Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Recovering a focused, non-anxious center

I learned something (again) yesterday as I watched the House of Deputies begin to find it's voice. There are two kinds of center. One works and one doesn't. Both are responses to living in dynamic tension of living between charisma and order, between tradition and innovation.

One kind of center is the center that tries to please everyone. This was characterized by the stinker of a resolution called A161 that collapsed under it's own weight of trying to do too much--sorrowfully trying to make people far away like us at the expense of our gay and lesbian sisters and brothers at home. This legislative co-dependence pleased no one and affirmed nothing.

This reflected a kind of center that is people-pleasing and that tries to paper over real differences. It is prone to unhealth, because it can affirm nothing and so can pose no sense of limits and boundaries to the neccessary excesses of the edges. I say neccessary excesses, because one edge is trying to move us forward, and the other is trying to keep us planted. The edges are so intent on moving us/keeping us for our own good that they will do and say most anything to get their way. The language of pain, warning, and all-or-nothing characterizes their language of the anxious edges.

The good news is that what began to emerge was another kind of center. A center that is not anxious, well focused and firm. This is a center that both listens to the edges and takes what is best from both to move forward. Legislatively, the language here is less is more.

I forgot this, and some of my prior posts reveal the anxiety of trying to please everyone. It took the reworked A159 and A166 to teach me this. Both passed after the House successfully fended off amendments that would have tilted them one way or the other.

The first thing we need to do to move forward with integrity is to affirm what we do and what we do well. We are in communion with the historic churches related to Canterbury; we have rich and meaningful relationships with Anglicans all over the world; we have a solid tradition and theological perspective that is a unique and essential contribution to all of Anglicanism; and finally, we are already both autnomous and interdependent and do not need the permission of other provinces (especially non-existant interagency bodies) to certify our autonomy.

The key to this center is affirm our strengths and gifts, be honest about what our failures and uncertainties, and grounded in the actual experience of our Church.

The irony was that the more the extremes were concerned with another excercise of "Anglican fudge" the more they pushed us towards it. By throwing up amendments and substitutes that were clearly unconstitutional or were overly nuanced, the more confused and opaque the language became.

Our job in the center is not to please both the edges, but to move them out of anxious win/lose, all/nothing, my way/no way stances into true and real conversation based on affirmation and hope. More important, our job is to lead the Church into action and hope. By trying to please everyone, we turn inward and inactive. By being clear, focused and affirming, we lead the church towards mission.

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