ABp Daniel speak out forcefully against some common North American views. Nothing happened. Mission activities did not stop in Sudan, efforts to recruit more help here did not diminish. The Sudanese did not suddenly stop talking to us.

What we are doing is community work. It may be that this will impact how the Sudan experience changes. It may be that the American experience changes. {What I hope is that both will change.}

Community is risky. Some of us may have to abandon, or at least change cherished views. At the very least known "truths" face challenges. We all have to consider what we do in the context of the relationship. Community is hard. My friend Mad Priest has his thoughts on one way to do community at: MP's Thread. Stopping by and comment on his idea is a good use of some of your time.

Those provinces that are not brave enough to face the challenge of community wont advance towards full communion because they participate in Indaba. Those communities that are brave enough to work at community do not need it imposed to advance. If there is a specific conflict that a community needs to address councilor processes can help. The decision to use the approach however must arise organicly in the community. Indaba fails when imposed on the community, or when there is no community.

I am interested in what you think of how to do community. Please leave a comment.

FWIW

12 comments:

Lisa Fox said...

Apparently like yours, my diocese is in relationship with a Sudanese diocese. They think we are flat wrong about the "sexuality issues" that have obsessed the Anglican Communion. But we remain in relationship. We remain in dialogue. We continue to send people back and forth between Lui and Missouri. The hell with the decisions of the ACC or other supposed "instruments of unity"! Our dioceses will remain friends.

Jim said...

Lisa,

We have a sister diocese relationship with the diocese of Renk. It borders Lui if I recall the map correctly. Virginia also has a relationship with Renk. A lot of community going on if not a lot of institution.

That of course will drive the staff and ABC crazy. They can't control love only institutions.

FWIW
jimB

Lisa Fox said...

Lui is about 400-500 miles south of Renk; it's west of Juba, about 30 miles east of Mundri.

Info about our companion relationship is available here.

Our next team is heading to Lui next weekend. They've been invited to lead a conference on "the pastor and contemporary society"; it appears we're being invited to talk about homosexuality and how TEC can be supportive of gay/lesbian relationships. After 5 years of the Lui/Missouri relationship, perhaps we've built enough trust that we can actually engage in this dialogue. I take that as a very positive sign.

Jim said...

It is a positive indeed. That is the sort of process I was talking about in the post. Community has to proceed conversation. That is how we humans work. Apparently the super humans at ACC think they can do it the other way around -- wont happen.

If indeed the 'listening process' is going anywhere, it will get there in places where there is trust, shared work and then someone asking a question.

FWIW
jimB

Lisa Fox said...

Amen and amen, Jim. Not intending gratuitous self-promotion, may I direct you and your readers to this piece I wrote on my blog after the most recent Missouri visit to Lui? Look also at the comments. You'll get a sense of the kind of face-to-face conversation our team had with Archbishop Daniel and Lui bishop Bullen Dolli. These things come only after years of conversation and relationship.

And you're right in your broader point: We cannot let Archbishop Williams or any of the current instruments of disunity get in the way of this kind of relationship.

Jim said...

Lisa,

When then bishop Daniel and his wife came to our parish, I did the food for a dinner with members of our vestry and area clergy. Bp. Daniel after dinner was describing the fact of our fellowship. He said, "we have shared water." In that one phrase, the differences between here and there were illuminated.

What an amazing church the Sudan folks have. It is a privilege to know them.

FWIW
jimB

Lisa Fox said...

I can relate to that, Jim. I engineeered Abp Daniel's 5-day visit here. I wonder if he knows how many gay men and lesbians hosted him, offered him hospitality, served him.

I'm with you: The Sudan church is strong, and it's an honor to be in relationship with them. The relationship is about so much more than the current sexuality debates.

Jim said...

Lisa,

I suspect he knows and does not care. That is a very focused, very astute man.

I suspect the ABp would be happy with 'don't ask don't tell.' He told my wife his view is 'don't impose your culture on me and I wont impose mine on you.'

Lisa Fox said...

Ouch! That sounds about as Christian and humane as [father of a lesbian daughter] Cheney. Not good. :(

Jim said...

No,I don't think it is quite that bad. In fact, for his culture it is very liberated!

This is a guy who started supported the move to ordain women clergy in Sudan. In not wanting to root out the evil lesbians / gays and being willing to admit that maybe on our side of the pond things are a bit different he is pushing the envelop.

Time my friend, everything, especially in Africa, takes time.

FWIW
jimB

Lisa Fox said...

I must disagree, Jim. Women were ordained deacons and priests in Sudan long before +Daniel became Archbishop. He has done nothing new or courageous, as far as I can discern.

Jim said...

Lisa,

I do not want to be an apologist for ABp Daniel, but remember he was a bishop before he became archbishop.

FWIW
jimB

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