Tuesday, June 13, 2006

General Convention and the Misuse of Motorcycles

One of our congregation is a managers of one of the rather more fashionable restaurants with the thirtysomething set. The other evening, when work was over, one of the employees of the restaurant was hanging out with some friends in the parking lot. He had had a few beers and was fooling around on his motorcycle -- one of those racy jobs that weaves in and out of lanes traffic on the Interstate going at high speed.

It would seem he was doing wheelies and things, being egged on by his buddies as he did so. In normal circumstances, I am told, this was a fairly responsible individual. My friend, the manager, knew nothing of what was going on outside until the guys who were with him came rushing in to announce that he had had a most horrible accident when he had misjudged his tomfoolery and had hit a curb then a wall at high speed.

Today this young man who is only twenty-four lies in the trauma unit of one of the local hospitals. He is being roused from a deep (and then medically induced) coma, and when he awakes he will be told that he will never walk again. While he was wise enough to be wearing his helmet, when he hit the wall he broke his back and severed his spinal cord. The manager of the restaurant is mortified at what has happened and the friends are basket cases.

Tragic as this is, I believe it to be a cautionary tale. This week the General Convention has gathered in Columbus, Ohio. Today the Archbishop of Canterbury sent a fairly clear warning that the Convention should act with care, or there would be tears (double meaning there: tears and tears). He is right and should be listened to with care.

But I wonder whether his words will receive such care. I have been watching Conventions since 1976, and have hung around most General Conventions since 1985 until this year and have watched the dynamics of the things. They take on a life of their own. There may be a lot of responsible individuals in the two houses of the bicameral body, but when they get together they can at times be more like that group of young men who had a few beers after work, then egged their friend on until he injured himself irreparably.

I am at present reading Philip Turner and Ephraim Radner's new book, The Fate of Communion. It is not an easy read but it is stimulating in the extreme and is certainly an intellectual window on all that has been going on through which we need to look with great care. One of the questions raised early on is whether the vision for the church catholic on American soil works alongside America's radical commitment to democracy. More on this when I review the book, but I am of the mind that the Convention lacks checks and balances that would prevent some of the foolishness that we have especially experienced in the last few years.

I am profoundly grateful that Dr. Williams using Archbishop Sentamu as his messenger, sent a stern warning to the Convention to behave like men and women of God who belong to a worldwide Communion that ought to be one of those checks and balances. I fear, however, that the American church's sense that it is a 'special case' will brush the wisdom and pleas of the universal church aside in favor of its own blinkered take on it believes the faith to be. The Archbishop has said as plainly as diplomacy allows what needs to be done for there to be no irreparable damage -- the thought of which he abhors.


Anonymous said...

I believe that Bishop Saul's analysis (see link) is an extraordinarily accurate, complete and thoughtful response to the challenge faced by the Anglican Church. It is easy to dismiss "those other people" of the Episcopal Church as careless, immature bikers out on a joy ride. You do so at your own peril. I believe we will ALL be asked to give account for the decisions of our time...

Bishop Saul's reflections

Anonymous said...

The 75 General Convention.
A little Monte Python, anyone?
"The Life of Brian"