Sunday, February 20, 2011

First Theological Council of Upper SC Part II

The following was sent from our bishop to help prepare us for the so-called First Theological Council of Upper SC (His first letter can be found here). If you can decipher this latest missive, please help me to understand what in the world he is talking about. I wonder if it was written during his trip back from Canterbury where he attended a new bishop indocrination. He could have been suffering the effects of jet lag or perhaps an overdose of Canterbury tea, but I think he should seriously consider taking the word "Theological" out of the name of the event. You might also wonder about the appropriateness of the word "council."

Are you ready boys and girls? Okay, let's gather around the campfire and listen.

"The upcoming Special Convention/1st Theological Council will be an important event in the life of our diocese. There does seem, however, to be some confusion about the purpose of the Council."
I am not in the least bit confused, except by the very idea that there could be a purpose. Let us see if he clears up the confusion as to the purpose of the council.
"I need your help as clergy and ambassadors to communicate clearly what this Council is and what it is not."
If he needs their help, he is not getting off to a good start.
It is my belief that the time has come for the diocese to collectively, honestly and “seriously lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions” (BCP, p.818)...
Once again, I must reiterate that 80% of his clergy appears to be united and happy, so what's the danger?
"...and begin the demanding process of finding a way forward fully aware of the great potential for loss and damage if we choose our path unwisely."
How much has been lost already? "Moving forward" has always been Episcobabble for "get over it" and cannot undo any damage already done, nor can it pull the church out of its decline.
"Developments in the church nationally will put us under increasing pressure to define our response to the issues of human sexuality that challenge and divide us."
Does he mean that the purpose of the council is to define a response?
"Until we are able as a people to understand each other more fully, and to share honestly and transparently what is at stake for each of us in these decisions, I do not believe that we will be able to find a path forward that honors God and advances the coming of God’s kingdom among this people, in this place and at this time. Faith tells me that that there is an answer to challenges we face, one that leads to health and vitality for this diocese. But that answer is not my answer or yours. It can only come after all of us begin to understand what is at stake for each of us in these choices and after each of us bring the gifts of Christian maturity to bear on the process of finding the right path for us all collectively."
In keeping with his moderate indecisiveness he is trying to show that the "collective" will provide the solution. What ever happened to studying the scriptures????? Hmmm????
"The divisions in our beliefs and commitments around these issues are real. We can no longer safely ignore them, if we ever could. We can only come together in honesty, humility and love and look for a path forward that with God’s blessing we all can walk together."
All that are left are walking pretty much in lock step.
"It is important that we understand at this time that we are at the beginning of a process. The most important work will do in our 1st Council will be to define the norms and values that will shape our work together on these issues going forward. For that reason, This Council is principally about identifying and engaging norms for being in relationship within the Christian community."
Then maybe he should have named it "A Council on the Theology of Christian Community."
"Human sexuality is on the agenda for engaging those norms, but this is decidedly not a place for debating the issues inherent in that subject or issuing decisions."
Forget what he said earlier about defining a response.
"The goal of that part of our dialogue will be to help delegates articulate—each person for him/herself—what is most deeply at stake for them in the questions about human sexuality that we face and genuinely to listen (not argue about) and to hear what is at stake for others. “Seek first to understand…” All facilitators will be trained to keep us on this track."
Goal 1: Articulate.
What does he mean by deeply at stake? Does he mean personally? What about the body of Christ? Oops, that might involve theology, and I don't think he wants us going there.
"Why is this our approach? In the Suzuki method of teaching music, within which all three of our sons learned their instruments, students frequently learn a piece of music not so they can expand their repertory, per se, but so that they can learn a particular technique. This allows them to engage the real repertory pieces with a more comfortable familiarity with their instrument."
He's just fiddling around with us here isn't he?
"Furthermore, our faith begins and ends with a relationship, a relationship with God the Father in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. That relationship does not begin with theology, but is nonetheless the foundation for all theology. No relationship, no theology. That is why we are calling this a “theological” council. Our theological conversation can only be built upon real relationships within the Body of Christ."
You cannot do theology if you do not first believe, but I believe the overuse of the word "relationship" needs to stop.
"The second goal for the 1st Council will be give us a fuller understanding of the breadth of thought and the depth of feeling on these issues within the diocese."
Goal 2: Understanding

As if you need 2 days to figure that one out.
"Our silence about these issues as a body has allowed us far too often to speak about them only with those who agree with our positions. In our impatience and callousness, we have too often dismissed or denigrated those who disagree with us."
Now that those who disagree have left, the conversation should be a whole lot easier.
"Such an approach is entirely at odds with the consistent witness of Scripture and violates Jesus’ mandate that his disciples show extraordinary love for their fellow Christians."
Does that mean he is going to people the diocese with some fire breathing reasserting priests to make up for the damage done by his predecessor?
"For that reason, The Council is also about better understanding who and where we are in this diocese on issues of sexuality, how deeply committed we are to our positions, and even in our differences, what commitments we share as Christians."
Nope, but we will understand where 80% of the clergy and 0% of the scriptures stand.
"So, when people ask you about the upcoming 'sexuality debate,' I am counting on you to be my ambassador in explaining that this is not, in fact, a debate; it is the beginning of a diocesan conversation."
Shades of the "listening Process." We now have the "diocesan conversation."

• We will have no guest speakers from one side or the other. It will just be us.
Empty minds in = empty minds out.
• We will not publish any Council materials arguing for one side or the other, nor use any such resources during the Council itself. (And, in case you were wondering, people from all over the country on both sides have been sending in such resources!)
I will be happy to provide anyone who so desires with a list, but there seems little point in studying scripture for this "diocesan conversation."
• Scriptural resources will be about scriptural norms for how we are called by God to be in relationship, not about sexuality itself.
Group hug!
"I am excited about this opportunity to engage with each other. To touch a deeper part of each others’ souls. I don’t know how it will change us, but I’m confident that it will change us."
On the other hand, forget the group hug.
"Our plates are full, and our opportunities for living more fully in Christ are abundant. Blessings to you all, and I look forward to seeing you next week at Gravatt.
Your brother in Christ,

Your brother in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. W. Andrew Waldo
Eighth Bishop of Upper South Carolina"

Kumbaya please...please...


  1. My, my, my. I didn't even know there was question about human sexuality. I was under the misbegotten impression that it involved a man and woman within the bonds of Holy Matrimony and that everything else was something defined as -- gasp-- (cue "Church Lady Voice,"), sin?

    Not a whole lot of theological difficulty there.

    But then what do I know. I'm a Baptist.


  2. There you go, submitting resources for us. Bishop Waldo would have us reject all such advice.

  3. Anonymous1:14 AM

    Very entertaining commentary.


  4. In this case, dialogue is translated as "sit down, shut up and pay attention to what we tell you we are going to do". This is the first sales meeting for a new product (SSBs). The most recent diocesan survey showed about 80% of clergy favor SSBs while about 70% of the laity are opposed. This isn't a theological issue. It is a deployment issue. They keep sending out raging liberals to lead Godly flocks. Is it any wonder that attendance is down 27% in the last five years?

  5. Scriptural resources will be about scriptural norms for how we are called by God to be in relationship, not about sexuality itself.

    How, pray tell, do you address "relationships" in the context of sexuality and then announce you will ignore Biblical/Scriptural pronouncements on that precise issue? For me, that's the killer sentence. He's just told participants, that no contrary evidence will be considered. T'would be judgmental or something, I guess.

    Pardon my French, but the bishop needs to grow a pair and just admit what he's doing and forget the charade of discourse, conversation or dialog or whatever the current catchphrase is. The laity certainly isn't stupid enough to buy it.

    (Sorry for commenting twice, but I had to come back and reread this post.)


  6. And you can't talk about "relationships" without eventually getting to sex, boundries, and moral issues.

  7. Nice fisk! It rivals those at the MCJ!!! I agree with you 100 percent. As a former parishioner at CC in Greenville, I wonder what venue on their campus will be used.

  8. Thanks Galletta,

    If the weather is nice, maybe people can sit in small groups outdoors if the spirit so moves them. Bring your beach towel and picnic basket.