Monday, May 24, 2010

A bit of a rethink

If you've spent much time in these parts, you'll know that I am very fond of my FabBishop, - who ordained me both deacon (just after he became a Bishop) and priest, and who has taken trouble to ensure that he has a real and informed pastoral connection with all his clergy. He talks some really good sense, and is famous as a liturgist (which suits me very well, thank you) so though this doubtless sounds dreadfully sycophantic, I've always been extremely glad that he is my bishop.
This doesn't mean that I wasn't shaken and deeply disappointed when, 2 weeks ago, he spoke at the diocesan clergy day on the then imminent ordination of +Mary Glasspool and its implications for the Anglican Communion.
I'm a paid up member of Inclusive Church and to hear FabBishop speaking was both sad and painful. Like ++Rowan he clearly feels that the bishop's role as a focus of unity takes precedence over any personal though his heart might encourage one viewpoint, he is constrained by his episcopacy to act against it.
So in the two weeks since the clergy day, I've struggled a bit with feelings of disappointment...
When FabBishop's statement appeared online and attracted all sorts of negative responses, and not a little vitriol, I was uncomfortable, sad all over again, but on the whole I didn't leap to his defence.
I didn't blog either, because it seemed to me that either I would be criticising someone for whom I have great respect and affection, or I would be compromising my own integrity and commitment to an inclusive church.
All very sad and uncomfortable - a miserable microcosm of the pain and anger that is being expressed on a much larger stage across the Communion.

But on Saturday I was given the opportunity to see things differently.
I was at a truly excellent Fresh Expressions Vision Day, and found myself sharing a cafe table with FabBishop and working with him for much of the day.
We weren't engaged in anything to do with issues in human sexuality or with the ordination of women, of whatever orientation, to the episcopate.
We were, rather, thinking about the urgent need to translate the gospel into a language that makes sense to the huge numbers for whom traditional church will never connect.
As part of this, we were asked to think about the cost of mission...of how it might feel to respond positively to that question
"Will you go where you don't know and never be the same".
We thought about being vulnerable in strange situations, with people whose language, lives and priorities were unlike our own.
But we didn't just think in abstract. We were led to experience it for a few minutes...and I learned alot.

To begin with, we were invited to lay aside an object that we valued, to place it on the table in front of us.
Most of the time I wear a heavy silver bangle I bought in Bangalore...
I think it's beautiful in itself, and for me it carries the added beauty of memories of my wonderful weeks in India, all the learning and growing, the friendships made and prayers offered...It's one of my most precious possessions - so off it came, leaving my right wrist feeling a bit naked.

After just a few seconds to adjust to this, we were next invited to pick up something that our neighbour had placed there.
Then we were told to put it on.
So it was that for several minutes yesterday I found myself wearing FabBishop's episcopal ring.
It was heavy....both literally and figuratively, as I imagined how it might be to wear it all the time, a constant reminder of the responsibilities he bears for us as the Anglican church in this diocese, and as a leader on a wider stage.
It didn't fit me very well - I was uncomfortable with it in every respect.
No surprise there. Being a vicar is quite enough of a leadership role for me, thank you kindly!
But it taught me something too.
You see, around the stone is engraved in tiny letters that you'd not notice if they weren't pointed out to you, 
"ut unum sint" "that they may all be one".

Whenever I preside at the Eucharist I'm reminded of the day when I knelt before FabBishop while he anointed my hands, and made them forever a focus of the priestly ministry of consecration, reconciliation and blessing entrusted to me at my ordination.
I'd imagine that when FabBishop looks at his hands he remembers not only that shared experience of priesthood but the particular focus of episcopacy.
"That they may all be one"
I still wish he hadn't had to speak as he did, I still hate that it seems impossible for the church that I love to be the fully inclusive church I dream of, but perhaps I'll have a little more patience from now on, as I remember how heavy that ring felt on my finger.


Anonymous said...

you would be a good bishop Kathryn

DogBlogger said...


Mary Beth said...

Well said. I wait for the day when you are a bishop. And I will be there for the ord!

Kathryn said...

MaryBeth - that is just about the only thing that might make being a bishop even remotely attractive.
But couldn't you just come over without my having to do the mitre bit?? Pretty please........

Christine McIntosh said...

This is such a good post. I felt the same about our last bishop over the Listening Process and the resulting conversations. I have never been anything but a spear-carrier: much freer to say anything I wanted. But thank you for this thoughtful perspective.

Now: we're still looking for a new bishop of Argyll ...

Word verification: "fliest". Somehow significant?

Chris said...

Wonderful post, Kathryn - thank you.

I hear what you say about your becoming a Bp ... but on the other hand, Argyll would be lovely!! ;-)

Still Breathing said...

"That they may all be one" - how diffcult that is. It will often involve not getting your own way to keep everyone together. Look at the council at Jerusalem, do you think Paul wanted "abstain from food polluted by idols, ... from the meat of strangled animals and from blood" in the final text? I suspect not but if it kept all the factions together it had to be there. Compromise is always tricky as everyone can feel they didn't get what they wanted but it is necessary if we are "all be one."

Ordinandy said...

Just wanted to add my own agreement with others that this is a great post on a number of helpful levels. Thank you.

Freda said...

Wonderful post, Kathryn, I wanted to ask if the fabbish wore your bangle. And you know Argyll is truly lovely.

Minnie said...

Not sure if my comments are acceptable here; but found this post an inspiring and encouraging account of reconciliation, which all the same didn't gloss over the pain involved. And I know a fair bit about vulnerability, so in a position to engage with anyone else experiencing its horrors ...

Kathryn said...

Minnie, your comments are always acceptable - I really value your perspectives. This whole situation is so very sad & I suspect that some of my Inclusive Church friends may feel that this post represents a "cop out"...but the whole experience on Saturday was so real that it demanded a response.
Mind you, the verification is "parria" which only lacks an "h" to make me very nervous indeed :(

Jan said...

Thank you for writing so honestly about this. As someone commented--many levels. I appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Minnie said...

Thank you, Kathryn - most relieved! Tend to interpret lack of response as disapproval and slink off.
I was in the running for a comms post with IC; but for economic & health reasons wasn't feasible. Sadly. If any of your confrères/soeurs there are taking an oppositional stance + adhering strictly to it, then that's simply mirroring the rigidity of the fundamentalist position ...
I suspect many of them would understand your views in this instance and at least respect them. With such matters 'festina lente + conspicuous sweet reason' would be a much more effective strategy, surely? So your behaviour in this case is exemplary.

Kirstin said...

Wise words, that I will cherish especially at those times when I next find myself in the same place.