Monday, July 14, 2008

Indaba-da, doo doo doo doo - part 2

We've seen that the entire indaba process is carefully designed to generate lots of "conversations" (addressing such deep, complicated, and novel questions such as "are there any 'issues' facing the Anglican Communion these days?") and, at the end, issue a document which reports that these conversations took place. Shuffle people around, ply them with tea and scones, let everybody talk and "listen" and be heard, and then issue the report describing the resulting "conversations" which has probably already been written (needing only a few minor touch-ups) by an trained aardvark. I mean, it's not like anyone can't guess what those conversations, and the report thereof, will say, right?

But how exactly is this smoke-and-mirrors, pea-under-a-cup shell game going to work? Once again, Canon Ken Kearon comes to the rescue and explains the process for us. Here are the stages:
1. Meet in indaba groups for conversation and "listening".
lis·ten (lĭs'ən) intr.v.
a. Conservative - attending to another point of view in an effort to understand
b. Liberal - outward passivity during a period of time in which you think about what to say next, ignoring any noise which might distract you.

2. Elect a "listener" who will represent that indaba in the Listening Group.
Are the "listeners" in the "Listening Group" all going to sit around, yoga style, staring at each other listening? Or will somebody say something? Such as, for example, "has that aardvark finished the next draft yet?"

3. The Listening Group produces a text.
This is, presumably, a version of the "we had a conversation and people said different stuff" kind of 'text' which it is the mission of Lambeth to produce.

4. Each indaba group periodically gets to discuss a draft and report back to the Listening Group via their listener.

5. In four open sessions, individuals get to ask questions of the Listening Group about the text.
No doubt a lot of "liberal listening" will occur but, hey, at least we can say that everybody got to have their voices heard, right?

Got it?

Well, the Muppets have already been a great help in explaining all this to us -- after all, their Mahna Mahna routine is just as articulate and comprehensible as the upcoming Lambeth document will be... and probably includes even more semantic content. Indaba -da, doo doo doo doo.

To paraphrase Statler and Waldorf:
"The question is, what is an indaba-da?"
"The question is... who cares?!"

So I've asked the Muppets to briefly act out each step in this process for us. Perhaps this will make everything clearer....

1. Meet in indaba groups for conversation and "listening".

Animal:Indaba-da! Agghghghaaaghhghgaghahgh!

Sam the Eagle:Now settle down you lot. We have important issues to discuss here, matters which have torn the fabric of our common life.

Beauregard:We do? Oh dear oh dear oh dear...

Bunsen:Actually, what we have here is mere disagreements on secondary matters of little concern to our people. Really we must learn to concentrate on what unites us in our shared commitment to the Anglican Communion.

Sam the Eagle:Secondary Matters?!! Why, how can you call obedience to Scripture a secondary matter?! Entire provinces are abandoning Christian belief and jettisoning all norms of Faith and Order. It's a repeat of the women's ordination issue all over again... many provinces have invalid orders and sacraments as a result, and with this new round of revisionism they...

Miss Piggy:Watch it, buddy! I'm every much a bishop as you are. Don't go giving me that outmoded misogynistic crap!

Sam the Eagle:I meant no offense, ma'am. I'm sure you're a lovely person. But the clear and unequivocal teaching of Scripture and Tradition is that the Church has no authority to...

Miss Piggy:Listen you hook-nosed freak, one more word out of you against the Communion-approved reception process and...

Gonzo:Hey, watch it with the nose jokes!

Beauregard:Oh dear oh dear oh dear...

Rowlf:Um, listen folks, maybe we should concentrate on the subject of this indaba, which is how to include homosexual people into the Church, okay?

Beaker:Me me me me me me me me!

Animal:IN-DA-BA!!! Aaaghahgaghahahghaghhghghagh!

Cpt. Link:I just want to be the bishop of New HAMshire!

Gonzo:(quietly) Nothing wrong with a hooked nose!

Rowlf:Um, if we could get back on topic?

Sam the Eagle:Very good. As I see it, the problem is that provinces within the Communion have unilaterally chosen to abandon the historic norms of Christian teaching, undermining the basics of Faith and Order which are required to give a "communion" any substantial meaning or reality. This means...

Bunsen:Ah, excuse me, but you're working with a very provincial hermenutic there. Recent scholarship has clearly shown that the interpretive nexus of cultural matrices substantiates transitory paradigms, masking the essential transcendental realities with limited perspectives which, while valuable in the limited public sphere of a self-referentially bounded community, prove inimical to the perception of cross-cultural truth-statements in the dasein of a post-Heideggerian framework.

Gonzo:Wow! And they say that I'M a freak!

Rowlf:All he means is that new times call for new expressions of Scripture's meaning, so that what may seemed to have been forbidden in the past is revealed to be okay in the present.

Sam the Eagle:You mean like women's ordination?

Miss Piggy:Exactly. So don't you start that again...

Beauregard:Oh good... does this mean we're all friends now?

Sam the Eagle:It's not a question of friendship, it's a question of Faith and Communion-wide polity!

Cpt. Link:Any polity is fine as long as it celebrates me. Hey, have you noticed my rainbow hoof-polish?

Sam the Eagle:This isn't resolving anything!

Rowlf:Slow down there, friend... look over your packet again. The indaba groups...


Rowlf:... um, yes. The indaba groups aren't initially about resolving, they're about conversations to listen to different perspectives and perceive our commonalities. Maybe we should discuss those commonalities first?

Animal:AN-GLI-CAN!!! AN-GLI-CAN!!!

Rowlf:Yes, I think we can accept that we all value our identity as Anglicans.

Beauregard:Um, and we think our faith community creates important bonds of affection to advance the cause of the Church.

Rowlf:Excellent. What else?

Gonzo:Well, I think it's cool that we can celebrate such diversity within the framework of our common identity. I mean, I've got this great big nose, and some of you poor schmucks have no noses at all... but we're all still Anglicans? That's sooooo cool.

Bunsen:I want to commend our commitment to ongoing reflections and reevaluations of Scripture based upon the various perspectives provided by modern scholarship.

Sam the Eagle:Hey now, the anti-Christian perspectives of a bunch of egocentric atheistic academics shouldn't replace...


Rowlf:He's right... let's try to stay positive here. Anything else we all believe?

Sam the Eagle:But I...

Miss Piggy:(interrupting) I think we all value our commitment to inclusivity, making sure that we all, as equally-baptized members of the Body of Christ, have equal access to the positions of authority within our organizations, independent of race, gender, orientation, or dress sense.

Sam the Eagle:Just a minute. You're now trying to affirm as common the very things which divide us, issues like the catholic tradition, homosexuality, women's ordination....

Miss Piggy:Hiiiiiiiii...YAH!!!

Sam the Eagle:Unnnghghgh.....

Rowlf:Now, now... I think we should try to conduct this indaba without knocking our fellow bishops unconscious, okay?

Beauregard:Oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear...

Rowlf:Bishop Beauregard, what do you value about our Anglican identity?

Beauregard:Me? Oh, I, well, um... well, I agree with what everybody just said. I mean, we're all fellow Christians, right? So that's really all that should matter.

Cpt. Link:I just want to say that I appreciate our fine liturgical tradition, especially feasts like Rose Sunday that allow me to put on some absolutely gorgeous dres... er, vestments for the celebration.

Rowlf:Anyone else?

Sam the Eagle:.... unnghghghnnhhh ....

Rowlf:No? Okay. Well, if you'll permit me, let me try to summarize what I'm hearing here from our indaba group, okay?
We all value our identity as Anglicans and its rich heritage of belief and practice. We appreciate how it has historically permitted a range of beliefs, styles and expressions within that common framework, allowing us to be sensitive to the needs of our differing cultures and situations. We affirm the equality of all members, welcomed into a common baptism and Communion, though we do recognize differing traditions of how best to order our common life. Still, we rejoice that our fundamental shared beliefs and identity transcends these secondary issues and allow us to maintain our bonds of affection.

Beauregard:That sounds nice.

Bunsen:Are you sure you don't want to mention Habermaas?

Miss Piggy:You didn't insist on women's ordination!

Sam the Eagle:That statement doesn't address the issues of concern!

Rowlf:I think our early sessions are just supposed to involve listening to each other and discerning our underlying commonality. There will be plenty of time to address specifics later in the Conference.

Animal:IN-DA-BA!!! IN-DA-BA!!!

2. Elect a Listener from the indaba group to represent it.

Cpt. Link:Aren't we also supposed to elect a listener who can represent us?

Bunsen:I'd be grateful to proffer my interpretive and communicative services to facilitate the articulation of...

Gonzo:Sorry, gramps, I don't think anyone could understand you.

Miss Piggy:(fluffing hair) I should think the choice is obvious... MOI! I am, after all, the most attractive bishop here...

Cpt. Link:Oh-ho-ho! I don't think so. Apparently you haven't seen my profile. Here, take another look. And check out how lean my shanks are...

Animal:AAAAgggghgghghghgh! Animal want pork chops!!! Chicken dinner!!! BUF-FET!!! BUF-FET!!!

Sam the Eagle:I don't think either of them could be trusted to represent all our opinions. Now, while I disagree with them on certain issues, I, as your Listener, would be honor-bound to fairly represent each member of our group!

Miss Piggy:In your dreams, you fossil! No way are you going to represent us!

Beaker:Not me! Not me! Not me! Notmenotmenotmenotmenotmenotme!

Beauregard:Um, bishop Rowlf has been listening to us patiently, and he does seem to understand what all this indaba stuff is supposed to do? Maybe he could be our Listener?

Sam the Eagle:Well, I'm not sure...

Bunsen:An excellent suggestion! He can facilitate this process admirably!

Animal:Aghgh aahghg ahgahgha aahgahaghgh!!!

Gonzo:Works for me! Hey, do you think if we quit early I could sneak outside and dive off that really huge fountain they've got out in the courtyard?

Rowlf:Well, gosh... still, if you guys...

Miss Piggy:AHEM!!!

Rowlf:... and lady really want, sure, I could do my best to serve you in that capacity.

Beauregard:This is so nice. We all agree! I love indaba groups...

Animal:IN-DA-BA!!! IN-DA-BA!!!

(to be continued)