Friday, June 5, 2015

Yes Mr. Cromwell, "I could be wrong." So Let Us Not Build Our Mighty Fortress

I think Oliver Cromwell wrote words to the synod of the Church of Scotland something to the affect of, "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken." I am mindful of this reality and pondering it in my heart.

Yes Mr. Cromwell, "I could be wrong."

I could be wrong. I could be wrong about a lot of things. I wonder if the possibility of being wrong isn't actually a freeing one. This enables me to cast a vision, argue my case, lead and listen and know that God will work it out in the end. While offering visions of the future I could be wrong always frees me to ponder every aspect and consider adaptation.

Am I the only one who ponders being wrong?

When we consider that we could be wrong we open ourselves up to the possibility of what better or stronger might look like. We open ourselves up to the idea that the vision of different and difference might actually take hold of us and move us out of the mire we seem to stand in. 

The great unity of the Anglican tradition I have always felt (rightly or wrongly) is somehow that wonderful notion that I and we might be wrong. So, we should hold on to one another and listen to one another and imagine together (from our different perspectives) the future. 

The legacy we leave in the coming months as an Episcopal Church and the legacy we leave in the coming years as leaders will in large part be measured on our willingness to accept that we might be wrong and to open ourselves up to the other who is different than ourselves.

Organizations in crisis can spend a lot of time controlling outcomes by pointing at dissident voices and telling them they are wrong instead of pondering how the organization might be wrong. We can control tightly the voices in committees and at microphones. That is just how the system seems to work.

The task for those in power will be to treat those who are not in power with this amazing grace that even now as we take our place in our seats that - well - we might be wrong. 

Martin Luther wrote "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." I am hopeful that we won't buttress the walls of our fortress believing that it is God's. That would be the most dangerous thing. I am very interested in opening up the doors of discussion and giving cover to those who would like to see change.

I remember sitting as a member of the committee tasked with hearing the special resolutions on structure at the last General Convention. We sat on a dais and listened for over an hour to individuals give testimony about the future of God's church that they believed in. I remember hearing voice after voice call for change. I remember unanimous votes, unbelievable unanimous votes, call for change.

I don't think that vision of the possible future church is wrong. I believe in that future church of God's making. I believe in a structure than can support it. I am hopeful that people across the church will let their deputies and bishops know their vision of that future change is still alive and that our structures have to change. Yes the bishops and deputies vote their mind and are not representatives. But Let the voices be heard at convention and let them sound in the halls of the committees. Let the social media continue to light up with memorials and good ideas about strategies for our future. Together, by listening, by being generous to one another, by believing we each have the very best of God's mission at heart, by making room in our own heart (because we might be wrong) to hear one another we might begin to see the places where our buttresses are misplaced and move and then slowly we might together shift to be the church God is inviting us to be.

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  • "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
  • "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
  • "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
  • "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
  • "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
  • "Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
  • "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball