"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Paul to the persecuted at Philippi (2:5-11)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Better Left Unsaid

This evening, I picked up the TEC-Pittsburgh Bishop Price’s report to diocesan Convention.  Yes, many months have passed, but I still feel the need to see how TEC’s convention went: which of my friends were elected to offices, how things are shaping up (for better or worse) for the year ahead, etc.  It only takes a Facebook comment or two from a friend on the “other side” for me to be aware that Convention is a-coming, so off I go to hit the website. 

And tonight, I found Price’s address… his early remarks, which I will attend in a moment, were followed quickly with ideas about moving forward, ending suspicions and hostilities among factions in TEC.  I’m very sorry to hear that my friends in TEC-PGH are not experiencing the unity and peace we have had in ACNA-PGH.  Of course, knowing the range of folks who stayed in TEC, one can expect anything but boredom; nonetheless, I am sure many are battle weary.

But why, oh why, if he wanted to foster an atmosphere of reconciliation, did Bishop Price open up with remarks including the following:

“Certainly the lawsuit initiated by Calvary Parish and its rector, the Rev. Harold Lewis, is a huge reason. We need to be eternally grateful to that wonderful parish and its rector.”  I suppose, in the TEC world of lawsuits, that one can become hardened to the point of ignorance of the Scripture’s command against Christians suing other Christians in the courts.  I suppose, considering our lawsuit loving American culture that it is easy to forget that churches suing churches make for public relations nightmares.  But at the very least, does Bishop Price not understand that some of the very people sitting before him were people originally named as defendants in that lawsuit?  Does he not understand that individual priests and laity, people just trying to love Jesus, some of whom stayed in TEC and were in the room with him had liens against their very homes and were personally sued because of an act of conscience taken in good faith?   Does he not understand that some of the hurt and suspicions he has noticed among the factions of the TEC diocese are in fact rooted in part in that lawsuit?  Wonderful?  Grateful?  He’s either woefully ignorant or out of his mind. 

But the bishop goes on:

“We are not without our challenges, however. Although all the dioceses have their former bishop still living in the diocese, Bishop Duncan has been elected Archbishop of the Anglican Province of North America, which gives him greater visibility and clout on the global scene. I continue to interact with him regularly in ecumenical circles, and our shared use of this Trinity Cathedral also throws us together from time to time. This interaction has been cordial thus far, but there is a surrealistic dimension to it.” 

Yes, I imagine this is pretty surreal for you.  The House of Bishops to which you belong waved its magic wand, but the victim refuses to go poofing away.   But why on earth did you need to include those words “thus far” in describing your interactions with Archbishop Duncan.   Why not simply be gracious without qualifying the word “cordial”.  The only time I’ve heard Archbishop Duncan speak on the subject, he had nothing but kind words for you. 

Bishop Price, if you are working to end an atmosphere of suspicion, you are shooting yourself in the foot.  I suggest you consider leading by example.  Try to see the best in your nearest ecclesiastical neighbors and stop qualifying your compliments.  If you want to end suspicions among your own flock, stop describing their former colleagues and life-long friends with qualifiers.  If things have been cordial, simply say so.  We, in return, will strive to offer you the same dignity and good will.

Finally to my friends in TEC, please know that the one matter on which your bishop was most grievously wrong was this one:

“What this has revealed is that while there is lingering anger, hurt, and tension generated by the losses this diocese suffered in 2008, not the least of which are losses of friendships and long-standing relationships…”  He’s right that there’s been a lot of loss.   But anger comes from passion, hurt comes from caring.  We, many years ago, agreed to give one another the power to hurt us by being vulnerable, by caring for one another.  In unspoken agreement, we submitted our hearts to one another in friendship.  And as far as I am concerned, those friendships and long-standing relationships are far from lost.  In fact many are strengthened, as only disagreement can reassure friends that their relationship goes beyond the surface.  And like a bone grows back stronger in the place where it was broken, only friends who have given and received forgiveness and shared the agony of a sincere reconciliation can truly share the strongest bond.    I may not see many of you as often as I used to, but friendship is one thing that must not be lost to lawsuits, divisions, and the opinions of bishops.

(For the curious: the rest of Bishop Price’s remarks are here: http://www.episcopalpgh.org/2010-price-convention/)

3 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts - they echo mine exactly only you are far more articulate and graceful than I am. Bp Price's remarks, couled with Jim Shoucair defeat by Leslie Reimer for SC do not bode well for us.

    The winner-take-all crowd as opposed to those who wish for a peacefully negociated settlement seem to be in the ascendancy.

    Sadly those beleivers who allowed institutional loyalty trump gospel truth will be consumed in the outcome. Light and Darkness cannot co-exist.

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  2. Thank you Tara. Just to say that over the past year for us in the TEC diocese Bishop Price has shown himself to be a good and decent man, a caring pastor, and most importantly someone who loves Jesus Christ and the ministry of Christ's Church. I also took in an uncomfortable breath at the points of his convention address that you highlight here. There is as you know, and as David suggests, such a wide spectrum in our diocese, and I suspect it's easy for many folks to get kind of swept up in whatever current seems to be running by at the moment. I think it's probably the case that the legal actions arising from the 2005 Stipulation settling the Calvary litigation have been inevitable, and it makes sense that both dioceses feel compelled to follow the logic of their actions out in this venue. But the whole business from start to finish is nothing more or less than sinful, and we should be attending to our necessary actions with tears, not celebrations. Bless you, your family, your life, your good ministry. And much love always.

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  3. Bruce, you nailed it. It is very easy to get swept up in whatever current is predominate. That's part of the human condition. And in this environment, in which the predominating currents on each side have had both victories and losses, it is easy to feed either native optimism or pessimism and still go with the flow. I can't say I was at all pleased to see the TEC diocese setting aside a record amount of money for lawsuits in the coming year and as I noted, I found Bp. Price's words a bit disturbing. But at the same time, the very reason I check the TEC website from time to time, is that it still gives me joy to see good folks elected to positions of leadership, to see the names of my friends honored.

    I've been writing more about TEC, probably because it's convention season, than usual. Honestly, I don't like writing about TEC often because I don't like the place where that tends to lead my thoughts. Having friends, real and loved people, on "the other side" does check against vilifying those with whom we struggle.

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