Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Indaba-da, doo doo doo doo - part 3

(Follows on parts one and two...)

The Muppets continue to demonstrate the indaba process for us, helping to clear away the confusing fog of the process' description so that we can contemplate the confusing fog of the indaba itself.

3. The Listening Group produces a text.
Rowlf:Is this the Listening Group?

Statler:Eh? Whazzat?

Fozzie:Ha-yuck, ha-yuck, ha-yuck. Now that's funny!

Kermit:Sure is... come on in, Bishop Rowlf. I think you know just about everyone here, hmmmm?

Lew:Salutations, ol' chap!

Sweedish Chef:Mmmm de sheerky borky bork!

Janice:It's groovy to see ya, babe!

Scooter:Hello fellow bishop! I'm so happy to be here! Isn't this exciting?

Rowlf:(quietly, aside to Fozzie) Who's this guy? He wasn't the Listener we picked out and prepped from indaba group 7... why's he here?

Fozzie:(quietly) I know... Crazy Harry lost control of his indaba group, and apparently this kid is the nephew of a M.P. and got himself nominated by that group instead. But don't worry, we've still got control of this Listening Group, we just have an audience of two instead of one now, that's all.

Kermit:Okay, folks, if we could come to order. Welcome to the Listening Group. Kermit the Frog here, your facilitator and Chief Listener, so it's important that you all pay attention to anything I say. I think you've all had a chance to introduce yourselves to each other informally, so let's dive right in. Our mandate for this session is to come up with a draft text that accurately reports the common mind of our indaba groups. How have your first sessions gone?

Scooter:Great! We've had some positive discussions and really managed to iron out the key points of difference, as well as what we have in common. We have one or two conservatives in our group, but everyone else is liberal, so it's a good representation of the Communion.

Statler:Do you? That's odd. My indaba is almost entirely traditionalists, plus one moderate. It's strange... by my rough calculations my indaba contains nearly 85% of the conservative bishops.

Janice:Duuuude! You're trippin', man. This isn't about "conservative" or "liberal" or any of that divisive stuff... we're all about indaba and listening. Don't go categorizing people... drop your preconceptions and boundaries... walk the Labyrinth... let the spirit flow!

Sweedish Chef:Hurh de schmeerny borky?

Rowlf:(aside) She's from California.

Sweedish Chef:Ooo! Durp de nutcase weedhead burky!

Fozzie:Ah, but it's for 'medical purposes'. Ahhhh haaah haaah HA!

Kermit:If we could maybe get on to drafting the text? Who wants to start?

Statler:I'll start. I think we've drafted a strong statement which addresses the issues confronting our Communion. Ahem:
Gathered at Lambeth, we have come to realize the serious challenges that confront us and the great strains that have torn our bonds of affection. More than just our shared historical heritage, our Communion once was united under norms of Scriptural teaching, the Tradition of the early Church, and the long-established basics of Christian theology and morality. In recent decades, however, some provinces within our Communion have chosen to abandon this common and historic understanding of the faith, replacing it with modern innovations and recycled heresies universally rejected by the Church centuries ago. Thus now we find ourselves joined in a common "communion" with others who practice an unrecognizably different faith and we find that, though we may use similar symbols and images, we convey with them fundamentally incompatible meanings and beliefs. Such tensions have made a mockery of all claims to "unity", "common mind", or meaningful "communion"... and yet the existing structures of the Communion, having never contemplated such a situation, provide absolutely no way to censure or correct those provinces which have departed from traditional Anglican belief. Nor has the exercise of such limited mechanisms as we do possess been at all effective, for the recommendations of Communion-wide panels -- even those recommendations to which all claimed to agree -- have been systematically ignored, and that without consequence or censure... and the other "instruments of unity" have, to date, produced a monument of ineffective incompetence... and no solutions. Accordingly, we call upon the members of this Communion, gathered at Lambeth, to function as a true instrument of unity, stating their commitment to the historic basics of the faith (such as those advanced in the Draft Covenant, as well as in GAFCon's Declaration of Jerusalem and in past Lambeth statements and norms) and to voluntarily submit themselves to structures which can effectively require member provinces to adhere thereunto. Only in this way -- making explicit that which used to be adequate while implicit -- can a meaningful "Communion" again be established and the broken bonds of affection and trust be restored.

Janice:You totally have, like, anger issues, man!

Lew:I must say, dear fellow, that's hardly a very politic or engaging statement. You make it sound as if you don't respect some of your fellow Anglicans or don't care if you hurt their feelings! Doesn't your group understand the proper spirit of indaba?

Rowlf:And I don't perceive a lot of "listening" in that statement... you've made no attempt to understand the equally valid perspectives of others who may disagree with your interpretation of the situation.

Sweedish Chef:Bursh de schurrny durpy in der fuddy wuddy bishop doo!


Statler:What?... But I?... Now wait just one minute, this isn't saying anything that hasn't already been said by several primates' meetings and statements over the last few years. The Communion has serious issues and we need to address them head-on, not try to keep hiding from...

Kermit:Gentlemen, ladies... please. This is supposed to be the Listening Group. Bishop Statler has every right to report to us the sentiments of his indaba group...

Statler:Thank you!

Kermit:... and remember, his group is just one voice among many. Each of you gets to contribute to the formation of our synergistic draft text.

Statler:One voice? Well, yes, but I... My indaba group represents the majority of the conservative presence here... we represent over 35% of the Anglican Communion... 55% if you include those conservative GAFCon bishops who aren't here! 80% if you use actual ASA numbers rather than the imaginary figures cooked up for the USA and England by counting over 27 million people who aren't actually members...

Janice:And so we're supposed to take your indaba group more seriously than ours? Why should your voice be any more valuable than anyone else's? Are you trying to suppress or censure all those who disagree with you? Are you that insecure? Will you be calling out the Spanish Inquisition next?

Statler:No, but I... I mean... The voice of traditional Anglicanism needs to be heard and reflected in our document! I have an obligation to speak for it.

Kermit:Very true, bishop Statler, and I think you have. But I'm not hearing a lot of listening going on. Perhaps we could have another group's draft read?

Scooter:Ooo, can I have a go? I've got mine here somewhere, just a sec...

Rowlf:(aside, quietly) What's this guy's position, anyway? Is he going to be a problem?

Janice:(quietly) Not a problem. He tries to be fair-minded and take everyone at face value. He's on the moderate side, and always wants to be a team player and not rock the boat. You know, an A.C.I. "Windsor Bishop" type.

Rowlf:(quitely) Oh, a doormat.

Janice:(quietly) Exactly. It's cool.

Scooter:Ah, here we go:
We rejoice in our gathering which has allowed us, through prayer and reflection, to rediscover all those shared beliefs and concerns that unite us. Though we come from different cultures and perspectives, we are united in a desire to serve the Lord, His people and His Creation. We deplore the continued poverty and injustice which affects many of our people. We are greatly concerned with the spread of AIDS and the exploitation of poorer nations by richer ones. We grieve over the war and strife which troubles our world. Sadly, we also recognize the presence of divisive tensions in our common life as Anglican Christians. The past years have seen some significant disagreements over how best to include all people into the life of our church while still maintaining sensitivity to a variety of differing perspectives and concerns. We acknowledge that some disagreements are significant, perhaps even incompatible, and yet we hope that they can continue to cohabit in a creative tension, giving the Spirit space to move. We commend the ongoing work of the Anglican Covenant as a positive way forward which will better articulate our common mind while yet respecting the independence and integrity of each member province.
Lew:My word... that's actually quite fine!

Kermit:Indeed... I think we can definitely take some of this on board.

Statler:Hold on there, sonny. That's very nicely worded, but it hardly addresses the most pressing issues which are tearing our Communion apart. I thought we were trying to discuss...

Janice:Why, you horrible old man... how can you criticize his statement? Don't you think that poverty and injustice are evils which the Church must deplore?

Statler:Well, of course not! I mean, of course I think they're evil, but...

Fozzie:You're not denying that taking care of Creation is a good thing, are you?

Statler:Well, no... but surely that's not as serious right now as...

Rowlf:Don't you think your fellow conservatives in Africa care about AIDS and war, or economic exploitation?

Statler:Of course they do, but... I mean... look, we're a Church, not a bleeding Oxfam chapter! Our identity and purpose is founded on a theological understanding of the world, and on a primary commitment to the spiritual well-being of...

Janice:Oh, that is so last century! Raise your eco-consciousness! Think missional, not missionary! Embrase the gnosis of the divine within! Release your tensions into the embrace of the labyrinth under the blossoms of polyfloral mistletoe.


Kermit:Now, now... these are all good concerns. And part of indaba is for our conversations to lead us to a deeper convergence on all those things we have in common. And so, though we disagree on some things, I see there are some issues we can all agree on, yes?

Statler:Well, yes... but...

Kermit:Good. That's all we're asking. We should get one more statement to discuss... bishop Rowlf?

Rowlf:Sure Kermit. Here's what my group came up with:
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.
Fozzie:Wow! That's amazing. That's exactly what my group said!

Lew:Mine too! How remarkable!

Sweedish Chef:Schmeer de borky!

Janice:This is so groovy. I mean, like, we said the same thing... that's, like, totally far out man! The Spirit is hoppin' today!

Statler:What? Let me see that? (grab's Rowlf's printout) Hang on, this has last week's date on it! The Conference hadn't even started then! And (looks around)... and you all have xeroxes of that same printout!

Rowlf:(grabbing it back) Don't be absurd. The date's obviously just a typo. And I think I resent the implications of your accusation. Are we not all Christian bishops here?

Statler:Well, I thought so, but...

Kermit:Gentlemen! Ladies! There's no reason for this meeting to descend to personalities. For shame! This is a LISTENING Group, remember? Please, let us try to act as befits our station.

(shuffling feet. Mutters of "sorry".)

Kermit:That's better. Now, I think, since so many groups agreed with Rowlf's statement...

Statler:But it's a set up!!! That statement was...

Kermit:Look, even if your outrageous accusations were true, the fact remains that each of these other indaba groups accepted the statement their Listener has brought, right?

Statler:Well, I...

Rowlf:I know my group was unanimous in supporting it!

Statler:I suppose...

Kermit:And we certainly can take on board some revisions suggested by the other two statements we listened to, can't we?

Janice:I'm copacetic with that.

Fozzie:Works for me!


Sweedish Chef:Bork bork bork!

Scooter:Well, I don't want to cause any trouble, but you're welcome to use some of my statement if you feel...

Kermit:There, that's settled then. And it's just a draft, anyway... we still have to take it back to our indaba groups.

Statler:I guess, in that case...

Kermit:Anyway, we're almost out of time. My secretary has been listening in... I think he's typed up a new draft for us, merging our concerns. Yes, here he is...


Kermit:Um, yeah... thanks Aaron. Now:
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 while still being one communion. We have a common commitment to the ending of injustice, the succoring of human ills, and the faithful stewardship of Creation. We affirm the equality of all members, welcomed into a common baptism and Communion, though we do recognize our differing traditions of how best to order our common life. Some of us are concerned that these differences may possibly present rather significant obstacles and challenges, but we believe that, by working together, we can still affirm our deeper congruences and unity. We rejoice that our fundamental shared beliefs and identity transcends these secondary issues and allow us to maintain our bonds of affection.
Statler:I hardly think that's strong enough when it says...

Kermit:Well, this is just a draft. How about taking it back to your indaba group and listening to more discussion first, and then we can all gather again to pool the feedback we received, okay?


Fozzie:Hey hey hey! I'll be happy to bear this draft back. Get it? Bear? Ahh ahh ahh haah hah!

Sweedish Chef:Meep de schnurdy borka bork!

(Stadler sits with face in hands... all others get up, gathering their papers and smiling. Scooter pauses and bends down:)

Scooter:There, there, bishop Stadler. We can trust this process to be fair and give everyone a voice. I'm sure that if we all just keep listening and forming committees, it will all work out alright in the end, you'll see! I mean, after all the work that's gone into planning Lambeth, the indaba process can hardly fail us, now can it?

Statler:(groans) Why did I even come here? I guess I'll never know....

(to be continued...)