Listen very very carefully …

Rowan Williams has written his long-awaited “Advent Letter” where he outlines the process he believes the Anglican Communion should follow. It has sparked a lot of discussion here and here and here and here. But this morning, as we were doing some Christmas decorating, we suddenly remembered the “talk” Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Bishop, gave to her staff when she returned from the historical Dar es Salaam Primates Meeting earlier this year.

If we listen to what she says to her staff very carefully, and then read the Archbishop of Canterbury’s letter again, it casts an important light on what we – especially as laity in the Church – should consider regarding the process Rowan Williams lays out in his letter. She takes the long-view and talks about the mission of The Episcopal Church. Please listen very very carefully, and very prayerfully. Note that Rowan’s process would indeed help the Episcopal Church carry out the mission that Bishop Schori outlines in her talk.

Here it is. Please, take the time to listen to what she has to say.

Now read Rowan Williams’ letter again.

Note how he attempts to isolate and dismiss factions in favor of a long-view, a process (not a decision, not real leadership, but a process). He seeks to shore up (sorry for the pun, but there you are) the institution and his position by isolating what he deems as mere factions. He throws us enough carrots to help us do the work for him – he sounds like he’s speaking our language, but is he really? We do get carrots, but until we get to the closing paragraphs, we realize – in light of listening to Schori again, that we are fooled. By turning the factions inward or onward toward each other, they can – in fact – take themselves out and he does not have to lift a hand. Brilliant!

And he says he doesn’t like the politics of his job. Well, someone nearby him sure does. It’s a form of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) – let the factions, i.e., the orthodox and the other orthodox and the orthodox and the progressives blow each other up instead. In the meantime, he’ll just keep calling for meetings of self-appointed insiders who will dutifully obey the dysfunctional process – the “Windsor Process,” the “Listening Process,” and now the “Lambeth Process.” But all of those processes are – as we learn in Schori’s talk to her staff, are just strategic methods to wear everyone down, take out the leaders – either by denying them a place at the table or by retirement or by exhaustion, or by suing them until there is no more resistance and the Anglican Communion is reinvented into the likeness of TEC.

In order for this to work, they must keep these folks silent and complacent and pointing fingers and on to other things. Take out the leaders, wait out for retirements, drag the rest into court, and then just keep up appearance and these folks will not realize that they are in fact, the keepers of this and the key to the entire enterprise. Oops.

LATER: Interesting post over at Michael Hopkins’ blog (Michael is the former president of Integrity and had a same sex blessing performed for him in the Diocese of Washington with the bishop’s blessing before moving to Rochester to become the rector of a church there – Michael has participated in “listening processes” with members of the American Anglican Council in the past).

Michael writes, in part, about the Advent Letter:

Earth to Archbishop, the credibility of the “instruments of communion” are already shot, literally, to hell. To be fair to him, this did not begin on his watch, but on his predecessors at the previous Lambeth Conference. The very reason Lambeth 1.10 cannot be “ the only point of reference clearly agreed by the overwhelming majority of the Communion” is that 1.10 had and has no credibility because of the process at which it arrived.

Note Micheal’s reference that Lambeth is invalid because of the “process.” The process that was used did not turn out the expected result and so there is something wrong with the process. Take note about process – and who gets to plan the process. Very interesting that Micheal writes that he’s out of the process. Very interesting indeed.

I bring this to our attention because I think it illustrates that “process” is the focus, not the results. If the results don’t turn out the way they should, then the process is invalid. A great deal of energy is spent on the process – but there is not just once process at work here, in fact there is a myriad. That’s why people get college degrees in political science and philosophy.

When I was at General Convention in Columbus last year I literally watched how the hijacking of a process happened. The Windsor “Report” was reinvented by the Episcopal Church official leadership as well as the ACC leadership to be something called the Windsor “Process.” It was overnight. They came to Columbus with that verbiage – they never referred to the “Windsor Report” – it was always the “Windsor Process” – and it did not mean the same thing..

The word “Report” means an expectation of action and accountability (Baseball has just received a report on drug use in the Major Leaders – the expectation is that the report is going to result in action, not a process to have conservation about drug use in the Major Leagues, but action to stop it from continuing). This was certainly the case in Columbus – the Episcopal Church and the ACC leadership did not want action to be taken by the Episcopal Church – a report of that nature was deemed invalid and then reinvented to a be a “process” that would work out to the acceptable outcome.

We saw the same thing happen at Dar Es Salaam (and soon you’ll be able to see direct evidence of how this happened, stay tuned). A pre-instituted plan was introduced as fate accompli by an appointed little group controlled by the ACC Secretary. That little group (but not all the members as it turned out) produced the expected report to the Primates. That would have continued the “Process” idea over a report that required action. They were quite surprised to see that defeated – but not without effort and without cost. Schori’s view – as we’ll see soon – shows that she had certain expectations and when those were not met, she too reinvented Dar Es Salaam as a “process” as well.

The same thing happened again at New Orleans. Instead of the Primates direct involvement in responding to the actions (or no actions) taken by the Episcopal House of Bishops, a little group was appointed and members of that report (and the ACC Secretary again) wrote a little report that did not have the endorsement of all its members that again, continued this idea of process. It was all about process.

As a follow-up, yet another report was issued from a little group that again focused on the process, showing which provinces were in different processes of every kind imaginable – and some were in processes no one knew about because they wouldn’t answer the summons to respond. But the attention was away from results and direction to some nebulous “Process.” It was not about making decisions or doing anything. Don’t do anything. Just keep the process going. Why?

We learn in this recording from Katharine Jefferts Schori that the process is the point – not action, but the process itself. The process will continue until the results are what the cabal wants.

Aye, there’s the rub.

To enable the manipulation of using “process” by showing up for these little meetings is futile. To overcome the manipulations in the past (like in Dar Es Salaam) took a great amount of effort until the cabal – for lack of a better word – realized that they were out-maneuvered and waited for another day. The point is the process and that’s why the boys at the ACI don’t get it. They think that theology matters, that getting to the truth and writing a statement matters.

IT DOES NOT MATTER. It’s about process and believe me, the moment we begin to resist the process then you find, as Bishop Lee did, that a New Sheriff is in town and will shut you down with lawsuits and defrocking. You must stick with the process and as long as you participate in the process, they will let you at the table. You become a useful idiot. #2 on the HHHB. Make no mistake about it.

I encourage you to read Michael’s entire posting here, even if you disagree with his point of view, it does make for interesting reading.

What he illustrates is that the process is most important and that the process here is to alienate those who are actually the leaders and the advocates in favor of those who will prolong the process – for the process’ sake. The idea is to turn those with convictions – be they orthodox or progressive – out and preserve the status quo. There will be no movement forward, just exhaustion.

Again, what is the process for? Why, it’s for PRESERVATION.

The assets and place of power must be preserved. The National Cathedral is not Episcopalian for nothing. The assets and the power must be preserved. I saw this illustrated up close and personal in the Fairfax Courthouse. The attitude of the TEC personnel was most illuminating. Most illuminating indeed.

It’s a strange place to find oneself in agreement with the progressives who want to be at the table (for some reason, Michael is not – perhaps other members of Integrity who are in the “Consultation” are – but perhaps they are not either, and for this reason I am finding that we have indeed turned a significant corner.

The answer is that if you are upidity in any way you are out, because the most important thing is to hold on to the property. Evangelicals and Progressives must recognize that the force at work here is not progressive theology, it’s a process to keep the current leadership in power. The problem is not going to be solved – it’s going to be waited out. Michael should just be patient and wait – time is on his side. But perhaps there is no time to wait. Perhaps its not about inclusion after all – that’s the mantra, but something new has come along and has changed the pieces on the board.

TEC must now know – someone must have told them (and perhaps Rowan as well) that they stand to lose everything and altruistic ideals will just have to go on hold (again, remember HHHB #4). Michel is assuming an altruistic view (either with a wink or because he truly is altruistic, it’s hard to tell – I mean he was president of Integrity so it’s hard to imagine Michael as naive) that it’s really about full inclusion. It’s not, no, it’s not.

Someone must have told 815 that they are definitely at risk at losing everything. And believe me, they are.

So the MAD strategy is put in place – write a letter that has something for everyone to get mad about and point fingers at and they will just go blow up themselves. Then the franchise is secure, and their lordships go marching on. In other words, the leadership has sold out, just as we should have realized when Katharine Jefferts Schori marched in an unprecedented and nearly desperate move on to the floor of the House of Deputies to shut down dissent. Even in that moment, the orthodox and the progressives found themselves as allies, if only for a moment until Schori showed up and called the question.

I am not a separatist – I have personally held the view that we should divide for our own health, but remain in as close as communion as possible, with malice toward none and charity toward all. But if there are those in power who seek to preserve that power and to preserve the assets over everything else – that a separation would mean a loss of power and a loss of assets, in other words – shame, such a thing can not and will not exist. Those in power now will be noted in history as failures. They lost the franchise.

You know, it’s sort of interesting to consider that perhaps our newest ally might actually be those we have opposed in the trenches of General Convention for so long. The best way to make sure that doesn’t happen is to keep us firing at each other, rather than those who actually have the power to do something.

And we always, always should remember who actually has the keys. Well, yes, perhaps. But indeed, perhaps, the better question is this, for that is what truly matters, why we struggle over this in the first place, why we pour over doctrine, and scripture and revelation. Even all of those struggles are a sign of the real issue that divides us. Who is the Real Key?

He’s not a process. He’s a person.

SUNDAY AM: Just posted this over at Michael Hopkins’ site (these are interesting times, indeed). Thought I’d post it here as well. Thoughts?

I think that there is an interesting moment here where the American orthodox and the American progressives find themselves in the same fox hole (which reminds me of that moment before Bishop Schori came on to the floor of the House of Deputies when the orthodox and the progressives found themselves on the same side – though for very different reasons).

We think in terms of theology or in justice – we are making our arguments from the same starting place. We are reformers, though with very different goals, obviously. We are still all reformers and think that what we believe with inform our decision-making. Do you see what I mean? So if you are motivated toward reforming an institution toward “full inclusion” or if you are motivated toward reforming an institution toward “biblical values” (I’m trying to use the language of the folks who use it) we are still going to be working toward reform.

What I see happening here – in which we are all in danger of being trapped in – is a rebuttal of institutional preservation. Just like Bishop Schori coming on to the floor of the House of Deputies to stop what was about to happen (a clear line in the sand, as it were) do we now see Rowan Williams do the same thing?

Note how he calls the Bishop of New Hampshire “Gene Robinson.” I found that frankly shocking, for even though I obviously disagree with his lifestyle choices and a church that endorses it, I don’t question the fact he is a bishop. Am I suddenly to the left of the Archbishop of Canterbury? Of course Gene is a bishop! Everyone knows that. To not invite him to the party can only be meant to pacify the orthodox (which isn’t going to happen) and inflame the progressives. Who wins? The institutional preservationists. That’s not peace-making, that’s peace-keeping and it’s dysfunctional. It makes matters worse.

What I don’t get is how 815 fits into this. Obviously the view there is for full inclusion. So why isn’t the Presiding Bishop willing to leave the Bishop of New Hampshire at home and go to Lambeth?

In Bishop Schori’s testimony in the Fairfax Court she was questioned about what a division would mean. I’m going from my memory so please take that in account – I’m trying to be honest here. But I can recall her making the case that if there is a division it will call into question whether the Holy Spirit really is doing a new thing regarding what I would call the innovations in the church and what you probably would call “full inclusion.” If recall correctly, she was making the case that a division, a schism in the church would mean that the spirit is not doing a new thing after all.

If this is true, then of course you would do everything in your power to not have a schism, marginalize those who are “causing the problem” (i.e., Bishop Robinson or Bishop Anderson, for example) and preserve the institution at all costs. This would then build a “coalition” between Canterbury and 815 – both will not want a schism, though perhaps for very different reasons.

In which case, it would behoove the progressives to align with 815 and oppose the division over property. If there truly is a schism, it has theological consequences.

But what about our conscience? Is it worth throwing those who have put their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor under the train to preserve the institution? It might, if it means verifying that the spirit is doing a new thing. And it would mean getting firmly involved in Lambeth – as Ian Douglas is doing, in shaping the agenda of that meeting.

But at what cost? I frankly think this is a soul-ripping experience.