19 March 2011

on bravery

In "Me and Bobby McGee" Janis Joplin sings, "Freedom is just another word for nothing-left-to-loose." Besides being a great blues singer performing a great song, there is something in that observation to ponder as the debate over the so-called Covenant heats up.

I am free. I hold no office in my church, have no career within it - I wield no power. I can oppose this horrible document at no risk to me. Oh, I suppose the rector could try to take my opposition as "open and notorious sin" under the terms of the Prayerbook and excommunicate me but I know she won't. For one thing, most of the members of the parish have no idea this blog exists and have no or little interest in what I think of things. Invisible is another word for free too.

Now think about the clergy who have stepped out in opposition, especially in England. There is a shortage of clergy jobs over there. Recently we saw that as some of last year's seminary grads were not ordained because there were no positions for them. Friends of mine have looked for months and years for positions and in spite of impeccable credentials and solid records found nothing.

Yet, in synod (we Americans would say "in convention" ) two English diocese have declined to affirm a document that is while horribly flawed their archbishop's pet project. I do not know that Dr. Williams is a vindictive sort, save in his extreme anti-Americanism. He is however wrongly, convinced that he is right. It is easy to imagine how one can go from there to advancing only priests who agree with him.

Priesthood is a vocation but it is also a job. Priests have families, bills and career hopes. A priest cannot function without a bishop and cannot hope to advance be it from a curacy to a vicarage, to a larger parish, becoming a bishop in the face of opposition from the archbishops. Priests who vote against the archbishops have a lot to loose. And yet in the first two English synods, the bishops have not prevailed. English bravery is a well known problem for autocrats.

If freedom is another word for nothing-left-to-loose, bravery is facing the losses that can happen and acting as though one is free. Some of that bravery is in view in England this week.


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